The Hartford History Center at Hartford Public Library, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, and the University of Connecticut’s Humanities Institute, are launching a community engagement partnership with a new discussion series called Encounters. The partners will provide discussion leaders to engage in topics aimed at strengthening our ability to know ourselves and one another through respectful and challenging dialogue. This February and March, Encounters will focus on the fundamental documents that define our democracy.
Brown Bag Event
Wednesday, February 8
Wood Hall Basement Lounge
Kay Gruder from the Center for Career Development will be doing a presentation on using “The Versatile Ph.D.” website. Kay is a specialist in helping graduate students at the Center for Career Development, and getting to know her, as well as this valuable subscription website, will be helpful to all.
This site is a valuable on-line tool for graduate students considering careers outside traditional academic settings. https://versatilephd.com/
The Career Pathways Series is supported by an AHA Career Diversity Grant, the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute, and the Department of History.
“Digital Pathways in History”
UConn Humanities Institute Conference Room
Babbidge Library, 4th floor
“The Digital Public Library of America and the History Around Us”
Dr. Cohen is the founding Executive Director of the Digital Public Library of America, which is bringing together the riches of America’s libraries, archives, and museums, and making them freely available to the world. Until 2013, he was Professor of History in the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University and the Director of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. He is co-author of Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005), author of Equations from God: Pure Mathematics and Victorian Faith (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007), and co-editor of Hacking the Academy (University of Michigan Press, 2012).
Career Pathways Roundtable
Wood Hall Basement Lounge
Dr. Cohen, (Ph.D. Yale University), Executive Director, Digital Public Library of America
Sara Georgini, (Ph.D. Candidate, Boston University), Assistant Editor, The Adams Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society
Professor Tom Scheinfeldt (D.Phil., Oxford University), Associate Professor of Digital Media and Design and Director of Digital Humanities in the Digital Media Center, UConn
Sara Sikes, UConn University Archives, Special Collections & Digital Curation, Scholarly Communications Design Studio Coordinator
Light refreshments will be served from 4-4:30. The roundtable will begin at 4:30.
Gender & History Series
Juliana Barr, Associate Professor, Duke University
Author of the prize-winning book Peace Came in the Form of a Woman: Indians and Spaniards in the Texas Borderlands.
Monday, November 28, 4:30pm
Konover Auditorium, Thomas J. Dodd Center
Lecture: “War Came in the Form of a Woman: Spanish Saints and Demons in the American Southwest”
Reception to follow
Tuesday, November 29, 10:00-11:30am
Wood Hall Basement Lounge
Workshop: “La Dama Azul” (The Woman in Blue): An Origin Story for Colonial America, as told from an Indian Perspective”
October 11, 2016, 4:00 PM
“Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad”
About Prof. Foner:
Please join us for the first Fall 2016 Foreign Policy Seminar!
University of California, Berkeley
“The Texas Gun Frontier and the Travails of Mexican History”
Friday, October 7 – 4:30pm
Brian DeLay received his PhD from Harvard University in 2004. DeLay’s 2008 book, War of a Thousand Deserts: Indian Raids and the U.S.-Mexican War (Yale University Press), won prizes from several different scholarly organizations. He has served as a Fulbright Distinguished Lecturer, and has received fellowships from the ACLS, the American Philosophical Society, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, and other organizations. He is the editor of North American Borderlands (Routledge, 2012), and is now at work on a monograph titled “Shoot the State: Arms, Capitalism, and Freedom in the Americas Before Gun Control,” under contract with W.W. Norton.
History will again participate in the Huskies Forever Alumni Weekend! We are excited to offer two interesting panel discussions!
“Humans and Animals in History” – faculty panel, featuring
The faculty panel will be followed by refreshments.
Professional Life After History – alumni career panel, featuring
This information will be updated as the event date draws closer. For more information about the events across campus that weekend and to register to attend, please visit huskiesforever.uconn.edu
Blanca G. Silvestrini, an attorney and historian, who recently retired from the History Department after 42 years in academics, has spent her professional life reaching out beyond the Ivory Tower and the courtroom to students, refugee children and repressed women, among other groups.
This spring, Jorell Meléndez-Badillo, a Ph.D. candidate in history, had the opportunity to talk to Professor Silvestrini about her career and her plans for the future.
As she told Meléndez-Badillo, in the interview “my heart beat history, my thought is legally oriented and I have always aspired to reach out to people, whether inside or outside of the classroom.”
Silvestrini will continue her active research life into Caribbean culture and society with an “emphasis on people, real people living in the region but also people on the move.”
Silvestrini received a doctorate in history from SUNY-Albany; her interests in law and society in Puerto Rico led her to earn a law degree and J.S.M. from Stanford University.
The two academic degrees mesh perfectly with Silvestrini’s philosophy and research focuses.
“My teaching and research have gone hand in hand,” she told Meléndez-Badillo. “I approach law as a historical product and research how it affects change in society. “ She gave as an example her course in Latinos/as and Human Rights in which she emphasized changes, influences, contradictions, successes and failures of social movements.
She said teaching, which she began at age 26 at the University of Puerto Rico, sustains her. Despite administrative jobs in academia, she has always returned to the classroom.
She defined teaching as a “reciprocal process” in which students and faculty give to each other. Young people, she said, “force you to think in a different way … (they) anchor you in the present, ask questions you hadn’t thought about and drive your creativity to a new level.”
She reminds her students that young people created the civil rights movements and have been leaders of their times.
In the classroom, her mantra was “history is about real people,” always encouraging students to think of themselves, their families and their communities “as part of history.”
Predictably, a teacher first led Silvestrini to pursue history – a turning point in her life that should remind all students of the value of the core curriculum. She had entered undergraduate studies as a math major but an opening in a Renaissance history course, required to take, turned into a breakthrough experience when, knowing her interest in science, her professor suggested she read a biography of Leonardo da Vinci.
It was the first “real” history book she had ever read and its impact was so great she switched majors to history. That professor became “my role model,” she said. “Beyond content, he taught me how to be a historian.”
It is a role Silvestrini has taken on for countless undergraduate and graduate students, who, like herself, she has required to diversify their studies by reading novels and ethnographies and analyzing films, legal cases and statistics.
Her focus on interdisciplinary studies was intensified as part of a faculty group that helped create the UConn Human Rights Institute, founded in 2003 by eight Liberal Arts and Sciences academic departments and the Schools of Business and Law to advance the study and teaching of human rights. It now has healthy major and minor programs.
Professor Silvestrini has “mentored a generation of historians, social scientists and legal scholars,” wrote Meléndez-Badillo in the introduction to his interview with her.
“Working closely with her at the University of Connecticut has transformed my conception of the uses of historical scholarship can have within and beyond the ivory tower,” he continued.
A review of Silvestrini’s scholarship and publications makes clear the breadth and depth of her interests.
Among her books, in Spanish and English, are studies of female resistance, the politics and violence and criminality of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean as well as the history of that region of the hemisphere. Her countless journal articles take long looks at research resources in Puerto Rico, Latino culture and civil rights, working conditions for women and the Puerto Rican legal system, among other topics.
She is also a practicing attorney and serves as a counselor-at-law and consultant attorney in cases related to immigration and Puerto Rican family and inheritance law for a Cambridge, Mass.-based law firm.
And although she is leaving the classroom for now, Silvestrini’s creative mind continues to lead her in new directions of research and activism.
These fields include legally representing Central American refugee children, health and citizenship in Puerto Rico (the subject of her latest book), and, in a unique avenue of investigation, the cuisine of Puerto Rico at the turn of the 20th century when profound cultural and societal changes were taking place.
“The question brings together the social and economic transformations from an agricultural to an industrial society, the impact of the transition fro Spanish to American colonials, the incorporation of women in the work force … and the expansion of the state powers into education, public health and urbanization,” she told Meléndez-Badillo. As weighty as these investigations sound, Silvestrini also said she plans to have some “fun” with the project by finding recipes and collecting stories.
How entertaining and educational it will be for all historians to read the results of this undertaking. Thank you, Blanca Silvestrini, for your continued mentoring and work in the field of history.
Jorell Meléndez-Badillo, a PhD candidate in History, interviewed his advisor Professor Blanca Silvestrini in Spring 2016. Meléndez-Badillo is accomplished in his own right: he is a 2016-17 recipient of the Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship.
Terese Karmel, Department of Journalism, wrote this article.
Of the many History majors who were graduated on May 8, twenty-two History majors graduated either as Honors Scholars or with Latin honors – some with both.
Five Honors Scholars shared their thesis abstracts with the department: one evaluates the impact of President Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress on US foreign policy toward Chile; another examines the reversal of fortune for the English monarchy in the 13th century; and another investigates a possible connection between queer/queercore zines of the 1980s-2000s and radical queer politics. Another thesis analyzes the Kurdish nationalist movement in the 20th century, while another scrutinizes the impact of the Enrollment Act of 1863, the first national draft in United States history.
Abstract: Facing the threat of communism spreading throughout Latin America after the 1959 Cuban Revolution, President Kennedy enacted a sweeping re-imagination of US regional foreign aid: The Alliance for Progress. Designed to thwart the spread of communism through improving continent-wide economic and social development, it represented a peak in US ambitions to affect policy changes abroad. This paper combines an analysis of US foreign policy towards Latin America, with more specific foci on Chile, US-Chile bilateral relations and the Chilean housing sector. Ultimately, the paper examines the relations between the two governments, particularly during the presidency of Eduardo Frei, an ambitious, pro-US reformer. Using housing policy as a case study, the paper examines how reformist aims contributed to counterproductive results, including the first democratic election of a Marxist president in the Western hemisphere.
Abstract: After the reigns of Henry II and Richard I, the prestige of the English monarchy was at an unparalleled high. The kingdom owned large stretches of land in western France and after Richard’s prominent role in the Third Crusade the monarchy could scarcely be more respected. In the beginning of the 13th century the kingdom was ruled first by King John, and then by Henry III. Despite the power of their predecessors, both kings saw a massive downturn in their authority. The barons of England were constantly rebelling and they stripped much of the power away from the crown, until at one point the king was little more than a puppet with his son Edward held hostage and Magna Carta signed and sealed to preserve future limits on the King’s power. Many historians both then and now attribute this to the weaknesses of John and Henry III. However, while this was certainly a major factor, my research has uncovered an underlying theme of greed for power on behalf of the English nobility that I believe exceeds any weaknesses the monarchs had. This paper identifies how and why the English nobility stole power from the king, and to what degree the nobility were fighting for their own glory, and not the glory of their country.
Abstract: In an effort to further historicize queer anarchist politics in the 20th century, this thesis worked to establish a connection between the queer/queercore zines of the 1980s-2000s and radical queer politics. Zines from the Queer Zine Archive Project database were closely examined and compared in an attempt to distill the radical politics that manifested in the space of queer punk, homopunk, and queercore. Through an exploration of these artifacts, it became evident that the radical leftist politics of the early Gay Liberation movement were transformed and founded renewed invigoration in the queercore scene, wherein authors expressed their thoughts and feelings on topics ranging from capitalism, homonormatism, racism, and normative gay integrationalist and assimilationist politics aimed at normative liberal moves towards citizenship.
“A State Denied: Kurdish Nationalism and the Problems of Ethnic Coordination”
Abstract: In this paper, I examine the history of the Kurdish nationalist movement in the 20th century. I propose that Kurdish nationalist movements that have the ability to encourage Kurds to self-identify along ethnic lines will have the most success in attracting support and achieving their goals. As a result, countries like Iraq where there is no unified sense of national identity will foster stronger Kurdish national movements. On the other hand, countries like Turkey where the state can counter Kurdish identity will be able to resist the demands of even strong Kurdish movements such as the PKK, which limits its support base by identifying itself as an ideological as well as an ethnic movement. In particular, states like Iran which successfully foster non-ethnic identification are successful in dissuading Kurds from joining Kurdish nationalist movement. This research suggests that ethnic nationalist movements which have a purely ethnic appeal for support are most likely to succeed, while those that also try to assert other messages (religious, ideological, social, etc.) are less likely.
Abstract: As recruitment slowly dwindled as the Civil War dragged on, the North was forced to pass the Enrollment Act of 1863, the first national draft in United States history. For an already unstable nation, the national draft did little to heal the divides that split the country. The policies of substitution and commutation led to great resentment, eventually sparking the New York City Draft Riots of 1863. To many Union soldiers, drafted men and substitutes were “unscrupulous men” who lied, deserted, and shirked their duty to their country. Other volunteers however, urged their loved ones to escape the draft and to support the war effort from home. My thesis examines and analyzes the thoughts and attitudes of these Union soldiers, recorded in their diaries and letters, giving us great insight into the average soldier’s opinion on recruitment and the draft, a view that has often been overshadowed by the public’s.
Doctoral dissertations must offer original contributions to knowledge and understanding. For historians this involves not only identifying fresh topics and source materials but exercising the diligence and imagination to reconstruct past lives and circumstances from necessarily fragmentary evidence. Their reward is to uncover unknown or forgotten aspects of the past, or to offer new and surprising perspectives on familiar subjects.
This past May, four scholars were awarded PhDs by the History Department, a number that should make a small liberal arts department very proud.
Two of these graduate students shed light on a pair of women who broke tradition and forged new paths personally and politically, another focused on the revelations of character and piety in the diary of an 18th century Congregational minister who despite inner doubts, brought peace to his flock. The dissertation of the fourth student examines the political, economic and cultural relationship between the United States and a region of Southern Italy over several centuries.
In her dissertation titled, “Janet Minot Sedgwick II and the World of American Catholic Converts, 1820-1890,” Erin Bartram traces the history of the controversial conversion to Catholicism of Sedgwick. Raised by an elite New England Unitarian family. Sedgwick, who was born in New York City, found friendship and emotional support through her association with other female converts. Despite her family’s indifference (they eventually accepted her conversion) and what Bartram said were priests whose ideas “about gender and authority” conflicted with her own, Sedgwick found happiness and comfort with other converts and eventually worked to establish a Catholic school.
The woman studied by graduate student Allison B. Horrocks had a different, though equally groundbreaking life. Flemmie Kittrell (1904-1980) was a pioneer in the effort to establish the legitimacy of the study of home economics. The first African American woman to earn a PhD in that field, Kittrell taught the subject at many black institutions. But her work, according to Horrocks’ research, did not begin and end on college campuses. Kittrell developed home economics programs abroad. As the dissertation, titled “”Good Will Ambassador with a Cookbook,” points out, because of Kittrell’s accomplishments, her work should be viewed as providing a new understanding of women’s activism, gender politics and the legitimacy of the field of home economics in higher education and politics.
Anthony Antonucci’s dissertation examines the evolution of the relationship between the Mezzogiorno region of southern Italy (centered around the city of Naples) and the United State, dating back to 1785 when Thomas Jefferson was U.S. Minister to France, through author Herman Melville’s visit to Italy in 1857, six years after the publication of “Moby Dick.” The exchange of goods and ideas between the two regions “exerted a substantive influence on the economic and cultural development of both countries,” he writes of his thesis titled in part, “Americans and the Mezzogiorno: United States Relations with the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.” Though largely overlooked, the examination of how Americans and southern Italians viewed and related to each other “offers a larger understanding of both cultures” of the late 18th and 19th centuries.
The depth and breadth of historical research becomes even clearer when one considers the dissertation of Linda Meditz who chose to do a close examination of the life of Stephen Williams, through his own words. Titled “Captive: Piety and Ministry in the Diary and Life of Stephen Williams,” Meditz provides a close reading and analysis of Williams’ 4,000 page diary, which starts in1715 when he had just graduated from Harvard and ends in 1782, a week prior to his death. Though other scholars have concentrated on Williams’ comments on events of the period, Meditz focuses on the personal aspects of his inner piety and his belief that he was inadequate for the spiritual life. The diary, which Meditz calls “a hybrid literary form,” because of its mix of styles and materials, served as a “spiritual discipline,” through which the pastor looked into his soul and dealt with his self-doubts.
So there you have it: Four commendable scholarly works that take readers from international cities to the innermost workings of an individual’s soul. The results represent years of study, research, writing and rewriting by the four new PhDs, who have brought pride to their department and faculty mentors, and enlightenment to the field of history.
by Terese Karmel
Department of Journalism