History of Harvard University

History Of Harvard University

History of Harvard University

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The History of Harvard tells the story of Harvard University from 1636 to the present.


With some 17,000 Puritans migrating to New England by 1620, Harvard was founded by ministers who realized the need for training clergy for the new commonwealth, a "church in the wilderness." It was named for John Harvard, its first benefactor. It received its corporate charter in 1650 and became a university in 1780.

An early, anonymous description of the college, New England's First Fruits (1643) recalled:
"After God had carried us safe to New England, and we ... rear'd convenient places for God's worship ... dreading to leave an illiterate Ministry to the Churches, when our present Ministers shall lie in the Dust ... it pleased God to stir up the heart of one Mr. Harvard, a godly gentleman and a lover of learning ... to give the one half of his estate ... towards the erecting of a college and all his Library."Samuel Eliot Morison, The founding of Harvard College (1936) Appendix D, and pp 304-5

When the college's first president Henry Dunster abandoned Puritanism in favor of the Baptist faith in 1653, he provoked a controversy that highlighted two distinct approaches to dealing with dissent in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The colony's Puritan leaders, whose own religion was born of dissent from mainstream Church of England, generally worked for reconciliation with members who questioned matters of Puritan theology but responded much...
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