Politics and the Humanities: A Sometimes Dubious Relationship

Lezlie Knox points us to historians’ reactions to presidential candidate Carly Fiorina’s recent statement comparing the Crusades and the current events in Syria.

Last spring I wrote a brief post sharing some links of medievalists responding to problematic comparisons of the Crusades to the current situation in Syria. Given Carly Fiorina’s recent boast at a New Hampshire townhall that her undergraduate training in medieval philosophy and history at Stanford prepared her to challenge the Islamic State/ISIS, it’s worth reading these wonderful ripostes.

David Perry, historian of the Crusades and an active blogger, wrote an op-ed in The Guardian. Just yesterday, Bruce Holsinger, medieval literary scholar and historical novelist, published a piece in the New York Times. Both essays are worth reading for their analysis of ahistorical invocations of the Middle Ages and its implications. Moreover, I particularly want to draw attention to the closing of Holsinger’s piece. He points out the Fiorina’s remarks are particularly distressing because she crusaders&moslemshas been a defender of the value of the Humanities.

The most valuable course she took at Stanford, she told the graduates, wasn’t economics or politics, but a seminar called “Christian, Islamic and Jewish Political Philosophies of the Middle Ages.”

Each week, she explained, students had to distill what they’d read into a mere two pages: “The rigor of the distillation process, the exercise of refinement, that’s where the real learning happened. It was an incredible, heady skill to master. Through the years, I’ve used it again and again — the mental exercise of synthesis and distillation and getting to the very heart of things.”

Rarely has the value of humanistic education been defended so eloquently. Whatever your politics, I tell my students, take heart. When your annoying Uncle Fred asks why you’re majoring in philosophy instead of commerce, tell him you know of a Fortune 500 C.E.O. who majored in medieval studies — not only majored in it, but also credits it with shaping her into the successful public figure she became.

We also can look forward to scholars of Ancient Greece taking on Marco Rubio’s assertion that studying Greek Philosophy is useless….

Lezlie Knox is associate professor of history, Director of Graduate Studies, and the author of Creating Clare of Assisi: Female Franciscan Identities in Later Medieval Italy (Brill, 2008).

Marquette High’s Civil War Soldier

Today we feature a guest blog from MU Alum Chris Lese on a Marquette University High School alum who fought in the Civil War.
Did alumni from Milwaukee’s Marquette University High School fight in the Civil War? That question presented itself as I focused on the gold “1857” printed across a student’s Marquette High hoody in my Civil War course. That year suggests there could be at least one graduating class by the start of war in 1861. Jesuit priests Simon P. Lalumiere and Cornelius O’Brien opened St. Aloysius Academy, one of Marquette High’s predecessors, at Michigan Avenue and Second Street in September of 1857. Its enrollment consisted of approximately fifty students between the ages of 6 and 25. These Jesuit leaders hoped the new academy would “prove, under the blessing of heaven to be the root and foundation of a flourishing college.”

Image: 1858 St. Aloysius Academy advertisement, Milwaukee Sentinel.

James Lonergan was one of the Academy’s first students. Born in 1837, Lonergan’s family left Tipparary County, Ireland three years later and settled in Utica, New York. By 1855 the Lonergan family settled in the Town of Addison in western Washington County, Wisconsin. James attended Addison public schools before he moved on to St. Aloysius for its inaugural year as a twenty-year-old “devout Catholic.” Following his time at the Academy, Lonergan was a teacher in Milwaukee through the early years of the Civil War.

By December 1862, the zest that initially spurred thousands to volunteer for the Union had waned and President Lincoln provided conscription benchmarks to each state. Most of the 4,537 Wisconsin men drafted were used to replenish old regiments. The exception was the 34th Wisconsin Volunteers, which was made up of “nine month men,” commanded by Fritz Anneke, the famous Forty-Eighter, and Lonergan as First Lieutenant of Company F.

washburnLonergan and his fellow officers were challenged daily by these conscripted men while at Camp Washburn, which was bounded by Vliet and Kilbourn Avenues and 27th and 35th Streets. He could not have imagined while at the camp, he was 2 blocks north of where Marquette High, the successor to St. Aloysius, was constructed in 1922. Many of the soldiers focused more on procuring a substitute than drill and desertion was a major problem. The officers “are urging the removal of the regiment out of state… as the regiment would soon be composed of officers and no privates the way things are now going,” wrote one soldier. January 31, 1863, the officers’ wishes were fulfilled. However, still fearful that soldiers would desert near Milwaukee’s rail depot, the regiment marched 8-10 miles to board a train at a more secure location, under guard of the 27th Wisconsin Regiment. Not to be deterred, at least 21 soldiers jumped off the train in route to Chicago and another 100 disappeared when the group arrived there at midnight!

The regiment’s rebellious behavior did not subside when it reached Kentucky in early February for garrison and fatigue duty. One newspaper noted, “the regiments, with the solitary exception of the 34th, are of high order. Whatever [the 34th] may lack of battalion or Company drill, or on dress parade, the officers make up in holding court martial proceedings.” One hopes this “want of discipline” did not follow Lonergan and five other Companies on their short garrison assignment in Memphis. Despite the many challenges, Lonergan appears to have managed his command well. When the regiment returned to Milwaukee in September, he mustered out of the war “with credit.”

Photo: James Lonergan stands eighth from the left (1883).

By 1873 James settled in White Bear Lake, Minnesota with his wife Sarah and nine children, where he was a successful railroad executive. Although stricken with paralysis later in life, Lonergan served on numerous civic boards and as an officer in his Grand Army of the Republic post (the GAR was the largest organization of  Union Civil War veterans). He died in 1906 and is buried there in St. Mary’s Cemetery.

James Lonergan’s story has been an exciting addition to how I teach the Civil War in and out of the classroom. His story offers an opportunity to illustrate the complexities of soldier motivation via the 34th Wisconsin. The census records, plat map, muster rolls, newspapers accounts and biographical sketches used to glean this information provide great instruction material to teach students how history is written. Finally, Marquette High students who travel on this year’s Civil War Summer Adventure through Kentucky and Tennessee, will walk in Lonergan’s footsteps as a soldier and hopefully gain a better understanding of what this alumnus experienced during the war.

Chris Lese graduated from Marquette University High School in 1992 and (with a history degree) from Marquette University in 1997. After running his own architectural design firm for several years, he taught for a year at St. Joseph Catholic Academy in Kenosha and, for the last five years, at Marquette University High School, where this semester he’s offering his popular course on the Civil War.

Works Consulted

1855 and 1860 Wisconsin State Census,” Familysearch database.

Cook, Judy, ed. A Quiet Corner of the War: The Civil War Letters of Gilbert and Esther Claflin, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, 1862-1863. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2013.

Easton, Augustus B. History of the Saint Croix Valley. Chicago, H.C. Cooper, Jr. and Co: 1909.

Garraghang, Gilbert. “Marquette University in the Making.” Illinois Catholic Historical Review 11 (1919): 413.

“How Men Were Drafted in the Civil War Days,” Milwaukee Evening Wisconsin, June 9, 1917.

“Our Troops in Western Kentucky, 1863.” Newspaper Clipping. Wisconsin Historical Society Archives.

Quiner, E.B. Military History of Wisconsin. Chicago: Clarke & Co., 1866. Web.

Stearns, John William, ed. The Columbian History of Education in Wisconsin. Milwaukee: The Evening Wisconsin, Co., 1893.

Life has been busy since I left Marquette . . . Part VI of Alumni@Work

After a few months’ hiatus, this post continues our series of reports from our far-flung PhD alums, who we asked to get us caught up on what they’ve been doing and reflect on their lives as historians.
Ann Ostendorf earned her PhD from Marquette in 2009 and has taught at Gonzaga University in Spokane ever since. She is currently an associate professor, and author of Sounds American: National Identity and the Music Cultures of the Lower Mississippi River Valley, 1800-1860 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011).

“Life changes after tenure.” At least that is what the AVP told me when she called at 7:45pm on Tuesday, May 19th while I was eating soyrizo tacoostendorf_anns with homemade guacamole. Not that I was worried. I had already been promoted to Associate Professor last spring, so tenure should be pretty cut and dry, right? I can’t remember anything else she said to me during that phone call except that “life changes after tenure.” What was going to change? I’ve been pondering this ever since. While cleaning my house (top to bottom, drawers and closets), as I’ve intensified my yoga practice, as I’ve gardened various plots all over town. While going for hikes, while visiting family, while having lunch with all those people I always just wanted to have time to talk to. What could she mean? What would change? I asked my non-tenured friends what they thought she could mean. “Less service work?” one suggested. I thought it must be something more—something deeper, more profound. It seems I’ve got some free time to figure this out.   I’ll be on sabbatical all next year. I’ve got research projects I plan on completing and others I plan on starting. I’ve got projects for the school I’ll continue to move forward with. Sure, I won’t be teaching, but this other stuff will keep me plenty occupied, right? What’s going to change? I’d love to hear from you if you know. I want to be ready for the big change—wouldn’t want to miss it!

Daryl Webb received his PhD from Marquette in 2007; his dissertation was on “Milwaukee Children in the Great Depression.” He is an assistant professor at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee.

I have found teaching history at a small liberal arts college both challenging and very rewarding. The biggest challenge is the balancing all of the many responsibilities. Working at a teaching centered institution it is hard to find the right balance between researchwebb and teaching. While I am required to be a strong teacher, I also must produce scholarship. It is a difficult to find the time to create strong classes and publishable scholarship. The other challenge in teaching a small liberal arts college is all the topic you must master or more accurately stated fake mastery over. In my eight years teaching in the my small department, I have taught twenty different courses on a wide ranging topics from children’s history and colonial history to course on the Twentieth Century America, history of American religion and Asian civ. Despite these challenges, I still take great joy in teaching and working with students. There is tremendous reward in teaching a great class, helping students understand and enjoy the past, and watching young people grow intellectually. It is truly a great gig.

Kathy Callahan received her PhD from Marquette in 2006. She is associate professor and chair of the history department at Murray State University in Kentucky. Her primary research interest is women in early modern (1500-1815) England and Scotland. She has published articles in the Journal for the Study of British Cultures, The Journal of Social History, and The London Journal on women and crime in late eighteenth-century London. She is currently researching the life and activities of Anna Scott, Duchess of Buccleuch of Scotland. 

Life has been busy since I left Marquette. I’ve had two tenure-track jobs, made two moves, and researched, taught, and traveled extensively in Europe and visited China twice, as well.

I now teach at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky. I’m the British historian and also teach world history nearly every semester. The students here are fabulous which makes teaching so enjoyable. They are friendly, engaging, and, fFac-CallahanKor the most part, eager to learn. We have several graduates who pursue graduate degrees. In fact, one will be at Marquette in fall 2015! I was recently named Department Chair, so I am slowly shifting into new responsibilities. Wow! The new position challenges me in new ways every day. Dr. Marten, how have you done the job so long?

I began my teaching career at UWM; once I finished my PhD I took a tenure-track position at UW-Stout in 2006. UW-Stout didn’t have a history program so I wasn’t teaching British history, nor did they have a graduate program. My move to Murray State in 2009 gave me the chance to do all three: work with majors, teach British history, and work with students in our masters degree program.

One of the other things I have been involved extensively at Murray State is education abroad. My interest in this started because of my two fellowships I received while at Marquette: the Smith Family Fellowship and the Raynor Fellowship, both which afforded me the opportunity to live in London as I conducted research for my dissertation. Living in London provided me with not only research opportunities, but important cultural opportunities as well. Not long after I finished my PhD, I received a Fulbright-Hayes Fellowship that took me to China for a month. I’ve taken students to Scotland, taught for two semesters there, and have traveled to London for a spring break education abroad program focused on London as an imperial city. My current research is on a Scottish Duchess, so those trips to Scotland have paid off! Recently, I traveled with three MSU faculty members to Qingdao, China where I helped them build their own study abroad programs at our partner school, Qingdao Agricultural University. I’ll spend part of the fall semester with our program in Regensburg, Germany. Education abroad provides students with experiential learning activities that cannot be obtained in the traditional classroom.

In the big scheme of things, my career has been much like I thought it would be. Since I had a ten-year career in higher ed. as an administrator before I began grad school, I had a good idea of what to expect. The most challenging thing for me was my tenure process. I had to produce two additional articles in three years at MSU. I made it, but it wasn’t easy; thank goodness for my dissertation! Balancing teaching and research was easier because of my experience as a teaching assistant at Marquette. I don’t have a book yet, but I am particularly proud of my article published in the Journal of Social History.

Certainly, the profession has challenges. Heralding the humanities remains high on my priority list as department chair. As the emphasis on STEM education continues, we must work with our students to help them articulate what they’ve learned as history majors and how their skills can be transferring to a countless number of careers. Our department will be focusing on the development of more experiential learning opportunities for our students as a way to help them better understand their skills and talents in preparation for their futures.

A Series of Fortunate Events: Navigating the Eighteenth-Century World with George Galphin


Bryan Rindfleisch, our new assistant professor of American colonial and Native American history, is currently revising his dissertation, “’Possessed of the most Extensive Trade, Connexions, and Influence’: The Atlantic Intimacies of an Eighteenth-Century Indian Trader,” which he finished last year at the University of Oklahoma. He recently posted a piece about his research on Rindfleisch_000a blog written by young historians of early America called “The Junta.” The site features essays, discussion threads, podcasts, and other forms of scholarly debate on a wide variety of historical and historiographical issues. Read Bryan’s blog post—as well as recent pieces on women’s history, Canada, the American Revolution, digital history, and myriad other topics—at http://earlyamericanists.com/2015/09/04/george_galphin/.

Graduate Students on the Road: Casper Grants Fund Graduate Student Research Travel

Edited by Lezlie Knox.  This past summer the History Department awarded research grants to four graduate students thanks to a generous endowment provided through the Casper Fund.

Casper Dissertation Fellowships support advanced doctoral students who need to travel to research collections needed for dissertation research. Casper Research Grants support travel for early-career doctoral students who are beginning to plan their dissertation project or for MA students who intend to pursue a doctoral degree and are working on a project requiring travel to collections.

Below, the 2015 Casper fellows describe their projects and results, beginning with the two Dissertation Fellows and followed by the two MA students who earned Casper Research Grants.

Matthew Douglas, ABD, “The Huguenot Experience: Gender, Violence, and the Courts in Nîmes from 1685 until 1788” (Julius Ruff, Director)

As a scholar working on religious toleration within the city of Nîmes, my interests drew me to pamphlets published concerning the religious conflict down at the Newberry library in Chicago. One of the most fascinating set of pamphlets I came across concerned the reception of the Bagarre de Nîmes (1790). This “brawl” featured a massacre of Catholics by Protestants. The blatant violence was another example of continued religious tensions between the groups. Hundreds of conservative Catholics came into Nîmes in mid-June for votes concerning local governance. With the Catholics arriving to vote for their conservative candidates, Protestants moved in from the surrounding areas and eventually mdouglasassacred hundreds who opposed the new Revolutionary electoral measures (namely the election of Protestants to office). In a pamphlet entitled Le Fanatisme Écrasé (Fanaticism Crushed), the Protestant author detailed how Catholic fanaticism had been eliminated from the city as a result of the violence. For my own research, I found it intriguing that the idea of labeling a religious group as fanatics had come full-circle. Catholics who arrested Protestants after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes had always referred to Protestants as either religionnaires or as phanatiques. Now, after civil rights had been granted to Protestants with the Edict of Toleration of 1788, Protestants now thought that conservative Catholics were the fanatics. The trips provided me hundreds of excellent pamphlets that now form parts of the second, third, and fourth chapters of my dissertation. This pamphlet and others concerning post 1789 religious conflict in France speak to cyclical tensions of violence and toleration that my dissertation traces in Nîmes from 1685 onwards. The period between 1685 until 1702 remained rather tolerant, while the years of the Camisard Revolt (1702-1715) were especially bloody. Outside of the cases popularized by Voltaire against Protestants, the years from 1715 until 1788 tended to have less overt violence. The violence returned with the outbreak of the Revolution, and long held religious grudges returned to the surface once Protestants had attained full recognition and civil rights.

Michael Pulido, ABD, “Transmitting a Revolution: Nationalism and the 1953 East German Uprising,” (directed by Julius Ruff and Peter Staudenmaier)

My research into the origins of the 1953 East German Uprising took me to Dresden, Germany, in 2013 where I completed a good bit of my research for a localized study. Unfortunately, German archives do not let researchers take pictures, which limited the amount of material through which I could sift. I complained loudly, but of course only to fellow researchers and friends back in Milwaukee who are probably pretty sick of hearing about it. Flash forward to 2015, and my archive now offers cheap self-service copying, which, combined with the Casper Summer funds and a weak Euro, meant an extra month or so in Dresden to do check sources and examine some new documents.

My dissertation examines the means by which opponents undermined the socialist regime of East Germany in the early 1950s. I’m especially interested in rumor-mongering, leaflets, and foreign radio listenership. RIAS (Radio in the American Sector), the most popular “enemypulido station” in East Germany, continuously critiqued the socialists’ plans and advocated for a united Germany while linking East and West Germans in an alternative public sphere. I spent much of my time collecting evidence of local listenership and other “enemy activity” leading up to the 1953 Uprising. I also spent a week or so researching the postwar construction of the local radio and loudspeaker systems (for the socialist regime to blast its slogans in public spaces) and efforts to counter foreign broadcasting. (Translation of passage on image: (RIAS wants to turn Germans against Germans with its lies.”)

Patrick Bethel, MA student

I used this research funding to examine the Parliamentary Paper Collection at the Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, in order to further research the Irish Orphan Emigrant Scheme, a government program set up in 1848 in order to transport orphaned females from Irish workhouses to the Australian colonies. To this end, I examined reports generated by employees of the Irish Poor Law Board, the body charged with managing the workhouse system in Ireland, during their visits to the various workhouses across the country. To my surprise, I found relatively few mentions of the program, despite its relatively widespread adoption during its roughly 18 months of existence. However, out of the mentions of the program that I was able to find, one, from the Donegal workhouse stood out as an example of how the systems of aid during the Famine period were collapsing under the weight of challenges they had not been designed to face.

The Board of Guardians of the Donegal workhouse sent a letter to their superiors in Dublin on the 27th of March 1848 expressing their desire to enroll as many women as possible in the program and requesting that an inspector be sent to them to evaluate the bethelwomen who had volunteered. On April 8th, the Dublin Board received a second letter, stating that the Donegal board had re-emulated the cost of enrolling in the program and had decided that their finances could not support the expense. Lastly, on May 1st, they reversed the decision of April 8th, as they had been able to collect delinquent local taxes in the interim period. This anecdote, and the data regarding workhouse admittances, will allow me to re-work the portion of my seminar paper dealing with the workhouse situation, which had been based on secondary literature, to incorporate the primary source material that I was able to find during my research trip.

Ashley Meddaugh, MA Student

I travelled to the Newberry Library this summer to examine their collection of French Revolution pamphlets to expand upon my research project from Dr. Hay’s gender seminar last spring. That paper focused on the journey of an English aristocrat to Paris and Switzerland in 1791, and most of the information I included about the Revolution in that paper came from secondary sources. Since this project will be edited and revised into my Master’s thesis, I wanted to include as many primary documents as possible, and the resources at the Newberry have allowed me to do this. The pamphlets I looked at included a good number of petitions to the National Assembly from 1791, as well as speeches made by the representatives on the question of whether to try Louis XVI. One document was published by the Department de Paris, and detailed the Flight to Varennes from the National Assembly’s point of view.

The best find, however, came near the end of day on my final visit to the Newberry. I requested first edition works by Frances Burney and Anna Seward, both of whom were the focus of my undergraduate research project. At the end of Anna Seward’s meddaughLouisa, was the signature of the author herself. Already feeling like I just seen the autograph of a celebrity, I found an unpublished poem from Seward to a close friend, at the end of the Llongallen Vale. Even though I started this trip believing I was just looking into materials for one project, I ended up walking away with a renewed interest in this earlier project that I now hope to expand after (hopefully!) more trips to the Newberry.

The Story Behind “Victor’s Desk”

If you’ve been in the History Department’s “new” office (perhaps now that we’ve occupied the space for more than a year, it’s less the “new” office than just the “office”), you’ve no doubt noticed the big, oak, roll-top desk that dominates the room.  We display new books and articles by current faculty and former and current graduate students (not to mention the trophy commemorating the winner of our annual kickball game between students and faculty).  But the desk has a long and notable history of its own–and you can read about it in this new story on Marquette’s website: https://medium.com/marquette-university-arts-sciences/the-greatest-american-you-ve-never-heard-of-40375ff64a64  Enjoy!

What Colleen Did on Summer Vacation

The first day of classes looms ahead, and we all are wondering where the summer went. Some of us had time for vacations, others worked most of the summer—many probably wish there were a few more weeks before we get back to classes (on either side of the lectern!).

Colleen Fessler, a history major who will graduate in Fall 2015, worked (she’s one of the student workers in the history department office) and studied, like most Marquette students. But she was also as one of a half dozen young people selected for the Saint Patrick’s Centre of Northern Ireland’s Young Ambassador program (http://youngambassadorprogram.com/), which is designed to connect Americans with Northern Irish culture and to encourage them to conduct original research about some aspect of that culture.

Colleen reflected on the experience on her blog, “A Young Ambassador’s Journey Through Northern Ireland.”  You can read more about her and her journey at http://colleenfessler.weebly.com/. But here’s a brief excerpt:

The beautiful new dome atop the Victoria’s Square shopping centre is yet another testament to the progress Belfast and Northern Ireland has made since the troubles considering it is made entirely out of glass, allowing for a breathtaking 360 view of the city. Any type of construction across Northern Ireland throughout the past few decades never considered the use of glass because the fear of petrol bombs, IRA or Paramilitary/UVF attacks destroying the glass was all too real, so the fact that the city has confidence in building all glass buildings & domes is very significant in a change of times.


The Ulster Museum also had a wonderfully powerful exhibit called “Silent Testimony” dedicated to the Troubles created by a local artist. The exhibit consisted of large 3-D type portraits (oil on canvas) of people who experienced extreme personal losses, accompanied by a personal statement of their own story. The room was filled from wall to wall with these personal testaments and only offers a glimpse into what the people of Northern Ireland experienced during this time of their history.

Find out more about the project, Colleen, and Northern Ireland, on Colleen’s blog.

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