Charles Austin Beard (November 27, 1874 – September 1, 1948) was, with Frederick Jackson Turner, one of the most influential American historians of the first half of the 20th century. He published hundreds of monographs, textbooks and interpretive studies in both history and political science. His works included radical re-evaluation of the founding fathers of the United States, who he believed were motivated more by economics than by philosophical principles. Beard's most influential book, written with his wife Mary Beard, was the wide-ranging and bestselling The Rise of American Civilization (1927), which had a major influence on American historians.
Beard was famous as a political liberal, but he strenuously opposed American entry into World War II, for which he blamed Franklin D. Roosevelt more than Japan or Germany. Fellow scholars repudiated his foreign policy and dropped his materialistic model of class conflict. Richard Hofstadter concluded in 1968: "Today Beard's reputation stands like an imposing ruin in the landscape of American historiography. What was once the grandest house in the province is now a ravaged survival."
Charles Beard was born into a wealthy Indiana family in 1874. In his youth he experienced the rigors hard physical labor working on the family farm and attended a local Quaker school, Spiceland Academy. He was expelled from the school when he and his brother Clarence printed a pamphlet criticizing the faculty and administration of Indiana University, where Clarence was a student. Charles graduated from Knightstown High School in 1891. For the next few years the brothers managed a local newspaper. Their editorial position supported the Republican Party and favored prohibition, a cause for which Charles Beard lectured in later years.