Bestor, Arthur Eugene (1908-1994) | University of Illinois Archives

Name: Bestor, Arthur Eugene (1908-1994)

Historical Note:

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, 1935â??1962," UIUC Library, accessed May 27, 2020,

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

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