Charles A. Beard

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Template:Infobox Biography Charles Austin Beard (November 27, 1874 - September 1, 1948) was an American historian, author with James Harvey Robinson of The Development of Modern Europe (1907). Born in Knightstown, Indiana, he exemplified modern history writing that encompassed all aspects of culture, and tied economics to politics and intellectual life in works like The Economic Origins of Jeffersonian Democracy.

His revisionist study of the conservative interests of the drafters of the United States Constitution (An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution) seemed radical in 1913, since he proposed that the U.S. Constitution was a product of economic determinism, in that it was written to further the interests of the white, land-holding Founding Fathers.

After resigning from Columbia University in World War I, he helped to found the New School for Social Research in New York, and advised on reconstructing Tokyo after the earthquake of 1923.

Beard's reputation today rests on his wide-ranging and bestselling The Rise of American Civilization (1927) and its two sequels, America in Midpassage (1939), and The American Spirit (1943), all written in collaboration with his wife, Mary Ritter Beard (1876-1958) whose own interests lay in feminism and the labor union movement (Woman as a Force in History, 1946). Together they wrote a popular survey, The Beards: Basic History of the United States.

Charles Beard was critical of Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration, especially in the struggle over the Supreme Court and in Roosevelt's foreign policy. In the years leading up to World War II, Beard's writings called for the United States to stay out of the war. After the war, Beard's last work (President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War, 1948) argued that President Roosevelt had deceptively and unjustly brought the United States into the war for economic reasons. Beard's views on the war were highly controversial and led to his being widely denounced as an apologist for fascism. As a result, Beard's reputation in the final years of his life was extremely low.

Beard died in New Haven, Connecticut.

References

  • Bacevich, Andrew J. American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2002. By way of introduction to his main topic, Bacevich briefly recounts Beard's career, and argues that while Beard may have been wrong about one very big thing (the need to oppose Adolf Hitler), he was right about how American economic interests drive foreign policy.
  • Cott, Nancy. Online article from The Reader's Companion to American History (http://college.hmco.com/history/readerscomp/rcah/html/ah_008500_beardcharles.htm)

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