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Bill Thayer

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The History of West Point

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of Doctor of
Education in Temple University

The Author and the Work

"The History of West Point" is something of a misnomer. It does provide an annalistic account of the main events in the history of the Academy from 1852 thru 1902, taking up the central portion of the dissertation, and for that reason is a useful secondary source; but a constant leitmotiv never fully and explicitly stated either as a subject or as a conclusion, yet which has to be taken as the real subject of the paper, is how West Point has been valuable in preparing civilians and professional educators.

The author's focus is understandable: William Frederick Holford Godson, Jr., was a graduate of West Point who wound up as a high school teacher, and the dissertation was intended to further his career as an educator.

If I'd been one of the examiners, I fear I would not have graded him well. His dissertation includes a number of not-so‑minor errors, that just might be attributable to the printer (although I don't think so); but far more important are the aforementioned weasel-like approach to his subject, and at least two serious mistakes — a blunder in his research into previous literature (p9 and my note), and a very careless and unresearched comment on preparing young men as candidates for West Point (p44 and my note), matters which in different ways are fundamental to Godson's thesis: to my mind, they thus vitiate his work; and those are only the ones I managed to catch from my own imperfect knowledge. The appendices, finally, frequently trivial or irrelevant, produce an unshakeable impression of utter cluelessness. That said, he was awarded his doctorate in 1934, but died in 1940, still a fairly young man.

Acknowledgment and Introduction


Historical Review of Previous Research


Sources of Data and Methods of Handling












Interpretations of Results
Pertinent Applications
Summary of Findings and Conclusions







[decorative delimiter]

Technical Details


The text is that of what appears to have been the first and only edition, printed in Philadelphia in 1934.

It is now in the public domain pursuant to the 1978 revision of the U. S. Copyright Code, since the copyright was not renewed at the appropriate time, which would have been in 1961 or 1962. (Details here on the copyright law involved.)


This transcription has been minutely proofread. In the table of contents above, the sections are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe the text of them to be completely errorfree. As elsewhere onsite, the header bar at the top of each chapter's webpage will remind you with the same color scheme.

The printed dissertation included a few typographical errors. I marked the corrections, when important (or unavoidable because inside a link), with a bullet like this;º and when trivial, with a dotted underscore like this: as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over the bullet or the underscored words to read the variant. Similarly, bullets before measurements provide conversions to metric, e.g., 10 miles.

A small number of odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, etc. have been marked <!‑‑ sic  in the sourcecode, just to confirm that they were checked.

Any mistakes not marked, please drop me a line, of course: especially if you have a copy of the printed dissertation in front of you.

Pagination and Local Links

For citation and indexing purposes, the pagination is shown in the right margin of the text at the page turns (like at the end of this line); p57  these are also local anchors. Sticklers for total accuracy will of course find the anchor at its exact place in the sourcecode.

In addition, I've inserted a number of other local anchors: whatever links might be required to accommodate the author's own cross-references, as well as a few others for my own purposes. If in turn you have a website and would like to target a link to some specific passage of the text, please let me know: I'll be glad to insert a local anchor there as well.

[image ALT: An engraving of two groups of uniformed men, three on the viewer's left, eight on the right, discussing something in front of a long free-standing blackboard; two bearded men, seen to the waist, look on the scene with attention. It is a mid‑19c engraving depicting a cadet examination or class recitation, and is the icon used on this site to represent my subsite reproducing Godson's West Point dissertation.]

The icon I use to indicate this subsite is a detail of an already small vignette, part of an assemblage of about a dozen very varied vignettes in a mid‑19c engraving in Harper's Weekly, depicting "Cadet Life at West Point". In keeping with the educational theme of Godson's dissertation, I've selected a classroom scene: it appears to be a recitation by a team of cadets, or maybe an examination, conducted before the blackboard (see pp14, 28, 3041) in the presence of other cadets and a group of visitors, not seen here, and two professors in the foreground.

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Site updated: 30 Jun 14