James Wald

Associate Professor of History
Hampshire College Professor Jim Wald
Contact James

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James Wald
Franklin Patterson Hall G15

James Wald 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

  • Why study three countries about which you know little and may not be able to find on a map? In less than a century, Bohemia (now Czech Republic), Hungary, and Poland, which began as provinces of multiethnic empires, experienced independence, Nazi occupation, communist dictatorship, and independence again, as members of NATO and the European Union. These regions, with their dynamic population mixture of Germans, Slavs, Magyars, and Jews, embodied the tension between nationalism and cosmopolitanism, tolerance and intolerance, the persistence of tradition and the exuberance of modernity-issues relevant to many fields in the social sciences and humanities. We will explore the ways that culture shaped and expressed the history of East Central Europe, as well as the role of historical memory in the present. The course provides ideal preparation for our summer program in Prague and Krakow Keywords:Europe, culture, history, communism, nationalism

  • 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. Keywords:Judaism, Christianity, racism, Holocaust

  • "Sustainability" is today an urgent concern, but how can we understand the term in its broadest sense? Historic preservation--the protection and interpretation of our built environment and cultural landscapes-is a means of both exploring our history and shaping civic identity. One contemporary challenge therefore involves the question of how to deal with "sites of conscience" and oppression: "slave-powered" plantations, Confederate monuments, sites of the Holocaust and genocides. Once associated primarily with saving the elegant buildings of the elite, historic preservation today involves vernacular as well as distinguished architecture, nature as well as the built environment, and the stories of all social groups. Rather than gentrifying neighborhoods and reaffirming old hierarchies, preservation and adaptive reuse of old buildings play a key role in both economic and environmental policy, creating livable, sustainable neighborhoods. Students will study general preservation theory and practice and visit local historic sites, document collections, and museums. KEYWORDS:History, Sustainability, Memory. Tourism, Museums

  • "Everything has a history," the American Historical Association tells us. In order to understand why something is the way it is today, we need to understand how it began and how it got to be this way. This seems so obvious to historians that they are surprised to find not everyone thinks like this. Historical reasoning needs to be taught. We begin by looking at the ways that historians formulate questions, evaluate evidence, and draw conclusions. We then explore the many styles of historical writing. And the fact that something was not "always this way" means it can change. Understanding history is thus also essential to active citizenship. Finally, then, we consider major historical issues with a bearing on life today: the status of women in the Middle Ages; the relationship between Christianity, racism, slavery, and antisemitism; the Salem Witch Trials; African Americans in the military during World War II. KEYWORDS:History, Racism, Medieval, America

  • 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