Posts Tagged 'Marquette University history department'

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

dinner

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.

Advertisements

What I mean when I say, “I’m going to the archive.”

By Cory Haala

Introduced by James Marten

As I caught up with my high school friend Lindsey and her husband Austin last night, I casually mentioned that tomorrow I would “be headed back to the archive.” Lindsey stopped me and said, “I’m sorry, but you always say that, and I don’t know what the ‘archive’ is.”

I realized that I do that. A lot. So here’s a post generally explaining that (1) I’m still working on my PhD, and (2) what it is that I do when I say “I’m going to the archive!”

That’s the beginning of History PhD student Cory Haala’s essay on his current dissertation research. We’ve all been there—describing our work to an old friend, a family member, some other non-academic: yes, I’m still in school; no, the dissertation’s not done, and so on. I’m sure doctors and lawyers and plumbers and people working in virtually any other occupations have similar conversations. They try to explain what they do to people who have only a general idea about being a dentist, a piano tuner, or any other occupation. Cory articulates a process that is pretty basic to any scholar who does archival work, but is unfamiliar to anyone who hasn’t written anything longer than a college term paper. Along the way he describes his own research on modern politics in the Midwest.

Read the rest of Cory’s blog post—and a number of other posts about his journey through Midwestern archives—here: http://coryhaala.org/research/what-is-an-archive-graduate-student-research-collections-museums-archives/.

 Cory Haala has delivered papers at the Midwestern History Association Conference, the Great Lakes History Conference, the Midwest Labor and Working-Class History Conference, and the Northern Great Plains History Conference. In 2017 he received a $5000 Minnesota Historical Society Legacy Research Fellowship, for research in the Gale Family Library, as well as a $5000 grant to support his dissertation research from the National Society of Colonial Dames of America. 

The Cubs and a New Episteme

By Phillip Naylor

A new baseball season is starting, but like so many other fans (including departmental colleagues Kristen Foster and Dave McDaniel), the Cubs’ 2016 season remains an inimitable existential experience. Actually, it seemed more like a temporal displacement still leaving me in disbelief over its monumental achievements—103 regular-season wins (celebrated by ubiquitous “W” flags even here in Milwaukee), the National League Pennant (dreamt of since childhood), and the World Series Championship (beyond reverie). Perhaps I had entered an alternate universe? Or should I invoke Michel Foucault and an idea of a disrupted, discontinuous episteme, i.e., the displacement (and replacement) of configured relations and knowledge? Was my condition postmodern as well as existential, if not metaphysical? Ontology (being) and epistemology (knowing) were also at play during the 2016 season.

Oh sure, I perceived a couple of years ago while attending a late season Brewers-Cubs game of the potential of young players like Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, and Jorje Soler (now a Kansas City Royal). The Cubs won that one. Ironically, when Kristen, Dave, Kitty, and I went to a game last September, the Brewers pummeled the Cubs 12-5! I tried to repress the thought that this signaled a cosmological corrective. Nevertheless, future National League Most Valuable Player (MVP) Kris Bryant did not play (to Kristen’s particular disappointment) as Manager Joe Maddon rested him—apparently preparing for the postseason—and to my astonishment, the Cubs’ victories subsequently mounted.

An extraordinary discourse developed along with a shifting episteme—Cub fans now talked positively and anticipated winning rather than losing. Oh sure, there was a vestigial fatalism, perhaps a dreadful Ted Savage-like out-at-the-plate moment (against the Cardinals in 1967). Nevertheless, I discovered that the season sparked long dormant synapses activating currents of memory and history, e.g., my impression of Wrigley Field when the Macks took me to my first game (I had never seen a venue so verdant); a Memorial Day double header when my friend Kenny and I explored Wrigley’s empty upper grandstand during the second game; my sunburn while sitting in the sizzling right field bleachers with my father and brother; and introducing my children to Wrigley’s ambience with its faint organ music allowing reflection regarding the game’s subtleties between innings (unlike Miller Park’s electronically generated cacophony producing sensory overload).

Then there were memories of the Cubs themselves. Foremost was Ernie Banks. Yes, Ernie, that slender slugger from the Negro League’s Kansas City Monarchs whose baseball prowess and power earned him the respect, if not adoration of fans. Indeed, he was indirErnie Banksectly, like African American players of his generation, a Civil Rights figure by his very presence on the field. Banks’s positive attitude (“Let’s play three”) and dignity profoundly impressed. His love of the game transcended the ineluctable team losing streaks. I was proud that he was the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1958 and 1959.

As a boy, I poured over my Cub yearbook, which introduced me to (Joe) Tinker-to- (Johnny) Evers-to (Frank) Chance, “Three Finger(ed)” Mordecai Brown, and Gabby Hartnett (and his twilight home run against the Pirates in 1938). Yes! There had been great Cubs like Lewis “Hack” Wilson who in 1930 hit 56 home runs and drove in 191 runs (the latter statistic remains a record). I learned about Phil Cavaretta and the 1945 pennant winners. The Cubs had been winners, but the World Series Championship (last won in 1908) remained elusive.

The 2016 season reminded me how my friends and I avidly collected baseball cards. I cherished my Cubs collection—now long gone. Each card was an archive with biographical and statistical data. I learned about geography too, i.e., the location of minor league teams. (Trading cards provided early experiences of the role of utility in assessing a player’s value!) Memory recalled a great blunder—the Cubs’ trading of outfielder Lou Brock (a Hall of Famer) to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Ernie Broglio in 1964. Brock immediately helped lead the Cardinals to a World Championship while, sadly, Broglio’s arm became sore.

And the Cubs chronically lost. I would check team standings in the home-delivered Chicago Tribune to see how close the Cubs were to escaping the cellar. If they lost, how bad was it? An 8-6 loss was palatable; at least “we” came close. Yet I kept on being a fan. While at the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle (UIC today), I watched for the “W” or “L” flag fluttering from the scoreboard as my northbound Englewood/Howard A or Jackson/Howard B (now Red Line) or Evanston Express train approached the Addison stop. Oh sure, I had my moments when Cubs teams frustrated if not alienated me. Yet no matter what I said, denounced, and even renounced, I still could not let go.

The worst was the 1969 season. After a phenomenal start, “Cub Power” dissipated. The Mets’ eventually overtook the Cubs and capped their “miraculous” success vs. the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. Decades after that season, a new Western Civilization Varsity Theater Program teaching assistant (TA) entered my Coughlin Hall office and introduced himself. He wore a Mets hat. I immediately informed him that he was not to wear that hat again in my presence. Of course, I told him that I was kidding (Yeah, kinda!) and he ended up being one of my finest TAs that I had the pleasure to work while “in the Varsity.” Of course, there were other disappointments such as the 1984 National League Championship Series loss to the San Diego Padres after the Cubs won the first two games in Wrigley but lost the next three on the West Coast. Despite the heroics of Mark Grace in the 1989 National League Championship Series, the Cubs were outhit by Will Clark and the San Francisco Giants. In 2003, with five outs needed to win the National League Pennant and return to the World Series, a fly ball drifted foul toward the stands in left field tracked by the Cubs’s Moises Alou…‘nuff said! Despite that loss and other heartbreaks, 1969 remained the most odious season.

There was also tragedy concerning the Cubs that had nothing to do with the game on the field. In 1962, Ken Hubbs was Rookie of the Year. (Hall of Famer Billy Williams won the award in 1961.) Hubbs was a brilliant, seemingly flawless second baseman and set major league records for his errorless fielding. He was the first rookie to win a Gold Glove award. The future looked very promising, but Hubbs perished in a plane crash in February 1964. (See: https://miscbaseball.wordpress.com/2012/01/07/remembering-1960s-cubs-second-basemand-ken-hubbs/ airplane) I was also moved by the death of Jack Quinlan in March 1965. Jack was the Cubs’ superb radio announcer who died in an automobile accident in Arizona. Quinlan’s broadcast partner was Lou Boudreau, the former brilliant player-manager who led the Cleveland Indians to their last World Series Championship, 68 years ago. As reiterated often during the 2016 World Series, Cleveland’s been waiting a long time too.

Favorite Cubs paraded through my consciousness during 2016. There was Walt “Moose” Moryn who habitually and heroically (and repeatedly) collided with right field foul line brick wall chasing line drives and fly balls. With no padding, man, that had to hurt! His most famous catch was in left field where he grabbed a sinking line drive to preserve Don Cardwell’s no hitter in May 1960. He could slug, too, and was an all-star. Dick Drott and Moe Drabowsky had fire-balling right arms. I remembered Gene Baker, Don Hoak, Hobie Landrith, Bob Rush, and Cal Neeman among so many others on losing teams. I must add here that these are names that my esteemed colleague, Professor Emeritus Tom Jablonsky, knows well. (I miss you, man!)

I never subscribed, however, to the cachet image of the Cubs as “lovable losers.” The Cubs were simply the Cubs; a baseball team that usually lost games. When I taught at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, I readily identified with the Red Sox. Marquette history doctoral graduate Pete deRosa (who is a professor at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts and a baseball scholar) and I used to compare the Red Sox and the Cubs while watching games in Fenway Park. Red Sox memorable losses were, however, much more dramatic, if not Sophoclean, i.e., Johnny Pesky’s hesitant relay in the 1946 World Series or Bill Buckner’s error in the sixth game of the 1986 World Series (against the Mets!). I highly recommend Stephen Jay Gould’s article on history and memory: “Jim Bowie’s Letter & Bill Buckner’s Legs,” Natural History, 109, no. 4 (May 2000): 26-40. (My undergraduate seminar students read it this semester.) I must add, Pesky was a great Red Sox (“Mr. Red Sox”) and humanitarian. Buckner played well with the Cubs before being traded to the Red Sox. (Overlooked, he had a distinguished career with over 2,700 hits.). Gould argues that Buckner has been unfairly portrayed and blamed regarding the Red Sox loss in the sixth game and the World Series. See also: http://weldbham.com/blog/2011/10/27/bill-buckner-shouldn%E2%80%99t-be-blamed-for-a-red-sox-loss-in-the-1986-world-series/. Of course, after 86 years, the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 and then in 2007.

I particularly appreciate how the Cubs’ success in 2016 evoked fans’ memories and histories—for some, even at deeper ontological and epistemological levels bringing them to tears when the Cubs secured their World Series win. Will the Cubs repeat in 2017 as they did in 1907 and 1908? I can entertain such thoughts now. I feel quite existentially comfortable with this new episteme and thankful for it.

Phil Naylor is professor of history and author of France and Algeria: A History of Decolonization and Transformation and North Africa: A History from Antiquity to the Present, among other books. He teaches courses on the Middle East, North Africa, and Rock and Roll. 

Their Stories are Fascinating and Powerful: Remembering Wisconsin’s Red Arrow Division in the First World War

By Capt. Brian J. Faltinson

This post comes from MA alum, Iraq war veteran, and public historian Brian J. Faltinson, who describes the ongoing commemoration of the centennial of one of the most famous military units to originate in Wisconsin, the “Red Arrow” Division that formed during the First World War. Downtown’s Red Arrow County Park is named in honor of the men who served.

I remember in fifth grade checking out a book on each world war from the school library so I could pass the time on a long drive to my grandparents’ farm in Watertown, South Dakota. I do not precisely remember why, but I found the book on the Great War to be the more fascinating of the two.  Today, I am fortunate as a historian and public affairs officer with the Wisconsin National Guard to share the stories of some of Wisconsin’s World War I soldiers.

The Wisconsin National Guard for the next two years is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 32nd “Red Arrow” Division and honoring its service in World War I with d of the raa project we call Dawn of the Red Arrow. (The image to the left is of Facebook masthead of the Dawn of the Red Arrow (Wisconsin National Guard Image).  We consider the organization of the 32nd Division to be the beginning of the modern Wisconsin National Guard and most of our units trace their origins to that division.  Given that the U.S. Army ranked behind Portugal when it went to war with Germany, the National Guard was a vital part of building an army capable of fighting on the Western Front.  In September 1917, 15,000 Wisconsin National Guardsmen from units in 72 Wisconsin cities joined with the Michigan National Guard at Camp MacArthur, Texas, to form the 32nd Division.  The division entered combat in May 1918 in Alsace and would later fight in the Aisne-Marne, Oise-Aisne and Meuse-Argonne campaigns.  The French awarded the division a battle citation for its ferocity in combat near Soissons and formalized “Les Terribles” as the division’s nickname – making the 32nd the only American division to earn a nom de guerre from a foreign nation. The division pierced every single German line it encountered and, as a result, its unit insignia is that of a red arrow punching through a German battle line. This success in battle was earned at great cost; the division suffered over 13,000 casualties of which over 2,600 were killed in action.

The overarching theme of Dawn of the Red Arrow is to have the division’s soldiers tell their own story. We have partnered with the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, the Wisconsin National Guard Museum and the Wisconsin Historical Society to find and share the photos, letters, memoirs, artifacts and stories left behind by the division’s soldiers.   A recent research trip to the National Archives found the division’s operational records, daily staff journal, official photograph collection and two hours of U.S. Army Signal Corps film that captured the division’s time in France. These records ranged from private’s observation Ruffreport of enemy activity from the trenches to the division’s operations orders for each of its battles.  Connecting all of these stories and creating their proper context so they can be properly understood is a series of video-recorded interviews with Marquette’s Dr. Julius Ruff (pictured here with Brian Faltinson–photo courtesy Wisconsin National Guard) and history professors from Ripon College and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. We will tell these stories as they happened 100 years ago, which means this project will last through June 6, 1919 when the division’s Wisconsin members marched in a welcome home parade on Milwaukee’s Wisconsin Avenue.

The history of the division as a whole is well-established and our goal is not expand the historiography, but to honor these Soldiers and restore their presence in today’s memory. Their stories are fascinating and powerful.  Cpl. Edward DeNomie, a Ho-Chunk Tribe Native American, provided a veteran’s audio interview to the Wisconsin Veterans Museum and we hear in his own words about how he joined the Wisconsin National Guard while enrolled in the Federal government’s Indian School in Tomah, Wisconsin. Capt. Paul W. Schmidt, who wrote his unit’s history after the war, joined the Wisconsin National Guard in 1898 and led Sheboygan’s Company C, 127th Infantry Regiment in France. Chaplain Capt. Gustave Stearns of Milwaukee wrote vivid letters home to his congregation describing the war. His bravery and compassion on the battlefield with regard to caring for the wounded and dying on both sides earned him a Silver Star and an Iron Cross.  However, the most emotionally powerful collection we have run across features 1st Lt. Bruce W. Clarke, an infantry platoon leader. The collection starts with an almost perfect, crystal clear ID card photo of Clarke, followed by some mundane platoon leader administrative notes and then a message book he used in France to send dispatches to his commander – copies of some of those messages remain legible. The collection’s final photograph is a 1931 image of his mother dressed in black grieving at his grave at the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery in France.

The stories of these and other individuals are easily shared through the Dawn of the Red Arrow website, Facebook page, as well as other social media.  We tell some of these stories as we find them and others will be regular features.  Some items are thematic or concentrate on a specific person, place or event, while others track “on this day 100 years ago”. We want to use these modern media platforms to bring the black-and-white images and words on aged pieces of paper to life so people can connect with these soldiers.   A demonstration of that potential happened during my week at the National Archives, when Red ArrowI regularly posted research updates.  A post of the earliest known photograph of the Red Arrow insignia, painted on a battle-scarred artillery piece (see image to the left, courtesy of the National Archives) went viral and dramatically expanded our audience.   There are thousands who currently wear that insignia, tens of thousands who once wore it and countless more who know someone who once did.   That image had tremendous meaning to those people.  We use social media to share this raw material of history which we will assemble into our culminating product of a one-hour film that tells the division’s story from its service in Texas during the Mexican Border Crisis to its return to Wisconsin after World War One.  We are targeting the film to premier in October at the Wisconsin Centennial Commission’s World War I Symposium in Madison.

Capt. Brian J. Faltinson graduated from Marquette in 1998 with an M.A. in American History. He has been a member of the Minnesota and Wisconsin National Guard since 1988 and is an Iraq War veteran.  He has been the Wisconsin National Guard’s chief historian since 2007.  In his civilian career, he is a project manager & historian with Heritage Research, Ltd, an environmental and public history consulting firm in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.

Guest Blog: A Virtual Journey into Digital Humanities

With the help of a Mellon Grant for the 2015-2016 academic year from the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences, a band of MU historians set out to explore the brave new world of digital humanities.  More accurately, they sought to find out about a world more or less new to them. In Jim Marten’s “The Civil War Era,” Tim McMahon’s “Modern Ireland,” and Bryan Rindfleisch’s course on Native American history, students produced maps, explored texts, and used social media to get at historical issues and questions in ways a regular research paper cannot.

Lezlie Knox’s “Black Death” course partnered with the Raynor Memorial Library’s Digital Scholarship Lab to produce original projects on pandemics through history.  The lab’s dmlDigital Scholarship Librarian, Elizabeth Gibes, was embedded into the class, and helped Lezlie and the students engage multiple applications and approaches to come to a better understanding of how pandemics–from tuberculosis to yellow fever to polio–have affected people around the world.

Two of the projects have already been featured on the Digital Scholarship Lab’s blog (click here and here to read about Katherine Stein’s and Cara Caputo’s projects, respectively).

But the lab’s most recent blog post covers the class in its entirety, and includes an interview with Lezlie.  Please read it here.

The Law, the Blog, and the Historian

By Alan Ball

I started a blog on the Wisconsin Supreme Court a few years ago at the urging of my wife, an appellate lawyer whose career has ranged through both the civil and criminal fields. Apparently, no one had been providing statistical studies of the Wisconsin Supreme Court of the sort created by SCOTUSblog about the United States Supreme Court, and it was suggested—“even you could do this”—that I have a try.  For my part, this seemed like an interesting change of pace as well as a challenge, so I enrolled in a statistics class here at Marquette during my last sabbatical and launched SCOWstats—SCOW standing for Supreme Court of Wisconsin—(www.scowstats.com).

scotusNow, a few years later, I’m still finding my way in some respects, but the response to the blog has been sufficiently encouraging to maintain my enthusiasm for the project. From time to time, Journal Sentinel reporters have relied heavily or entirely on SCOWstats posts for articles of their own, and SCOWstats has been the subject of articles in such publications as Milwaukee Magazine and Minnesota Lawyer.1  Other groups and publications across the ideological spectrum have circulated SCOWstats posts as well, most often via Twitter, though also by means of links to SCOWstats on their own sites.  SCOWstats “followers” include the Federalist Society, the Wisconsin Law Journal, and the State Bar of Wisconsin (whose “Inside Track” publication has drawn on SCOWstats posts for appraisals of recently-concluded supreme court terms). For someone like me, accustomed to the extended gestation period of scholarly volumes, the pace of creation, and especially response, has been exciting.

Along with highlighting SCOWstats overviews of supreme-court terms, the Journal Sentinel and the Wisconsin State Bar’s publications have cited posts on such issues as the voting patterns of justices in Fourth-Amendment cases, the question of whether the late Justice Crooks really was a “swing vote,” the degree of polarization among the justices, and the dramatic decline in the number of decisions filed in recent years. Most encouraging of all have been the opinions written by Supreme Court Justices Shirley Abrahamson and Ann Walsh Bradley that included citations to SCOWstats in support of their arguments.

From the outset, an important goal has been to provide readers and myself with a sense of how unusual—or not—the voting and other behavior of the justices might be. Initially I sought to furnish some perspective by comparing the performance of current justices with that of their colleagues in earlier decades, and with this aim in mind I plan to continue pushing farther back into the court’s past.  However, I’ve also begun to explore other vantage points from which to assess the work of the justices in Madison, which has led me most recently to weighing the work of the Wisconsin Supreme Court against that of supreme courts in neighboring states.  To this end, the first of two posts comparing Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin appeared in September, with the second planned for publication in October.  I’m hoping that in the months to come I will have time to expand this spectrum to include the supreme courts of other states.

In the more distant future, I’d like to do something regarding sentencing disparities for various ethnic groups. Although this would have a less direct connection to the supreme court, the present Chief Justice has commented on the topic, and that could serve as a sufficiently-green light for me.  I’m also thinking that during my next sabbatical, I’d take a formal class or two on coding to supplement (that is, eclipse) my current rudimentary knowledge.  If nothing else, this would be a stimulating challenge, and it could equip me to do more with the visual side of the project.

Meanwhile, SCOWstats is sponsoring a fantasy league in which teams of law firms gain points based on the frequency of their appearances before the justices and their degree of success in representing their clients.  Now that our inaugural season is in the books following this summer’s (virtual) awards banquet, I’m sure that the Wisconsin legal community is anxiously awaiting the Selection Committee’s winter meeting, when the rosters for the 2017 season will be determined.

1 Matt Hrodey, “The Truth on Trials. A Historian’s Unique Perspective” Milwaukee Magazine, July, 2015; Mike Mosedale, “Report: High Courts in Minnesota, Wisconsin a Study in Contrasts,” Minnesota Lawyer, July 7, 2016.

Alan Ball is professor of history at Marquette University. He teaches course on Russian and Soviet history and on the Cold War.  He is author of Russia’s Last Capitalists: The Nepmen, 1921-1929 (1987); And Now My Soul Is Hardened: Abandoned Children in Soviet Russia, 1918-1930 (1994); and Imagining America: Influence and Images in Twentieth-Century Russia (2003).

Renewing, Revising, and Reviving: The Scholars’ Workshop

By Bryan C. Rindfleisch

Our colleague, Bryan Rindfleisch, was one of just six non-tenured historians who had the opportunity to join the Omohundro Institute for Early American History & Culture this summer to institutework on his manuscript. The Omohundro is a think-tank for scholars of early America, based out of the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Over the course of a month, Rindfleisch workshopped his manuscript – which focuses on the intimate dimensions of family, community, and power/colonialism in the Native South, British Empire, and Atlantic World in the eighteenth-century – with the Omohundro historians and staff. The following blog is a reflection on his time at the Omohundro: http://blog.oieahc.wm.edu/reflections-omohundro-institutes-lapidus-scholars-workshop/


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 61 other followers