Archive for September, 2018

Democracy in Troubled Times: The League of Nations Invents Childhood, 1924

By James Marten

This year’s Historians@Work will feature a number of blogs engaging the theme  “Democracy in Troubled Times.”  That is the focus of the 2018–2019 Marquette Forum, which, according to its website, will offer “events focusing on civic dialogue and the state of democracies across the world. The Forum will engage students, faculty, staff and the communities making up greater Milwaukee in conversations around crucial questions including: Is democracy in crisis? Who gets to participate in a democracy? What are the rights, responsibilities and privileges of citizenship? What does democracy demand of its citizens? What are the opportunities and responsibilities for non-citizens within a democratic system? How would the “Founding Fathers” have envisioned civic engagement in the 21st-century? How can Catholic social teachings contribute to democratic dialogues?”

 Our blogs will look at some of these questions in the contexts of specific moments in time, and suggest how those moments—some of which ended with the expansion of freedom, some of which did not—can help us understand the nature of Democracy through the ages and today.

The League of Nations invented childhood on September 26, 1924, when it adopted the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child.”  Of course, there have always been children, but in less than 200 words the Declaration laid out the principles of a modern childhood as a series of rights reminiscent of other declarations of rights that are often hallmarks of democratic societies.  It stated simply that “mankind owes to the Child the best that it has to give,” and listed five basic “rights” that civilized societies were obligated to provide for children (Eglantyne Jebb, the founder of Save the Children, provided much of the inspiration and rhetoric for the Declaration):

Article 1: The child must be given the means requisite for its normal development, both materially and spiritually.

Article 2: The child that is hungry must be fed; the child that is sick must be nursed; the child that is backward must be helped; the delinquent child must be reclaimed; and the orphan and the waif must be sheltered and succored.

Picture1Article 3: The child must be the first to receive relief in times of distress.

Article 4: The child must be put in a position to earn a livelihood, and must be protected against every form of exploitation.

Article 5: The child must be brought up in the consciousness that its talents must be devoted to the service of fellow men.

Reformers had been campaigning for the rights and welfare of children for several decades.  In addition to basic humanitarianism, reformers urgently believed that the future of democracy depended on the proper raising and education of children.  This had been a hallmark of childrearing theories in western Europe and the United States since the 1830s.

One of the remarkable things about the document—other than its extraordinary ambition—is that it was conceived during one of the most troubled times in modern world history. Even as Europe picked up the pieces after the Great War, many of the seeds of the Second World War were being sown. Fascism—with all it meant for children on both sides of the Aryan divide—had begun to sprout in Italy and Germany; China was descending into political chaos and violence with the collapse of the Qing dynasty; the Soviet Union had just come out of its civil war, which left millions dead and perhaps 7,000,000 homeless children. Hundreds of thousands of children had perished between 1914 and 1918, and millions more would die—as victims not only of bombings, starvation, and death camps, but also as soldiers and partisans—during the Second World War. Add to that the great influenza epidemic that had just ended and the worldwide depression that would descend within a few years, and it is hard to imagine a worse time in the modern era for the world’s children.

Yet that moment in the autumn of 1924 set a precedent that would become a beacon for future generations despite the grim decades that followed.  The League’s successor, the United Nations, would pass much-expanded statements on children’s rights in 1959 and again in 1989. And the assumptions that the Declaration articulated would shape the way childhood was “supposed” to be (although many states struggled to live up to them).

One of the first historians of childhood, Joe Hawes, declared some years ago that “Childhood is where you catch a culture in high relief.”  In other words, a society’s values and beliefs can and should be measured by how they affect children.  Similarly, the policy-makers and activists who composed the Declaration of the Rights of the Child believed that democracies had a responsibility not only to provide for the basic needs of their children, but also to nurture in them the principles and ideals that are the building blocks of democracy.

For further reading:

Sarah Fieldston, Raising the World: Child Welfare in the American Century (Harvard University Press, 2015).

Linda Mahood, Feminism and Voluntary Action: Eglantyne Jebb and Save the Children, 1876-1928 (Palgrave, 2009).

James Marten, ed., Children and War: A Historical Anthology (New York University Press, 2002).

Heidi Morrison, eds., The Global History of Childhood Reader (Routledge, 2012).

Nicholas Stargardt, Witnesses of War: Children’s Lives Under the Nazis (Knopf, 2005).

James Marten is professor and chair of the MU history department.  His most recent book is The History of Childhood: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2018).


Intersecting Trails: History, Lovecraft and Epoch-Driven Fiction

By Sean Malone

In November 2016, during a stretch of those gray and windy evenings typical of Wisconsin’s fall season, I wrote a short story about a search for Haunchyville—an obscure piece of folklore about a mythical village near the Waukesha area. Over the next year and a half, I returned to it with ramping frequency, encountering new ideas, locations, or confluences that expanded the story and cast of characters. By early 2018 I had something of a short novel and decided to pursue publication. Upon receiving the acceptance letter from my publisher, the experience resonated to the coursework completed and skills instilled during my studies at Marquette. The process was flowing and organic, yet measured and checked by consulting maps, articles, and sources. The craft of the historian was in play in an unconventional sense.

I wondered who the book’s audience would be. Historians are accustomed to preparing thoroughly researched monographs or surveys intended for an academic community. I wanted to share a spirit that I believe defined the twilight of the long-gone Fountain Spring House in Waukesha, and conversely, the emerging grandeur of new construction such as St. Josaphat’s Basillica, which remains a distnctive landmark of Milwaukee’s south side to this day. A poignant reminder was given of the transience of such monuments in the sudden blaze that consumed Trinity Lutheran Church Milwaukee this past May. Whereas time or reconstruction may alter the original state of these structures, something of their interesting pasts may be shared with wider audiences through the art of storytelling.  In the journey of writing the book, these locales became connected in an unexpected but satisfying way that hearkened back to the prologue’s search for elusive Haunchyville. The novel planted one foot in the camp of historical fiction, and the other in the opaque suspense and period pulp of Lovecraftian fiction.

P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) placed his short stories and novellas in both real and fictitious locations in his native New England, and largely set them contemporary to his own times. In the loosely-defined genre of cosmic horror, successive authors have been inexorably drawn to his model. Concurrent to Lovecraft and in the following decades, magazines such as Weird Talesand Fantastic Magazinemaintained the genre’s vitality with newcomers, and the marque artwork inspired the cover design of Spring City Terror. Non-coincidentally, new genre entries persist in favoring the period that corresponds to Lovecraft’s life, which spanned the Edwardian period/Progressive era through the waning of the Interwar Years. It is a well-suited timeline for the genre; the ever-present subtext presents humanity’s budding hubris from early 20th-century scientific and societal achievements checked by inexplicable human conflicts and terrifying astral entities. Lovecraft imbued such entities with abstract, inter-dimensional and impossibly ancient characteristics — directly confronting the progress represented by astrophysicss and other observational sciences of his time. The essence of this theme is communicated in this exceprt from Lovecraft’s most famous work, detailing the perspective of the protagonist:

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity . . . The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality . . . that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”

H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu

Today, this setting imbues a charming, costumed filter to fans, and countless varieties of handsomely-packaged “complete editions” of Lovecraft’s works can be found in national bookstores. It is apparent that Lovecraftian fiction has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years. I recalled a design depicting the titular Cthulhu winning the Raynor Library pumpkin-carving contest on campus in 2015. Its influence also permeates some of the nations’ largest pop-culture conventions; I conquered Lovecraft-themed escape rooms, mingled at the H.P. Lovecraft Historic Society’s booth, and enjoyed tabletop games and other related media at the 51st Gencon in Indianapolis this August. Being drawn to the classics alongside this new wave, I perceived an opportunity to represent elements of Wisconsin folklore in a supernatural lens with care to establish a setting grounded in the period’s identity.

Spring City Terror 1903 is a new entry respecting the tradition of Lovecraftian fiction, but with more emphasis on world-building that stems from the habits, skills, and craft that SpringCityTerror_front (1).jpghistorians apply to their impassioned interests. The book brings a Chicago Tribune reporter to Waukesha as he investigates the reasons for the decline of the regional tourist hub–the Fountain Spring House. As the title suggests, the book applies a filter of suspense and horror-fantasy to fictional and historic characters and settings, ranging from obscure Chicago Cubs players to prominent local clergyman. From the lead character’s exploration of the area, Wisconsinite readers will be familiar with many of the references embedded in the story, which may also introduce new bits of folklore or drafts of beer to wider audiences. It remains my hope that the process that guided this effort finds further fertile ground for future entries . . . from the earthquake-ravaged streets of San Francisco to delirious, snowblind visions of the Great Lakes Storm of 1913.

Spring City Terror 1903is set to release on October 17th.

Sean Malone currently resides in West Allis, Wisconsin, with his wife Athena. He is fortunate to maintain contact and friendships with many of his Marquette colleagues and professors. In addition to writing, he currently works at Summer Snow Art in Waukesha and as an adjunct professor of history at Marian University, Fond du Lac.

What We Did on Our Summer “Vacations”

I recently asked history faculty and PhD students to tell us what they did on their summer “vacations”—which, as we know, are not vacations at all.  Here’s what I learned.  Jim Marten, Department Chair

PS: Those of you who did not receive the 2018 electronic newsletter from the department can read it here. You should also check out our newly designed website.

Faculty Members:

Steve Avella continued researching his next big book: a history of Catholicism in the West. He reports that “I spent four productive days in the archives of Santa Clara University researching the life of Msgr. Thomas John Capel (+1911), an English ex-patriate who died in “exile” in Sacramento. Capel was a renowned apologist, lecturer, and sought-after preacher in Victorian London. He got himself into a huge financial scrape trying to start a Catholic university in Kensington and then was subject to a host of very embarrassing accusations. I discovered the complaints against him in huge files in Rome last summer. At the Santa Clara archives I discovered a packet of letters, clippings, and writings that had been sent to the Jesuits in San Francisco. These were materials further illuminated portions of his career that seemed confusing. The letters were in his own hand and the press accounts were of his speaking engagements in the US. Capel was suspended from priestly ministry for 20 years–but was restored at the end of his life. When he died, thousands turned out for his funeral in Sacramento.”

Alan Ball: I devoted most of the summer to preparing my new Engaging Social Systems Values course (most history faculty will be teaching new courses in the recently adopted Marquette Core Curriculum—mine is called”Russian and Soviet Images of America”).  Regarding the SCOWstats blog, the most important undertaking was a set of reflections Screen Shot 2018-09-11 at 9.33.15 AMon the 2017-18 term, but some time was also required for the stretch run of the fantasy-league season and compilation/editing of readers’ “nominations” of unusual and/or humorous opinions by the seven justices (a new category for the blog).

Alison Clark Efford and Viktorija Bilic of UWM, her co-editor/translator, traveled to Europe to do research on Mathilde Franziska Anneke, whose letters they are turning into a book to be published by the University of Georgia Press. As Alison wrote on Facebook, “MFA’s life was far too complicated to sum up easily in a FB post, but she was a feminist and abolitionist who had to flee Prussia after the failed German Revolutions of 1848-1849. After arriving in the US, she lived in Milwaukee on and off until she died in 1884.

Our letters cover the years 1859 to 1865, when Anneke:
– established a passionate partnership with Anglo-American abolitionist Mary Booth,
– supported Booth through the trial of her husband for “seducing” a fourteen year old and, separately, violating the Fugitive Slave Act,
– moved to Switzerland with Booth and most of their children for about four years,
– published antislavery articles and stories,
– and followed the rocky military career of her own husband back in the United States.”

Sergio González: After defending his dissertation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in May, our newest colleague took a quick breather before getting back to work on researching Latinx communities and religious spaces in the U.S. Midwest. As part of an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation/Humanities Without Walls consortium-funded project called “Building Sustainable Worlds: Latinx Placemaking in the Midwest,”he joined Latinx scholars from across the region for a writing conference at the University of Iowa in August. The collaborative will be publishing an anthology about Midwestern Latinx placemaking next year. In the meantime, take a look at their appearance on Iowa City public televisionto learn more about the team’s research!

Lezlie Knox: “My summer was occupied with teaching 18 students in the online medieval survey; organizing the Midwest Medieval History conference, which will meet at Marquette over Fall Break; working on an edited collection of papers from the “Franciscan Women: Medieval and Beyond Conference,” working on articles, and organizing notes from the manuscript work in Italy from the fall.”

9780190681388Jim Marten finished up a five-year term as editor of the Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, published the Oxford Very Short Introduction to the History of Childhood(too short to be a tome, too long to be a pamphlet), rounded up authors for two edited projects—one the Oxford Handbook of the History of Youth Cultureand one (co-edited with Caroline E. Janney from UVA) on “Buying and Selling the Civil War,” and launched a travel/history blog called Proceed to the Route.

Timothy McMahon spent part of the spring and summer in Ireland, where he researched his project on the emergence of two distinct national identities in Ireland between 1910 and 1930, attended several conferences and delivered a number of public lectures, and, along the way, met the president of Ireland, Michael Higgins (see below).tim

Daniel Meissner: Before finishing up his Fulbright year in China, Dan dug through Hong Kong archives and libraries for information on George Seward and 19th century American political/economic interests in China.

Patrick Mullins: ” I continued my research on how eighteenth-century Americans interpreted and commemorated the civil war, regicide, and republic of seventeenth-century England, and how this contested historical memory shaped colonial responses to British Crown policy in the 1760s and 1770s. In addition to reading published primary and secondary sources, I examined material commemorations, from English ceramics honoring Charles II’s narrow escape from Cromwellian capture (at the Chipstone Foundation in Fox Point) to Benjamin West’s epic painting celebrating the Stuart Restoration (at the Milwaukee Art Museum).  I also provided testimony to a Milwaukee County task force in favor of preservation of the Mitchell Park Domes and worked to advance that cause with the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance and the National Trust for History Preservation. If you’d like to learn more about this preservation effort, take a look at Save Our Domes!”

Steve Molvarec: “I was in the UK for the annual International Medieval Congress at Leeds University.  The thematic strand for this year’s conference was Memory and I spoke on a panel about remembering and forgetting of founders of monastic orders.  Afterwards, I had the opportunity to work with some fourteenth-century manuscripts at the British Library—all texts associated with the Carthusian monastery in London, which is the subject of my current research.”

Phil Naylor co-hosted the World History Association Meeting in Milwaukee; continued working on his co-edited Milwaukee Rock, 1950-2000: A Reflective History (which is nearing completion completion); revised and rewrote and added a new chapter to France and Algeria: A History of Decolonization and Transformation; and continued work on Malik Bennabi’s life, which will be the major project during his upcoming sabbatical.

Bryan Rindfleisch had a typically busy summer: “I presented papers at two conferences, published one article, worked on two article manuscripts that are in press now, completed drafts of the manuscript, participated in the two-week Bright Institute seminar, was the referee for three article manuscripts, and was interviewed for a July 4th radio interview.  The Bright Institute cohort (14 professors that ranged from adjunct faculty to full professors) read the latest scholarship in Early American history and provided a new diagnosis or “state” of the field. In addition, we shared our own research work and teaching strategies, we developed syllabi and assignment activities, and we together built a new community dedicated to inclusive researching and teaching of Early America (which will continue to meet officially for the next two years). It was an overall invaluable and humbling experience, as the friendships and professional contacts that came out of the Bright Institute was unlike anything that I have ever experienced.”

Peter Staudenmaier continued working on his sabbatical project—a book on Fascist environmental policies—but he reports that “my best tidbit is probably organizing a panel submission for next year’s annual conference of the American Society for Environmental History, the first time I have taken the initiative with a conference panel. I wanted to pull together something that would reflect current research on the history of organic agriculture in an international context, which has become a lively topic the past couple years.  I contacted eight different scholars initially (mostly in history but also sociology and environmental studies, etc.), none of whom I knew personally. Several declined but gave me contact information for further possible participants. I eventually got a group of four presenters, two women and two men, from a range of institutions and fields, plus a panel chair. We settled on the panel title “International Perspectives on Alternative Agriculture and Natural Foods in the Twentieth Century.” My own paper will be “The Politics of Organic Agriculture in Interwar Germany: From Nature to Nation.” The conference takes place next April at Ohio State.

PhD Students:

Cory Haala: “With the assistance of an Everett Dirksen Congressional Research Grant and a State Historical Society of Iowa Research Grant, I spent summer doing research in cities including Cedar Falls, IA (Iowa State Rep. Don Avenson); Madison, WI (the Wisconsin Farm Unity Alliance and Sen. Gaylord Nelson); and Stevens Point, WI (Rep. Dave Obey). In May and June I presented papers on NAFTA and Midwestern farm protests at the Agricultural History Society Annual Meeting in St. Petersburg, FL, and the University of Iowa Hawkeyes football team’s 1985 “America Needs Farmers” campaign at Screen Shot 2018-09-11 at 10.07.45 AMthe Midwestern History Association in Grand Rapids, MI. Finally, my chapter on Tom Daschle and populist politics in the South Dakota Democratic Party will be published in the South Dakota Historical Society Press’s The Plains Political Tradition: Essays on South Dakota Political Culture, vol. 3 (which will be published this month). I write about my travels (though I haven’t lately—working on it!) at”

Lisa Lamson: “I went to Annapolis and Baltimore for a month (spent two weeks in each place), a few days in DC, and then was in Cambridge/London for twelve days. While I was in London, I presented a paper at the UK Childhood Society Conference at the University of Greenwich. When I was back in Milwaukee, I worked on writing center outreach for Upward Bound students for college personal statements and as a summer intern for CURTO compiling a 40th anniversary history of Future Milwaukee.”

Ben Nestor: “After passing my doctoral qualifying exams in mid-May, I presented a paper at the George and Irina Schaeffer Center For the Study of Genocide, Human Rights and Conflict Prevention in Paris, France. Shortly after, I spent June and early July researching in Washington D.C. at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’ archives through the department’s generous Casper Dissertation Research Fellowship. In mid-July I was in Toronto as a seminar fellow at a week-long workshop titled “Teaching about Antisemitism in the Twenty-First Century: Questions, Dilemmas, Strategies.” The interdisciplinary workshop was convened by scholars from The Israel and Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies at York University, the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto and the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Antisemitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University. It was an intensive week of discussions on new approaches to researching and teaching antisemitism, racism, and Islamophobia.”

Maggie Nettesheim-Hoffman: “I wrote a chapter prospectus for a larger book proposal entitled “New Directions in American Philanthropy” for Indiana University Press. Ben Offiler, the convener of last year’s conference in England of the same name, asked me to contribute a chapter for this book. My chapter will be based on the presentation I delivered at the conference last September.  I also assisted in planning the Humanities Without Walls career diversity symposium that will be held at Marquette on September 14 as a part of my new assistantship with the Graduate School and the Center for the Advancement of the Humanities.”

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