Gottschalk, Louis Reichenthal, 1899-1975

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From the description of Letters, 1935-1948. (Indiana University). WorldCat record id: 701239783

Historian. A.B., Cornell University, 1919; A.M., 1920; Ph. D., 1921. Instructor in history, University of Illinois, 1921-23; assistant professor, University of Louisville, 1923-25; associate professor, 1925-27. Associate professor of history, University of Chicago, 1927-35; professor, 1935-64; chairman of the History Department, 1937-1942.

From the description of Papers, [ca. 1927]-1975 (inclusive). (University of Chicago Library). WorldCat record id: 52246546

Louis Gottschalk was born in Brooklyn on February 21, 1899, and received his early education at P.S. 43 and Brooklyn High School. A New York state scholarship enabled him to enter Cornell University in the autumn of 1915. Gottschalk ultimately received three advanced degrees from that institution: an A.B. in 1919, A.M. in 1920, and the Ph.D. in 1921. Gottschalk later explained the importance of his years at Cornell, which during the early twentieth century produced a remarkable number of outstanding historians. He noted the flexibility of the graduate program, the splendid library, and a small student body at the graduate level. When Louis Gottschalk arrived at Cornell the faculty included Charles Henry Hull in American history, Wallace Notestein in English history, and Nathaniel Schmidt in Oriental studies. His doctoral committee consisted of Carl Becker, William Lynn Westerman, and George Lincoln Burr, all presidents of the American Historical Association.

When Carl Becker joined the faculty in 1917, Louis Gottschalk attended his first classes on the French Revolution. Becker’s influence on Gottschalk’s intellectual development and his importance to the young scholar’s later career was profound, and Gottschalk acknowledged it often throughout his life. It was Becker who instilled in Gottschalk the conviction that history was not simply a chronicle of events, but could and should encompass the methodology and insights of other disciplines. Furthermore, as one of Gottschalk’s students remarked, Gottschalk was trained at a time when “by precept and example Becker was leading a personal crusade for the involvement of ideas in the average historical account.” Given his mentor’s example, Gottschalk’s willingness to grapple with problems ranging from individual motivation to world culture is understandable.

Personally as well as professionally, the Cornell years were important for Gottschalk. Leo Gershoy, later professor of modern European history at New York University, also entered Cornell in the fall of 1915, and the two freshmen became lifelong friends. By the time they registered for Becker’s class in their junior year, Gershoy, Gottschalk, and two classmates (Ernest Hettich, and Barnet Novar) had come to be known collectively as “the Goops,” for reasons unknown to Gottschalk. They remained fast friends long after they had left Ithaca, with Gottschalk and Gershoy closely associated “as personal friends, cooperative colleagues and amicable rivals.” Before leaving Cornell for his first teaching position, Gottschalk married Laura Riding, then a student in English literature, later a poet and critic. They were divorced in 1925.

After completing his dissertation on Jean Paul Marat in 1921, Gottschalk accepted a position as Instructor at the University of Illinois- From there he moved to the University of Louisville where he was assistant and then associate professor from 1923 to 1927. Although Gottschalk was able to research and publish several articles while in Kentucky, the environment became uncongenial when a new President instituted policies which alienated members of the faculty. When the controversy led to the dismissal of a colleague from the History Department, Gottschalk became one of the first members of the American Association of University Professors to request that fledgling organization to investigate policies which, according to Gottschalk, included unfair faculty contracts, lowered standards for students, and administrative pressure on faculty members to attend football games and chapel exercises. By the spring of 1927 the AAUP had begun its investigation, the local press had exacerbated tensions, and Gottschalk had been dismissed as disloyal and disruptive. Gottschalk’s position during the affair was ultimately vindicated in the AAUP’s publication of events surrounding the case.

By the spring of 1927, when faculty-administration relations were at their lowest point at the University of Louisville, the University of Chicago opened negotiations with Gottschalk. He joined the faculty as associate professor of modern European history in the fall of 1927 and thereby began an association which would last almost half a century. Gottschalk’s arrival in Hyde Park coincided with that of the University’s new President, Robert Maynard Hutchins.

Prior to Hutchins’ taking office at Chicago, the University had begun to formulate reorganization plans. These plans materialized under Hutchins’ leadership, and by 1933 the innovative “Chicago Plan” was drawing national attention. The subsequent streamlined divisional structure posed problems for the Department of History, however. Some faculty members believed that Clio’s proper domain was the Social Sciences, while others insisted she be classified with the Humanities. Professor Gottschalk, who had no strong feelings on that particular issue, entered the fray only after Ronald S. Crane, Acting Chairman of the Senate Committee on History and Professor of English, suggested that the

Department be dissolved, with historians joining other more specialized departments such as economics, sociology, etc. Crane’s memorandum, “The Organization of History in a University,” sparked a lively debate within the University community on the nature of history and the proper realm of historians. The History Department’s response was drafted primarily by Gottschalk, and it comprises a clear statement by a twentieth-century historian on the historian’s art at a critical point in its development.

Gottschalk’s association with the University of Chicago began in the fall of 1927, when he joined the Department of History as an associate professor of modern European history. Although only twenty-eight at the time, Gottschalk, in his publications, had already delineated those subjects which were to engage his attention throughout his career. These topics included the era of the French revolution, the significance of individual motivation in history, and historiography. Gottschalk illuminated these themes in his chef d’oeuvre, a six volume biography of the Marquis de Lafayette. His work on this project began shortly after he arrived at the University of Chicago, and he was working on the seventh volume at the time of his death.

Gottschalk’s prodigious published work and his excellence in the classroom were soon recognized by his colleagues, and along with numerous honors came increasing responsibilities within the University community and in the rapidly growing historical organizations. His promotion to full professor at the University in 1935 was quickly followed by a term as Chairman of the History Department (1937-42).

From 1929 to 1943 he served as assistant editor of the Journal of Modern History, which was followed by three years as acting editor. In 1959 Gottschalk was awarded the Gustavus F. and Ann M. Swift Distinguished Service Professorship of History (Emeritus 1965-75). An active member of the American Historical Association, Gottschalk was elected President of that organization in 1953, and throughout his life he channeled his energies into myriad other professional activities, ranging from lectures throughout the world to a role as one of the founders of the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies.

Professor Gottschalk’s first decade at the University of Chicago also brackets the first phase of activity by the Social Sciences Research Council, which was organized by the Rockefeller Foundation in 1923. Gottschalk received his first grant from the SSRC soon after he accepted the appointment at the University, and that organization financed much of the next fifty years of research on the Lafayette biography. A Guggenheim fellowship for 1928-29 had enabled Gottschalk to gather research material in France, and the first volume of his biography was published by the University of Chicago Press in 1935.

In addition to the administrative and research work which Gottschalk undertook at the University during this period, he established an outstanding reputation for his teaching skills. During the 1930s Gottschalk, William T. Hutchinson and James Cate developed an historical methods course which became known as the “Laboratory Course in History.” Years later, when the Department established a fellowship fund in Gottschalk’s name, numerous students recalled this course in letters to Gottschalk, and repeatedly mentioned his “vivid” lecture style. Herman Kogan’s letter to his mentor in 1973 perhaps best characterized other comments about Gottschalk as teacher: “I was, in an important sense, educated rather than merely instructed.”

Three years after his arrival in Chicago Gottschalk married Fruma Kasden, a concert pianist in Europe prior to her arrival in the United States, and later Professor of Russian Language and Literature at the University of Chicago. Two sons were born during the 1930s; Alexander (March, 1932) and Paul Abo (1939-1977), formerly associate professor of English literature at Cornell.

Perhaps no period better illustrates Gottschalk’s ability to integrate his scholarship and activities outside the Department of History than the 1940s. While work on the Lafayette biography progressed, Gottschalk became deeply involved in war-related service, Jewish activities, and the ongoing dialogue within his profession on the nature of historical inquiry.

On October 6, 1943 Professor Gottschalk received a call from Major Frank Monaghan of the War Department. Monaghan had been professor of history at Yale before the United States entered World War II, and he now asked Gottschalk to serve on a “Committee of Historians to Analyze and Appraise Current Conditions and Prospective Developments in Germany,” For the next three months Gottschalk shuttled to and from Washington and consulted with fellow historians Carl Becker, Arthur C. Cole, Henry Steele Commager, Elias A. Lowe, Dumas Malone, Benjamin Schmidt, J. Duane Squires, and Edward Meade Earle. The purpose of the study was to give the army an estimate of probable German reaction to continued Allied pressure. The work of this “Secret Committee of Historians,” as it was called, was not publicized until 1946.

Throughout his life Gottschalk devoted considerable time and energy to public lectures, often on topics relating directly to his scholarly expertise: revolution, Franco-American relations, historiography, and so forth. But during the 1940s he increasingly lectured outside the classroom about post-war international relations.

In 1942, because of his interest in the subject, he accepted the chairmanship of the Chicago branch of the Universities Committee on Postwar International Problems. This committee had begun as a national organization under the auspices of the World Peace Foundation, and was directed by Ralph Barton Perry of Harvard University. Like many organizations established during the war, the purpose of this group was to provide a forum for academicians to discuss problems of the post-war world, with the hope of influencing public opinion. Though not as visible in this internationalist movement as other U of C faculty (such as Quincy Wright or William F. Ogburn), Gottschalk nonetheless kept the Chicago branch alive from March through October of 1943.

The Second World War also kindled a vigorous involvement in Jewish questions-both in his addresses from the lectern and in his increasing commitments to Jewish organizations. Essays which he contributed to various Jewish periodicals in the 1940s reveal an awareness of the impact which the American xenophobic reaction of the 1920s had upon the Jewish community. Gottschalk characterized his early teaching career (1920-40) as a period of pronounced anti-Semitism within the United States. In particular, Gottschalk reflected upon the quandary of academic Jews brought up in this environment, and their consequent ambiguous relationship to Jewish culture. Beginning in the 1930s Gottschalk registered his concern through B’nai B’rith, taking special interest in the Hillel program. During the forties he served as chairman of the Conference on Jewish Relations and president of the Board of Jewish Education. His remarks on this topic illustrate the internationalist feelings which motivated many of his activities during and after the Second World War:

So much Jewish money has gone into negative spending -to keep Jews trained in the traditional religion; to counteract anti-Semitism; to carry on charitable enterprises that the state and non-sectarian philanthropic organizations could, would, and should carry on. But that kind of spending adds little or nothing to Jewish life. They are defenses-worthy defenses perhaps, but defenses none the less. We need something to broaden our understanding, to add to our knowledge, to fit Jewish history into world history, to widen our outlook upon others and the outlook of others upon us, to discover not so much what the Jew had done for the Jew as what the Jew has done for the world and the world for the Jew.

The interest in historical inquiry and its methodology which was evident in Gottschalk’s defense of the History Department in 1934 persisted throughout his career. When the historical profession went through a period of intense self-examination during the 1940s and ‘50s Gottschalk was again in the midst of the discussion. His presidential address to the American Historical Association in December, 1953 can be read as a sequel to his response to the Crane memo twenty years before. Frankly autobiographical, Gottschalk entitled the speech ‘A Professor of History in a Quandary.” In this address, Gottschalk explained why he ‘found it hard to concede...that the study of history is of interest only to other historians, if to them, unless it contributes to the development of national awareness, satisfies curiosity about recent or local events, or titillates the literary sensibilities.” The same issue enticed Gottschalk into serving as a member of the Social Science Research Council’s conference on “Trends in Research in American History” (1942-46), on that same organization’s Board of Directors in 1956, and on its Committee on Historical Analysis in 1958. Through his teaching, writing, and participation in such organizations, Gottschalk repeatedly addressed himself to the question of the social responsibility of the historian.

This unflagging interest in historiography, coupled with his decision to do what he could to assist postwar world unity and international harmony prompted Gottschalk to accept a position as one of the editors of the Scientific and Cultural History of Mankind (SCHM)-a project which was truly international in scope. The need for a history of mankind, freed from the “misinformation and national biases” of traditional textbooks, was first articulated at a conference of Ministers of Education held in London during World War II. During the late 1940s the outlines of such a project were sketched out under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). SCHM eventually involved hundreds of scholars from numerous disciplines. Gottschalk joined the project as co-author and editor of Volume IV in 1951. Although the original plan had called for publication of six volumes by 1957, Volume IV was not published until 1969. The difficulties inherent in an experiment of this kind are amply recorded in the Gottschalk papers.

While the writing international history plagued Professor Gottschalk for over fifteen years, this work, coupled with other publications and an extensive teaching and lecture schedule brought him numerous honors and increased his responsibilities within the various professional associations. Professor Gottschalk was twice awarded a Guggenheim Fellow-ship (1928-29 and 1954-55) and, in 1953, the French government named him a Chevalier in the Legion of Honor. In addition, he received a Fulbright award for 1954-55, became a fellow at the Center for Advanced study of the Behavioral Sciences (1957-58), and was awarded a $10,000 prize in 1960 by the American Council of Learned Societies for “outstanding past achievements in the field of humanities.”

Gottschalk’s retirement from the University of Chicago in 1965 was followed by eight more years of teaching as Professor of History at the University of Illinois Chicago Circle Campus and, from 1969 to 1975, service as Associate Director of the Office of the University Honors Program at that institution. In addition, he devoted considerable attention to the formation of a new, interdisciplinary organization -the American Society of Eighteenth Century Studies. And, a “friend of Lafayette” to the end, Gottschalk helped to edit the massive Lafayette: a guide to the letters, documents and manuscript in the United States,15 a project begun in 1970 at Cornell University. Gottschalk was still at work on this project at the time of his death in March, 1975.

From the guide to the Gottschalk, Louis. Papers, [ca. 1927]-1975, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Burr, George Lincoln, 1857-1938. George Lincoln Burr papers, 1861-1942. Cornell University Library
creatorOf Gottschalk, Louis Reichenthal, 1899-1975. [Publications]. Cornell University Library
referencedIn University of Chicago. Comments given at a memorial service for Louis Gottschalk, Bond Chapel, University of Chicago, October 15, 1975. Lafayette College
creatorOf Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Records. Series VII., Other Department Files, 1916-1996 (bulk 1943-1969). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Records. Series V., Editor Files, 1873-1984 (bulk 1960-1980). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Gottschalk, Louis Reichenthal, 1899-1975. Letters, 1935-1948. Indiana University
creatorOf Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences, Inc. Records, bulk 1927-1934. Hampshire College, Harold F. Johnson Library
referencedIn Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences, Inc. Records MG2., 1927-1934 Hampshire College Archives
referencedIn Wallace Notestein papers, 1899-1969 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
creatorOf Gottschalk, Louis Reichenthal, 1899-1975. Lafayette comes to America / by Louis Gottschalk. Lafayette College
creatorOf Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Records. : Series II., Alfred A. Knopf Personal, 1874-1984 (bulk 1953-1984). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Gottschalk, Louis Reichenthal, 1899-1975. Lafayette between the American and the French revolution (1783-1789) / Louis Gottschalk. Lafayette College
creatorOf Gottschalk, Louis Reichenthal, 1899-1975. Papers, [ca. 1927]-1975 (inclusive). University of Chicago Library
creatorOf Gottschalk, Louis Reichenthal, 1899-1975. Lafayette joins the American army. Lafayette College
referencedIn Wallace Notestein papers, 1899-1969 (inclusive) Yale University Library
referencedIn Bernadotte Everly Schmitt Papers, 1868-1970, (bulk 1905-1969) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn American Friends of Lafayette. American Friends of Lafayette Records, 1930-1997. Lafayette College
referencedIn Leon Trotsky exile papers, 1929-1940. Houghton Library
referencedIn American Historical Association. Records of the American Historical Association, 1884-1985. Library of Congress
creatorOf Gottschalk, Louis Reichenthal, 1899-1975. In search of Lafayette. Lafayette College
creatorOf Gottschalk, Louis. Papers, [ca. 1927]-1975 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
creatorOf Gottschalk, Louis Reichenthal, 1899-1975. The beginnings of the modern world (1300-1775). University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
referencedIn Cohen, Morris Raphael, 1880-1947. Morris Raphael Cohen papers, 1898-1981. University of Chicago Library
creatorOf Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Records. : Series I., General Correspondence, 1922-1977 (bulk 1946-1966). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Gottschalk, Louis Reichenthal, 1899-1975. Lafayette and the close of the American revolution / by Louis Gottschalk. Lafayette College
referencedIn Bernadotte Everly Schmitt Papers, 1868-1970, (bulk 1905-1969) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Lach, Donald F. Papers, 1925-1994 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith American Friends of Lafayette. corporateBody
associatedWith American Historical Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Bonsal, Stephen, 1865-1951. person
associatedWith Burr, George Lincoln, 1857-1938. person
associatedWith Cohen, Morris Raphael, 1880-1947. person
associatedWith Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Gardner, Walter Pennett, 1869-1949. person
associatedWith Lach, Donald F. (Donald Frederick), 1917- person
associatedWith Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Du Motier, marquis de, 1757-1834. person
associatedWith Notestein, Wallace, 1878-1969. person
associatedWith Schmitt, Bernadotte Everly, 1886-1969. person
correspondedWith Trotsky, Leon, 1879-1940 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
United States
History--Study and teaching


Birth 1899-02-21

Death 1975-06-23





Ark ID: w64f25c9

SNAC ID: 7208005