Aristocratic Education and the Making of the American Republic

By Mark Boonshoft

296 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 1 halftone, 8 tables, rough castoff all words (10/19/18): 111,160 words

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6136-0
    Published: August 2020
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5953-4
    Published: August 2020
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-5954-1
    Published: June 2020

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Awards & distinctions

Finalist, 2021 George Washington Prize

Following the American Revolution, it was a cliché that the new republic's future depended on widespread, informed citizenship. However, instead of immediately creating the common schools--accessible, elementary education--that seemed necessary to create such a citizenry, the Federalists in power founded one of the most ubiquitous but forgotten institutions of early American life: academies, privately run but state-chartered secondary schools that offered European-style education primarily for elites. By 1800, academies had become the most widely incorporated institutions besides churches and transportation projects in nearly every state.

In this book, Mark Boonshoft shows how many Americans saw the academy as a caricature of aristocratic European education and how their political reaction against the academy led to a first era of school reform in the United States, helping transform education from a tool of elite privilege into a key component of self-government. And yet the very anti-aristocratic critique that propelled democratic education was conspicuously silent on the persistence of racial and gender inequality in public schooling. By tracing the history of academies in the revolutionary era, Boonshoft offers a new understanding of political power and the origins of public education and segregation in the United States.

About the Author

Mark Boonshoft is executive director of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies.
For more information about Mark Boonshoft, visit the Author Page.


"Mark Boonshoft is outstanding in working with a huge range of sources and his argument is original, important, and convincing. Without exaggeration, this is a 'breakthrough book' of the first order."--Jason Opal, author of Avenging the People: Andrew Jackson, the Rule of Law, and the American Nation

"This work is innovative and exciting because it transforms our understanding of the academies that blossomed after the Revolution. Mark Boonshoft does an exceptional job revealing education’s role in the social and political development of the new United States."--Johann Neem, author of Democracy’s Schools: The Rise of Public Education in America