Charles Austin Beard was born November 27, 1874, on a farm near Knightstown, Indiana, the younger of two sons of William Henry Harrison and Mary J. (Payne) Beard. His Beard forebears were Quakers who had settled in Guilford County, North Carolina. His father, at the start of the Civil War, had moved to Indiana, where he became a successful farmer, building contractor, and land speculator. Although his father was a self-proclaimed religious skeptic, Charles attended Quaker services as a boy and began his formal education in a local Quaker-run school. After he was graduated from Knightstown High School in 1891, his father bought for him and his older brother a local newspaper. In 1895, however, Charles gave up journalism to attend DePauw University. Majoring in history, he finished his undergraduate studies in three years with an impressive academic record, culminating in his election to Phi Beta Kappa. He then went to Oxford University for further study in history. While at DePauw, he had begun to shift from his father’s loyalty to the Republican Party to a sympathy for reform. His awakening sense of social consciousness was reinforced by his experiences in England. In response, Beard played a leading role in establishing at Oxford, in early 1899, a workingmen’s college—named Ruskin Hall after the English artist-reformer John Ruskin—for the training of future working-class leaders.
Except for a brief return trip to the United States to marry his...
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