Elena Albarrán joins Sonia Robles' communications class at Universidad Panamericana during Albarran's recent trip to Mexico City
Associate professor Elena Albarrán (pink scarf) joins a communications class at Universidad Panamericana during her recent trip to Mexico City.
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Upham Hall - Fall
Andrew R.L. Cayton, a much beloved History professor at Miami University, died on December 17, 2015 following a long illness. To honor his legacy, the Department of History has established the Andrew R.L. Cayton Memorial Fund.

The fund commemorates Professor Cayton’s profound impact as an instructor, advisor, and mentor of generations of students in the History Department and at Miami University. The fund will support History students’ research, internships, and other opportunities to expand their education and to prepare them for a wide range of careers.

Donations can be made by clicking the red button below. Please reference “Andrew R.L. Cayton Memorial Fund” in the memo section.
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Chair's Welcome
Wietse de Boer
Dear Alumni and Friends:
As I write these words, another semester has come and (almost) gone, seemingly in a flash. This may be a measure of how busy the Fall has been in the History Department. I hope the stories gathered in this newsletter will give you a sense of the extraordinary initiative and innovative spirit our faculty bring to the practice and teaching of history.
The fiftieth anniversary of 1968, the year that changed the world, did not go unnoticed in Upham Hall. Throughout the Fall, a broad range of History faculty and students met on Wednesday evenings to commemorate this fateful year. They did so in the only way historians know how to do – by studying the history! The participants in this team-taught course, led by Dr. Erik Jensen, also included several alumni who experienced the historical events themselves. This is the third time the department has experimented with this novel class format, in which faculty volunteer their time to explore topical themes with any interested students. Some of the results of their work are presented below.
This newsletter also describes our colleagues’ engagement with another emerging interest – the history of food. Drs. Marguerite Shaffer, co-founder of the Food Institute at Miami University, and Cameron Shriver, researcher at the Myaamia Center, are both contributors to a fascinating new digital humanities project, entitled Educating from the Ground Up. The project documents the history of agriculture, beekeeping, and food production in Miami’s own backyard, connecting these local enterprises to larger trends in the world. These are just some examples of the classroom projects, public events, and student and faculty accomplishments featured below.
In bittersweet news, our long-time administrative assistant Jeri Schaner will be retiring at the end of December following a long career at Miami University. Jeri has made the department office run like precision clockwork from 1989 onwards – no mean feat considering the constant demands made on her by faculty and students alike. She has done so in a characteristically understated way, with endless patience, competence, and wit. Thank you, Jeri, for making our work possible and humoring us for all these years. You will be deeply missed. Best wishes in your well-deserved retirement. 
Yihong Pan
Also retiring is Dr. Yihong Pan (left), professor of Asian history at Miami University since 1991. Besides multiple articles, Dr. Pan has published two books, the first a monograph on Chinese foreign relations under the Sui and Tang dynasties, the second a book on rural China during the Chinese Revolution. She taught courses on world history, Chinese and Japanese history, women’s history, and the Silk Road. The department thanks her for her tireless work with her students.
In closing, let me recommend the new issues of two online journals sponsored by the History Department. Journeys into the Past publishes undergraduate student research and class work. Origins, a collaborative project with our colleagues at The Ohio State University, offers historical perspectives on many pressing contemporary issues. Co-edited by Dr. Steven Conn, it regularly features work by our faculty and graduate students. In November, Origins had its best month ever with close to 102,000 pageviews.
Finally, please don’t forget to check us out on the department’s Facebook page.
On behalf of the History Department, I send you our best wishes for the coming holiday season. We always welcome your news and look forward to being in touch again in the new year.
Wietse de Boer
Professor and Chair
Feature Stories 
1968 in History and Memory
2018 has been packed with commemorations of 1968 – also at Miami University. This summer’s Alumni Weekend included a crowded forum in which History faculty and alumni discussed the history and memories of that momentous year. It was a thought-provoking warm-up exercise for a one-time, collaborative course taught this Fall.
Directed by Dr. Erik Jensen, this class featured a rotating cast of History and affiliated faculty, along with several alumni, in weekly panel presentations organized around themes and spanning the globe. The class had a unique assignment structure that allowed students to bring the history of 1968 to life through eyewitness interviews with individuals who lived through the uncertainty, turmoil, opportunity, and transformations wrought in that fateful year. In the spirit of showcasing the diversity of lived experiences, some of those accounts are excerpted below:
Samantha Leone, interview with Lee Fisher, Vietnam veteran and Miami alum (’68)
“When interviewing Lee, we discussed the time period before he was drafted to Vietnam. Lee was drafted in December of 1968 at 22 years old and sent to Fort Dix, New Jersey for basic training and then to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri before going to Vietnam in May of ’69. He spoke of how he and his wife only communicated through letters and how important his letters from her were to him and other guys there. He also spoke of how Vietnam left him with the “gotta move” mentality, especially in crowds.”
Samantha Leone, interview with alumna Rosemary Fisher (’69), student teacher in ’68:
“I spoke to Rosemary [Lee’s wife] … she first apologized because her memory isn’t as good as Lee’s and she believes she blocked out some of it… While she was at Miami, not much went on in the form of protests, which Lee attributed to the fact that many Miami students went to Vietnam. She also spoke of how hard it was only having letters as [a] way of contact, especially because sometimes letters wouldn’t come for a while and then all of [a] sudden a bunch would come at once.”
Note: The Vietnam-era correspondence between Lee and Rosemary Fisher referenced above is preserved in Miami’s Walter Havighurst Special Collections and Archives.
Courtney Madl, interview with her uncle Dennis Madl:
“Dennis Madl had graduated from MIT in 1966 with a Master’s Degree in Astronautical Engineering. By 1968, he was a Captain in the U.S. military working in Washington, D.C. On the phone we discussed the numerous events that he experienced, such as watching D.C. go into flames after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in April. He also witnessed many marches for civil rights and anti-war protests, and while he did not think all of the U.S.’s Vietnam decisions were the best move, he also felt 18-22 year-olds should not be dictating policies of Vietnam. As a graduate of the Air Force Academy, Dennis did not question authority or military positions directed to him as a young officer. He remembered the DNC vividly, as his father (my grandpa) was the Chief of Traffic in the Chicago Police Department during the convention. His father was not directly involved but he had reports from local traffic directors that chaos had broken out with students dropping excrement from apartment buildings and much violence rather than ensuring candidates were getting to accurate locations. Finally, in 1969, Dennis was sent to Vietnam (Saigon) in a noncombative role to assist in administrative work. As an engineer, he worked to help ... targeting the destruction of trucks on the Ho Chi Minh trail. While he was there, Saigon was in a period of relative peace and only got significantly worse after Dennis left in ’70.”
Katelyn Scheive, interview with her grandmother (name not provided):
“Her memories don’t live up to the idea of 1968 as a pivotal year. For her, she was a young mom at that time and the events we remember that year simply were covered on the news to her. She doesn’t have any personal connections to the student protests happening at the time, though she remembers the news stories about protests and draft dodgers. My Grandpa had served in Korea in 1963-64 after being drafted, though at that time it was a big concern if he would be sent to Vietnam. She remembers agent orange in the news and the picture of the naked girl running away but she feels that because children were being trained to use guns that soldiers’ actions were mostly justified. Every day when she would turn on the Today Show, Frank Blair would announce the number of people who had died in Vietnam. She recalls seeing the civil rights marches in the South and the DNC riots on the news and remembers the assassins of MLK and Robert Kennedy. She does remember that she disliked Nixon and didn’t vote for him, but my Grandpa did because of Republicans’ support of the post office (my Grandpa was a mailman)… When I asked her what comes to mind most when she hears the year 1968, my Grandma said that’s the year I had my third kid.”
The Austin-Magie Farm house in 1950
The Austin-Magie Farm house in 1950
Food History at Miami and Beyond
Can history help us better understand and address current social, political, and economic issues? This is one of the underlying questions that informs a new digital humanities project, Educating from the Ground Up, which includes essays by Miami History Department faculty Marguerite S. Shaffer and Cameron Shriver and History Department alum Stephen Gordon, among other historians.  
Funded by Ohio Humanities, a state subsidiary of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the project maps a historic farm north of Oxford. A microhistory that expands out through multiple layers, it explores the intricate connections that link agricultural areas to metropolitan regions, the local and the global, and past and present. By documenting the historical, economic, ecological, social and cultural value of the farm, its environs, and its wide reaching influence, the project supports a vision for the New Ruralism.
The focus of the project, the Austin-Magie Farm, is a historic farm owned by the university and home to a new interdisciplinary initiative, the Institute for Food. Commemorated by the National Register for Historic Places, the farm has a storied past. It was home to the Austin-Pugh Mills, one of Oxford Township’s largest flour and saw mills during the nineteenth century. It also served as a base for one of Ohio’s most prominent pig breeders, David M. Magie, who was credited with breeding and marketing the predecessor to the Poland China hog, the first American pig breed, which helped fuel the disassembly lines that gave Cincinnati its moniker Porkopolis.
Lorenzo Langstroth and his Beehive
The website also tells the history of Lorenzo Langstroth, celebrated as “the father of American beekeeping” for his invention of the moveable frame beehive and his promotion of commercial beekeeping.
Langstroth lived in the small brick house next to Bachelor Hall for almost three decades, from 1858-1887, where he kept bees, cultivated an extensive pollinator habitat, and produced honey. A graphic map on the website, titled “A Landscape for Bees,” showcases what can be done with primary sources such as census manuscripts and historic maps.
Material documenting the history of the Myaamia ‘Miami’ people in the region is set to be added to the website in the near future.  As part of its language revitalization project, the Myaamia Center has already provided a place name for the site, which identifies the Four Mile Creek basin where the farm is located—“niiwi tipahaakani meehcaakamiinsi”—which sits on the southeastern edges of Myaamionki—the heritage homelands of the Myaamia people.  As Cameron Shriver notes in the materials he has prepared for the project, Miami corn, “Myaamia miincipi,” which is an heirloom species of white corn, is central to Myaamia food ways. It also played a critical role in the battle for control over the Ohio valley that resulted in the Treaty of Greenville (1795), which paved the way for Anglo-European migration and settlement to the region.
In his noted book, Wisdom Sits in Places, Keith Basso argues that history and culture are inextricably intertwined with place. Educating From the Ground Up brings together the many intersecting stories about agriculture, soil, water, landscape, and food to illustrate the connections between history and place that have shaped Miami University and will help sustain its future.
Other Stories
Mexican history class looks for learning on the other side of the border
As Elena Albarrán, associate professor of history and global and intercultural studies, walks into her Upham Hall classroom, there’s already chatter among the group inside. She listens as a student asks if her peers have seen pictures — hundreds of Central American families migrating toward the U.S. Others chime in, seamlessly flowing into the day’s lecture before Albarrán even says a word. Continue reading.
Daniel Prior's history class
World History students examine ancient forms of writing
This Fall, students in Daniel Prior’s World History to 1500 class visited the Miami University Libraries’ Walter Havighurst Special Collections to examine a broad range of manuscript and early print holdings, including cuneiform tablets from ancient Mesopotamia, Egyptian papyri, and a page from the Gutenberg Bible.
Matthew Gordon
On November 29, 2018, Dr. Matthew S. Gordon, recently appointed as the new Phillip R. Shriver Professor of History, inaugurated his term by giving the lecture, “Slavery in Global Historical Perspective: Rome, Baghdad, and New Orleans.” Supported by the McClellan Fund, the lecture attracted a standing-room-only audience of students, faculty, and community members, including members of the Shriver family.
“My talk concerns the lives and careers of elite courtesans of the ninth-century Abbasid court,” Gordon said before the lecture. “I use questions posed by historians of slavery in ancient Rome and the antebellum American South to approach the topic in a broad, comparative manner.”
A member of the Department of History faculty since 1994, Gordon teaches courses in Middle Eastern, Islamic and World History. His field of research is medieval Islamic social history, with a focus on slavery, urban development, and gender.  In the future, he plans to turn his current research into a book that focuses on questions of slavery, freedom, and gender in the medieval Islamic Middle East.
“From my lecture, I hope that people will take away a deeper appreciation of the impact of slavery in three different regions with otherwise quite different cultures and histories,” Gordon said.
Gordon is most recently co-editor and co-author of Concubines and Courtesans: Women and Slavery in Islamic History (Oxford University Press, 2018), which brings together sixteen essays on enslaved and freed women across medieval and pre-modern Islamic history.
Elliott Gorn
Dr. Elliott Gorn of Loyola University Chicago – formerly a professor of History and American Studies at Miami University – visited campus on November 14 to deliver the 2018 American Studies Biennial Lecture, “Emmett Till: Why His Story Still Matters.”
In the afternoon Dr. Gorn met with students in the History Department’s Honors Program, learning about their thesis projects, while also sharing anecdotes and thoughts from his years of research on Emmett Till.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Oana Godeanu-Kenworthy.
Student Achievements
Jacob Bruggeman
In August Jacob Bruggeman, History and Political Science double major, was awarded the 2018 Provost’s Academic Achievement Award (PSSA) for an outstanding record of academic excellence.
Earlier this year, Jacob was one of two Miami students to be awarded the 2018-19 Joanna Jackson Goldman Memorial Prize. He used this award to continue his research into the comparative history of urban poverty in several U.S. cities, including Cincinnati. His History advisors have included Drs. Aaron Cavin, Steven Conn, and Andrew Offenburger.
Dr. Cavin noted: “To me, Jacob has stood out because of his passionate curiosity. I have been endlessly impressed with how eager he is to learn new things, much of which he has pursued outside the classroom. … On the urban poverty project, he pursued probably dozens of intellectual angles, reading up on economics, urban studies, social work, and much more. And in the archives, when we went down to Cincinnati to do some research on homelessness in the city, … he was energetic and perceptive the whole time, asking thoughtful questions about each document.”
Faculty Accomplishments
  • This Fall an Oxford Lane Library lecture series on Amazing Ohio: History of the “Heart of It All” featured several History faculty, current and emeriti: Sheldon Anderson, Steven Conn, Nishani Frazier, Susan Spellman, Robert Thurston, Allan Winkler, and Judith Zinsser.
  • Amanda K. McVety published the volume, The Rinderpest Campaigns: A Virus, Its Vaccines, and Global Development in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2018).
  • Andrew Offenburger published the article, "Millenarianism in Iowa and the Eastern Cape: Thinking through Field of Dreams and the Xhosa Cattle-Killing Movement.”  English Studies in Africa 61.1 (2018), 27-39.
  • Lindsay Schakenbach Regele won a residential fellowship at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress for 2019.  The award will allow her to spend several months at the Kluge Center to conduct research for her biography of the nineteenth-century U.S. Congressman, foreign minister, and Secretary of War Joel Roberts Poinsett.
  • Helen Sheumaker’s book Artifacts from Modern America (ABC-Clio) was named a 2018 Top 10 Reference Book by Booklist Online.
  • Susan Spellman published the article, “Penny Merchants and Retail Princes,” in John Stobart and Vicki Howard, eds., The Routledge Companion to the History of Retailing (Routledge, 2018).
Many thanks to Elena Albarrán, Erik Jensen, Andrew Offenburger, Dan Prior, and Peggy Shaffer for providing copy for this newsletter.
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