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08.11.01 Coulter, E. Merton, College Life in the Old South, published in 1928 by Macmillan Company

Notes Concerning Author

E. Merton Coulter (1890-1981) was born to a middle-class family in North Carolina.  He received his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina and did post graduate work at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.  He came to the University of Georgia as a associate professor of history in 1919 and remained there for the entirety of his career.

The preface of College Life in the Old South says:

“Few scholars would dissent from the observation that E. Merton Coulter ranks among the most productive of American historians. In a career which spanned seven decades, the University of Georgia professor produced an enormous array of publications including dozens of books, scores of articles, and almost-too-numerous-to-count lesser publications. This prodigious outpouring contained works on numerous topics in southern and Georgia history and two major syntheses of critical eras in American history. In addition, Coulter found time to serve as coeditor of a series of major historical volumes on the South and for fifty years presided over the editing and publishing of the Georgia Historical Quarterly.”

Several of Coulter’s books are among the Society’s Recommended Reading items.  The Index under Button 22 will list those we have reviewed.


From the back of a recent printing we find:

“First published in 1928, College Life in the Old South relates the early history of the University of Georgia from its founding in 1785 through the [Political] Reconstruction era.  Not a dry compilation of facts, E. Merton Coulter’s classic study portrays the struggles and accomplishments of America’s first chartered state university.

“Coulter recounts, among other things, how Athens was chosen as the university’s location; how the state tried to close the university and refused to give it a fixed allowance until long after the [War Between the States]; the early rules and how students invariably broke them; the days when the Phi Kappa and Demosthenian literary societies ruled the campus; and the vast commencement crowds that overwhelmed Athens to feast on oratory and watermelons. 

“Coulter’s account, interspersed with delightful anecdotes, not only depicts the early university but also shows its importance in the antebellum South.”

Availability of this Book

The book is widely available as reprints and as digital e-books.  The University of Georgia e-book is at the following location: