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Little Christmases on the Prairie

By James Marten

Historians@Work rather accidentally started a tradition of holiday-themed blogs in our first year (see earlier posts for a historians’ take on Frankincense and Myrrh, a blog about the Christmas truce during the First World War, Christmas during the Civil War, and hints of actual history in popular Christmas movies). I’m indulging in a bit of nostalgia from my own life in this year’s holiday blog.

Some of my coziest childhood memories come from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s series of books about growing up in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas, and Dakota Territory. Sometimes the books were being read to me, by my mother, or by Miss Larsen, the teacher in the “little room” (grades one through four—the “big room” naturally had grades five through eight) in the school I attended in Badger, South Dakota (population 117 in 1960). Eventually I read them all myself, and read some of them to our daughter decades later.

I have a feeling that these books helped spark a sense of history in my little boy brain, probably because I knew that my family had shared a time and place with Laura and her family; my Marten, Wesenberg, and Hokenstad great-grandparents had all homesteaded in Dakota Territory at the about the same time the Ingallses arrived. Moreover, the actual “Little Town on the Prairie” was De Smet, South Dakota, the seat of Kingsbury County, located about twenty miles from Badger. Indeed, on at least one occasion our school took a field trip to De Smet, visited the graves of Ma, Pa, Carrie, and Mary (Laura is buried elsewhere), drove past their homestead, and toured the house in town where they holed up during the “Long Winter” of 1880-1881.  I’m pretty sure I read some of the books when I was in seventh grade and living in the slightly larger town of Canova (where it took four rooms to hold all eight grades). That was the year that South Dakota and the rest of the upper great plains had a historically severe winter. In February 1969, we had only nine days of school because of frequent blizzards that closed country roads.

But all of that is just background to why I connect Christmas to these fictionalized versions of actual Dakota pioneers.

Among my favorite parts of the Little House books were Wilder’s descriptions of feasts, ceremonies, parties, and holidays. Christmas was pretty important to the Ingalls and their neighbors.  Most of Laura’s books featured at least one Christmas—with town xmas“socials,” a Santa Clause who looked surprisingly like a grizzled neighbor, and simple gifts of oranges, pennies, and mittens. The kind of celebration the family could enjoy tended to reflect the status of the sometimes hard-scrabble lives they lived (since they were constantly fighting drought, grasshoppers, and blizzards, after all).  That somehow resonated with me, too—although, in all honesty, I never fought grasshoppers and blizzards were more a source of delight than trauma when I was a boy—probably because virtually all of my classmates lived on farms and my father’s job depended on a healthy agricultural economy.

Christmas memories from my small-town past were created sixty years after Laura’s, but included:jim and jane driving past lonely farmsteads with colored lights strung over trees and outbuildings; the cardboard “fireplace” and fire we set up just for Christmas; the mysterious bubble-lights on Grandma’s tree that absolutely enthralled me as a five-year-old; the corny “reports” from Dave Dedrick, the Channel Eleven weatherman, tracking Santa’s sleigh on radar (and my longing to believe those reports long after it was really appropriate for a boy my age to do so); certain gifts that my grandmother picked out for her five grandchildren and my young aunt on the other side of the family gave to her seven nieces and nephews (giant foot-shaped rugs one year!); “helping” my Dad make a rough wooden star with blue lights to hang outside our upstairs window;  the glow of the candles while singing “Silent Night” at the end of the Christmas Eve service in our white-steepled country church. (In the photograph above, the author and his sister Janey enjoy Christmas morning, 1963.)

Even if we did not grow up in little towns on the prairie, like the Ingallses, those of us who celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or any other seasonal holiday create our own traditions; some are based on customs ingrained since childhood, others emerge from changing beliefs and living arrangements, still others are built from scratch with spouses, partners, and children. They all become parts of our personal histories, coloring our pasts with concrete places, people, and circumstances.

Happy Holidays on behalf of the faculty, staff, and students in the History Department!

James Marten is professor and chair of the history department. Fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder may want to visit this website from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association, which, I have to mention, holds an annual conference called “Laurapalooza”:









Some Guys Get Lucky: Honoring Fr. John Patrick Donnelly

Late in October the History Department hosted a reception in honor of Fr. John Donnelly, S.J., that featured the public launch of the book From Rome to Zurich, between Ignatius and Vermigli, Essays in Honor of John Patrick Donnelly, Kathleen M. Comerford, Gary W. Jenkins, and W. J. Torrance Kirby, eds. (Brill, 2017).  The several dozen attendees included former and current MU history faculty, a number of Pat’s Jesuit brothers, editors and contributors of the book (in town for the Sixteenth Century Society conference), a few former students, and Pat’s beloved nephew and his wife. The book grew out of panels organized and presented in Fr. Donnelly’s at the Sixteenth Century Society’s conference in Vancouver a few years ago (when, through the efforts of his Rector at San Camillus Retirement Community, Pat had Skyped in to one of the sessions!). 

Kathleen Comerford, one of the editors of the book, offered a warm toast to Father Donnelly.  She and Pat shared a dissertation director at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Robert Kingdon (although they received their PhD’s more than twenty years apart).  An excerpt from her remarks, which refer to stories told by and about Pat in their circle of friends and scholaDonnellyrs, follows:

“I’m sure that we all have dissertation-related stories about money, living quarters, drinking, and struggling with languages, but I’ve never heard anyone else having to deal with the kind of crisis which would lead someone to decide to be a missionary in Tanzania rather than take prelims, or spending a few hours in Sicily looking in vain for a church in which to say Mass. That collar tends to invite more confidences, and more responsibilities, than the average student experiences. The events of 1968, recounted as they concerned Madison and Florence, provide a fascinating background for Pat’s interest in the mavericks Ignatius Loyola (who, to my knowledge, did not have to bribe himself to learn a language) and Peter Martyr Vermigli (whose experience with rioting students appears to have been rather more serious than Pat’s).

When I met Pat, about 25 years after the events Lynn recounted, and about 25 years ago, he was an established scholar, and like many graduate students, I was anxious about approaching him. Our mutual mentor, Robert Kingdon, worried little about the niceties of academic distinctions, and eagerly put current students in contact with former ones. He also obviously taught his students to feel the same way about treating junior scholars with genuine interest and respect, and I was fortunate that early in my career I met Pat, who read some of my work as a reviewer for Catholic University Press (it was later published elsewhere) and corresponded with me for a while as I hopped from job to job. It is thus a great privilege for me to be involved in this project.” Kathleen also introduced the several contributors in attendance and thanked other scholars involved with the project.

The highlight of the event was Pat’s short speech; a slightly edited version follows:

“I am very grateful for this award in my honor. . . . This [honor comes] to a scholar for a lifetime or long years of achievement as a scholar. For scientists it usually depends on many good research grants, for scholars in the humanities it means abundant scholarly publications. Winners usually have put in many years of hard work.

But intelligence and scholarship are necessary.

One does not get intelligence on his or her own.

Our raw intelligence largely comes through our genes. Here I owe a big debt to my father and mother. Both were Marquette graduates, my father was a [graduate of Marquette University High School, and Marquette University’s college of Arts and Sciences] and Law School. My mother was a graduate of the MU nursing school. Both were bright and well trained.

I was not a good student in grade school.  My parents sent me to Campion. We had to take an exam right at the start: we were then sent to class A, B, C, D, E, or F. I stated in the E class. After the first quarter I bounced up to C and later to B. At the end of my second year my grades were good enough for A class, but my worst grades were in Latin and I did not want to take Greek, so I stayed in B class. Toward the end of my senior years I took an exam in Chicago in which the best Campion student got a 4-year full scholarship to Loyola University. I beat out the valedictorian. He ended his career as head of the NY Federal Reserve bank. I entered the Jesuits.

I decided as a Jesuit, I had to master Latin, my one bad high school subject. I did, but I was never any good at Greek. That turned out to be very important. Latin was big for our courses in philosophy and theology, the heart of Jesuit training. I loved history. I wanted to work on European history from the Roman days to 1600. I could use Latin for that—most of the scholarly books written then were in Latin. I decided Renaissance/Reformation was the period for me. . . .

At Campion High School: I was best in Physics and Chemistry and before becoming a Jesuit I leaned toward a major in chemistry. . . . Some of my professors urged me to go on for a Ph.D. in Theology. But I wanted to be a historian. I applied to doctoral programs at University of Chicago and the three top history programs in the Big Ten. I was accepted in all four. I went to UW, to be close to home.

Also, I had heard that Robert Kingdon at Madison was a good expert in the Reformation and a good man to work with. This was one of the best choices I ever made.

Kingdon was a fine teacher and had a reputation of getting his Ph.D. students out in good time. I made the best choice. I could also take a bus from Madison to Milwaukee and spend weekends with my mother.

I was lucky—Kingdon’s seminar, which we had to take every semester, had several excellent members; Lynn Martin, Bob Kolb, Jerry Friedman, Ray Mentzer, Fred Baumgartner, Hans Gustafson, Maryanne Cline Horowitz, Luther Peterson and Bob Richgels. Kingdon’s best doctoral student came some years later. She is being honored [this week at the Sixteenth Century Society meeting]:  Merry Wiesner-Hanks, [of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee].

In my first week at Madison, Kingdon asked what I might want to do for a dissertation. I said I had a good background in Catholic theology, maybe I should do a dissertation on a Protestant theologian who was writing in Latin and was understudied. He suggested I consider Peter Martyr Vermigli. For better or worse I have been with Vermigli ever since. Right now I have a 1000-page manuscript in press on his Genesis commentary, and I am working on his commentary on 1 Corinthians. But my last three books have been about the Jesuits, mainly St. Ignatius.

Some guys get lucky. I am one of them.”

Fr. John Patrick Donnelly, SJ, retired in 2011 after nearly forty years of service to Marquette. He has written, edited, or translated nearly twenty books; served on virtually every committee at the university (including many years on the University Promotion and Tenure Committee); and taught the large sections of western civilization in the Varsity Theater for many years (which earned him the Lawrence G. Haggerty Award for Teaching Excellence in 1988). You can find out more about From Rome to Zurich at Brill’s website:

A Medievalist in the Italian Archives

By Lezlie Knox

For the past three years I have been hunting for a manuscript. “Giaccherino, Codice GH” is one of three copies of the so-called Vite dei Santi Frati Minori, a collection of biographies of pious Franciscan friars compiled by Fra Mariano of Florence during the first quarter of the sixteenth century.  The reasons I needed to see this particular manuscript and the ways I tracked it down reflect some of the differences in how historians work.  Last July, this blog shared Cory Haala’s reflections on what he means when he says “he is going to the archives” to conduct his research on recent Midwestern politics.  I want to follow up on his remarks to discuss how a medievalist proceeds.  Following his example, I will start with access and then address my own research and search for Codice GH.


In planning a trip to a public or private archive, you are expected to contact them in advance to seek access and present your specific research project (although confirmations are infrequent). You also need proof of your credentials to gain access once you are there in order to secure a reader’s card.  At this stage of my career, I bring a letter of introduction from our college’s dean.  When I first started working in Italy, though, I also had a letter from my dissertation adviser that went into more details about my specific training as a medievalist, as well as a document confirming my status as a Fulbright scholar, i.e. the holder of a prestigious research grant that allowed me to spend a year in Italy researching my project.  One of the things that has changed over the years I have worked in Italy is that I am treated with more respect when I come to the archives—it is partly due to experience, but it is also a product of time and, frankly, age.  As one friend has commented, it is easier to do research in Italy when you transition from being a dottoressa (a younger woman with a university degree) to being a signora (a mature woman).

You earn respect, of course, by demonstrating your skills. For medievalists, a fundamental task is learning how to evaluate manuscripts—both how to read these hands, as well as to assess the physical status of the material on which they were written. Medievalists refer to these skills broadly under the heading of paleography.  This term literally means old handwriting.  It thus refers to our training in how to identify and read different scripts, skills which can help us date and locate a manuscript, as well as assess who wrote it.  But when I first call out a manuscript (more on how I do that in a moment), I begin with a physical assessment of the entire volume.  I will examine the binding (contemporary or a modern), its physical material (vellum or paper), quiring (how the manuscript is physically collated or put together), indications of previous ownership, the state of preservation, assess its various hands, look at its abbreviations, review its decoration, and look for marginalia.  I also survey the contents before I start reading it.  I do this even if the manuscript has been catalogued, both because I may be interested in other details and since it helps orient me to the volume.

Knox 1#1For example, I called out this manuscript both because it had a text in which I was interested (Giaccherino’s constitutions) as well as a marginal note indicating that it was once owned by the friary at Monte Alverno, which Mariano of Florence had visited (noted in the hand on the bottom right). When I opened it, though, I was delighted to discover both the pastedown (a fifteenth or sixteenth century liturgical book that was cut up to help strengthen the binding) as well as this beautifully decorated vernacular translation of Gregory the Great’s Dialogues (BNCF ms Palatino 45).  Other texts included other Franciscan rules, an interesting combination.

My basic archival tools are a laptop, pencils, and some note taking materials, usually the only items you can bring into the manuscript room. A new law (August 2017) now also allows you to use a cell phone or camera to take photographs of most materials for personal study in public archives (as this notice from the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale in Florence—BNCF—describes).  This policy is a major game changer!  Previously, I had to order microfilm or more recently a digital copy, but both were prohibitively expensive (about $2/page for the latter).  Private archives will have different rules about access.  Generally, I have found them more willing to allow personal photographs but with more limited hours.  Part of planning a trip to Italian archives always requires plotting out the days and hours different collections are open, as well as the hours when you can request materials.

To request manuscripts or other documents, you will need a “call number,” generally referred to as a shelf mark. To some extent, medievalists still reply on published finding lists or catalogues of the archives, although recent digital projects have made the process of identifying manuscripts and their shelf marks much easier (see for example MANUS which focuses on digitalized manuscripts, CASVI for vernacular codices, and CODEX for Tuscan manuscripts, as well as Mirabile, which catalogues digital projects focused on medieval culture more broadly).  These databases can make searching for other characteristics easier, too—for example, CODEX helped me identify a manuscript that was once owned by Mariano of FlorencKnox 3ae and its helping me identity books that were in the communities where he lived.  But you should not think of this as a catalogue on par with a university one like Marqcat or that of the Library of Congress.  Like other European institutions that have grown over the centuries, Italian collections can be quirky and the cataloguing reflects that.  For example, shelf numbers may indicate previous ownership or where it was created.  I once called out a folio of charters and other economic records from the convent of Corpus Domini in the Archivio di Stato in Bologna.  I received a stack of records roughly organized by date—but the range was from the late fourteenth century to 1798.  While I might have thought this was the entirety of the archive’s holdings related to this community, an exhibit on notarial hands in the townhall showed me such an assumption would be incorrect.  Other Corpus Domini documents came to the archive through the notary who created them and were kept together with his other records.  Finally, while some manuscripts in a collection might be appear in these databases, others will not.  And that is the situation I was facing with Codice GH.

My recent research trips to Italy have focused on the manuscripts connected with Mariano of Florence (d. 1523), who is the subject of my current book project. He was a prolific author, leaving us with fifteen treatises in both Latin and Italian.  These range from a short devotional prayer (2 folios, or 4 manuscript pages) to lengthy accounts of his religious order (300+ folios).  One of the things I find so striking about Mariano is that despite his prolixity (because of?), he was relatively unread by his contemporaries.  Several of his works exist in only one copy and another friar who consulted Mariano’s chronicles in the 1580s lamented that many of his works were already lost.  None of his writings were printed during his lifetime (although some passages were taken by later authors and incorporated into their works).  Some of his texts subsequently have been edited by modern scholars, although four treatises remain only in manuscript. This list includes the Vite dei Santi Frati Minori, which preserves stories about contemporary communities and brothers, many of whom otherwise would be forgotten.  I am arguing that we should pay more attention to his historical writings as they offer an important insight into the most successful religious movement in medieval Europe on the threshold of the Reformation.

Mariano’s Vite survives in t2 knoxhree copies.  Florence, BNC, ms. Landau Finaly 243 is the oldest copy and includes some sections in Mariano’s own hand (its shelf mark indicates that it came into the library through the collection of Baron Horace Landau, a wealthy nineteenth-century bibliophile).  Due to its date, multiple vitae, and Mariano’s own notations, it is the most interesting of the three to me.  My own favorite page includes this marginal note that tells us he was still working on the text. Questa legenda non est bene ordinata et pertanto non sia lecta in publico: this life is not well organized and therefore should not be read in public!   (NB—to respect copyright on these manuscripts and their reproduction, I have cropped all pages and left them in lower resolutions.)

Rome, BNC ms. Sessoriano 412 dates from 1541 and was copied by sisters at Sant’Orsola in Florence at the direction of Fra Dionisio Pulinari who drew on many of Mariano’s biographies for his own chronicle of the Franciscan Order in Tuscany.  The order of the lives differs from the BNCF text.  It does have a table of contents, which tells us that some biographies are missing.  These are the biographies of Pier Pettinaio, a fourteenth-century lay Franciscan, and John of Capistrano, the fifteenth-century leader of the Franciscan Observance, as well as (in)famous inquisitor and leader of a crusade against the Ottoman Turks in Belgrade.  Pulinari was also probably responsible for Codice GH, which also dates from the mid-sixteenth century.  This copy contained the only surviving copies of these two vitae missing in the Florence and Rome libraries.  Reading them is an obvious reason for wanting to see it, but I also hoped I could photograph it in its entirety since the mid-sixteenth-century hands tend to be more legible, especially when the copyists were nuns.  Compare below Mariano’s autograph with the opening of his Life of Saint Francis prepared by a nuns at the convent of San Lino in Volterra.  Mariano’s hand is described as a bastarda, that is a combination of a Gothic textura (book hand) with cursive writing.  The image on the left (Tractatus de origine, nobilitate, et de excellentia Tusciae, Biblioteca Provinciale di Frati Minori di Toscana ms. 334) shows that this unique treatise was very much a work in progress compared to the polished book hand represented in volume on the right (Vita di San Francesco, Volterra, Bib. Guarnacchi ms. 5966).

But to read it, I had to locate it. The manuscript’s shelf mark indicates that it had been housed at the library of the important Franciscan friary at Giaccherino, located near Pistoia (now available for wedding rentals and other festive occasions). In 2005, what was left of the Giaccherino library was donated to the Biblioteca Comunale Forteguerriana in Pistoia (which already had other Giaccherino volumes due to the Napoleonic suppressions, although a 1907 article apparently indicates that the Vite manuscript had remained in Giaccherino—I say apparently as I have not been able to obtain a copy of that article through ILL or in Italy, and know its details only from a summary in a later article).  I emailed the archivist in Pistoia to arrange a visit, but she replied that they did not have that manuscript.  She suggested perhaps it was with the Franciscans in Florence?  I then emailed them, hoping they had it as I had already done research there and had a good relationship with the librarian.  But alas, she too replied they did not have Codice GH from Giaccherino.  When I did research there in June, we found no references.  Back to the hunt.

Searching the manuscript databases listed above remained fruitless, as did searches for the shelf mark in research databases, Google Scholar, and (the latter is particularly useful for medievalists as European scholars regularly post articles, information about smaller conferences, etc.). An article on the 2005 Giaccherino donation had been published in 2007, but ILL also could not access the journal Storia Locale (Local History).  I had continued to scour footnotes on John of Capistrano’s biographical tradition hoping to find a reference to the manuscript’s current location, but was having no luck.  Pier Pettinaio—Peter the Combmaker—is considerably less well known and previous searches had also turned up nothing on his hagiographic record.  But in August I looked again and I found it.

In 2016, Lucy Donkin published an article on Pier Pettinaio’s visions that referred to the Giaccherino manuscript, including the information that it had a new shelf mark: Biblioteca dei Frati Minori, Fondo Giaccherino, MS I.G.2. It was in Florence at the provincial archive, but it had been renumbered (without an easy reference to its old numbering). An email confirmed they had it and I made an appointment to see in early October.

As expected, the Giaccherino manuscript was both less and more than I hoped. First, it is not really a third copy of Mariano’s Vite dei Santi Frati Minori (which is really interesting!).  While a biography of Bonaventure overlaps with the other two manuscripts and it does have John of Capistrano and Pier Pettinaio, the other lives instead overlap with a different treatise by Mariano focused on the Franciscan Third Order.  This is where the physical layout of the manuscript raises important questions.  The binding is modern—when was the volume compiled?  There is no contemporary table of contents, so what was the principle of organization?  And most interestingly, why does the manuscript begin rather abruptly with the vita of John of Capistrano with the first folio numbered 134r (see below).   Does that mean there were another 133 folios that were once considered a part of this work?  If so, were there other lives by Mariano now bound in a different volume or were they something else (this manuscript has two texts that are not his work)?  I do not have an answer yet to any of these questions.  The other manuscripts ‘adjacent’ to this codex in the numbering do not seem to be connected to it and we have not otherwise located this putative volume.

6 knox

This situation—more questions than answers—is typical of my experience working with medieval manuscripts and in Italian archives. Medievalists generally tend to have significantly fewer materials with which to work compared to our modernist colleagues, so each manuscript carries more weight as evidence (even as we must address the vagaries of survival).  These volumes also may not appear interesting at the start—I admit that reading a collection of pious lives or sermons and jet lag can be a bad combination.  However, once you start assessing the physical object and considering its relationship to the text, it often raises new questions and suggests new manuscripts to explore.  Now that I have seen all the manuscripts of Mariano’s texts known to me, I want to learn more about the books—both manuscripts and early printed volumes—that were in the communities in which he lived, as well as to keep looking for evidence of how Mariano’s contemporaries may have read his work.

A possible way of thinking about this problem came from the unique autograph copy of Mariano’s Compendium Chronicarum (Florence, Biblioteca Moreniana ms. 97).  This text is basically an abridgement of his longer Franciscan chronicle, the Fasiculus Chronicarum (a work which has been missing since the end of the eighteenth century 7 knoxwhen it was sent to Rome for use in a canonization process) and it ends on a poignant note.  After writing his last entry concerning the 1521 General Chapter, Mariano switched to red ink and wrote: Omnia in hoc volumine conscripta sunt per me Fratrem M[arianum] edita que fratribus meis corrigenda relinquo—everything in this volume was written by me, Brother Mariano, and I leave it to my brothers for correcting.   Did they?

Lezlie Knox is associate professor of history at Marquette University.  She is the author of Creating Clare of Assisi: Female Franciscan Identities in Later Medieval Italy (Brill, 2008) and co-editor of the just published Visions of Sainthood in Medieval Rome: The Lives of Margherita Colonna by Giovannie Colonna and Stefania (Notre Dame Press, 2017).

A Quarter Century (and counting) of the Frank L. Klement Lectures at Marquette

By James Marten

I find it a little hard to believe that Monday’s talk by Kathleen M. Brown of the University of Pennsylvania on “Undoing Slavery: Abolitionist Body Politics and the Argument Over Humanity” was the twenty-sixth Frank L. Klement Lecture!  The series was conceived long ago by a former colleague, Lance Grahn, and myself, as a Phi Alpha Theta project—Frank had been president of Phi Alpha Theta, the international honor society for history.  Encouraged by our then department chair, Tom Hachey, we started to think bigger.  A year-long fund-raising effort by the College of Arts and Sciences alumni group raised enough money—from hundreds of different donors, mostly Frank’s former students—to fully endow the series.

The man we honored was born on the banks of the Embarrass River in northeastern Wisconsin. After spending some time as a country school teacher, he enrolled in the frank_klement04History PhD program at the University of Wisconsin. Frank often told of the first day he walked into the seminar run by William B. Hesseltine (a famous curmudgeon), when, Frank claimed, three young men who would eventually become leading historians of the Civil War era turned to look at him: T. Harry Williams, Richard Current, and Kenneth Stampp (who was my dissertation director’s dissertation director at Berkeley). Although he always felt like a bit of an underdog, he completed his degree in 1946 and taught at Lake Forest College and at Eau Claire State Teachers College before joining the history department at Marquette University two years later. By the time he had retired twenty-seven years later with the rank of Professor Emeritus, Frank served as department chair from 1956-1958 and received the Award for Teaching Excellence in 1965. Frank’s scholarship focused on the Civil War era, particularly on northern dissenters. He authored over fifty articles and chapters in books and dozens of book reviews, but his best-known works are The Copperheads in the Middle West (1960), The Limits of Dissent: Clement L. Vallandigham and the Civil War (1970), and Dark Lanterns: Secret Political Societies, Conspiracies, and Treason Trials in the Civil War (1984).  Frank died at the age of eighty-six in 1994.

The first Klement Lecturer, Mark Neely, spoke a few months after he won the Pulitzer Prize for The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties, which was, appropriately enough, on dissent in the North during the Civil War.  The second lecturer was one of Frank’s old grad school friends, Richard Current; his rather iconoclastic lecture on “Abraham Lincoln and Multiculturalism” (he argued that Lincoln would not have been a fan) was by far the best-selling Klement Lecture from the days when MU Press published a booklet by each lecturer.

The first sixteen lectures were on the Civil War era, broadly defined; over the last decade we’ve brought in scholars of many other fields in US history, from the New Deal to the Old West, and from foreign policy to race relations. It’s a spectacular lineup; at least seventeen held or would go on to hold endowed chairs.  Two were Pulitzer Prize winners, while another two were finalists for the Pulitzer.  Nine have won the $50,000 Lincoln Prize from Gettysburg College (five more were finalists).  And their books have won scores of other prizes from professional organizations.

I would not call the following lectures my “favorites,” but I do think they stand out because they took on big, bold topics, or because they were particularly attractive to undergraduates, or simply because they were interesting:

Steven Hahn’s assertion that the Civil War and the subsequent campaigns against Native Americans were part of the American “Imperial Project” (“The Dimensions of Freedom: Slave Emancipation, Indian Peoples, and the Projects of the New American State,” 2012);

Fitz Brundage’s startling lecture on the ways in which American officials have engaged in torture—in the context of American soldiers being accused of torture in Iraq (“The American Tradition of Torture,” 2011);

Lesley J. Gordon’s and Bill Blair’s  (“‘I Never was a Coward’: Questions of Bravery in a Civil War Regiment,” 2005, and “Why Didn’t the North Hang Some Rebels? The Postwar Debate over Punishment for Treason,” 2004, respectively).

Along the way, Ed Ayers talked about one of the first major online archives on the Civil War (the Valley of the Shadow Project ), while Gray Brechin spoke on a new archive of New Deal sites that still exist (the Living New Deal: Still Working for America); Catherine Clinton and Nina Silber delivered lectures on women during the Civil War. Joe Glatthaar explored Robert E. Lee, Joan Waugh Ulysses S. Grant, Frank Costigliola the Milwaukee native and diplomat 41UoMsfnVzL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_[1]George Kennan, and Stephen Berry Edward Allan Poe. A complete list of a quarter century of Klement Lecturers—many of which have been recorded and can be watched or listened to—can be found here. The first fifteen lectures were published by Kent State University Press as More Than a Contest Between Armies: Essays on the Civil war Era, ed. by A. Kristen Foster and James Marten (Kent: Kent State University Press, 2007).

Although it makes me feel very old to know how many Klement Lectures we’ve had, I think I speak for the entire history department when I say that we’re proud that we’ve been able to bring to our faculty, students, and the larger community such an outstanding array of scholars on so many different topics.

James Marten is chair of the history department. Find out more about Frank Klement in a slideshow prepared for a memorial dinner commemorating his death.

From Evanston to L’viv: Reflections on Two Holocaust Educational Fellowships

By Benjamin R. Nestor

I was recently given the opportunity to participate in two Holocaust history seminars. The first was at the Holocaust Education Foundation at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. The second was a research seminar in Lviv, Ukraine, funded and organized by the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure. Both proved immensely valuable in terms of learning, networking, and even having some fun, which was much needed given the intensity of the topic. Both of these experiences were important in my continuing development as a historian and future educator – and hopefully my reflections can inspire readers, in particular graduate students, to consider applying for similar short-term fellowships in their respective fields.

Fellowship I

The Holocaust Education Foundation (HEF), a nonprofit organization recently integrated into Northwestern University, offers an intensive two-week seminar titled the HEF Summer Institute on the Holocaust and Jewish Civilization, where roughly twenty fellows convene with top scholars in the field for a crash-course in recent Holocaust research and teaching methodologies. HEF was founded in 1976 by Theodore Zev Weiss, a Holocaust survivor, with the aim of increasing Holocaust education within university-level curricula.

My acceptance came in March, and in June I set off for what would be a two-week stay in one of Northwestern’s dorms. In the interim, the accepted fellows received a list of content to read and watch ahead of time, which included around fifteen books, ten documentaries, and course-packets assembled by the participating scholars, with each packet running from three-hundred to four-hundred pages. All of this was capped off with a twenty-page syllabus. Upon reviewing the material, I suddenly recalled my advisor Dr. Staudenmaier, who was a fellow in 2010, smirking and warning me when I was accepted that HEF was “quite a bit of work.” I spent most of May and the first half of June frantically preparing.

After settling in to the dorm I was provided, the seminar began on a Sunday night with an opening reception where I met the other fellows. Included among them were tenured professors, current fellows at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), post-docs, employees with nonprofits, and a few other graduate students at various stages of completing doctoral work. The fellows’ disciplinary backgrounds were diverse, which contributed to the quality of the discussions. The night ended early since bright and early the next day we were set to begin what would be an intensive two weeks of full day intensive seminars with an impressive list of scholars: Peter Hayes (Northwestern University), Barry Trachtenberg (Wake Forest University), Alexandra Garbarini (Williams College), Stuart Liebman (City University of New York), Marianne Hirsch (Columbia University), Leo Spitzer (Dartmouth College), among others.

There were around thirty hour-and-a-half sessions divided into the following categories: the history of the Holocaust, the history of Jews in Modern Europe, Judaic theology, photography and film of the Holocaust, memory and commemoration of the Holocaust through museums, Jewish responses to the Holocaust, gendered approaches to Holocaust studies, and the psychology of perpetrators. Besides enduring the work-load, the fellows also spent every meal together getting to enjoy dorm-cafeteria food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, often accompanied by several of the scholars that led the day’s seminars.

Each seminar was a combination of lecture on past and recent scholarship, discussion on the readings, and workshopping ways to translate recent scholarship into effective teaching. Discussions often moved from the specific (e.g. how do we incorporate Rabbi Halivni’s theological reaction to the Holocaust into a discussion with students?) to the broad (e.g. why should students take a class on the Holocaust?). Taken together, these seminars made for an extraordinary two weeks exploring numerous disciplinary and methodological approaches to the study of Jewish history and the history of the Holocaust.

In my own analysis, and through frequent conversations with other fellows, some of whom I can now call friends, it seems that everyone found the two-weeks extremely informative and provided each of us with greater confidence in our own research and designing our own Holocaust courses. There were also two “field trips,” which included a Chicago architectural tour with Paul Jaskot (Duke University), and a behind-the-scenes tour of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. I often capped each day with a walk next to Lake Michigan to think about the many issues raised throughout the day. After two weeks of sleeping in a dorm and eating cafeteria-food, it was nice to get home.

Fellowship II

Before leaving for Evanston, I received another acceptance letter—this time for a week-long seminar in L’viv, Ukraine, organized by the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure (EHRI), EHRIwhich began operating in 2010 through the support of the European Union. The seminar was also organized in conjunction with other institutions, such as the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich (IfZ). I was thrilled to receive news of another unexpected opportunity – who would complain about an all-expense paid trip to Ukraine, including flight, hotel accommodations, airport transfers and food.

I read Tarik Cyril Amar’s The Paradox of Ukrainian Lviv: A Borderland City between Stalinists, Nazis, and Nationalists (2015) on the airplane to better acquaint myself with the famously contested city – Львів (L’viv), Lwów, Lemberg – that the EHRI seminar was held, and was delighted on my ride from the airport to the hotel at how well-preserved L'vivthe city is, albeit with an expected layer of decay common to eastern European cities. The hotel was centrally located and even came with a balcony that offered a nice view of the city. The itinerary for the program promised to be intellectually stimulating: full days of in-class seminars, discussions and participant research presentations, but also “field trips” and arranged dinners at local restaurants.

Seminar themes ranged between broad Holocaust scholarship and research methodologies to topics specific to L’viv. They included round-tables on the current state of the field, presentations on Jewish artists in L’viv, the Holocaust in Galicia, the 1941 pogrom, the Babi Yar massacre, and spatial approaches in Holocaust scholarship, in addition to informational seminars such as how to “decode” German documents and finding sources. Presenters included Karel Berkhoff (NIOD), Andrea Löw (IfZ), Frank Bajohr (IfZ), Dieter Pohl (University of Klagenfurt), Mykhaylo Tyaglyy (Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies), Niccolai Zimmermann (Bundesarchiv Berlin), Kai Struve (Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg), Waitman Wade-Beorn (University of Virginia), among others. Also, as mentioned above, each of the roughly ten fellows, ranging from tenured professors to doctoral studeL'viv 2nts, presented on our current research.

The “field trips” were also a highlight of the seminar and helped situate the Holocaust within a local context. The excursions included going to the Lysynychi forests, the site where tens of thousands of victims were killed in mass shooting operations on the outskirts of the city, the Lontsky Prison Memorial Museum of the Victims of Occupation Regimes, St. George’s Cathedral, Janowska camp area, a visit to the “Space of Synagogues,” and a Rosh Hashanah service at a Jewish community center. Visiting these sites drove home the contested memories and meanings of the city’s Jewish past, Ukrainian involvement in the Holocaust, and the history of occupying regimes in L’viv.

Each day ended with a group dinner. The fare was often delicious, and the dinners gave us all the opportunity to decompress, to get to know one another, and to talk about our current research. Everyone I spoke to about the quality of the seminar had exceedingly


Ben Nestor is third from the front, on the left side of the table.

positive things to say. I made new friends and professional connections, learned a lot, and got to leave with some great memories. These are reasons alone why I hope other graduate students spend time searching for, and applying to similar seminars and conferences.


As I complete my final year of course work and prepare for my doctoral examinations back in Milwaukee, I continue to grapple with some of the larger questions raised in both seminars: What should students take away from a class on the Holocaust? Is there a balance between commemoration and the touristic nature of Holocaust memorials? Do educators and museums unintentionally “functionalize” victims of the Holocaust, especially in the use of photographs? Is “Never Again” impractical, and if so, how can I express the importance of my research and teaching to non-academic audiences, especially when the humanities in general seem to face an unrelenting crisis in American society? I hope to develop some answers to these questions while researching and writing over the next few years.

Benjamin R. Nestor is a second-year history PhD student at Marquette University specializing in Modern Germany, the Holocaust and Täterforschung. His dissertation will focus on the intellectual and cultural world of the Einsatzgruppen in the so-called “Holocaust by Bullets,” with particular interest in ideology and contingency, masculinity, and the role of mid-level functionaries in the advancement of the program to murder the European Jews.

My Experience as a Summer Museum Intern

by Alex Smith

During the summer of 2017, two Marquette University master’s students, Alex Smith and Emily Dattilo, explored careers in public history by interning at the Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear. Housed in an old Cream City Brick house on North 11th Street, the Chudnow is built around the quarter of a million pieces of Americana collected by Avrum Chudnow from the mid-twentieth century until his death in 2005. The current director of the museum, Steve Daily, received his MA in History from Marquette.

Paid out of the department’s Casper Fund (which also supports our annual Casper Lecture and provides travel money for graduate students delivering papers at conferences and doing research in archives), Alex and Emily worked half-time at the museum for ten weeks. One of Emily’s jobs was to help design a visitor experience for people suffering from Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.  This edition of Historians@Work is Alex’s reflection on his summer at the Chudnow.

This summer I worked as a part-time intern at the Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear. The history department sponsored this paid internship in which I worked two hundred hours over the course of about ten weeks. When I tell people that I worked at a museum, they often wonder what exactly I did on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour basis. Hopefully this post gives some idea of what it means to work as an intern at a small museum like the Chudnow.

First, a little bit about the Chudnow Museum itself. The museum is located on 11th street in Milwaukee, just north of campus (only about a five minute walk from Sensenbrenner!). It is located in a historic home that served many purposes over the years. While it was built in 1869 as a single family home, Avrum “Abe” Chudnow, a Milwaukee lawyer and businessman, bought the house to use for his offices due to its proximity to the Milwaukee County Courthouse.

Abe Chudnow was also a collector. His father had been a junk peddler and so Abe had grown up salvaging and collecting old objects, many of them everyday items and appliances from the 1920s and 1930s. The museum now showcases these items in a


Alex Smith tends bar at the Speakeasy exhibit.

layout similar to the “Streets of Old Milwaukee” exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum. One room is an old grocery store, one is an old pharmacy, one is an old barbershop, etc. (While some of the exhibit spaces are permanent, items and objects in the museum are changed out frequently. By the time he died in 2005, Mr. Chudnow collected so much that only about 5% of his collection is able to be displayed at a time!


I did a lot of different things as an intern, even only working about twenty hours a week. One of the main things I did was give tours. Since the Chudnow is a fairly small and newer museum (it has only been open for five years),


Emily Dattilo stands in the soda counter exhibit.


it is mostly visited by smaller groups of people, mostly families, although they do occasionally get larger touring groups. Before I started giving tours myself, I spent several days “shadowing” tours given by Joel, the curator, or Steve, the executive director. This helped me learn about the different items and exhibits so that I could explain them on my own tours, and also gave me an idea of how to deal with giving tours to different groups. For example, some groups are very talkative and ask a lot of questions, while others were quieter. If the tour had older people, many of them remembered using old appliances or products or remembered old brands from their childhood. If the tour had kids or younger people, even objects like a switchboard, antique cash register, or old soda syrup dispenser seemed foreign.


When I wasn’t giving tours, there were plenty of other tasks to do. One was cataloguing new items into the collection. For this we used a museum archiving software. Much of Mr. Chudnow’s collection is still not formally catalogued, and the museum also sees almost 600 new items donated each year. Cataloguing involved researching the origin, value and historical significance of an item, as well as measuring, photographing, and labeling it with a number.

I also worked on several other projects. The other two summer interns and I worked on creating a new candy exhibit in the candy window. We selected antique candy tins and boxes around a Fourth of July theme. We also selected other antique food tins for a traveling exhibit that is now on display at a retirement home in the area. We also helped design and assemble a circus themed exhibit at the museum. In the existing barbershop exhibit, I researched several of the items on display and created information cards that we posted in the exhibit so that people could read more about the objects and their history.

A major event for the museum every summer is their “Founder’s Day” celebration. This year there were several bands that performed, as well as a cookout, tours of the museum, and a special display of classic cars. Several hundred people came to the event. As interns we helped get the museum ready for the event and made sure everything went smoothly.

Overall, I had a great experience interning at the Chudnow Museum this summer and would highly recommend it to anyone who has even a passing interest in public history. Even though the Chudnow is a relatively small museum, I feel like I got a lot of experience with many different aspects of museum work. You can check out the museum’s website at

Alex Smith is a second-year MA student at Marquette University. His primary research interests are the interactions between religion, culture, and society in the United States during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Thoughts on Confederate Monuments (My Own and Others’)

By James Marten

As the storm over Confederate monuments intensified during the late summer, it became obvious that I, along with anyone else teaching a Civil War class this fall, was being given an incredible teaching moment.  What better way to show students that the Civil War was a living, breathing event, a powerful way to represent—or to disrupt—American values and assumptions in politics, race relations, and culture.

But how to do it? One does not want to overtly politicize a course; by the same token, this is an incredible opportunity to underscore the relevance of history to modern Americans.  This isn’t a new thing, of course; historians have long explored the “memory” of the Civil War, particularly its causes and its results.  Books like David Blight’s Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (2001) and Caroline E. Janney’s Remembering the Civil War: Reunion and the Limits of Reconciliation (2013) examined the complicated ways in which Americans have sought to memorialize and politicize the Civil War era.

The monument issue that erupted early this month, like the previous controversy over the presence of the Confederate flag in southern capitols and courthouses, tended to pit those who argued that the flags and monuments  were simply representations of a southern “heritage” that should be recognized and honored against those who maintained that they promoted a racist past and should be ignored or taken down. Similar arguments have taken place on college campuses in both the South and the North, where controversies have boiled up about renaming buildings named after slaveowners. At our sister institution, Georgetown University, the institution’s ownership and sale of slaves in the 1830s inspired much soul-searching, a major research project, and the renaming of a major building on campus. (Check out the Georgetown Slavery Archive for more.)

The monument issue has been simmering for a few years now, but the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white nationalists used a statue of Robert E. Lee as a 800px-Lee_Park,_Charlottesville,_VArallying point, forced it into the public consciousness, particularly after President Donald Trump’s original comments blaming the deadly violence that occurred in Charlottesville on the actions of “both sides.” The city council had decided to remove the statue last spring; a lawsuit has delayed that action. (The story of Charlottesville’s Lee monument can be found in this New York Times piece from early August. The monument is pictured to the left.)

Like many of my colleagues in the field, I’ve struggled to decide exactly what I think should be done.  I teach in a private university in a northern state, so no one is likely to ask me about what they should do about Confederate monuments.  Yet it seems important to me to figure out for myself—and to have a ready answer should students (as I think they will) ask me about it.  Although I favored the elimination of the Confederate flag from public spaces, I’ve been something of an agnostic on monuments to the Confederacy.  But to me, now that the latter have been “claimed,” it seems, by white nationalists, it seems that whatever virtues there were in keeping the monuments intact have been compromised. As a result, I now support the removal by local authorities of Confederate monuments from public places.

But this blog is less about my opinion than it is about providing readers with a short introduction to some of the questions related to the monuments, and to point them in the direction of some excellent articles and blog posts by historians engaged in the issue. (For a great “roundup” of blogs, articles, and essays, see Megan Kate Nelson’s blog, “Historista.”)

In order to understand the monument issue, it’s important for us to distinguish the various motivations for the erecting a monument. The fundamental question when considering the appropriateness of any commemoration is this: why is this person or event being commemorated? What raises this circumstance or this person to that level of importance?

The vast majority of monuments—the kind found in small town squares and Confederate cemeteries—were mass-produced, generic statues of common soldiers. They were picturesque, but hardly works of art. (The historian W. Fitzhugh Brundage offers a brief history of these monuments—and a wise approach to dealing with them—in his essay published on Vox.)

But the debate has largely revolved around the larger, usually equestrian, statues of individual politicians or leaders. The president and others have cautioned that taking down Lee sculptures puts us on the slippery slope that could eventually lead to the destruction of monuments to founding fathers who owned slaves. Yet structures honoring to Washington, Jefferson, and other slaveholders were not built to commemorate their slave owning, but to honor their contributions to the formation of the United States.  On the other hand, the only reason there are monuments to Robert E. Lee is because he led the largest army fighting the United States in our country’s bloodiest conflict.  Without the Civil War, he would have been a well-respected colonel in the US army that no one would have remembered after his death. He, like many other Confederate military and political leaders, had, long before they joined the Confederate cause, sworn oaths to protect the United States as officers in the armed services or elected officials.

Moreover, most of the monuments that are currently being attacked, supported, or taken down were put up between the 1890s and the 1910s. By this time the “Lost Cause” interpretation of the war—in the best American tradition, the South had fought courageously and nobly for principles in which they believed—had captured the imaginations of southerners and many (not all) northerners alike.  But it was also the decade in which Jim Crow segregation and the disfranchisement of African Americans in southern states were nearly complete, and a time when lynching of African Americans had begun to reach its crescendo.  The Lee statue in Charlottesville did not go up until 1924—the same year KKK members openly paraded at the Democratic National Convention, a show of force that reflected the organization’s rebirth in 1915 (atop Stone Mountain, Georgia, which would become the site of another monument to the Confederacy). As Eric Foner has said, the monuments were expressions of power, not patriotism, and were not intended to represent “our” shared history, but a very specific version of history. (See Foner’s Op-Ed in the  New York Times.) James Grossman argues that comparing Confederate to Union monuments creates a false equivalent; however much one admires the courage of Confederate soldiers and the capacity of southern civilians to endure hardship, their cause hardly matched the moral and political high ground of the Union cause, or of the American cause in 1776 (to which it is often compared by southerners). (Grossman’s thoughts are part of a CNN roundtable on the issue.)

It says a lot about the leniency of Reconstruction and the racism of the post-war North that Confederate memorials could proliferate so widely and quickly throughout the confederate memorial at ArlingtonSouth with little pushback from the North. There were certainly examples of opposition—some Union veterans and others bitterly opposed the building of a Confederate memorial in Arlington National Cemetery, where a number of Confederates had actually been buried, but it nevertheless was unveiled in 1914—but generally they were accepted and the issue was, well, a non-issue. (For more on the Confederate memorial at Arlington, go to the cemetery’s website.)

Despite their belief that the monuments were direct links to Confederate racial policies and motivations, most historians have, for many years, believed it more important to provide context to these representations of a specific time in our history, to explain their symbolism and the uses to which they have been put. Yet that may be impossible now, and many historians are changing their minds.  (Civil War blogger Kevin Levin explains his change of heart in this blog for the Atlantic, while  Matthew Stanley indicates why he changed his mind at the Emerging Civil War blog.)

Some politicians are also taking aim at monuments to Confederate commanders at battlefield parks. Battlefield monuments occupy a somewhat different place in the construction of memory.  Their original intent was to mark the movements and accomplishments of military units and commanders.  The more elaborate sculptures and structures—to commanders of specific units, or memorializing the fallen from individual states—are original pieces of art. And there is a rough balance in the number of monuments to Union and Confederate commanders and units.

I personally would prefer the battlefield monuments to be left alone. But I also would urge the National Park Service to be aggressive and pro-active in interpreting the monuments, which have for the most part been left to “speak” for themselves. The last decade or two have seen numerous debates among and between public historians and meade1_18471138_stdacademic historians about how battlefields should be interpreted, particularly in terms of the causes of the war, the motivations of the men who fought it, and the public memory of that war.  It seems to me that the monuments provide a great opportunity to explore all of these issues.  Because they capture moments in time—both the moment being commemorated, and the moment in which the commemoration occurs—they can be tools that, if done right can help visitors understand not only the battlefield, but also the war’s larger meanings. (The photo to the left is of the Gen. George G. Meade statue at Gettysburg.)

Interpreting symbols of racism, inequality, and extreme political beliefs—particularly when substantial groups of people do not see them that way—is a tricky business requiring a great deal of nuance. Recent events suggest that nuance may no longer be possible.

James Marten is professor and chair of the history department at Marquette. Among his recent publications are America’s Corporal: James Tanner in War and Peace (2014) and Sing Not War: The Lives of Union and Confederate Veterans in Gilded Age America (2011).

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