A new semester

The History Department is abuzz again with activity now that a new semester has begun. During the fall term, there was lots to celebrate. Two notable events were the launch of a book (written by affiliated faculty member Stephen Terry with research assistance by history major Louis Augeri on Senator George D. Aiken–Say We Won and Get Out: George D. Aiken and the Vietnam War) and a highly successful symposium titled “Interpreting the Book: Medieval Manuscripts at UVM.” The latter event was organized, in conjunction with Silver Special Collections, by Professors Charlie Briggs and Sean Field. A highlight of the symposium were presentations by undergraduate and graduate students in Charlies Briggs’ seminar “Books and Readers in Europe, 1250-1550.”

We also held some important events for students including our once-a- semester “meet and greet” for faculty and students and a seminar on career networking for history students. In the interest of helping our students prepare for life after UVM, we’ll be holding another career event in the spring that will feature a panel of history alums speaking on their experiences after UVM.

The spring term will also bring a celebration of faculty research, a series of lectures on a diverse array of topics, and a special event featuring UVM history alum (Class of 1974) and Associated Press journalist Terrence Petty who will discuss his recent book Enemy of the People: The Munich Post and the Journalists Who Opposed Hitler and how his education as a history major at UVM prepared him for his career.

More details on these and many other events and developments will be posted on this blog and on our Facebook https://www.facebook.com/uvmhistory and Twitter http://@uvmhistory accounts.

The Department of History is seeking a Communications Intern for the Spring 2020 term. See details below:

Communications Intern— UVM Department of History

Job Description:

The Department of History is seeking a sophomore or first-semester junior History major as a Communications Intern. History minors and students from other departments may apply but, it should be noted, that preference will be given to history majors. The Communications Intern works with the department’s chair on alumni and student outreach, social media, the departmental newsletter, and website content (among other things). This is a paid internship but students who choose to can also receive academic credit for this position. The goal is to hire an intern who will work with the department over the next several semesters. During spring 2020, the new intern will be trained by the department’s current Communications Intern. 

Qualifications/Skills Necessary:

The successful applicant will:

  • Have knowledge about the discipline of history and the history department at UVM
  • Have excellent research and writing skills
  • Be able to work well independently
  • Be able to communicate effectively with staff and faculty in various capacities.


To apply, please submit:

  • A Resume
  • An Unofficial transcript
  • A writing sample (not more than 10 pages)
  • A brief, one paragraph statement about why you would like to pursue this internship

Applications are due by Friday, January 17th and should be submitted to Professor Paul Deslandes by e-mail (paul.deslandes@uvm.edu).

Interviews for the internship will be conducted during the week of January 20th, with a hope that the new Communications intern will be in place and ready to begin work by the end of January.

History Department News

Dear History Department Friends,

As always, the fall has been a busy term in the history department. We have hosted a number of lectures, held a career networking event for majors, and a sneak peek (on spring courses) event with students and faculty. Our communications intern, major Kaleigh Calvao, is hard at work on our first ever department newsletter for alums and we are looking forward to a busy and exciting spring semester.

Some recent news and events worth mentioning are included below:

This weekend, November 8th and 9th, the UVM Humanities Center and Silver Special Collections–along with the history department–are sponsoring a colloquium on “Interpreting the Handwritten Book:  Medieval Manuscripts at UVM.” Here’s the program: https://specialcollections.uvm.edu/events/colloquium. On Friday, Nov. 8th, 3:30-6:45, are student presentations from Professor Charlie Brigg’s HST 225 seminar.  Most of the presenters are History grad students and undergraduate majors.  On Saturday, November 9th from 9:00-5:00 invited speakers and UVM faculty will be delivering various talks on recent research on these topics. We hope that people who are interested will attend these events.

Professor Erik Esselstrom will be delivering his Full Professor Lecture on November 20th at 4:30 p.m. in Memorial Lounge in Waterman. The title for his talk is “In the Shadow of Mao’s Mushroom Clouds: Japanese Reactions to Chinese Nuclear Weapons in the 1960s.” The department would like to encourage all who can to attend.

Professor Nicole Phelps has been invited to become a commissioning editor for H-Diplo. H-Diplo is one of the largest H-Net networks, with several thousand subscribers around the world, and is particularly active in reviewing books and articles. Professor Phelps will be concentrating on expanding the network’s reviews of scholarship on the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries.

We will continue to share information through the remainder of the fall term. And, as always, we are willing to share relevant news.

UVM history faculty continue to be known for their expert teaching and their substantial contributions to knowledge, scholarship, and research. Fall 2019 is no different from other times in the history of our department:

In the realm of popular culture, Professor Paul Deslandes has been commenting recently on the new Downton Abbey film, offering some vital historical context to moviegoers. On September 18th, he introduced the film to a crowd of 100 gathered for a special premiere event (hosted by Vermont PBS) at the Majestic 10 Movie Complex in Williston, VT. He also offered commentary on the film for piece that Radio France did:  https://www.franceinter.fr/downton-abbey-comment-la-serie-a-montre-une-certaine-vision-de-l-aristocratie-et-la-domesticite 

Tonight (September 25th at 7:00 pm), Professor Alan Steinweis delivers a lecture (in Memorial Lounge) titled “`The Idea of Eliminating The Leadership Would Not Let Me Rest’: Georg Elser’s Attempted Assassination of Adolf Hitler in November 1939 and Its Aftermath.”

And, on October 2nd (at 5:00 pm in John Dewey Lounge), Professor Andy Buchanan will deliver a lecture titled “Why a Global History of World War II is Important Today”. This is open to the public and is also an opportunity to celebrate the publication of Professor Buchanan’s most recent book: World War II in Global Perspective, 1931-1953: A Short History https://www.wiley.com/en-us/World+War+II+in+Global+Perspective%2C+1931+1953%3A+A+Short+History-p-9781119366089

Dear History Readers,

We are delighted to be starting a new academic year. As always, our students and faculty have returned refreshed to campus, ready to undertake all sorts of new projects. Our faculty traveled the globe over the summer, conducting research, giving papers, and networking with fellow historians. Similarly, our students have returned to campus with a wealth of interesting experiences as interns and summer fellows at a variety of different organizations and institutions.

Aside from getting back to the serious business of teaching and learning, the department is continuing in its role as an intellectual center on campus. On September 17th, we will host Timothy Breen, James Marsh Professor-at-Large within the Department of History at UVM, who will deliver a lecture at 4:00 pm in Memorial Lounge in Waterman. The title of his talk is: “Ending the American Revolution: Reconciliation and Revenge.” This lecture coincides with the release of his new book “The Will of the People: The Revolutionary Birth of America,” which Harvard University Press will publish that very day.

We hope that all who can will attend. Be on the lookout for additional blog posts throughout the semester.

Best wishes,

Paul Deslandes (Chair, Department of History)

Dear Readers,

It’s been awhile since I posted on this blog. I’ve been on sabbatical (until July 1st) but have now returned to my role as Chair of the History Department at UVM and am eager to share some information. My time away was both restorative and productive and I am excited to be back in Wheeler House.

While it’s the summer and faculty and students are away from campus doing all sorts of exciting things, I did want to take this time to announce a few recent developments.

  1. Professor Bogac Ergene was recently announced as the winner of the Best Monograph Award for 2019 by the Association for the Study of Food and Society for his book (co-authored with Middlebury professor Febe Armanios) Halal Food: A History. For details on this prestigious prize, see p. 9 of the linked conference program: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1XVmqm6WI3t4wBLxt7kI2z5S8E5XfwHTf/view
  2. James Marsh Professor-at-Large T. H. Breen recently offered his perspective on 4th of July celebrations in Washington, D.C. in a piece in the New York Times. See: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/03/opinion/july-4th-parade-trump.html?action=click

While this blog will remain relatively quiet through the rest of summer, the new term in the fall will bring a range of interesting posts.

I’d love to hear from fans or, especially, from alums of our program. We are interested in sharing your stories and getting the word out about how great the history department is at UVM.

Best wishes,

Paul Deslandes (Chair)

Dear History Blog Readers,

The fall semester ended successfully for the history department in December and we are now excited to begin a spring term.  I am taking a break from chair duties this spring as I take a long overdue sabbatical. During my time away, Professor Sean Stilwell will fill in (until I return in July). While I anticipate that the blog will lie dormant during this period, there may be some posts. Our social media presence on Twitter and Facebook will be maintained by the department’s social media intern, who will be overseen by Richard Watts and Sophia Trigg in the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office.

As we begin the new year, it is important to note that the history department remains a very busy place with lots of wonderful student work and impressive faculty research.

From the past few weeks, a couple of recent important developments are worth noting:

1) Professor Melanie Gustafson has published an impressive biographical article titled “Restless Lady: The Life and Writings of Frances Parkinson Keyes” in the online version of the New England Quarterly. What is important about this piece is that it was co-written with students who took her seminar on US Social History. The piece contains a prefatory essay on innovative teaching and showcases some of Professor Gustafson’s pedagogical skills. For more details, please follow this link:https://newenglandquarterly.org/2018/12/05/869/

2) Professor Alan Steinweis recently delivered the Ina Levine annual lecture at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. In it, he discussed the attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler by German cabinetmaker Georg Elser in 1939. Dr. Steinweis examined several aspects of Elser’s story: the background and motivation of the would-be assassin (including the question of whether objections to the persecution of Jews played a role); the Nazi regime’s responses to the assassination attempt; the debate in postwar Germany over the propriety of tyrannicide; and the relatively late emergence of a commemorative culture around Elser and his act. More details can be found here: https://www.ushmm.org/online-calendar/event/MALEVINELEC1218

Much more will be happening in the history department during the spring 2019 semester. Please keep on top of things by reviewing our website at: https://www.uvm.edu/cas/history

I wish you all well and urge you to continue to follow us in the months to come.

Best wishes and Happy New Year!

Paul Deslandes

Chair, Department of History

UVM History professor Felicia Kornbluh was recently interviewed about her new book, Ensuring Poverty: Welfare Reform in Feminist Perspective. To read more about this and to hear the interview, please use the following link:https://fair.org/home/felicia-kornbluh-on-welfare-reform/

Professor Kornbluh’s work reminds us that a historical perspective on issues of contemporary relevance is vitally important.


Professor Susanna Schrafstetter’s current research on Germans Jews who fled their home country for Italy during the Nazi era was the subject of a piece in a leading German newspaper, Sueddeutsche Zeitung. The article  summarizes the findings of Professor Schrafstetter’s most recent essay in Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, one of Germany`s leading journals in the field of 20th-century history. It discusses the question of why German Jews fled to fascist Italy by analyzing the fate of the roughly 400 Jews from Munich who left for the Italian peninsula between 1933 and 1940. The article about the Munich Jewish refugees is a first case study in Professor Schrafstetter’s research about German Jewish refugees in fascist Italy. Her focus is on the experiences of the refugees, rather than on official policy. Using a broad range of  sources, she traces the life stories of individuals, conveying a multitude of experiences across time and in different regions of Italy.

The article in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung focuses  on a few biographies that Professor Schrafstetter discusses in her article in the Vierteljahrshefte. One of them is the lawyer Max Hirschberg ,who fled his hometown of Munich in 1934. Politically, Hirschberg, who was close to the Social Democratic Party, was a known opponent of Nazism and had been imprisoned for a while in 1933. Hirschberg was able to find work in a law office in Milan, where he advised other refugees about emigration matters. Hirschberg considered the Italian people to be absolutely immune against “chauvinism, militarism and antisemitism,” despite the fact that he was observed by fascist informers and heard from many refugees whom he advised about appalling treatment by fascist authorities or police. To him, all this paled in comparison to what he had seen in Germany. However, after the promulgation of the antisemitic racial laws in Italy in the fall of 1938, he and his family left Milan for New York. Hirschberg, like other German Jews who came to Italy in the early 1930s, had managed to rebuild a life for himself and his family in exile but the Italian racial legislation forced him to emigrate a second time.

Others were less lucky. Samuel and Adele Obarzanek and their two children did not leave Munich until the summer of 1939. They boarded a train from Munich to Milan with no more than a few Reichmarks and four suitcases. Like thousands of other Jewish refugees in Italy, they were unable to arrange for their emigration to a third country. Once the Germans started to occupy most of the Italian peninsula in the fall of 1943, the Obarzaneks went into hiding in a small village in the Italian Alps. However, they were discovered, arrested, and eventually deported to Auschwitz. Samuel Obarzanek and his son Emanuel were murdered in Auschwitz and Mauthausen. Adele Obarzanek and her daughter Thea survived.

Professor Schrafstetter’s sobering and important work reflects the broad reach of her interests in the history of modern Germany and the Department of History is proud to celebrate her accomplishments as a scholar.

For those of you who read German, please follow the link below for the article about Schrafstetter’s work.


Lecture by Michael Bailey

On Thursday November 15, at 5:30PM, Professor Michael D. Bailey (Iowa State) will give a public lecture at UVM, entitled “Preacher, Reformer, Witch-Hunter:  Johannes Nider and the Religious World of the Late Middle Ages.”  The talk will be in the Marsh Room of Billings Library. Prof. Bailey’s lecture is part of the 2018-2019 CAS Medieval Studies Lecture, and is sponsored by the UVM Humanities Center, the UVM
Department of History, and UVM Silver Special Collections. Please come!



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