Associate Professor of History
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.
What can the hopes and fears of a given society tell us about it and ourselves? Did the gravest "sins" in old Europe 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. Background in European history recommended.
Although we talk readily of "postmodernism," do we really know what "modernism" was about? Never did change seem to be as dramatic and rapid as in the first half of the twentieth century. Leftists and rightists, avant-gardists and traditionalists alike, spoke of the age of the masses, characterized by conscript armies and political mass movements, mass production of commodities, and mass media. The European "great powers" achieved domination over the globe, only to bleed themselves white in wars that devastated the continent physically and psychologically, weakened the colonial empires, and undermined faith in progress itself. The real victors were two rival systems of modernity: American consumer capitalism and Soviet communism. Although the age witnessed great violence and despair, it also brought forth great hopes and achievements in social thought, the arts, and technology, many of whose effects we are still pondering.
In the past century, Bohemia, Hungary, and Poland have been transformed from provinces of a multiethnic empire into a series of small successor states whose experience went from independence to Nazi occupation and communist dictatorship and back again. Today, they are members of NATO and the European Union. These three regions, with their dynamic and at times unstable 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. Our course will treat the histories of the countries and cultures?the people who lived those histories and the literature, music, and art that gave voice to those tensions. In addition, we will consider the appropriation and transformation of history through memory and memorialization in the present. The course is strongly recommended for participants in a summer 2017 program in Prague and Krakow, but is open to all students.
According to a famous and revealing anecdote, antisemitism means hating the Jews more than necessary. Among the most perplexing things about antisemitism is its persistence. It has flourished for over two millennia in a wide variety of settings, and, despite the rise of modern multiculturalism, seems to be on the rise again. It is no wonder that it has been called the longest hatred. Among the questions we will ask: How does it relate to other forms of prejudice? What are its origins? What forms does it take, and how do they change over time? What are its religious, psychological, or social roots? What were its effects? How did the Jews respond? The course moves from the cultural prejudices of the Classical world, through the anti-Judaic teachings of the Christian churches, to the rise of modern social, political, and racial antisemitism and their new contemporary manifestations, including the Middle East conflict.
Many people have learned and are accustomed to thinking of history as an authoritative account of the past, based on indisputable facts. Scholars of history, by contrast, understand history as a matter of contested and evolving interpretation: debate. And they argue not just over the interpretation of facts, but even over what constitutes a relevant fact. This course will use some representative debates to show how dynamic the historical field is. Topics may include: Did women have a Renaissance? How did people in early modern France understand identity? Why did eighteenth-century French artisans find the torture and slaughter of cats to be hilarious rather than cruel? Were Nazi killers who committed genocide motivated by hatred or peer pressure? Are European Jews descended from medieval Turks rather than biblical Hebrews? Students will come to understand how historians reason and work. In so doing, they themselves will learn to think historically.
Scholars are accustomed to using the term "history" in the dual sense of both historical events and the writing of history. In recent years, they have also turned increasingly to the relationship between "history and memory": as the journal of that name puts it, "the manifold ways in which the past shapes the present and is shaped by present perceptions." The course explores some of the ways that groups and individuals have recalled, interpreted, and appropriated the past, primarily in modern and contemporary Central Europe. Probable topics include: cultural landscapes, the formation of national cultures and identities, the First World War, and the Holocaust. Intended for concentrators and especially, students considering Div III work in history.
It is fashionable today to speak of "sustainability," but how do we understand the term in its broadest sense? Historic preservation plays a key role in researching our history, building civic identity, and creating sustainable communities. Once associated primarily with saving the elegant buildings of the elite, historic preservation today involves vernacular as well as distinguished architecture, landscapes as well as the built environment, and the stories of all social groups. Preservation and adaptive reuse of old buildings play a key role in both economic and environmental policy. Students will study general preservation theory and practice and in particular conduct research on Amherst's history and historic resources. Students will visit local historic sites, document collections, and museums.
Students and teachers spend most of their time reading and writing, but how often do we stop to think about what these acts entail, where they originated, how they have changed? Is the media revolution that we are experiencing one of degree or kind? Will the shift to electronic media mean not just the end of the book, but also the radical transformation of authorship and publishing, indeed, of the very ways that we read, research, and think? In order to situate ourselves in the present, we will turn to history, studying oral culture, the transition from manuscript to print in the Middle Ages, the rise of mass literacy in the modern era, and the rise of new media today. The comparison of past and present will enable students to understand their own situation, in the process introducing them to historical reasoning and research. Class includes occasional local field trips.