Category Archives: News


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

Dr. Kirchmann posed for a picture on the Jan Karski bench by the Museum of the History of the Polish Jews in Warsaw this summer.



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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.

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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!

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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.”

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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.


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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.

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For a month this summer, from July 12 to August 11, 2014, the History Department will host a visiting scholar from China, Gu Hongliang. Dr. Gu is a professor in the Institute of Modern Chinese Thought and Culture and the Department of Philosophy at East China Normal University in Shanghai.

Dr. Gu’s research involves the philosophy of the modern Chinese thinker, Liang Shuming (1893-1988), and its relationship with Western philosophies. His current project focuses on the interactions between Liang, a prominent new Confucian scholar and social activist, and John Dewey and Bertrand Russell, famous Western philosophers both of whom visited China between 1919 and 1921. Gu’s research analyses how Liang Shuming read into the works of Dewey and Russell and how he absorbed intellectual elements from them to shape his own Confucianism.

While at ECSU, Dr. Gu Hongliang will work with Dr. Catherine Lynch, emeritus professor in the History Department and an expert in the study of Liang Shuming. Lynch and Gu met during Lynch’s Fulbright year at ECNU in Shanghai, 2002-2003, and since then have maintained an academic exchange regarding their mutual interests. Lynch is currently working on a book (under contract with Guangxi Normal University Press) of interviews she conducted with Liang Shuming in 1980 in Beijing.

During his stay at ECSU, Dr. Gu would be pleased to meet with students and faculty and discuss his work and Chinese philosophy in general. Interested students and faculty can contact Dr. Lynch at .

Gu Hongliang and Catherine Lynch in Xitang, an historic water town outside Shanghai, in December, 2013.

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The photographers of the Willimantic Chronicle captured our own Miles Wilkerson taking a break on campus. Miles is a student worker in the department this summer.


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The Department of History is proud to announce the creation of “Germina Veris,” an online, open access journal dedicated to publishing outstanding papers by senior History students at Eastern Connecticut State University. Each semester students produce original, thought-provoking research in seminars on a variety of topics. Germina Veris – “the buds of spring” – makes this research available to the general public for the first time. Each article is carefully selected by specialists in the field based on the depth of original research, its contribution to existing scholarship, and the scientific rigor of its analysis. Please visit to see the first issue!

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During the spring break of the Spring 2014 semester (March 14-22), fifteen undergraduates embarked upon a global studies field course trip to Israel, Jordan and the West Bank. The group visited a number of sites in Israel, including Tel Aviv, the Lebanese-Israeli border, the Golan Heights, the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea and Jerusalem. The group also visited several sites in Jordan, including the ancient Roman city of Jerash, the capital of Jordan, Amman, and Petra. While visiting Petra, students spent the night in a Bedouin desert camp and took 4×4 jeeps into the Wadi desert. Finally, the group traveled to visit Bethlehem and a Palestinian refugee camp, Aida, in the West Bank. While earning four course credits, students expanded their worlds and made deep and lasting friendships. They returned home as more engaged and committed global citizens.

After returning from the trip, students reflected on their experience:

This trip made me completely more aware of other cultures and people. It was important that I was able to experience real world issues in person rather than just from a textbook. I also believe that this will make me a better future teacher. I am proud of myself for going out of my comfort zone and expanding my horizons.”

I can’t even begin to explain how different I feel because of my experiences there. My entire view of everything that I hear in the news and in school is altered by my time there and I sincerely wish more people could educate themselves through travel. Like Mark Twain said, ‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness’ and I definitely agree with that statement now.”

It is difficult  to find the words to describe our overall experience in Israel and Jordan. When I try to do so, I am overwhelmed with so many emotions and then frustration because I know there is no way I can impress upon people the impact of these experiences. Now that we are back home, I feel liberated. I feel empowered.”

Crusader Castle, Akko, Israel

Two students riding a camel outside of the Treasury in Petra, Jordan


Group photo at the ancient Roman city, Jerash, in Jordan

Students visiting Aida, a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank


A student dressed in a traditional Arab headscarf, Jordan

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