-Charles Austin Beard
It has been a little over a half century since the death of one of the preeminent historians of the twentieth century, Charles Austin Beard (1874-1948). A professor of history at Columbia, the author of numerous articles, essays, books and histories of the United States (a number of the latter co-written with his wife, Mary), and the recipient of prestigious academic awards, he earned the title of “dean of American historians.”
Lionized in his early career by much of the historical establishment, Beard fell out of favor with his fellow liberal and progressive academics because of his opposition to the nation’s foreign policy in the years prior to World War II. While other scholars were receptive to pressures and allurements from the powers that be to support another American involvement in a foreign war, Beard remained, for the most part, an unrelenting critic of what he believed was a deliberate and mendacious foreign-policy course, one orchestrated by the Roosevelt Administration to take the country toward. Beard feared tragic consequences for America and the world.
Such a stance had professional and personal costs for the Indiana native, the effects of which have lingered to the present day, and helps explain why there is little mention of his life, career, or influence some fifty years after his passing. This neglect is undoubtedly due to Beard’s later scholarship, which undermines what has become the standard historical interpretation and “truth” regarding America and the Second World War…