Spotlight on the History Department

Steven Zdatny"class="imageleft I am pleased to say that the History Department at the University of Vermont had another very successful year, 2009-2010. In welcoming one new member, Okezi Otovo, to the department, we continued our tradition of hiring excellent young scholars and teachers from top doctoral programs. Professor Otovo, a recently minted Ph.D. from Georgetown University, is a Latin American specialist. Her research focuses on 19th- and 20th-century social history, with a particular interest in the history of peoples of African descent and issues of gender and citizenship. Her current research examines the Brazilian maternal and child health and welfare movements of the turn of the 20th century. She analyzes the importance of the rise of the welfare state for understanding political and ideological tensions in Brazil particularly as they affected the lives of poor women of color, deepening our understanding of the experiences and contradictions of citizenship after the abolition of slavery.

Meanwhile, the veteran members of the History Department continued to rack up an impressive list of accomplishments, both within the university and in the wider scholarly world. Two of our colleagues, Erik Esselstrom and Abigail McGowan, received tenure and promotion to associate professor. Sean Field had two grants, one from the American Philosophical Society and the other from the University of Vermont, in addition to a Camargo Foundation Residential Fellowship that enabled him to spend the second half of his sabbatical leave writing his next book, The Beguine, the Angel and the Inquisitor: The Trial of Marguerite Porete and Guiard of Cressonart, in the hills above the Mediterranean town of Cassis in the south of France. Erik Esselstrom won a Japanese Studies Grant from the Association for Asian Studies to help fund the work on his next book, a study of the Japanese writer Kaji Wataru and his anti-colonialist activities in Japanese-occupied China. Professor Esselstrom was also named director of the Asian Studies Program at UVM.

A number of our colleagues published books this past year. Bogac Ergene, who had received a Lattie Coor International Travel Award in 2009, published the edited volume, Judicial Practice: Institutions and Agents in the Islamic World. Abigail McGowan's monograph, Crafting the Nation in Colonial India, appeared with Palgrave Macmillan. And Alan Steinweis, who is also the Director of the Carolyn and Leonard Miller Center for Holocaust Studies, published Kristallnacht 1938 with Harvard University Press. Other books will be appearing soon. Nicole Phelps received a contract from Cambridge University Press for her book, Racializing Sovereignty: Woodrow Wilson, Austria-Hungary, and the Transformation of International Politics. Sean Stilwell's book, Slavery and Slaving in African History, is also under contract at Cambridge. David Massell's new book, Quebec Hydropolitics: The Peribonka Concessions of World War Two, is forthcoming with the McGill-Queen’s University Press. Dona Brown's manuscript, Back to the Land: A History, is also forthcoming from the University of Wisconsin Press. Frank Nicosia, our Hilberg Professor of Holocaust Studies, co-edited Jewish Life in Nazi Germany with our UVM colleague, Emeritus Professor David Scrase (Department of German and Russian). It is due out this summer.

In other news of History Department accomplishments, Denise Youngblood received a much-merited Dean’s Lecture Award, recognizing her “excellence in scholarship combined with the ability to translate this scholarship into stimulating teaching.” Ian Grimmer was selected as a 2010 recipient of the prestigious Kroepsch-Maurice Award for Excellence in Teaching, continuing a tradition that has recognized History as one of the strongest teaching departments in the College of Arts and Sciences. Paul Deslandes and Amani Whitfield were awarded Lattie Coor Fellowships from the College, and Abigail McGowan and Erik Esselstrom won Faculty Research Support Awards; these awards will support work on their current book projects.

Our graduate students continue to have success in competing for funding from the Graduate College. Incoming students Andrew Evick and Cynthia Harris were granted highly competitive Graduate College Fellowships, while Brandon Moblo won a Lattie Coor Fellowship to support his M.A. work in History. Our undergraduate majors have had similar success in competing for support. For example, Meghan Kendall won a URECA! Scholarship from the Honors College that allowed her to spend a month this summer conducting research in the French National Library, and others have been awarded APLE scholarships to fund thesis research. In other words, we are pleased to think that Wheeler House continues to be home to an accomplished and congenial group of scholars, teachers, and students.

--Steven Zdatny