1619 and Slavery’s Legacy
Students packed the Department of History's event marking the 400th anniversary of the importation of the first African slaves to the American colonies with a panel discussion, “1619 and Slavery’s Legacy.”
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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
Steven Conn
Dear Alumni and Friends:
Greetings from the History Department to all of our graduates and friends. I write to you as we finish up the Fall semester and as I finish my term as Acting Chair of the department. Our stalwart chair, Wietse de Boer, took a well deserved leave to pursue several scholarly projects he’s had to keep on the back burner.
As you’ll see from what follows, it has been a characteristically busy year here on the 2nd floor of Upham Hall. Our students, undergraduates and graduates both, continue to do work which makes us proud. To take just two examples, our MA student Alexandra Fair became the first Miami student in anyone’s memory to receive a Fulbright research fellowship to continue her study of eugenics at the University of Reading (UK) before moving on to Harvard for her PhD. Jacob Bruggeman, who completed an honors thesis in the spring, also went to the UK to pursue an MA at Cambridge.
Our faculty, in addition to teaching and advising, continue to be productive and engaged scholars. This was a tough year for the department as we said goodbye to 4 colleagues who retired and wished them well in the next phase of their lives.
  • Professor Charlotte Goldy arrived in the department in ??? and taught medieval history to hundreds of students over the years and became beloved by them in the process. She also served in virtually every administrative role in the department as well.
  • Professor Osaak Olumwallah came to Oxford by way of Kenya and then Rice University in Houston. At Miami he was our African history specialist teaching courses that reached from one end of the continent to the other and from deep into the pre-historic past to the present. His own work exploring the history of disease and public health in East Africa.
  • Professor Rob Schorman taught on the Middletown campus but was often Oxford and participated a great deal in the life of the department. His retirement will give him more time to pursue his research on the history of American advertising.
  • Professor Yihong Pan also retired in 2019 and took with her her expertise in Chinese history. See below for an interview Prof. Pan did with our colleague, Elena Albarrán, upon her retirement.
I’ll close by thanking all of you who continue to support the department in a variety of ways, and with an invitation to come back to visit sometime soon. Enjoy the holidays.
Steven Conn
W. E. Smith Professor and Acting Chair

Interview with Retiring Faculty Member Elena Albarrán
by Emeritus Professor Yihong Pan 
Elena Jackson Albarrán
Q: What is the biggest change in the History department, and/or in the field of History, that you noticed over the course of your career? 
YH: I began teaching at the History Department in 1991, twenty-eight years ago. All my life, among the many places I lived starting from my home city in Beijing, China, Oxford is where I have stayed the longest.
Many changes have taken place over these years. To me, a professor of East Asian history, a major change is the increased emphasis on creating exciting and challenging teaching programs that focus more directly on cultural, social, and ethnic diversity. A second major change is in the students’ makeup: the increasing number of international students in our undergraduate classes, especially those from mainland China. Their presence is affecting the economy and culture of our small town, and has raised new challenges in our academic teaching. A third major change is in the research in Chinese history through the increased exchanges and conversations among scholars. Breaking down boundaries, these grass-roots, cultural communications have enhanced mutual understanding.
Q: What do you consider to be your biggest contribution to Miami department life? Or to the shape of intellectual conversations in your own field?
YH: In 1991, I and Dr. Mieko Ono of the German, Russian, and East Asian language (GREAL) department were hired. This made the two of us the first Asian women hired for tenure-track assistant professorships in Miami University. I must add that Miami University in its published history does not mention this; my information is based on personal investigations. 
As the only one teaching East Asian history in the department, I taught 13 different courses, most newly created, on China, Japan, and East Asia, and taught world history to 1500. I also served as a faculty affiliate of the Women Studies program. I believe that my teaching has functioned as a bridge to help students connect the past and present, between the East and the West, and with a special focus on women.
Born and growing up in the People’s Republic of China (1949--) and having gained a Ph.D. of Asian Studies in North America, I think my East-West experiences helped develop my academic life. In doing Chinese history, the personal experiences of myself, my family and the people I have known offered students and colleagues an “insiders’” perspective, and my American academic training provided me an objective, critical and analytical foundation for historical inquiry.
My Ph.D. research was in pre-modern China—the Tang dynasty (600-900) and its relations with neighboring peoples. The published monograph, Son of Heaven and Heavenly Qaghan: Sui-Tang China and Its Neighbors, is the first book written in English on Tang China’s foreign relations, providing a contribution to the studies of this period.
Q: What is your favorite publication or piece of research and why? 
YH: In addition to continuous research on Tang China, with the encouragement of my colleagues in the department, I also did research and published on my own generation growing up in China and on Chinese women history. My second book, Tempered in the Revolutionary Furnace: China’s Youth in the Rustication Movement, especially elaborates on our lives during the Cultural Revolution in China. I enjoy historical topics that are relevant to the present-day China and to myself. Research of the dramatic transformation in China that took place in the last two centuries has enabled me understand how that history has affected the lives of ordinary people, and how ordinary people have pushed for historical changes. 
Q: What are you most looking forward to doing next?
YH: I have been researching and writing a book on Chinese women in the War of Resistance against Japan (1931-1945) based on interviews I conducted and on written reminiscences of Chinese women who lived through the war. Having published three articles on this topic, I want to complete a monograph because I owe a public voice to these women who told me their stories, women including my mother, whose stories have been marginalized in history. Their stories are worth telling.
Intellectual curiosity took me on a life-long journey of explorations. So many people have helped me along the way, to whom I am forever grateful. The journey will go on; the deep appreciation to my chosen career will continue.
Special Events
During 2019, members of the history department organized several events for students, for the profession and for the wider public. Historians have a special civic function to fulfill and these events that work seriously – and sometimes not too seriously.
Daniel Prior
Daniel Prior presenting at "Open Mic Coffee House"
Put a Microphone in Front of an Historian and. . .
Wietse de Boer
Wietse de Boer
Charlotte Goldy
Charlotte Goldy
The History Department recently held its first “Open Mic Coffee House,” where fifteen colleagues each shared a five-minute story of an adventure or misadventure in the pursuit of archives. Each approached the stage to her/his hype music of choice, along with an over-the-top introduction recorded by voice-over artist (and History MA grad) Joe Passaro. Among the terrific stories shared were how...
  • ...Lindsay Schakenbach Regele navigated unfamiliar archives in Venezuela;
  • ...Amanda McVety nearly got killed (along with Erik Jensen) on a trip to the Italian catacombs;
  • ...Daniel Prior has been processing and thinking through historical/archival issues related to his late mother’s million-word diary, which spans 80 years;
  • ...Steven Conn (accompanied by chords on his guitar) didn’t become a rock star in Poland;
  • ...Steve Norris “became a Russian” while researching his first book;
  • ...Elena Jackson Albarrán glowed in the presence of a former idol of hers, encountered in a Mexican museum, and then met her muddy demise thereafter in the flooded streets of Distrito Federal;
  • ...Jenny Presnell found creepy crawly critters in English archives;
  • ...Andrew Offenburger identified the “four phases of scandalous affairs” in U.S. newspapers from the early 1900s;
  • ...Matthew Gordon found meaning in marginalia while conducting research in Istanbul;
  • ...Susan Spellman traveled for a major research trip, to a preeminent library in her field, only to learn after arriving at the front door that the library was closed for renovations, and how she still worked her way into its stacks;
  • ...Wietse de Boer chased documents from seventeenth-century Italy, and how one should always pay attention to items marked “Miscellaneous”;
  • ...Jack Neubauer used “Ping-Pong Diplomacy” while in the Guangzhou Municipal Archives”;
  • ...Erik Jensen has been analyzing the unique history of German tennis star Paula von Reznicek during World War II;
  • ...Sheldon Anderson used basketball to further his research aims to Poland; and
  • ...Charlotte Goldy observed a single, tiny clue in Medieval English documents that would lead to her entire dissertation.
“Citizen Brown”
The Department’s McClellan Fund enables us to bring an historian doing cutting edge research to campus to deliver a public lecture and often to visit with students. In April we welcomed Prof. Colin Gordon from the University of Iowa who gave a talk titled: “Citizen Brown: Race, Democracy and Inequality in the St. Louis Suburbs.” Prof. Gordon’s work examines the intersection of urban history and racial dynamics.
In his talk he put the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO in a longer context of patterns of local political organization, municipal growth, the inequitable provision of public services and fiscal austerity. One of the most extraordinary parts of Prof. Gordon’s work is how he has mapped all of this over time. The images he showed drove home his points for the crowd in a dramatic way.
Poster for "The Past, Present, and Possible Futures of the Small Industrial Cities of the Midwest" April 26 symposium
The Other Urban America

On April 26-27 the History Department hosted a conference on the small, still-struggling cities of the midwest. Titled "The Other Urban America," the symposium was organized by history faculty Steven Conn and Nishani Frazier and brought an inter-disciplinary group of academics from around the midwest together with policy and government people from the region.
Nearly 50 people attended across the two days. Participants considered a variety of issues ranging from the lasting impacts of deindustrialization to the role historic preservation might play in reviving these place.
"In fact," according to Conn, "the idea for this event was initially generated by two of our students - Eric Rhodes in our graduate program, and Jacob Bruggeman in our honors program."
It was a terrifically successful event and Conn hopes it will provide a model for other such university-policy engagements in the future.
1619 and Its Legacy
1619 and Slavery’s Legacy
On October 30, 2019 the Department of History marked the 400th anniversary of the importation of the first African slaves to the American colonies with a panel discussion titled: “1619 and Slavery’s Legacy.”
Department faculty members Steven Conn, Nishani Frazier and Lindsay Schakenbach-Regele made short presentations which were followed with questions and discussion.
Prof. Schakenbach-Regele started with an overview of how American capitalism grew on the foundation of slavery. Not only did slave labor produce cotton, the most valuable export product of the early 19th century, but trading in slaves, managing slave labor, and moving the products of that labor created entrepreneurial opportunities for early capitalist. Further, the finance of slavery helped create the modern financial system and, as Schakenbach-Regele pointed out, several of the most famous corporation in the country today – from Tiffany jewelers to Bank of America to AIG – trace their financial roots back to slaves and slavery.
History may usually be written by the winners, but Prof. Steven Conn argued that in the case of slavery, the Civil War and its aftermath history was written by the losing side until the 1960s. Southern apologists created a narrative that downplayed slavery’s brutality and it denied its centrality the Civil War, that turned what had been viewed as a treasonous rebellion into a romantic “lost cause,” and that justified a regime of white domination. Conn showed how this view manifested itself in textbooks, popular novels and movies and continues in various forms today.
Prof. Nishani Frazier reminded the group that while the subject of reparations for slavery has come up in very recent political debates the question first surfaced even before the Civil War ended. Frazier’s talk sketched a history of those discussions and how the idea of what reparations might entail has changed over time. The question for African Americans, as Frazier pointed out, has never been about money per se, but about how reparations can help undo centuries of social and economic subordination and in so doing achieve a greater measure of racial justice.
The discussion that followed the presentations was lively and engaging. No surprise really since the room was filled to overflowing. A crowd of roughly 75 students, staff and faculty attended. We ran out of chairs and people had to find space on the floor and they spilled out into the hallway. The symposium lasted well past its 5:30 end time. “1619 and Slavery’s Legacy” was the latest in a periodic series of events designed to connect the past and the present.
Students in Action
A new issue of "Journeys Into the Past," the online journal featuring Miami student writing, is now online! This special issue features seven essays written by students in Dr. Amanda McVety's Spring 2019 class, "Medicine and Disease in Modern Society" (HST 236).
Learn more about typhoid fever, tetanus, hookworm, malaria, the 1930s plague pandemic, syphilis, and the bubonic plague.
Nursing students
By Stephen Norris
Nursing students training in the classroom, United States, 1930s.
The 1940 Provisions of the Sanitary Code of the City of New York and Regulations Relative to Reportable Diseases and Conditions and Control of Communicable Diseases, written by the City of New York’s Department of Health, notified medical personal that “certain diseases and conditions must be reported immediately and others within twenty-four hours.” Some had to be reported in writing and some immediately “by telephone or messenger in addition to the written report.” This spring, students in History 236: Medicine and Disease in Modern Society were each assigned a disease from that list and charged to write a paper that described the biological and social experience of having that disease in the United States in the 1930s. It was not an easy assignment. Students had to really search for the primary sources that could provide them with the kind of information that they needed to be able to make a persuasive argument, but many of them wrote excellent papers and we are delighted to share some of them in this special issue.
Faculty Work
Nishani Frazier
Lindsay Schakenbach Regele
Andrew Offenberger
2019 was a characteristically productive and busy year for the faculty. Here are a few highlights:
  • As controversial research about the private life of Martin Luther King Jr. grabbed headlines earlier this year, Prof. Nishani Frazier responded with this essay in the African American Intellectual History Society’s blog “Black Perspectives.” 
  • Three faculty members published books in 2019. Lindsay Schakenbach-Regele, a specialist in early American history and the history of capitalism, published Manufacturing Advantage: War, The State, and the Origins of American Industry, 1776-1848 with Johns Hopkins University Press. In addition, this year Lindsay was named the Robert H. and Nancy J. Blayney Professor by the University – a tremendous honor for the department. 
  • Andrew Offenburger, a specialist in Gilded Age and Western history, published Frontiers in the Gilded Age: Adventure, Capitalism, & Dispossession from Southern Africa to the U.S.-Mexican Borderlands, 1880-1917 with Yale University Press. And Steven Conn published No Success Like Failure: The Sad History of American Business Schools with Cornell.
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