Auburn University possesses a rich and storied past as well as an esprit de corps that is the envy of its rivals. Dwayne Cox’s The Village on the Plain traces the school’s history in fascinating detail from its origins as a private college through its emergence as a nationally recognized land-grant university.
Founded before the Civil War to provide a classical education, Auburn became the state’s land-grant college after the cessation of hostilities. This infused the school with a vision of the reborn South as a commercial and industrial power. By the 1880s, the applied sciences were at the core of Auburn’s growth and strength. Like most southern universities, Auburn never enjoyed financial abundance, and scarcity intensified internal debates over investments in liberal arts or science. Modest state funding for higher education also complicated Auburn’s rise. It became a source of competition with the University of Alabama. This rivalry was most intense between 1908 and 1948. The two schools did not meet on the gridiron but blocked and tackled one another in the legislature over the division of state funds.
On the idyllic plains of Lee County, Alabama, Auburn developed a unique, sometimes introspective culture, which is true of many universities founded far from urban centers. Long Auburn’s head archivist, Cox describes this culture with an insider’s insights and shows how it shaped the school's history and community.
Auburn University’s history is that of a small private college that rose to the challenges of convulsive state and national events, not only to survive but to emerge more vibrant and thriving. Offering much to students of higher education and Alabama history, as well as readers affiliated with Auburn University, The Village on the Plain tells the story of this complex and fascinating institution.
1. Purpose Debated, 1856–1884
2. Purpose Defined, 1884–1902
3. Purpose Refined, 1902–1920
4. Out of Control, 1920–1928
5. In Search of Control, 1928–1935
6. In Control, 1935–1947
7. Delicate Balance, 1947–1965
8. Balance Threatened, 1965–1980
9. Balance Lost, 1980–1984
10. Academic Politics 101, 1984–1992
11. Academic Politics 102, 1992–2001
12. Academic Politics 103, 2001–2006
Dwayne Cox holds a PhD in history from the University of Kentucky and serves as Head of Special Collections and Archives at Auburn University.
"In The Village on the Plain: Auburn University, 1856–2006, Dwayne Cox does a masterful job of documenting Auburn University's history from its humble beginnings to its becoming the largest land-grant institution in Alabama. [ . . . ] The book's twelve compelling chapters are written in an alluring, conversational tone that guides readers through several complex topics and themes. Cox skillfully analyzes and interweaves Auburn University's history, Alabama history and southern history in general." —The Journal of Southern History
“Dwayne Cox’s The Village on the Plain provides a model of higher education history. He has connected Auburn’s past and present to tell a lively story that balances achievements and controversies. Most exciting is that he connects its institutional history to the South’s distinctive local, regional, and state history. Cox connects his original archival research and documents to major themes and secondary sources making Auburn University integral to the heritage of American higher education. His timing is perfect, with nationwide celebration of the land-grant legacy.”—John R. Thelin, author of Games Colleges Play: Scandal and Reform in Intercollegiate Athletics and A History of American Higher Education
“Cox's history of Auburn University now ranks among the best histories southern institutions of higher learning founded before 1860, and none had more evil spirits to exorcise. It is meticulously fair, thorough, well analyzed, and engagingly written.” —Wayne Flynt, author of Alabama in the Twentieth Century, Poor but Proud, and Southern Religion and Christian Diversity in the Twentieth Century