10/28-10/29: Facing History with Manisha Sinha and Jeffrey Ogbar

Facing History Promo FlyerOn October 28 and 29, Professor Manisha Sinha and and Professor Jeffrey Ogbar will present two events with the Benton Museum of Art. They will engage in a discussion about the new “Facing History” exhibition that explores race, gender, and colonialism. Please RSVP to benton@uconn.edu. 

10/28 Facing History Gallery Talk With Jeffrey Ogbar 

Thursday, October 28th, 2021 

03:30 PM – 05:00 PM 

Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar, Professor of History and Director, Center for the Study of Popular Music at UConn, presents a playlist inspired by the exhibition, Facing History. 

Followed by hot cider and donuts in The Benton courtyard. 

10/29 Facing History Faculty Dialogue With Manisha Sinha And Kelli Morgan 

Friday, October 29th, 2021
02:00 PM – 03:00 PM

With Manisha Sinha, James L. and Shirley A. Draper Chair in American History at UConn, and Kelli Morgan, Director of Curatorial Studies at Tufts University. 

10/14 and 10/15: Encounters Series on Land Grab CT and A Dialogue on UConn’s Colonial History

This week,  Native American Cultural Programs (NACP) and the Native American and Indigenous Students Association (NAISA) will host several dialogues that interrogate the relationship between colonialism, dispossession, and indigenous sovereignty. On Thursday, October 14 at 4pm EDT, the creators of Land Grab U, Tristan Ahtone and Bobby Lee will discuss the role of land grant universities in land accumulation, wealth and indigenous dispossession.  On Friday, October 15, the dialogue continues at 12pm EDT.  For both events, please fill out the Google doc form to register.

More event information below:

9/23: Hana Maruyama Virtual Forum with Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry

New UConn History Prof. Hana Maruyama will participate in a virtual forum on “Animating Memories of Japanese American Incarceration”  with the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry.Assistant Professor Hana Maruyama image This event is a part of their Fall 2021 Puppet Forum Series and exhibit on Puppetry’s Racial Reckoning.  In collaboration with  theater artist Kimi Maeda, Hana Maruyama will discuss the impact and legacies of Japanese incarceration during World War II.  The discussion will take place on Thursday, 9/23 at 7pm EDT on Zoom. Follow this link to learn more about the event and be sure to register! 

9/22: Manisha Sinha and Sandra Rebok Virtual Talk on Alexander Von Humboldt’s Legacy

On Wednesday, 9/22, join Prof. Manisha Sinha from the University of Connecticut  and Dr. Sandra Rebok from the University of California San Diego, for a virtual discussion titled, “Confronting History: The Legacy of Alexander von Humboldt’s Encounter with the Americas in the 21st Century.” The event will take place on Wednesday, 9/22 at 12pm EDT. The talk is co-sponsored by UConn’ Office of Global Affairs and the German Consulate General Boston  as a part of their series on the afterlives of slavery, colonialism, and imperialism.  Registration for the event is still open!

9/22: Brendan Kane Presents at Jesus College Oxford

Prof. Brendan Kane will deliver a virtual talk about “Elizabeth I and Ireland: The Irish and England” on Wednesday, 9/22 at 1pm EDT (6pm BST). Prof. Kane’s presentation will be the first in Jesus College Oxford’s popular event series,  Celebrating the Elizabethan College. Registration for the event closes on Monday, September 20 at 7am EDT (12pm BST).

The event description (as posted by Jesus College Oxford):

We are delighted to open our events programme for this academic year with a talk that is part of our ever-popular series of events, Celebrating the Elizabethan College. On this occasion we are fortunate to be joined by Dr Brendan Kane, Associate Professor of History at the University of Connecticut, who will examine the relationship between Jesus College’s foundress and the people of Ireland, and how its legacy can still be felt in the modern political landscape.




“Key Texts” In Modern Chinese Political Thought Conference

Fifteen scholars from China, Taiwan, and Europe, as well as the US, met on September 27 and 28, 2019 to discuss selected key texts written by Chinese intellectuals and political activists from the late Qing period (1890s) through the Republican period (1912-1949). The conference was held at UConn-Hartford.


The texts ranged from well-known works by Kang Youwei, Liang Qichao, and Mao Zedong to lesser-known writings of Yang Du and Ding Shan. The conference’s discussions were held in English and Chinese. Duan Lian, Pablo Blitstein, Wang Fansen, Gao Bo, Carl K.Y. Shaw, Wen Yu, Mara Yue Du, Axel Schneider, Gu Hongliang, Thomas Fröhlich, Li Yongjin, Shellen Wu, and Peter Zarrow gave papers, while discussants were Stephen Angle, Alexus McLeod, and Fred Lee.


The goals of the conference were to highlight new scholarship on the rich political theorizing of the period, and to help establish modern Chinese political thought as a field not only important in its own right but of interest to non-Sinophone scholars working on political theory, comparative politics, and global intellectual history. We collectively hope to continue to pursue these goals in the future. In terms of making modern Chinese political thought more transparent outside this sub-field, we will work on providing complete translations of key texts and, separately, introductions to them. These introductions will provide basic information on the text’s author, its context, its contents and significance, and its reception and influence. Both translations of complete texts and introductions to them should be of use to scholars and students. At the moment, we lack these scholarly tools—most of the translations we have are highly abridged or limited to a small number of political leaders (Sun Yat-sen, Chiang Kai-shek, Mao Zedong). And the monographic literature speaks mostly to specialists.


Papers and discussion at the UConn conference centered around such themes as materiality, utopianism, and temporality, as well as more familiar topics such as secularization, legitimacy, and rights and liberty. We did not come up with a clear definition of what constitutes a “key text” and do not want to establish a canon, but rather we hope to keep open what texts are of historical and contemporary interest. Loosely speaking, we can put key texts into one of two categories: historical importance as defined by the text’s reception and influence (at the time it was disseminated or later); and intrinsic interest as defined by the text’s originality and argumentation. This conference made no attempt to claim the texts discussed could possibly represent the spectrum of political thought in twentieth-century China, but it did include texts that represented a variety of opinion—articles and books by Kang Youwei, Zhang Zhidong, Liang Qichao, Zhang Taiyan, Yang Du, Chen Duxiu, Liang Shuming, Ding Shan, Luo Longji, and Mao Zedong.


Much Chinese writing of the period of course constituted adoption, adaptation, and reflections on ideas that originated in Euro-America and Japan (or via Japan). At the same time, the influence of Confucian and Buddhist ideas on particular texts was profound. In approaching key texts, it is necessary to keep in mind various authors’ particular and original interpretations of the of the questions they were asking. The afterlife of texts is also worth considering; for example, China today has seen a revival of certain texts written a hundred years ago such as writings of Kang Youwei, which interest New Confucians, and writings of Zhang Taiyan (Binglin), which interest New Left thinkers.


In addition to opening up the question of the exact bases of modern Chinese political thought by focusing on key texts, this conference also raised the question of what counts as “political thought” in the first place. Discussions turned to the problem of the hegemony of Western political methodologies and problems, the need to encourage more comparative work, and the advantages of interdisciplinary scholarship, especially among historians, political theorists, and philosophers.


Key Texts Conference ZarrowKey Texts ConferenceKey Texts Conference


Sponsors of the conference were the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation; and UConn’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office, Asian and Asian American Studies Institute, Humanities Institute, Department of History, Office of Global Affairs, and Department of Philosophy. Photo Credit: Jason Chang.

History Dept. Participates in Dialogue on Race & Community

On November 19, members of the History Department joined the broader UConn community to further the discussion of how to improve the University’s support of racial justice. The Dialogue on Race and Community – a two hour gathering that included a moderated dialogue, the sharing of personal stories, and small group discussions – hoped “that such listening can lead to understanding, and from understanding can come actions that make UConn a more just, equitable, and inclusive community.”

Dialogue on Race and Community

The event was hosted by Glenn Mitoma, Neag/Director of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, and co-moderated by Dominique Battle-Lawson, Neag, and Brendan Kane/History, Director of the Dodd Center’s Democracy and Dialogues Initiative. For more information about the event, click here. A statement from Director Mitoma can be found here.


Q&A with UCHI Fellow Daniel A. Cohen

daniel a cohen uchiOne of the many privileges of being part of the UConn community is the History Department’s access to the impressive scholars at the UConn Humanities Institute (UCHI). This year’s cohort of fellows includes Daniel A. Cohen, Associate Professor of History at Case Western Reserve University. His project, titled “Burning the Charlestown Convent: Private Lives, Public Outrage, and Contested Memories in America’s Civil War Generation,” is a microhistory of the 1834 Convent riot and provides a thought-provoking analysis of sectarian conflict, gender relations, political rivalry, and popular culture in America. The UConn community is lucky to have Professor Cohen with us for the year and the History Department is honored to have conducted a Q&A with him.

  1. Your current project, titled Burning the Charlestown Convent: Private Lives, Public Outrage, and Contested Memory in America’s Civil War Generation, is a microhistory of the 1834 Charlestown, Massachusetts Ursuline convent riot and the contested memory of the event that culminates in the 1854 rise of the nativist Know-Nothing movement in Massachusetts. What inspired you to pursue this project, and how has the experience of researching your previous three books informed your current research approach and writing process?

Originally, I had planned to write a chapter on Rebecca Reed, a key figure in the Charlestown convent controversy, as part of a broader study of “images of working-class women in the early republic.”  But as my research into Reed and the Ursulines began yielding all sorts of surprising evidence, I decided to turn the project into a book.  By the way, another chapter-length case study envisioned as part of that original project culminated in one of my other books: “The Female Marine” and Related Works (1997).  Over the years, most of my scholarship has taken the form of long journal articles (usually thirty to sixty pages in print).  That’s the scholarly format or genre with which I’m most comfortable: the long introductions to my two edited volumes were also published as journal articles; most of the chapters of my first monograph, Pillars of Salt, Monuments of Grace (1993), either were, or could have been, published as free-standing pieces; and I’ve published four long journal articles drawn from my current convent project.  In terms of methodology, almost all of my past publications, as well as my current project, combine social-historical archival research with analysis of popular print culture.  Perhaps because I was trained by expert practitioners of the New Social History but came of age at a time of growing interest in what is sometimes referred to as the New Cultural History (including History of the Book), my own scholarship has tended to straddle that broad disciplinary transition in focus and methods.


  1. Your Fellows Talk at UCHI, titled “Maria Monk’s Awful Disclosures Reconsidered: From “Me Too” to “Fake News” in the Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of an Anti-Catholic Genre, 1845-1960,” draws a striking comparison between Maria Monk’s “bogus account” of criminal acts in a Canadian convent, which is first dismissed and then resurrected by anti-Catholic presses in the early 1900s, and today’s “fake news” and right-wing media. At what point in the project did this comparison occur to you, and does it reflect a characteristic unique to American society, particularly in regard to the interplay between religion and media?

Some of the parallels between the toxic nativism pervading right-wing political discourse over the past decade and the nativism of the 1830s are simply inescapable.  By the mid-1830s, Boston newspapers were filled with complaints about incoming hordes of Irish Catholic immigrants who were supposedly degrading or subverting American culture and values (on both ethnic and sectarian grounds); overwhelming the region’s court dockets, prisons, almshouses, and asylums; burdening taxpayers; taking jobs away from the native-born; and driving down wages—and all of that was before the really massive influxes of the 1840s and 1850s.  Sound familiar?

More broadly, there is an analogy to be drawn between the generational “culture wars” of the 1830s through 1850s—involving race (slavery), nativism, and other divisive social issues—and the “culture wars” of the “baby-boomers” that defined the 1960s and have been festering ever since.  The “Young America” generation that came of age in the 1830s amid a wave riots (including the burning of the Charlestown convent) and radical social reform movements eventually came to power in the 1850s by tearing the country apart—and provoking the Civil War.  A century and a half later, in the election of 2016, the two major presidential candidates—Clinton and Trump—were “baby boomers” whose formative experiences were on opposite sides in the “culture wars” of the 1960s.  We still await the denouement.  But it is surely no coincidence that all four serious efforts to impeach U.S. presidents have involved one or the other of those two extraordinary American generations (and, in three of the four cases, involved actual members of those generations).

One big difference between then and now is that the “progressives” on race during the antebellum period—the radical abolitionists (mostly evangelical Protestants)—also tended to be the most virulent nativists; today, by contrast, the racists and the nativists are on the same side.

Is the interplay between sectarian conflict and mass media unique to America?  Certainly not.  The successive waves of virulent anti-Catholic propaganda in the U.S. beginning in the 1830s were closely linked to similar upsurges in the U.K.; and today, of course, kindred varieties of nativist nationalism, often linked to sectarian conflicts, thrive in many countries.  Still, the relative openness of the United States throughout most of its history to successive waves of mass immigration by disparate groups has provided unusually dramatic provocations for American nativist movements; conversely, our founding documents and civic traditions provide unusually strong bases for resistance to nativist impulses.


  1. One of the critiques of “mainstream media” is that it is tied to east coast elites. When describing the presses of the early 1900s anti-convent narratives, you refer to them as “based in such cultural backwaters as Aurora, Missouri, and Milan, Illinois, which catered to the tastes of rural Protestant traditionalists and other bigoted, prurient, or unsophisticated readers.” How does your research help you judge which readers are “unsophisticated”?

I probably fiddled with that sentence in my abstract—and talk—more than any other.  I often beseech my students to avoid easy and condescending moral judgments in their historical analysis.  Obviously, “bigoted,” “prurient,” and “unsophisticated” are loaded terms—so maybe I should have stuck with “rural Protestant traditionalists.”  But Maria Monk’s Awful Disclosures really had been utterly debunked during the 1830s—and some of her “revelations” were fairly implausible on their face.  Some of the other claims and conspiracy theories of the anti-Catholic presses of the early 1900s were similarly far-fetched, such as the theory that implicated the Pope in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.  These were the “Pizzagates” of their era.  How should one characterize readers who eagerly consume such material?  Unsophisticated?  Naïve?  Gullible?  Paranoid?


  1. What advice do you have to graduate students who also are interested in writing a microhistory?

By way of encouragement, I would point out that digitization has made the archival grunt work involved in researching many microhistories a lot easier than it’s ever been before.  About thirty years ago, the great American social historian Paul E. Johnson described to me the many months he’d spent driving around New England—going from archive to archive, court house to court house, town hall to town hall—struggling to reconstruct the perambulations of the shiftless rural shoemaker who figures as the protagonist in “The Modernization of Mayo Greenleaf Patch: Land, Family, and Marginality in New England, 1766-1818” (New England Quarterly, 1982).  When he later took a position at the University of Utah, Johnson was amazed to find that virtually all of the archival materials that he had so painstakingly gathered were available on microfilm—under one roof—at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  Today, many of those same records are accessible to any researcher, anywhere, with an internet connection—via ancestry.com and a few other huge online databases.  Students who pursue microhistorical projects, should be sure to take full advantage of such powerful databases through relentless (and creative) key-word searching.  The example of “The Modernization of Mayo Greenleaf Patch—one of my all-time favorite microhistories—also suggests a second piece of advice: microhistorical projects are often ideally suited to the essay or article format.  Even Natalie Zemon Davis’s The Return of Martin Guerre–perhaps the most famous of all scholarly microhistories—is actually about midway in length between a long article and a short monograph.

UConn Conference: Key Texts in Modern Chinese Political Thought

This Friday and Saturday, September 27-28, UConn-Hartford will be hosting the “Key Texts in Modern Chinese Political Thought: Late Qing to Republican China” conference.

The conference focuses on selected “key texts” in Chinese political thought from roughly the first half of the twentieth century.  Conference papers will analyze texts in terms of their sources and argumentation, their position in the discursive field, and their contribution to political theory.  The conference as a whole asks what counts as political theory, what political theorists might learn from China, and how to construct a larger list of key texts from China.

Zarrow Profile Pic
Professor Peter Zarrow

Alongside Thomas Fröhlich (Universität Hamburg), Professor Peter Zarrow (UConn) has organized the conference. The conference is co-sponsored by the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation and the University of Connecticut.

All are invited to attend, but space is limited, so registration is required, and the conference organizers will get back to you.  The registration webpage also links to the conference program.  Registration and program can be found here.