WMU associate dean and faculty member Cousins publishes new book

contact: Molly Goaley
| WMU News
Photo of Dr. James P. Cousins.


KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Historian Dr. James P. Cousins, associate dean for the College of Arts and Sciences at Western Michigan University, recently published a new book. "Horace Holley: Transylvania University and the Making of Liberal Education in the Early American Republic" examines the growth and transformation of higher education in the early 19th century.

Cousins, who was a 2012 scholar-in-residence at Transylvania, said the project was an outgrowth of his interests in the history of American intellectualism.

"The confluence of education, populism, credit economies and nationalism makes this period particularly interesting. America was coming of age and Americans adjusted by developing intellectual identities that were both familiar and original,” Cousins says. “The book uses an important education figure, Horace Holley, as a way to illuminate these developments."

In support of the release, Cousins was on the Transylvania University campus this month for a presentation and book signing and was featured on the air with WUKY-FM radio. He also offered an additional book signing while in Lexington, Kentucky.

About the book

Outspoken New England urbanite Horace Holley (1781–1827) was an unlikely choice to become the president of Transylvania University—the first college established west of the Allegheny Mountains. Kentuckians doubted his leadership abilities, some questioned his Unitarian beliefs, and others just saw him as another arrogant, elitist Yankee. Despite their misgivings, Holley ushered in a period of sustained educational and cultural growth at Transylvania, and the university received national attention for its scientifically progressive and liberal curriculum. The resulting influx of wealthy students and celebrated faculty—including Constantine Samuel Rafinesque—lent Lexington a distinguished atmosphere and gave rise to the city’s image as the "Athens of the West."

Drawing upon a wealth of previously used and newly uncovered primary sources, Cousins analyzes the profound influence of westward expansion on social progress and education that transpired during Holley's tenure. This engaging book not only illuminates the life and work of an important yet overlooked figure, but makes a valuable contribution to the history of education in the early American Republic.

About the author

As associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at WMU, Cousins oversees student and faculty engagement, enrollment management and curriculum development. He teaches courses in early American history and historical methods.

Cousins is the author of more than 20 essays, reviews and peer-reviewed articles and is co-author of "Collaboration and the Future of History of Education: Preserving the Right to Think and Teach Historically." His latest book was released Oct. 28 through University Press of Kentucky. The book is available through Amazon.