Home > Departmental History at UND, Mediterranean Archaeology in North Dakota > More History of History at the University of North Dakota

More History of History at the University of North Dakota

I know that I stated that the three part study of the Libby-Kane Controversy was the final installment of my history of the Department of History at the University of North Dakota.  As so often happens, things change.  I have begun working with the sons of Elwyn Robinson to bring together the manuscript of his autobiography which I discussed briefly before in this blog in Sources for the Department of History at the University of North Dakota.

RobinsonHeroesofDakotaElwyn Robinson began his autobiography in January of 1982 and continued working on it until his final illness in January 1985.  Much of this manuscript can be found in the Orin G. Libby Manuscript Collection at the Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections at the University of North Dakota.  Recently Steven Robinson, Elwyn’s eldest son offered me a copy of Chapter 13, which does not seem to appear in the manuscript and typescript preserved at the University of North Dakota which ends which at Chapter 12 and Robinson submission of the manuscript of the History of North Dakota to the University of Nebraska Press. 

Also included in the papers that I recently received is a very brief introduction by Robinson.  He offered this eminently reasonable prologue to his task at hand:

“I believe that my guidelines are essential to the success of the effort. They are: (1) to put down all that I can remember without any concern about whether it will be of any interest to anybody or whether it is presentable (2) to not worry about the literary quality or the organization of what I am recording, and (3) not to be in any hurry to accomplish the task and not to work on it too long at a time. I want, however, to spend some time on the job every day.”

Later he offers another piece of wisdom:

“Robert Wilkins remembers an aphorism of either Anthony Eden or Harold Nicholson: ‘Old men do not remember, they invent.’ So what I am writing is more the way I remember it, not necessarily the way it was.”

Here’s the table of contents: 

Chapter I. Childhood on the Russell Farm, 1905-15

Chapter II. Growing up in Chagrin Falls, 1915-24.

Chapter III. Oberlin College, 1924-28

Chapter IV. Teaching School, 1928-30

Chapter V. Graduate School, 1931-35

Chapter VI. Early Years at the University of North Dakota, 1935-39

Chapter VII. Stevie and the move to Princeton Street, 1939-42

Chapter VIII. Gordon and the War Years, 1942-45

Chapter IX. “Heroes of Dakota” and a Promotion, 1946-49

Chapter X. Three Operations and the Start of History of North Dakota, 1950-53

Chapter XI. Progress on History, 1954-58

Chapter XII. Completing the History of North Dakota, 1959-64

Chapter XIII. Years of Triumph, 1965-1970

My goal with this is to find a publisher and gradually begin editing the manuscript filling in details as I go.  There is a lot to edit (although Robinson’s prose is spare and clean) and many small points that need elaboration.  My hope is that this text will provide a distinct insight into the academic career of an individual who while remarkable and important for the history of both the state of North Dakota, is also representative of a particular place in the history of both the university and academic culture in the United States as it crossed the gap between pre-war and post-war worlds. 

The text also provides myriad interesting insights into the various people and places Robinson experienced during his academic career.  At Oberlin College in Ohio, for example, he appreciated the courses offered by Leigh Alexander.  Alexander was a Princeton-trained Classicist and head of the department for years at Oberlin.  His 1911 dissertation was on fragments of Nicholas of Damascus on the Lydian Kings and was written under William K. Prentice. 

There are numerous other little interesting bits of information that will come out as I re-read this manuscript, and I will from time to time post them here.

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