Archive for February, 2014

Historians Give Thanks

The best part of writing a book is penning the acknowledgments. Maybe that’s because it happens in the final stages of preparing a manuscript. If it’s time for the acknowledgements, you know it won’t be long until you see your work print. But compiling an index comes near the end too, and no one finds that task particularly gratifying.

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 9.19.27 PMThe acknowledgements section—usually a few pages at the front of the book—is where historians recognize they could not have done it alone. As Jon Gjerde wrote, “The premise that it takes a village to raise a child is no less true in writing a book.” Librarians and archivists marshal the sources on which we depend, institutional and individual donors fund our time and travels, colleagues critique and encourage us, and students inspire us.

Advisers loom large in acknowledgements, especially for those of us who still get to call ourselves “young” scholars. These mentors usually guided our work as graduate students, inducting us into a professional community and supporting us through inevitable periods of frustration. They took our ideas seriously, seriously enough to question and challenge. They pushed us to refine our thinking, articulate our positions better, and provide stronger evidence. Russell Kazal noted the “phenomenal” support and “boundless generosity” that he received from his team of advisers, but he identified one as “perhaps my toughest critic.” Continue reading ‘Historians Give Thanks’


“The World and the West”: Developing a New Honors Program Course

Peter Staudenmaier is assistant professor of modern German history at Marquette University

Since Fall semester 2013, a group of History Department faculty have been working together to create a new course for Marquette’s Honors program, a course that we expect to become a regular part of the department’s offerings in the following years. The new Honors course will be loosely coordinated with an existing course on ethics in the Philosophy department, and a central feature will be examining the historical development of moral frameworks and ethical debates across a variety of cultures and eras.

Creating a course like this from scratch presented a series of intriguing challenges and offered an opportunity to re-define some of the directions history teaching might take in a university like ours. Those of us involved from the early stages of the process – Laura Matthew, Lezlie Knox, Kristen Foster, and myself – worked with suggestions from our department chair, Jim Marten, and had wide latitude in shaping the initial contours of the course. One of our first decisions was to change the provisional title: rather than “The West and the World,” we chose to name the course “The World and the West” as a way to signal a reversal in traditional Eurocentric historical perspectives. Continue reading ‘“The World and the West”: Developing a New Honors Program Course’

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