The Inception of Modern Professional Education: C. C. Langdell, 1826-1906

Bruce A. Kimball.

Published 2009. Order online through The University of North Carolina Press or Amazon. ISBN: 978-0-8078-3257-8.

Christopher C. Langdell (1826-1906) is one of the most influential figures in the history of American professional education. As dean of Harvard Law School from 1870 to 1895, he conceived, designed, and built the educational model that leading professional schools in virtually all fields subsequently emulated. In this first full-length biography of the educator and jurist, Bruce Kimball explores Langdell’s controversial role in modern professional education and in jurisprudence.

Langdell founded his model on the idea of academic meritocracy. According to this principle, scholastic achievement should determine one’s merit in professional life. Despite fierce opposition from students, faculty, alumni, and legal professionals, he designed and instituted a formal system of innovative policies based on meritocracy. This system’s components included the admission requirement of a bachelor’s degree, the sequenced curriculum and its extension to three years, the hurdle of annual examinations for continuation and graduation, the independent career track for professional faculty, the transformation of the professional library into a scholarly resource, the inductive pedagogy of teaching from cases, the organization of alumni to support the school, and a new, highly successful financial strategy.

Langdell’s model was subsequently adopted by leading law schools, medical schools, business schools, and the schools of other professions. By the time of his retirement as dean at Harvard, Langdell’s reforms had shaped the future model for professional education throughout the United States.

Endorsements

“Kimball’s rich description of academic life within Harvard in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries adds to our understanding of Langdell’s career.”
– The New England Quarterly

“[A] towering biography. . . . [Kimball’s] exceptional telling of this tale is a singular accomplishment.”
– The Journal of Higher Education

“[A] highly readable biography. . . . Professors and professionals who want to understand the contours of their world will find [this work] illuminating.”
– Harvard Law Review

“A masterful biography. . . . Meticulously researched. . . . An impressively rich account of Langdell’s life and legacy, and one which at the same time supplies fascinating insights into his contemporaries at Harvard. . . . There is much to commend this biography for both lawyers and educationists alike.”
– Educational Review

“An excellent biography. . . . Mastery of the sources produced this remarkable book.”
– Business History Review

“Historians with interests in legal history and higher education will benefit from reading this work.”
– History of Education Quarterly

Awards
2009 Outstanding Publication of the Year, American Educational Research Association, Postsecondary Education Division
Related Titles:

Transfers of Property in Eleventh-Century Norman Law (Sep 19, 1988)
Emily Zack Tabuteau. Published 1988. Order online through The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN: 978-0-8078-6628-3. Perhaps the greatest problem of medieval property law was that third parties and even grantors themselves often challenged transactions, making the lives of grantees miserable with lawsuits or forcible seizures. By the eleventh century, many devices for attempting to …
Law School: Legal Education in America from the 1850s to the 1980s (Feb 16, 1987)
Robert Stevens. Published February 1987. Order online through The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN: 978-0-8078-4175-4. In this first general history of legal education, Stevens traces the development of law schools, the legal profession, and legal thought, relating their evolution to intellectual, political, and social trends. He describes how the establishment gained power over …
Catalonia’s Advocates: Lawyers, Society, and Politics in Barcelona, 1759-1900 (Sep 20, 2009)
Stephen Jacobson. Published 2009. Order online through The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN: 978-0-8078-3297-4. Offering a window into the history of the modern legal profession in Western Europe, Stephen Jacobson presents a history of lawyers in the most industrialized city on the Mediterranean. Far from being mere curators of static law, Barcelona’s lawyers were at the center of …
Underdevelopment and the Development of Law: Corporations and Corporation Law in Nineteenth-Century Colombia (Oct 2, 1980)
Robert C. Means. Published October 1980, The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN: 9-780-8078-1423-9.
The Transformation of Criminal Justice: Philadelphia, 1800-1880 (Nov 5, 1989)
Allen Steinberg. Published November 1989. Order online through The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN: 9-780-8078-1844-2. Allen Steinberg brings to life the court-centered criminal justice system of nineteenth-century Philadelphia, chronicles its eclipse, and contrasts it to the system — dominated by the police and public prosecutor — that replaced it. He offers a major …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *