Category Archives: News
After all the time I had spent sitting in various history classes talking about people, events, and ideas from places I had never seen, I wanted a chance to experience all these places first hand. Last spring semester, I studied abroad in Paris. It is really difficult to some up an incredible four month experience into just a few paragraphs, But I guess I will have to try my best.
Studying history in Paris opened the doors to all kinds of opportunity. The city sort of just becomes your classroom. In fact, one of my classes were spent half in the classroom and half at various museums and other historic sites. How many times in your life do you get to say you’re late to class in the Louvre? Because we don’t really have the old buildings, cathedrals, and grand palaces, it is such a different world. You feel so small when you look at the grandeur inside palaces like the Louvre, and even Chateau Chantilly, which was meant as a hunting location for the king, but was just as lavish as the rest. When I walked through Versailles, I could really feel why it was that there was a revolution in France. The whole palace was just so opulent and decorated, no expense spared.
I also got the chance to teach alongside a professor there, some American history to a class of French students. The class was fairly proficient in speaking English, yet Speaking to them was very different. I had to watch how I said things, making sure I didn’t use idioms and turn-of-phrases that they wouldn’t understand. It was also very interesting for me to talk to a group that knew so little about American history, since I’m used to being around Americans who get plenty of that even just in grade school.
One of the most challenging parts for me was learning the language, which I must admit I haven’t quite mastered yet, but I picked up a French minor at Eastern in the hopes that I get better, rather than lose everything I have learned. Sometimes, you know exactly what you want to say and how to say it, but you’re so worried about sounding dumb that you end up messing up anyway. There is certainly a certain level of confidence you need to gain, and that can be the greatest obstacle to get around.
Yet it wasn’t just Paris and the French that I now had access to. I was in an international program and became friends with people from all over the world. Two of my best friends while I was there were from Panama, and the other from South Korea. On many weekends, I traveled. Sometimes going to other places in France, like Strasbourg, Normandy, and Chantilly, but I also was able to see and experience other countries as well, including Spain, Italy, Belgium, Ireland, and the U.K. and even Morocco. It was a great chance to experience all these other cultures, even if it was just for a few days. Morocco was the most interesting for me, simply because the culture there is so different than what I am used to. But one of my favorite things I did abroad was hike through the little mountain village of Fatima in Morocco to get to see waterfalls running down the mountain and look out at beautifully unfamiliar landscapes.
In the end though, it was Paris that I fell in love with. I loved just walking through the city, even when I didn’t really have a destination. I miss the crepes, the people, and having all of that huge city to explore. I hope one day to have the chance to go back.
Christine Geer, a senior History major at Eastern Connecticut State University, was awarded Eastern’s Outstanding Teacher Candidate Award for the Spring 2014 semester. The recipient of this award must be nominated by both the teacher candidate’s host teacher and university supervisor and is then selected by the faculty members of the educational program. Christine completed her student teaching at Norwich Free Academy and was chosen for this award based on her commitment to the profession, teaching competency, professional demeanor and exemplary performance. Congratulations, Christine!
Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker has written a thoughtful piece “Does It Help to Know History?” In it he points out that the European powers made decisions in August 1914 that had terrible consequences: “don’t believe that the trouble then was that nobody read history. The trouble was that they were reading the wrong history, a make-believe history.” For more see:
The History News Network has published a report (8-14-14) on the jobs history majors land, based on the analysis of the data from about 165 million users of LinkedIn, a social media website for professionals.
According to the report, 1,101,426 of LinkedIn members studied history. Surprisingly, one of the largest employers of people with history backgrounds is the United States military: more than 7,000. History majors also hold jobs in technology; for example, IBM employs about one thousand, and Google six hundred. History graduates can be found in the U.S. Department of State, education, and a variety of businesses.
Generally, areas with sizable groups of employees with history backgrounds include: education, media and communication, sales, operations, entrepreneurship, legal, consulting, administrative, research, marketing, community and social services, finance, art and design information technology, support, human resources, program and project management, business development, health services, engineering, real estate, military and protective services, accounting, quality assurance , and product management.
The coolest thing Dr. Kirchmann did this summer was reading Jan Karski’s monumental war-time memoir, Story of a Secret State, first published in the United States in 1944. Jan Karski was a courier for the Polish underground resistance, who carried messages back and forth from the underground in Nazi- and Soviet-occupied Poland to the Polish government-in-exile in the West. He also managed to infiltrate the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw and a transit camp for Jewish prisoners to serve as an eye-witness. After he made it out of Poland, he carried reports about German atrocities to the British government in London and to the White House, where he met with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. Karski appealed for intervention to stop the Holocaust – but in vain.
After the war, Karski remained in the United States, earned his Ph.D. from Georgetown University, where he also later taught in the School of Foreign Service. He continued to write and speak on the issues of the Holocaust and international relations. In 1982, Yad Vashem in Jerusalem awarded him the title of a Righteous Among the Nations, and the Israeli government declared him an Honorary Citizen in 1994.
Karski’s book became a national and then world bestseller and was translated into many different languages. It serves as an amazing document of courage and humanity. It is also a captivating read and Dr. Kirchmann recommends it to everyone!
For more information about Jan Karski, his life and career, and about his book, see www.jankarski.net
With time off from teaching, Dr. Ostwald continued his work on siege warfare and the laws of war in the age of Louis XIV. Among other topics he is examining the ‘rhetoric of siege history’, how historians compare sieges to dance, theater, and even games of chess, and how these parallels encourage people to think of siegecraft as artificial and inherently limited, distinct from the ‘real’ unlimited war of bloody battle in the open field.
This summer he worked on one part of this broader question by studying the extent to which the negotiated end of early modern sieges were “ritualized” – the ‘empty’ rituals of the evacuation ceremony often interpreted as an artificial limit on war, contrasted with how ‘real’ wars should be fought to the bitter end. He examined several ways in which capitulations in the period 1702-1712 could be considered ‘ritualized.’ The most basic was to test whether the specific terms requested by garrisons followed a clear pattern from one siege to another: was there a formula for surrender? To test this, he did a simple content analysis of the terms of two dozen siege capitulation documents. Dr. Ostwald categorized the terms and then color-coded them for easier comparison. Formulaic capitulations would expect to see a similar number of articles as well as very similar color patterns from row to row.
These early results suggest that while there was a menu of options each capitulation drew from, the details of each document varied significantly, and that most of the garrisons’ demands dealt with practical matters (regulating the town transfer, garrison finances) rather than the evacuation ceremony so often emphasized by other historians. This suggests that the capitulations’ terms were not nearly as formulaic as is usually suggested, and that the evacuation ceremony was a very small part of the capitulation as a whole.
He’ll present his early conclusions at a conference at Duke University in September.
Our recent history graduate Kristina Oschmann will be beginning her first semester as a graduate student in the CCSU public history program. In an email to the chair of Eastern’s history department, Kristina writes: “I am excited to see where this path will lead, and am actively looking for and applying to history related jobs. Thank you for making my undergraduate education interesting and for challenging me when I needed it. I look forward to keeping in touch!” Congratulations, Kristina!
Professor Richard Crane, Benedictine College, Atchison, KS, has shared with us some memories of his years at Eastern, and highlights from his academic career. In an email to Professor Ann Higginbotham he wrote:
“I graduated from Eastern with a BA in History in May 1986. My professors all challenged and inspired me: Thomas Anderson was a master storyteller as well as prodigious scholar; Robert Christensen instilled in me a love for the history of ideas; Lee Langley heightened my appreciation for interdisciplinary research; and Ann Higginbotham, who was a new member of the History Department, broadened my horizons to include social and women’s history.
Thanks in large part to the encouragement of these faculty members, I pursued graduate studies in Modern European History at the University of Connecticut, earning my master’s in May 1987 and receiving the doctorate in August 1994. After a couple of visiting professorships, I joined the faculty at Greensboro College in North Carolina, where I spent sixteen years, most of this time chairing the department and teaching in both the History and Honors programs. In August 2013, I started a new job as Professor of History at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.
Like the faculty members who taught me at ECSU, undergraduate teaching is my main focus, and my students’ intellectual growth is my greatest joy as a professor. But I have also tried to stay active as a historian, publishing articles and book reviews in The Catholic Historical Review, Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations, Patterns of Prejudice, The Journal of Church and State, Theological Studies, and other journals. I have also authored two books: A French Conscience in Prague: Louis Eugene Faucher and the Abandonment of Czechoslovakia (1996), and Passion of Israel: Jacques Maritain, Catholic Conscience, and the Holocaust (2010/2014). The latter book was written while I was a visiting fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.”
Together with the Departments of Communication and Performing Arts, the HistoryDepartment is working on a play to commemorate Connecticut’s involvement in World War I. This project was awarded a grant of about $10,000 from Connecticut Humanities for the initial research and script production. The HistoryDepartment/Connecticut Studies will conduct the research and Professor Edmund Chibeau will write the script.
The narrator of the play is Stubby, one of the most celebrated war dogs of World War I. A stray in New Haven in 1918, he was adopted by one of the soldiers training at Yale. When told to deploy, he smuggled Stubby on board ship, and they sailed for France. There he served with honor, received many medals and commendations and was given a field promotion to sergeant, a higher rank than his owner. He introduces the play, guides the narrative through the various themes and scenes. The play concerns Connecticut’s home front activities during the Great War. Governor Holcomb quickly mobilized residents to help prosecute the war. Soldiers joined the services, factories went on a war footing, and women and children were enlisted to serve as well. They volunteered for the Women’s Land Army, a government agency organized to assist farmers. Women and girls joined the canning corps, pledging to preserve and can thousands of quarts of fruits and vegetables; children planted gardens, distributed pledge cards, and worked on farms. Schools altered their curriculum’s to emphasize patriotism, and the Universities became laboratories for war related work and training. Yale sent hospital units to the front, and all four male dominated universities established Student Army Training programs. Nursing schools were called upon to do their part, and many Connecticut women served with the American Expeditionary Force in France. All the while the Connecticut Council on Defense reminded residents to support the war, to ration food and fuel, monitor their neighbors, and be alert for “slackers.” This original play will be performed in the new Performing Arts building currently under construction.
In May, Dr. Anna Kirchmann received a 2014 ECSU Distinguished Professor Award.
In June, Dr. Kirchmann was awarded an Officer Cross of Merit by the President of the Republic of Poland (see photo). The ceremony took place at the banquet at the National Library, closing the Fifth World Congress on Polish Studies in Warsaw, Poland.