Bruce Kimball

Headshot of Bruce Kimball

Faculty Emeritus, Department of Educational Studies

Program Area: Philosophy and History of Education

(614) 247-1928

Personal Website


  • Ed.D. Harvard University, with distinction, 1981
  • M.Div. Harvard University, magna cum laude, 1978
  • B.A. Dartmouth College, summa cum laude, 1973


Kimball has long studied the development and nature of liberal arts education. After spending two years at Harvard Law School as a Liberal Arts Fellow in the mid 1980s, he began to examine the history of professions and professional education in the United States. Since 2005, he has also been studying the history of finances of colleges and universities.

Kimball's research has been funded by the Spencer Foundation, American Philosophical Society, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Lilly Endowment, Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, Law School Admissions Council, and The College Board. His publications have received awards from the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the National Education Association, the American Society of Legal History, the American Educational Research Association, and the Association for Research on Non-profit and Voluntary Associations.

In 1998, Kimball was awarded a Senior Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies, and in 2012 a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2019, he was elected to the Emeritus Academy of Ohio State University.

Selected Publications

Authored Books

  • Wealth, Cost, and Price in American Higher Education: A Brief History, with Sarah M. Iler (2023).
  • The Intellectual Sword: Harvard Law School, the Second Century, with Daniel R. Coquillette (2020).
  • On the Battlefield of Merit: Harvard Law School, the First Century, with Daniel R. Coquillette (2015).
  • The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Documentary History (2010).
  • The Inception of Modern Professional Education: C. C. Langdell, 1826-1906 (2009, 2014).
  • The Condition of American Liberal Education: Pragmatism and a Changing Tradition, edited by Robert Orrill (1995).
  • The 'True Professional Ideal' in America: A History, (1992, 1995).
  • Orators and Philosophers: A History of the Idea of Liberal Education, (1986, 1987, 1996, Chinese translation 2021.)

Edited Books and Collections

  • Philosophy and History of Education: Diverse Perspectives on their Value and Relationship, with Antoinette Errante and Jackie Blount (2017)
  • Associate Editor for Education, American National Biography (2000).
  • Teaching Undergraduates: Essays from the Lilly Endowment Workshop on the Liberal Arts (1988)
  • Selected Essays in Liberal Theology 1975-85 (1985).


  • with Sarah M. Iler, "The Case Against Any Divestment, Ever," Inside Higher Education (May 28, 2024).
  • with Sarah M. Iler, "Academia’s Wealth Stratification Drives the Decline in Reporting Endowments," Minding the Campus (June 14, 2023).
  • with Sarah M. Iler, "Curtailing Financial Competition in Higher Education," Minding the Campus (March 10, 2023).
  • with Sarah M. Iler, "Share the Wealth and Stem the Financial Rivalry," Inside Higher Education (March 2, 2023).
  • with Sarah M. Iler, "Rising Production Cost – and Rising Resentment," Inside Higher Education (December 19, 2022).
  • with Sarah M. Iler, "Wealth Stratification in U.S. Higher Education and Democratic Education," The Cambridge Handbook of Democratic Education (2023).
  • "The Proliferation and Transformation of Harvard’s Case Method in the United States, 1870s-1990s," in American Legal Education Abroad: Critical Histories (2021).
  • with Sarah M. Iler, "Isocrates: The Founding and Tradition of Liberal Education," in A History of Western Philosophy of Education in Antiquity (2021).
  • with Jeremy B. Luke, ""The Formative Financial Era of the 'Major Professional Schools': Medicine, Law, and Business at Columbia and Harvard, 1890-1950," in The Economics of Higher Education in the United States (2019).
  • with Sarah M. Iler, "Endowments," in The Sage Encyclopedia of Higher Education (2019).
  • with Daniel R. Coquillette, “History and Harvard Law School,” Fordham Law Review 87 (2018): 883-904.
  • with Jeremy B. Luke, "Historical Dimensions of the “Cost Disease” in US Higher Education, 1870s–2010s," Social Science History 42 (2018): 29-55.
  • withJeremy B. Luke, "Measuring Cost Escalation in the Formative Era of U.S. Higher Education, 1875-1930," Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History 49 (2016): 198-219.
  • “Will the Liberal Arts Survive the Bronze Age of American Academe?  Essay Review.”  Journal of Higher Education 86 (2015): 156-170.
  • "The Context of Graduate Degrees at Harvard Law School under Dean Erwin N. Griswold, 1946-1967."  New England Law Review (2015): 101-114.
  • “Democratizing” Giving at Yale and Harvard: the Discursive Legitimation of Mass Fundraising at Elite Universities, 1890-1920.” History of Education Quarterly 55 (2015): 164–189.
  • "The Rising Cost of Higher Education: Charles Eliot’s “Free Money” Strategy and the Beginning of Howard Bowen’s “Revenue Theory of Cost,” 1869-1979," Journal of Higher Education 85 (2014): 886-912.
  • "Revising the Declension Narrative: Liberal Arts Colleges, Universities, and Honors Programs, and the University, 1870s-2010s," Harvard Educational Review 84 (2014): 243-264. 
  • "The First Campaign and the Paradoxical Transformation of Fundraising in American Higher Education," 1915-1925." Teachers College Record 116, no. 7 (2014): 1-44.
  • “Charity, Philanthropy, and Law School Fundraising: The Emergence and the Failure, 1880-1930,” Journal of Legal Education 63 (2013): 247-281.
  • “The Disastrous First Fund-Raising Campaign in Legal Education: the Harvard Law School Centennial, 1914-1920.”  Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 12 (2013): 535-578.
  • “Do the Study of Education and Teacher Education Belong at a Liberal Arts College?” Educational Theory 63 (2013): 171-184.
  • with Benjamin A. Johnson, “The Inception of the Meaning and Significance of Endowment in American Higher Education, 1890-1930.”  Teachers College Record 114, no. 10 (2012): 1-32.
  • with Benjamin A. Johnson , “The Beginning of “Free Money” Ideology in American Universities: Charles W. Eliot at Harvard, 1869-1909.”  History of Education Quarterly  52 (2012): 222-250.
  •  “Before the Paper Chase: Student Culture at Harvard Law School, 1895-1915.” Journal of Legal Education 61 (2011): 30-66.
  • “Impoverishing “the greatest law school in the world”: the Financial Collapse of Harvard Law School under Dean James Barr Ames, 1895-1909.” Journal of Legal Education 61 (2011): 4-29.
  •  “'This Pitiable Rejection of a Great Opportunity': W.E.B. Du Bois, Clement G. Morgan, and the Harvard University Graduation of 1890,” Journal of African American History 94 (2009): 5-20.
  • with Brian R. Shull, “The Ironical Exclusion of Women from Harvard Law School, 1870-1900,” Journal of Legal Education 58 (2008): 3-31.
  • "Langdell on Contracts and Legal Reasoning: Revising the Holmesian Caricature" Law & History Review 25 (Summer 2007): 345-399.
  • "The Principle, Politics, and Finances of Establishing Academic Merit as the Standard of Hiring for the teaching of law as a career, 1870-1900," Law & Social Inquiry 31 (2006): 617-648.
  •  “Mr. Langdell’s Emblematic ‘Abomination’: the Proliferation of Case Method Teaching, 1890-1915,” History of Education Quarterly 46 (2006): 190-244.
  • “Law Students’ Choices and Experience during the Transition to Competitive Academic Achievement,1876-1882,” Journal of Legal Education 55 ([2006]): 163-207.
  • with Pedro Reyes, “The ‘First Modern Civil Procedure Course,’ 1870-78,” American Journal of Legal History 47 (2005) 257-303.
  • “Professor Langdell, the Case of an “Abomination” in Teaching,” Thought & Action 20 (2004): 23-38.
  • “The Langdell Problem: Historicizing the Century of Historiography, 1906-2000s.” Law & History Review 22 (2004): 277-337.
  • with R. Blake Brown, “’The Highest Legal Ability in the Nation’: Langdell on Wall Street, 1855-1870,” Law & Social Inquiry 29 (2004): 39-104.
  • with R. Blake Brown, “When Holmes Borrowed from Langdell: the “Ultra Legal” Formalism and Public Policy of Northern Securities (1904)." American Journal of Legal History 45 ([2003]): 278-321.
  • "Young Christopher Langdell: The Formation of an Educational Reformer, 1826-1854." Journal of Legal Education 52 (2002): 189-239.
  • “The Professional Ideal, 1950s,” Encyclopedia of American Cultural and Intellectual History (New York: Charles Scribner’s, 2001), v. 2, pp. 55-64.
  • "Liberal Education, Liberalism, and Political Culture." Perspectives, Association of General and Liberal Studies 20: 5-20; (2000)
  • with David C. Paris. “Liberal Education: an Overlapping Pragmatic consensus.” Journal of Curriculum Studies 32 (2000): 143-158.
  • Warn Students That I Entertain Heretical Opinions, Which They Are Not To Take as Law: The Inception of Case Method Teaching in the Classrooms of the Early C.C. Langdell, 1870-1883.”  Law & History Review 17 (1999): 57-140.
  • “The Life of Langdell Has Not Been Logic; It has Been Experience.” Law & History Review 17 (1999): 155-159.
  •  “The Meaning of ‘Profession’ in American Culture.” Ethics at Emory 1 (1996):8-16.
  • "Two Views of the Academic Life: A Dialogue between Two Generations" with Elof Axel Carlson, Liberal Education 80 (1994): 5-15.
  • "The Liberal Profession of Teaching: Review Essay." American Journal of Education 100 (1991): 106-118.
  • "Professions of Language and Reason," American Journal of Education 98 (1990): 251-70.
  • "The Educating Profession." Teaching Education 2 (1989): 100-3.
  • "The Education for Those Who Are Free: Essay Review." History of Education Quarterly 28 (1988): 243-56.
  • "The Historical and Cultural Dimensions of the Recent Reports on Undergraduate Education." American Journal of Education 96 (1988): 293-322.reprinted in ASHE Reader on the History of Higher Education (1989)reprinted in ASHE Reader on the Curriculum of Higher Education (1990)
  • "The Problem of Teachers' Authority in Light of the Structural Theory of the Professions." Educational Theory 38 (1988): 1-9.
  • "The Inclination of Modern Jurists to Associate Lawyers with Doctors: Plato's Response in Gorgias 464-465." Journal of Medical Humanities and Bioethics 9 (1988): 17-31.
  • "The Ambiguity of Logos and the History of the Liberal Arts." Liberal Education 74 (1988): 11-15.
  • "The History of Professional Education: Essay Review." Journal of Higher Education 59 (1988): 456-68.
  • "Legal Education, Liberal Education and the Trivial Artes." Journal of General Education 38 (1987): 182-210.
  • "Liberal versus Useful Education: Reconsidering the Contrast and Its Lineage." Teachers College Record 87 (1986): 575-587.
  • "The Training of Teachers, the Study of Education, and the Liberal Disciplines." Educational Theory 36 (1986): 15-21.
  • "Writing the History of Universities: A New Approach?" Minerva 23 (1986): 375-389.
  • "Matthew Arnold, Thomas Huxley and Liberal Education: A Centennial Retrospective." Teachers College Record 86 (1985): 475-487.
  • "Ideas No Dishonor to Experience: A Reply to Professor Gamson's `Liberating Education.’” National Forum for Honors Programs 15 (1985): 18-22.
  • "The Liberal Education Debate and Its Historical Appeals: Toward a Sorting Out and Appraisal." Liberal Education 69 (1984): 321-333.
  • "Founders of Liberal Education: The Case for Roman Orators Against Socratic Philosophers." Teachers College Record 85 (1983): 225-249.
  • "Criticism of Christian Theology by Japanese New Religions: Some Parallels to the Criticism from American Religious Liberals." Religious Traditions 5 (1983): 62-90.
  • "Japanese Liberal Education: A Case Study in Its National Context." Teachers College Record 83 (1981): 245-261.
  • "Liberal vs. Useful Education: Reevaluating the Historical Appeals to Benjamin Franklin and Aristotle." Liberal Education 67 (1981): 286-292.
  • "Theories of Restoration in Paul and Plato." Faith and Freedom 33 (1980): 131-143.
  • "The Problem of Epistemology in Japanese New Religions." Tenri Journal of Religion 12 (1979): 72-93.
  • "An Historical Perspective on the Constitutional Debate over Affirmative Action Admissions." Journal of Law and Education 7 (1978): 31-48.
  • "The Origin of the Sabbath and Its Legacy to the Modern Sabbatical." Journal of Higher Education 49 (1978): 303-315.
  • "Reinhold Niebuhr and John Dewey." Religious Humanism 11 (1977): 126-134.