Book Review: Cradles of Conscience

Cradles of Conscience: Ohio‘s Independent Colleges and UniversitiesEdited by John William Oliver Jr., James A. Hodges, and James H. O’Donnell. (Kent: Kent State University Press, 2003. ix, 588 pp. Paper $50.00, ISBN: 0-87338-763-5.)

Ohio has an unusually rich and deep heritage of private institutions of higher education. Apart from Pennsylvania, no state has more independent baccalaureate colleges and universities, and this ambitious book of forty-three essays examines the history of all of them, along with many more that no longer exist. Although uneven and marred by editing and organizational problems, this book nevertheless is an important contribution to the historical literature of higher education in Ohio, and serves as a valuable reference work for anyone interested in the state’s “Cradles of Conscience.”

College histories are an idiosyncratic literature, written for and appealing to largely parochial audiences with personal interests in the school studied. As a result, most college histories stand more or less alone, with only passing references to other colleges of the time or area. Thus, while the reader may get a deep understanding of the institution studied, often the comparative element is missing, leaving the reader unaware of just how ordinary or unusual events and trends in school history were. With only about ten to twenty pages devoted to each school, Cradles of Conscience can not hope to rival traditional college histories in depth, but provides instead unprecedented breadth in examining the landscape of private colleges in Ohio. The succinctness of each chapter also shows, in sharp relief, the major themes and trends evident in the history of each school, facilitating comparisons with other colleges and universities throughout the state. Continue reading Book Review: Cradles of Conscience