Dexter Gabriel’s Novel Selected by NPR as Part of Their Best Books of 2020

Dexter Gabriel, History Department, University of ConnecticutCongratulations to UConn History Professor Dexter Gabriel (under his nom de plume P. Djéli Clark) whose novel, Ring Shout, was selected by National Public Radio (NPR) to appear on their Best Books of 2020 list.

NPR Books editor, Petra Mayer, wrote:

“In P. Djéli Clark’s version of the Jim Crow South, The Birth of a Nation wasn’t just a movie – it was a summoning spell that brought the pointy headed, pale-skinned demons called Ku Kluxes to Earth to feed off the hatred of human Klansmen. Standing against the Klan are demon-hunters Maryse, Sadie and Chef, backed by the power of the ring shouts, chants led by the old Gullah woman Nana Jean. But hatred goes both ways, and Maryse must learn how to use her own before the demons do. Ring Shout is a novella, but it packs cinematic excitement, shuddering body horror, real history and wrenching emotion into its short length.”

This book sounds incredible and a must-read. Well done, Professor Gabriel, and again, congrats on this incredible honor!

Manisha Sinha’s CNN Op-Ed About 2020 Election

Professor Manisha Sinha, History Department, University of Connecticut

An op-ed by James L. and Shirley A. Draper Chair in American History Professor Manisha Sinha is prominently featured on CNN.com. The essay notes similarities and differences between the 1860 and 2020 U.S. Presidential Elections.

As Professor Sinha writes, “The one underlying commonality that binds these two historic presidential elections is the conviction that it is American democracy — rather than just opposing presidential candidates — that is on the ballot.”

Do give this excellent article a read. To read the op-ed, click the link. If you enjoy the op-ed, please share.


Brendan Kane Receives Grant to Foster Democracy & Dialogue Initiative

Brendan Kane, Associate Professor of History and Associate Director of the Humanities Institute at the University of Connecticut

UConn History Professor Brendan Kane, working with Assistant Professor of Human Rights and Education Glenn Mitoma, aided CT Humanities in winning a $50,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Kane and Mitoma are co-directors of the Democracy & Dialogues Initiative (D&DI) and this Mellon grant will fund further D&DI programming. The initiative presents programming designed to provide frameworks for meaningful discussion around often difficult and divisive topics, instruction on civic processes and participation, and avenues that ensure access for all citizens to value and participate fully in our democracy.

Congratulations, Professor Kane on this incredible news. For more information about this latest honor for Professor Kane, please click the following link. 

Fakhreddin Azimi’s Work Recognized by Influential Journal

In these days when conversations across political and disciplinary borders can be difficult, it is a delight to report that the summer 2020 issue of the influential Iranian socio-cultural journal Negah-e Nou featured an extensive appreciation of the work of our colleague, Fakhreddin Azimi.

In eight essays, scholars and intellectuals from Tehran, Paris, Frankfurt, and elsewhere offer assessments of his intellectual trajectory, close reviews of some of his key works, and an extended interview with him by the editor-in-chief of the journal, Ali Mirzaie. Dr. Mohammad Ali Movahhed, a member of the Iranian Academy of Language and Literature, describes Azimi as “one of the most outstandingly capable and authoritative Iranian historians since the mid-20th century.”

Dr. Nader Entekhabi writes from Paris that “Azimi is a rare figure in our modern historiography as he combines deep theoretical knowledge of different social and human science disciplines with methodical exploration of various archival and other primary sources to furnish a multi-faceted and robust account of political life in modern Iran.” Entekhabi goes on to highlight how Azimi’s writing reflects his “full immersion in classical Persian culture and literature, a reality fully discernible in every line of his magnificent prose.” As the title of Arman Nehchiri’s essay puts it, Azimi has been “Holding a Mirror in the Alley of the Wakeful” with his “subtle” analysis and his “mastery of Persian prose and distinctive style that clearly distinguish him from his peers.”

Congratulations, Professor Azimi, it is an honor to have you as a colleague. And if propriety and intellectual property allow, perhaps we someday soon might even be able to publish that interview on your path from student movements at Tehran University to teaching at the University of Connecticut.

In Memoriam: Christopher “Kit” Collier

Our colleague Christopher Collier, historian and author, passed away on March 6, 2020 at the age of 90.  He was a member of the UConn History Department from 1984 until 1999.  Kit, as he was known, was the official Connecticut State Historian and taught courses at UConn in early American history, Connecticut history, and Connecticut constitutional history. He was a founding member of the Connecticut Supreme Court Historical Society.

His research and writing broadened our understanding of the founding principles of American constitutional government, as well as the role of Connecticut in shaping those principles and their institutions. Among Kit’s publications are:  Roger Sherman’s Connecticut: Yankee Politics and the American RevolutionDecision in Philadelphia (with James Lincoln Collier);  and All Politics is Local: Family, Friends, and Provincial Interests in the Creation of the Constitution.  He was well-known as the author of eight historical novels for young adults (also with James), most notably, My Brother Sam is Dead, awarded a Newberry Medal by the American Library Association.


In Memoriam: Edmund Wehrle

Longtime UConn Professor Edmund Wehrle passed away on September 20, 2019. His obituary can be found here and a reflection from Frank Costigliola follows below.

We are sad to announce the passing of Ed Wehrle, a pillar of the UConn History Department for many years. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Ed taught international history, focusing on European imperialism in Asia. His first book, on Britain, China, and the anti-missionary protests of 1891-1900, was based on the archives of the British Foreign Office and those of missionary societies. His second book, on the Great Powers in Asia, was sweeping in its coverage and critical in perspective. He was working on a detailed, deeply researched study of the Marshall mission to China after World War II.

Ed is remembered by former graduate students as someone whose love of teaching and of his students was infectious. His excitement with learning and historical inquiry made him an invaluable presence and an influential role model. Thought-provoking and super enthusiastic, he was a truly terrific human being with a great sense of humor and recognition of the absurdities of life. He helped establish the Foreign Policy Seminar and remained a loyal supporter for many years, even after his retirement in 1997. Ed was loyal, caring, and devoted to his friends, students, colleagues, and family — a real stand-up guy right to the end.

In Memoriam: Marvin Cox

Longtime UConn Professor Marvin Cox passed away on May 1, 2020.  His formal obituary is here and a remembrance by Lawrence Langer follows below.

Marvin Cox was one of the stalwarts of the History Department who helped propel the Department as a center of excellence. He completed his undergraduate and graduate studies at Yale (B.A. 1957, M.A. 1959, Ph.D. 1966) and arrived at Storrs in 1966, after having taught for three years as an instructor at the University of Rhode Island. For thirty-seven years Marvin taught modern French History at Storrs with a dedication towards his students and scholarship.

At Yale he completed his dissertation on The Legitimists under the Second French Republic and at Storrs he presented seminars on the French Revolution. He was particularly interested in the historiography of the Revolution and in a pre-Marxist understanding of the Bourgeois Revolution. To that end he immersed himself in a study of Alexis de Tocqueville and in a critique of current French scholarship, such as the important work by François Furet. In 1998, he published The Place of the French Revolution in History (Houghton Mifflin) and continued to present papers and write articles on the interpretations of the Revolution.

It has been one of my singular pleasures to know Marvin as a colleague and friend. We worked together on two grants from the National Endowment of the Humanities to fashion a model course in Western Civilization for both high school and college students as well as a grant from the Connecticut Department of Education on a course in world history. We presented seminars that brought together high school teachers and UConn faculty in a series of seminars in which a number of historical themes were discussed. Some of the most stimulating and intellectually exciting exchanges that I have had occurred when Marvin and I would spend a day going through various topics of Western Civilization.

For a number of years Marvin directed the Co-op program with high school teachers of history, where he dedicated himself toward maintaining a close working relationship between the high schools and UConn. He was also a co-director in 1996-97 of the Center for European Studies at Storrs.

In retirement, Marvin enjoyed traveling to France, visiting New York where he, his wife Diane, and daughter Katie often took in a concert or opera, or vacationing on Sanibel Island. My wife and I spent a wonderful two weeks with Marvin and Diane in southern France where we ate well and thoroughly enjoyed our visits to museums or taking simple walks. For many years Marvin liked to hike, often with Katie. Marvin participated in the formative years of the AAUP at UConn and he was also an active member of the Democratic Party in Chaplin, where the Coxes lived for many years.  I will miss our conversations, our dining out, our laughter, our good cheer.

UConn History Students Honored

UConn’s Department of History learned two of its students recently received impressive awards.

First, PhD student Nicole Breault received the John Tanaka Graduate Student Fellowship from the UConn Chapter of The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. Nicole is on leave this year because of another award, a 2020-2021 Draper Dissertation Fellowship from UConn’s Humanities Institute.

Second, our own undergraduate honors student, Lisette Donewald, was declared co-winner of the Judge Peter Zerella Scholarship of the Connecticut Supreme Court Society.

Congratulations to both Nicole and Lisette! You make everyone in Wood Hall proud.

Prof. Walter Woodward’s Article in The Conversation

Walter Woodward, Associate Professor of History at the University of Connecticut and State Historian for ConnecticutIn recent years, and especially this summer, debate is spreading about what to do with monuments – whether statues, memorials, or obelisks – that commemorate white superiority. As society changes, and the values of those societies shift, what is to become of monuments that have, in one word, “expired?”

Connecticut State Historian and Associate Professor Walter Woodward, in a co-authored essay with UConn Neag School of Education Professor Alan Marcus, have a fascinating new article in The Conversation examining the debate over “expired” monuments and what to do with them.

To read this engaging and timely piece, click here. If you like the essay, please consider sharing it.

Prof. Micki McElya Quoted in CNN article

In August the United States reached another grim milestone: over 170,000 deaths from the Covid-19 pandemic. But unlike other national tragedies, there has been little collective mourning among Americans. Why is that? Why is this time different? To better understand why national grieving is important, CNN contributor Ray Sanchez spoke with Professor Micki McElya. On August 16, Sanchez published the article, “Few signs of collective mourning as the US tops 170,000 coronavirus deaths,” on the CNN website. Professor McElya, author of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize finalist The Politics of Mourning: Death and Honor in Arlington National Cemetery, is the ideal scholar to discuss matters of collective grief and how US political leaders have marshalled national mourning during previous tragedies.

Describing the country’s lack of collective mourning, Professor McElya eloquently states in the CNN article: “We need to really consider this and talk about this as a collective national failure. One certainly encouraged by our leadership. But people have to submit or commit to that narrative, and so many have, and that’s an enormous sadness.”