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Benjamin Shambaugh and the Intellectual Foundations of Public Hisory

Rebecca Conard

Publication Year: 2002

"This is an important book that uses the long and distinguished historical career of Benjamin Shambaugh to place public or 'applied' history into a much-needed historical context. . . . Conard's narrative and analysis provide new insights into continuing debates about the proper role of federal and state governments in collecting and writing history. . . . an important contribution to American historiography in the twentieth century."--Barbara Franco, executive director, the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. "In Benjamin Shambaugh and the Intellectual Foundations of Public History, Rebecca Conard has written a useful and intriguing book. . . . The historical profession and the people of Iowa are indebted to Rebecca Conard for this book, which explores the impressive career of Benjamin Shambaugh and sheds new light on the fundamentals of the public history movement."--Annals of Iowa ". . . an unexpectedly engaging and useful examination and analysis of the ideologies, arguments, and politics surrounding the rise of history as a professional and academic discipline from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, especially as they were often rancorously expressed in disputes between the East and Midwest, state and national perspectives, and academic and professional practice."--The Journal of American History "Conard has provided the history profession with a layered narrative of its development and fragmentation or redevelopment over time, and has explored the meanings of its own histories."--Janelle Warren-Findley, The American Historical Review "Conard's biography is well written and interesting, and her strategies for engaging in dialog with a variety of texts produce a fresh method for defining and assessing public history."--The Journal of Heritage Stewardship Although his name is little known today outside Iowa, during the early part of the twentieth century Benjamin Shambaugh (1871 - 1940) was a key figure in the historical profession. Using his distinguished career as a lens, Conard's seminal work is the first book to consider public history as an integral part of the intellectual development of the historical profession as a whole in the United States. Conard draws upon an unpublished, mid-1940s biography by research historian Jacob Swisher to trace the forces that shaped Shambaugh's early years, his administration of the State Historical Society of Iowa, his development of applied history and commonwealth history in the 1910s and 1920s, and the transformations in his thinking and career during the 1930s. Framing this intriguingly interwoven narrative are chapters that contextualize Shambaugh's professional development within the development of the historical profession as a whole in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and assess his career within the post-World War II emergence of the modern public history movement. Shambaugh's career speaks to those who believe in the power of history to engage and inspire local audiences as well as those who believe that historians should apply their knowledge and methods outside the academy in pursuit of the greater public good. Rebecca Conard, associate professor of history and codirector of the Public History Program at Middle Tennessee State University, is also the author of Places of Quiet Beauty: Parks, Preserves, and Environmentalism (Iowa, 1997), which won the Benjamin Shambaugh Award. "Rebecca Conard provides an elegant discussion of a complex topic: the emergence of public history in the twentieth century. . . . a sophisticated addition to public history historiography."--The Public Historian

Published by: University of Iowa Press


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Front Matter

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Foreword and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xvi

Benjamin Franklin Shambaugh (1871–1940), superintendent of the State Historical Society of Iowa and chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Iowa, was one of the first “pioneers” to be discovered in the early days of the modern public history movement. In1980, while compiling an annotated bibliography of public works and environmental ...

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Prologue: The Last Dance

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pp. 1-6

At the height of the Gilded Age, in December of 1897, the members of the American Historical Association (AHA) and the American Economic Association met jointly in Cleveland, mostly, it seems, to celebrate the holiday season. Senator Mark Hanna entertained a select group of AHA officers in his home. Three other prominent Cleveland couples ...

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1. From the New History to Applied History

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pp. 7-35

James Harvey Robinson synthesized the canons of the New History in his collection of essays published under the same name in 1912, but the phrase first appeared in 1898, and the intellectual reform movement it signified had been gathering adherents throughout 1890s. Earle W. Dow introduced the term in the pages of the American Historical Review in a long discourse ...

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2. A Gift of Fate

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pp. 36-54

From scattered passages in Swisher’s manuscript, one learns that Benjamin Shambaugh was thirteen when his father died. Benjamin was one of ten children born to John Shambaugh, a successful farmer in Clinton County, Iowa, and his wife, Eve Anna Ziegler. Five sons and two daughters survived to adulthood. With such a large family to provide for, ...

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3. The Politics of Public Institutions

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pp. 55-76

Early surveys conducted by the AHA’s Public Archives Commission and Henry Bourne’s two-year investigation of state and local historical societies indicated that emerging organizational structures varied considerably from state to state. None of them, however, became more convoluted than Iowa’s. The SHSI, established by an act of the state legislature in 1857, ...

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4. A Deliberate Course: Applied History

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pp. 77-100

One can only guess at the course Shambaugh might have set for the SHSI had the legislative outcome been different in 1909. Swisher and others have claimed that Shambaugh always had a “clear idea of his long-range plans,” that he began “ develop[ing] a plan for the type of institution he wanted the historical society to become” from the time he joined the ...

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5. The Commonwealth Conference: 1923–1930

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pp. 101-119

The Commonwealth Conference was perhaps Shambaugh’s most innovative undertaking. Certainly it was the most complex, for it required teamwork among staff members and immense amounts of time to develop programs, secure speakers, invite participants, produce historical background reports, coordinate logistics, and promote events. In some respects, ...

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6. A New Deal in the Game of Life

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pp. 120-147

Considering that Shambaugh once “dream[ed] of the day when Iowa history not only will be translated into folklore, but transmitted into the hearts of our people,” it is difficult to fathom some of the actions he took during the 1930s. Humanists generally rejoiced at New Deal funding for culture and the arts, and the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP), in particular, ...

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7. The Emergence of the Modern Public History Movement

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pp. 148-180

No direct link connects Benjamin Shambaugh to the emergence of the public history movement in the 1970s. Rather, the years between Shambaugh’s deliberate attempts to promote applied history and commonwealth history and Robert Kelley’s coining of the term “public history” in the mid 1970s are marked by a gradual progression of historians ...

Abbreviations and Shortened References

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pp. 181-182


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pp. 183-218

Collected Works of Benjamin F. Shambaugh, 1893–1940

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pp. 219-226


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pp. 227-238


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pp. 239-247

E-ISBN-13: 9781587294013
E-ISBN-10: 158729401X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780877457893
Print-ISBN-10: 0877457891

Page Count: 266
Publication Year: 2002

OCLC Number: 56109518
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Benjamin Shambaugh and the Intellectual Foundations of Public Hisory

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Historians -- United States -- Biography.
  • Historians -- Iowa -- Biography.
  • Public history -- United States.
  • Public history -- Iowa.
  • Shambaugh, Benjamin Franklin, 1871-1940.
  • United States -- Historiography.
  • Iowa -- Historiography.
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