Arthur E. Bestor Papers, 1852-1971
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Brief Description: Papers of Arthur Eugene Bestor, Jr., professor of history (1947-62) and President and Director of the Council for Basic Education, containing family papers (1852-1956), genealogies, photographs, clippings, correspondence, Bible, autograph albums and diaries; student notes from Yale (1927-37) and teaching notes from Yale, Columbia and Stanford (1937-44) on history, English and American literature, philosophy, humanities, mathematics, music and American civilization; bio-bibliography (1908-62); biographical (1900-50), including family yearbooks and alumni publications; publications (1925-61), including manuscripts, reprints and proofs of articles, reviews, published letters, transcripts and reports of interviews and manuscripts and reviews of books by Bestor and related correspondence; speeches and papers read (1927-60) at public or professional meetings, including programs and clippings; syllabi and teaching notes (1930-61); copies of student theses directed (1948-60); educational controversy material (1952-59), including clippings, reviews, editorials and pamphlets on Bestor's championship of basic intellectual education and opposition to "life adjustment;" correspondence (1923-62) with Bestor family, professors, administrators, educators, public figures, publishers, librarians, teachers, students and the public concerning research on Backwoods Utopias, education, publications, meetings, speeches, awards, Harmsworth Professorship (Oxford), history departments, faculty recruitment, Council for Basic Education interviews, public affairs, Illinois Historical Survey, student theses and academic freedom. The series includes the papers (12.6 cu. ft.) of Arthur E. Bestor, Sr. (1879-1944), Director (1907-15) and President of Chicago (1896-1934), the Committee on Public Information (1917-20), Lake Placid Club (1920-43), adult education (1921-42) and Town Hall (1935-44).
Held at:
University of Illinois Archives
19 Library
1408 W. Gregory Dr.
Urbana, IL 61820
Phone: (217) 333-0798
Fax: (217) 333-2868
Email: illiarch [at]
Record Series Number: 15/13/26
Created by: Bestor, Arthur Eugene (1908-1994)
Volume: 46.7 cubic feet
Acquired: 6/1966; 5/19/1970; 2/12/1979
More information is available at
Arrangement: by type of material
Biographical Note for Bestor, Arthur Eugene (1908-1994) :

Arthur Eugene Bestor, Jr. (1908-94), was associate professor (1947-51) and professor (1951-62) of history at the University of Illinois (UI). He was an American historian noted for his scholarship on communitarianism, public education, and United States constitutional history.

Bestor was born in Chautauqua, New York, on September 20, 1908. He earned a bachelor's degree (1930) and a PhD in history (1938) from Yale University with a dissertation on the nineteenth-century American Fourierist movement. Over the course of his career, Bestor taught at Yale (1930-31 and 1934-36); Teachers College, Columbia University (1936-42); Stanford University (1942-46); the University of Wisconsin (1947); the University of Illinois (1947-62); and the University of Washington, Seattle (1963-76). He also held visiting positions as the Harmsworth Professor of American History at Queen's College, Oxford (1956-57) and at the University of Tokyo as part of the Fulbright Program (1967). Bestor's early research interest in American communitarianism culminated in Backwoods Utopias (1950). The 1953 book Educational Wastelands marked Bestor's shift in the 1950s to research what he argued were declining public education standards in the US. By the 1960s, Bestor turned his attention to constitutional scholarship and history. During this period, he published "The American Civil War as a Constitutional Crisis" (1964) and wrote widely on the constitutional basis for issues such as sovereignty, war, and presidential impeachment. He testified before Congress on the Senate's constitutional role in treaty making and notably called for the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon in the New Republic (1973).

Bestor was married to third wife Dorothy Koch Bestor in 1951, and together they had three sons, William, Thomas, and Theodore. He died in Seattle, Washington, on December 13, 1994.


Wolfgang Saxon, "Arthur Bestor, a Leading Scholar On the Constitution, Dies at 86," New York Times, December 17, 1994, accessed May 27, 2020,

"Bestor, Arthur E. Research Collection on Communitarianism, 1935รข??1962," UIUC Library, accessed May 27, 2020,

Wikipedia, s.v. "Arthur Bestor," accessed May 27, 2020,

Subject Index
Academic Freedom
Adult Education
American Council of Learned Societies
American Historical Association
Columbia University
Communitarian Societies
Council for Basic Education
Course Notes
Educational Policy
Faculty Papers
Historical Method
Illinois Historical Survey
Lake Placid Club
Life Adjustment
Mississippi Valley Historical Association
New Harmony, Indiana
Oxford University
Phi Beta Kappa
Progressive Education
Public Information, Committee on
Public Schools
Stanford University
Town Hall
University of Chicago
Yale University
Genres/Forms of Material
Languages of Materials
English [eng]