James Wald

Associate Professor of History
Hampshire College Professor Jim Wald
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James Wald
Franklin Patterson Hall G15

On sabbatical fall 2022.

James Wald, associate professor of history, holds a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University.

His teaching and research interests include modern European history with an emphasis on cultural history from the 18th through the 20th centuries; the French Revolution; Central Europe; fascism and Nazism; and early modern Europe.

Particular research interests involve the history of intellectuals and literary life.

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Recent and Upcoming Courses

  • The twentieth century witnessed the slaughter of millions of European soldiers and civilians, but it began with stability and progress: what Stefan Zweig called "the world of security." Standards of living were improving. A handful of European "great powers" dominated the world, regarding war as an accepted means of foreign policy, not an unimaginable catastrophe. Zweig observed, "paradoxically, in the same era when our world fell back morally a thousand years, I have seen that same mankind lift itself, in technical and intellectual matters, to unheard-of deeds, surpassing the achievements of a million years with a single beat of its wings....Not until our time has mankind as a whole behaved so infernally, and never before has it accomplished so much that is godlike." The more exuberant visions of the future now appear tragically naive, but we are still feeling the effects of revolutions in fields from culture to psychology to technology. Keywords:history culture politics

  • What can the hopes and fears of a given society tell us about it and ourselves? Did the gravest "sins" in old Europe and the North American colonies involve food, money, or sex? Among the hallmarks of modernity were the rise of new social formations (classes) and the commercialization of daily activities and relations. Did traditional institutions and belief systems hamper or facilitate the changes? What roles did religious and national contexts play? Did the increase in the sheer number of "things" change the way people thought? What changes did the family and private life undergo? At the heart of the course is the concept of culture as a process through which individuals and groups struggle to shape and make sense of their social institutions and daily lives. A core course in history, the social sciences, and cultural studies. Keywords:history culture gender religion

  • Many people think of history as an authoritative account of the past, based on indisputable facts. Historians, however, understand it as an evolving interpretation: debate. They argue not just over the interpretation of facts, but even over what constitutes a fact. What happens in the age of "fake news" and "alternative facts"? What is the difference between debating why the Holocaust happened vs. claiming it never happened? Whether Vikings came to America vs. extraterrestrials built the pyramids? Did women have a Renaissance? How did French peasants understand identity? Were Nazi mass murderers motivated by hatred or peer pressure? Nazism discredited the idea of race, but can genetics help Blacks and Jews recover their lost histories? Are European Jews descended from medieval Turks or biblical Hebrews? Did Thomas Jefferson father a child with the enslaved Sally Hemings? Students will come to understand how historians work and thereby learn to think historically.

  • According to a famous and revealing anecdote, antisemitism means "hating the Jews more than necessary." Why hate them at all? Among the most perplexing things about antisemitism is its persistence. It has flourished for over two millennia in a wide variety of settings. Three-quarters of a century after the end of World War II, despite the rise of modern multiculturalism, it seems to be on the rise again. One-third of Jewish college students report having experienced antisemitism in the past year. It is no wonder that it has been called the longest hatred. What are its religious, psychological, or social roots? What were its effects? How did the Jews respond? The course moves from the ancient world, through the anti-Judaic teachings of the Christian churches, to the rise of modern social, political, and racial antisemitism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and contemporary manifestations, on both right and left.

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