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Department of History
History Currents Newsletter Archive
Fall 2010, Number 52

Letter from the Chair

Dear Friends of the History Department,

I am most pleased to welcome you to the Department’s first electronic Newsletter.  Publishing in this, for us, new format helps control costs and permits us to update you frequently, as developments occur. I hope you will check in from time to time, as we hope to have news that will hold your interest.

Last year, 2009-2010, saw the Department progress in several vital areas. We continued to enroll about 3,000 students per semester and to teach about 600 majors, holding our own. The graduate program is growing, especially at the doctoral level. We will welcome seventeen new graduate students this Fall, our largest class yet, all of them with exceptional credentials.

We have made our first appointment in the history of India, our new and already valued colleague, Dr. Ram Rawat (see below). The Department has wanted to offer this field since as far back as 1975; we are pleased to have this dream come true at last. Dr. Rawat comes to us with an already established professional reputation; you will be hearing about him.

With the addition of Dr. Rawat, we boast an Asian section of four, which is strong for a department our size. Along with Dr. Rawat, Drs. David Pong (China), Mark McLeod (Vietnam), and Darryl Flaherty (Japan) make up our estimable Asian group. In 2010, we will open a new search in Latin American history, and we expect to strengthen ourselves in this important area as well. In short, the Department is steadily broadening its offerings, moving into the new century. Stay tuned.

In addition to its teaching, the Department prides itself upon its scholarly prowess and maintains a high rate of publication. Last year faculty published several books and won various honors and professional recognition (see below), as did graduate alumni (also itemized below). The achievements of the latter group are especially impressive. 

Bosley-Warnock public lecture, the Department hosted Dr. Linda Colley of Princeton University on April 29, 2010. Dr. Colley, an internationally known scholar and the author of five books, spoke on the provocative topic, “Gendering the Globe: the Imperial and Political Thought of Philip Francis.” Dr. Colley’s most recent book is The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: a Woman in World History, named one of the ten best books in 2007 by “The New York Times.” It’s a good read. The Bosley-Warnock lecture is funded through the generosity of Deirde Bosley, BA, 1979, and David Warnock, BA, 1980.

Dr. John McNeill of Georgetown University spoke on “Tumultuous Times: Global Environmental History c. 1890,” at the Department’s public “Alumni Lecture” in October, 2009. Dr. McNeill has just published the pioneering Mosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, 1620-1914, which studies ecology, disease, warfare, and struggles for empire in the area between Surinam and our Chesapeake Bay. It is also getting outstanding reviews.  

The College of Arts and Sciences faculty recently created a requirement for a “Discovery Learning Experience,” which stresses experiential or hands-on learning. Although some of our courses were judged to satisfy this requirement already, we still had to think anew. In Spring 2010, the Department offered for the first time HIST 464-010 (Internship in History) and HIST 480-010 (Seminar, World War II). For the former course Dr. Katherine Grier, our director of museum studies, drew upon her professional relationships with museums, historical societies, agencies, and the like to create DLE slots for her students at those locations. In the latter course Dr. Steven Sidebotham, normally known as our historian/archeologist of the ancient world, shared with his students his growing collection of video interviews of veterans of World War II. Dr. Sidebotham has traveled the country, at his own expense, to interview dozens of veterans about their wartime lives. Both these courses added considerably to our Spring curriculum.   

The graduate curriculum, devoted mostly to U.S. history, is also shifting its center of gravity, with new courses in environmental and world history. These included “Global Environmental History” offered by Dr. Susan Strasser and “Writing the History of Empires” by Dr. Owen White. More additions to the graduate curriculum will be forthcoming.

In April, the Department sponsored a luncheon program on “Haiti: Historical and Cultural Perspectives,” in which four University faculty, three of them from History, shared their expertise in an effort to help our academic community understand why this year’s earthquake in Haiti has so devastated that society.

Last spring the Department hosted an external review panel of four distinguished, outside History faculty, charged with evaluating our programs and all our endeavors. All units in the University undergo these reviews, usually once every seven years. Our panel consisted of Drs. Peter Coclanis, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill; Alice Conklin, Ohio State University; Steven Lubar, Brown University; and Barbara Savage, University of Pennsylvania. Their completed review declared us to be “an excellent and well-respected faculty that provides significant undergraduate and graduate teaching while maintaining a stellar record of academic productivity.” I’m sure the review has strengthened us with the College administration, which is always to the good.

Thanks to all the friends and alumni who have made generous contributions over the past year. Your gifts are used for many worthwhile purposes--funding professional travel for faculty and graduate students and some undergraduates too, defraying the expenses of guests invited to give talks and lectures, and general enrichment of our programs.

To make a gift to the History Department, please visit our online form at

Another way to help is to provide us with information about yourself and your recent activities, for future newsletters. Please send any such information to Dr. Darryl Flaherty:, who will become editor of our newsletter.

As I depart for a semester’s sabbatical, I’d like to welcome Dr. Erica Armstrong Dunbar as our Acting Chair. Dr. Armstrong Dunbar has published A Fragile Freedom: African American Women and Emancipation in the Antebellum City (Yale University), 2008, and is a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. Under her leadership, the Department will continue its progress; and we are all, especially yours truly, in her debt for taking on this additional assignment.

John J. Hurt
Chair, Department of History

Munroe Hall Munroe Hall Munroe Hall


On Thursday 21 October Linda Gordon delivered The William Watson Harrington Lecture titled “Censored: Dorothea Lange’s Photographs of Japanese American Internment during World War II.” Dr. Gordon’s presentation was part of the program of named lectures hosted by the Department of History and was also supported by Women’s Studies, Art History, and the Committee on Cultural Activities and Public Events of the University Faculty Senate. Dr. Gordon is the author of Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits (Norton, 2009), which won the 2010 Bancroft Prize for best book in American history and the 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in biography, and the co-editor of Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment (Norton, 2008). On Friday 22 October, she continued her exploration of the historical and aesthetic context in which Lange produced her photographs in a widely attended workshop hosted by the Department of History.
Rebecca Davis, Linda Gordon, Erica Armstrong Dunbar L to R: Dr. Rebecca Davis, Dr. Linda Gordon, and Dr. Erica Armstrong Dunbar.


Ram RawatThe Department is most pleased to welcome Dr. Ramnnarayan S. Rawat as its first appointment in the history of India, an important growth field. Dr. Rawat comes to us from a Mellon postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania and from undergraduate and graduate studies the University of Delhi. The latter institution awarded him the B.A. Honors degree in history, an M.A. in world history, a M. Phil., and a Ph.D. Dr. Rawat’s A New History of Untouchability: Colonialism, Nationalism, and Dalit Identity In North India is being published by the Indiana University Press in Fall 2010. In manuscript form, this book won the Joseph W. Elder Prize in Indian Social Sciences from the American Institute of Indian Studies. Dr. Rawat’s first course at the University is HIST 367-011, “The History of Modern India.”

Peter KolchinIn recognition of scholarly and literary achievement, the Society of American Historians invited Henry Clay Reed Professor of History Dr. Peter Kolchin to join its ranks. Membership in the Society is limited to 250 writers of American history and a small number of distinguished publishers of history. Dr. Kolchin’s masterful comparative histories of forced labor include: Unfree Labor: American Slavery and Russian Serfdom (1987), American Slavery, 1619-1877, and A Sphinx on the American Land: The Nineteenth-Century South in Comparative Perspective. The Society promotes literary distinction by electing only the most accomplished authors of history and biography to membership in the Society and awarding prizes for great history writing.
Susan StrasserDr. Susan Strasser was named Richards Professor of History on September 1, 2010.  The named professorship recognizes a career of scholarship and teaching with appointments at the George Washington University, Princeton University, and Evergreen State College.  Dr. Strasser has received honors and awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Smithsonian Institution among others.  She enjoys a global readership of works that include the pioneering Never Done: A History of American Housework (1982); Satisfaction Guaranteed: The Making of the American Mass Market (1989); and Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash (1999).  She has also shepherded six edited volumes to completion, including one co-edited with the Department’s Dr. Suisman, Sound in the Age of Mechanical Revolution.  Her current research focuses on herbal cures and home remedies, under the rubric A Historical Herbal: Household Medicine in a Developing Consumer Culture.  For Spring 2011, Dr. Strasser earned an appointment as a Senior Fulbright Lecturer in history at the Free University of Berlin. As part of the Free University's John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies, she will teach courses in American consumer culture and global and American environmental history.  She will also give talks drawn from her current research.
Selling Sounds by David SuismanDr. David Suisman, associate professor, has received wide acclaim for his recent book, Selling Sounds: the Commercial Revolution in American Music (Harvard University Press, 2009).  The book traces the rise of the modern industry of popular music, beginning with publishers and promoters of sheet music in New York City at the turn of the twentieth century. Early promoters of pop music worked with songwriters to create hit songs, and then employed the phonograph and radio to create a “mass-produced, international commodity.”  Dr. Suisman writes of how, as a result of music's “commercial revolution,” popular music became “stitched into the fabric of the nation as never before.”  On top of favorable reviews in the national press, including the Wall Street Journal, Choice named Selling Sounds an “Outstanding Academic Title” of 2009.  In 2010, Selling Sounds won the Hagley Prize for the best book in business history.  In awarding the Prize, the Business History Conference, identified Selling Sounds as “an important book that intertwines the history of business and culture in a remarkable way.” 
Dr. Darryl Flaherty, assistant professor, represented the University at a week-long seminar in Salzburg, Austria on “Colleges and Universities as Sites of Global Citizenship.” He joined faculty, administrators, and practitioners from institutions including Stanford University, San Jose State University, the United Nations, and Salzburg University in an exchange on the future of higher education in a global world.


Rebecca DavisRebecca Davis’s first book, More Perfect Unions: The American Search for Marital Bliss (Harvard University Press, 2010), received favorable attention in such national media as the “Wall Street Journal” and the “New Yorker”. David ShearerDavid Shearer published an opus, his deeply researched Policing Stalin's Socialism: Repression and Social Order in the Soviet Union, 1924-1953 (The Yale-Hoover Series on Stalin, Stalinism, and the Cold War, 2009).
David Suisman and Susan StrasserDrs. David Suisman and Susan Strasser brought out an edited volume, Sound in the Age of Mechanical Revolution (University of Pennsylvania, 2009).
Stewart RafertStewart Rafert The Native Americans (Indiana Historical Society Press, 2010) Ellis WassonEllis Wasson History of Modern Britain: 1714 to the Present (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009)


The 2010 release of the Regina Blaszczyk (Ph.D., 1995) edited volume, Producing Fashion: Commerce, Culture, and Consumers (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), as an audio book reflects the cross-format demand for this prolific scholar. A 2007 recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities grant for research on the color revolution, the Business History Conference recently honored Dr. Blaszczyk for “significant contributions to the teaching and writing of business history” at mid-career with the Harold F. Williamson Prize in 2008.

In 2010, Timothy J. LeCain (Ph.D., 1999) won the George Perkins Marsh Prize for the best book in environmental history for his Mass Destruction: the Men and Giant Mines that Wired America and Scarred the Planet (Rutgers University Press, 2009). Dr. LeCain is associate professor of history at Montana State University.

On August 5, 2010, the United States Senate confirmed President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Leonard Stark (B.A. and M.A., medieval and early modern Europe, 1991) to the United States District Court for the District of Delaware.  A former Rhodes Scholar, Judge Stark completed a doctor of philosophy at the University of Oxford and a law degree at Yale University before returning to Delaware in 1996 to clerk and practice law.  He served as a magistrate judge for the District of Delaware since 2007.

Bess Williamson, doctoral student and Hagley Fellow, won a Dissertation Completion Fellowship from the Mellon Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies for 2010-2011.  Her research focuses on the civil rights struggles of Americans with disabilities.  The highly competitive national award recognizes what Williamson’s adviser, Associate Professor Arwen P. Mohun has described as an “innovative and interesting project.”  Williamson has traveled the country, researching how people with disabilities campaigned to change society’s orientation toward the challenges they faced, transforming personal products and the public landscape in the process.

Amanda Daddona (M.A., 2010) discovered a letter by Thomas Jefferson, dated February 24, 1808, in a newly acquired collection in the Morris Library.  Daddona happened upon the letter while processing a gift of materials from the Rockwood Museum that includes ephemera, letters, photographs, diaries, and deeds from the seventeenth through twentieth centuries. The letter was an expression of sympathy from Jefferson to Dr. Joseph Bringhurst on the occasion of the death of John Dickinson.  In the letter, Jefferson recalls serving as Dickinson’s “junior companion…in the early part of our revolution” and praises the patriotism and perseverance of Dickinson.  Known as the “Penman of the Revolution,” Dickinson was a significant figure in his own right and the archive has yielded other treasures including unknown letters by Dickinson.

Scholarly Publications by Alumni
Thirteen doctoral alumni recently published books, an exceptional rate of publication and one that few graduate departments can boast:  Kevin L. Borg, Auto Mechanics. Technology and Expertise in Twentieth-Century America (Johns Hopkins UP), 2007; Cynthia Falk, Architecture and Artifacts of the Pennsylvania Germans. Construction Identity in Early America, (Penn State UP), 2008; Jeffrey Forret, Race Relations at the Margins. Slaves and Poor Whites in the Antebellum Southern Countryside, (LSU Press), 2006; Michael Frassetto, Heretic Lives: Medieval Heresy from Bogomil and the Cathars to Wyclif and Hus, (Profile Books), 2007; John D. Hosler, Henry II: A Medieval Soldier at War, 1147-1189 (Brill), 2007; Michael Kucher, The Water Supply System of Siena, Italy: The Medieval Roots of the Modern Networked City  (Routledge), 2005; Timothy J. Le Cain, Mass Destruction: the Men and Giant Mines that Wired America and Scarred the Planet (Rutgers UP), 2009; Eric Miller, Hope in a Scattering Time: A Life of Christopher Lasch (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), 2010; J. Rixey Ruffin, A Paradise of Reason: William Bentley and Enlightenment Christianity in the Early Republic, (Oxford UP), 2008; Ryan Smith, Gothic Arches, Latin Crosses: Anti-Catholicism and American Church Designs in the Nineteenth Century, (UNC Press), 2006; William H. Thiesen, Industrializing American Shipbuilding: The Transformation of Ship Design and Construction, (University Press of Florida), 2006; Diane Wenger, The Country Storekeeper in Pennsylvania: Creating Networks in the Early American Economy, 1790-1807, (Penn State UP), 2008; Susan Williams, Food in the United States, 1820s-1890, (Greenwood Press), 2006. 


At our Convocation Ceremony on May 28, 2010, the Department recognized 106 graduates:  72 History BA’s and 24 History Education BA’s. Another 10 were Honors graduates. Twelve graduate students received the M.A. in history, and three received their Ph.D.’s. Anne C. McBride, BA, 2010, presented the student address. Congratulations to the class of 2010!

Several of these graduates will go on to graduate school or law school. Others are on the job market, and we wish them the best of luck in these uncertain times. Among History Education graduates, we know of four who have found permanent or long-time employment—in the Marple-Newtown and Haverford High Schools, both in Pennsylvania, and the William Penn High School and the Seaford Middle School, both in Delaware. We hope for continued reports from all our graduates on their career status in the weeks to come.
The Department welcomed eighty new History majors, more than in 2009, at its New Student Orientation program on August 30, 2010.  Dr. Erica Armstrong-Dunbar, acting chair, welcomed the new students; and Dr. Anne Boylan, chair of the Undergraduate Studies Committee, directed the orientation. Students from Phi Alpha Theta, the History honors society, helped enormously.

Freshman orientation leaders

L-R: Dr. Barry Joyce, Hannah Kim, Dr. Erica Armstrong Dunbar and Dr. Anne Boylan.

Barry Joyce assisting a new student

Dr. Barry Joyce answers questions from a freshman history major.

Nine History and History Education majors were elected to Phi Beta Kappa in Spring 2010.

Rachel Laufner aboard the Half MoonRachel Laufer, Julie Powers, and Brett Truitt completed internships at, respectively, the Half Moon, a floating museum and replica of Henry Hudson’s ship (photo on left); the “Lost Towns Project” in Annapolis, Maryland; and at Fort Delaware, a prison for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, in 2009.

Anne McBride, BA, 2010, won a two-year Winterthur Fellowship; Ashley Hlebinsky, a rising senior, won a competitive Smithsonian Institution Fellowship, to work last summer with collections in the National Botanic Gardens. 

Keith Pluymers, BA, 2009, won a Provost’s scholarship for graduate work in Irish history, and Kristen Lee Geaman, BA, 2007, won a full fellowship for graduate work in medieval history, both at the University of Southern California.

Brittney Russell, BA, 2007, and Daniel Wavra, BA, 2009, won appointments to the Legislative Fellows Program.

Four History majors presented talks about their research in progress at the University’s first Undergraduate Research, McNair, and Service Symposium, held on August 11, 2010 in Clayton Hall. Our research students were: Vivian Corbit, “Roswitha as Representative of the 10th-Century Renaissance”; Michael Dickinson, “Visions of Freedom: A Comparative Examination of Emancipation Legacy”; Brenna James, “Finding the Connection Between Spanish and Mexican Anti-Clericalism, 1926-1939”; and Coleen Thornley, “Eugenics in Interwar America and Europe.”  

HISTORY HONORS BANQUET, April 15, 2010Steven Sidebotham

The Department was pleased to recognize the accomplishments of its best students at its annual Honors Banquet last spring. The keynote speaker was Dr. Steven Sidbotham (pictured at right) who discussed his recent excavations in Egypt. The title of his presentation was "The Global Economy: An Ancient Perspective from Archaeological Excavations at Berenike, Egypt." The awards and award winners are listed below.


Honors Degrees with Distinction

Ruth Osborne, Hillar Schwertner

Honors Degrees

Wendy Jansson, Anne McBride, Jilian Staurowsky, Jared Willmann

Phi Beta Kappa

Michael Groh, Amy Kilgallin, Jillian Staurowsky, Travis Di Joseph, Emily Matthews

Ryan O’Hara History Education Award
(In memory of Ryan O’Hara [1986-2007]), an outstanding History Education major; awarded to a History Education student on the basis of personal qualities and commitment to education.)

Travis Di Joseph

History Education Alumni Award

Robert Edmondson, Emily Matthews

Willard Allen Fletcher Prize
(In honor of Willard A. Fletcher, professor of history, 1969-1989, and chair, 1969-1975; to a History Education major for an outstanding research paper.)

Alison Werbel

Most Effective Lesson Planning

Angelina Anastasi, Maureen Forys

Most Innovative Learning Activities

Jessica Marshall, Shannon Marshall

Strongest Learning Communities

Bryan Cummings, Nicole Neaton

Outstanding Student Teachers

Brendon Butler, Ashley Cannone, Jillian DiAmicis, KimDizon, Caitlin Fitzwater, Marianne Munisteri, Ann Salimbene, Alison Werbel

Delta Kappa Gamma Award
(Awarded to History/Social Studies students who show exceptional promise.)

Brittany Fiore (Psychology Ed), Emily Matthews (History Ed)

Secondary Education Award for Educational Promise

Kelsey Grant (History Ed), Mitch Kastoff (Political Science/History Ed)

University of Delaware Social Studies Teacher of the Year

Holly Franklin, Cab Calloway School of the Arts


Alumni Awards
(For juniors and seniors with the highest History GPA and an overall GPA of 3.5; funded by alumni giving.)

Travis DiJoseph, Emily Matthews, Amy Kilgallin

Eve Clift Memorial Award
(In memory of Dr. Eveyln Holst Clift, pioneering professor of ancient history, 1942-1975; for outstanding scholarship.)

Monica Trobagis, Meredith Stuart, Wendy Jansson

Thomas J. Craven Prize
(In memory of Thomas J. Craven of Salem, NJ; for best undergraduate essay in American history or the history of Delaware.)

Gabrielle Vicari, Michael Hopkins, Erin Donahue

Berwyn Fragner Memorial Scholarship
(In memory of Brigadier General Berwyn N. Fragner and in recognition of his commitment to liberal education and especially history.)

Dante Silicato

William E. Meakin Memorial Award
(In memory of William Meakin [1962-1995]), a History major and a gifted student; awarded to an outstanding student who is active in the community.)

Tessa Murphy-Romboletti, Caitlin McGinn

James Mercer Merrill Award
(In memory of James M. Merrill, outstanding professor of American and military history, 1966-1985; awarded to meritorious juniors majoring in History.)

Steven Talay

Stewart Internship
(In memory E. Lyman Stewart, UD, 1923; to support students working at a Delaware historical agency.)

Julianne Powers

William H. Williams Award
(In memory of William H. Williams, Ph.D., History, University of Delaware, 1967, for outstanding undergraduate scholarship in colonial and U.S. history to 1865.)

Jillian Staurowsky

Old Home Prize
(For the best essay on the history of Delaware and the Eastern Shore.)

Samantha Penta, for “The Quaker Influence in Colonial Pennsylvania”


Alumni Award
(For best published article or seminar paper in a calendar year; funded by alumni giving.)

Toni Pitock

William H. Williams Award
(In memory of William H. Williams, Ph.D., History, University of Delaware, 1967; for outstanding graduate scholarship on Colonial America or U.S. to 1865.)

Toni Pitock

John A. Munroe Memorial Award
(In memory of John A. Munroe, professor of history, 1942-1982, and chair, 1952-1969; to a graduate student for excellence in developing and teaching a History course.)

Matt Hetrick

Stanley J. and Marion Goldfus Memorial Awards
(In memory of Stanley J. and Marion Goldfus in recognition of Mr. Goldfus’s love of learning, especially history; for best teaching assistants in the preceding calendar year.)

Matt Small and Melissa Maestri

Matt Small and Melissa Maestri

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  • Department of History  •   236 John Munroe Hall   •   Newark, DE 19716  •   USA
    Phone: 302-831-2371  •   Fax: 302-831-1538