Robin McHugh

Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of History

Committee Chair

William B. Evans


University of Montana


The purpose of this thesis is to describe a major portion of the thought of Ralph Adams Cram. Before World War I Cram concentrated primarily on the development of his architectural practice as well as on the formulation of the philosophical, religious and aesthetic ideas that guided his life and work. The shock of the Great War changed the focus of Cram’s thought from these relatively narrow concerns to broad deliberations on the meaning of history, the nature of man, and the proper configurations of the good society. After World War I Cram devoted as much time to social criticism as he did to architecture. This study concentrates almost exclusively on this latter aspect of Cram's career. Also included is a brief discussion of Cram's place in the history of twentieth century conservative thought.

Cram's own writing, contained in books and articles, was the primary research material used. Secondary material on Cram is scarce though several studies completed recently were useful in writing the final chapter. Histories of the American conservative tradition were helpful in relating Cram's thought to that of other conservative critics of his time.

Cram was not an original thinker. Other men shared many of his ideas and often expressed than more clearly. Nevertheless, Cram is an interesting and in sane ways perhaps unique figure. At a time when intellectuals were fashionably pessimistic, Cram remained convinced that man could alter the course of history. Other men thought highly of the Middle Ages but few believed, as Cram did, that they were an appropriate model for the modem world. Also, Cram upheld a traditionalist conservative position, emphasizing the importance of religion, self-control, and community at a time when conservatism was popularly identified with individualism and "laissez-faire" economics. Finally, many of Cram's ideas are today championed by people on both the right and the left. This proves, as nothing else could, that he raised pertinent, lasting and perhaps unanswerable questions about the condition of modem man.



© Copyright 1981 Robin McHugh