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Chabraja Center Happenings

Nicholas D. Chabraja Center for Historical Studies

In 2023-24 the Center was ably led by Interim Director Benjmain Frommer, who oversaw several exciting new developments. The Center initiated a program of faculty conferences and supported an unprecedented number of Leopold Fellows and Postdoctoral Fellowships, including the new Postdoctoral Fellow in Material History.

Heading our program this year was a major faculty conference, supported by the CCHS Conference Initiative.  On May 9-10 Professor Leslie Harris convened "The Stories in Our Histories: Historians Confront Themselves,” an innovative and engaging series of thoughtful conversations between more than two dozen highly accomplished writers and scholars about their forays into the burgeoning field of family history. The keynote exchange, “History Matters—Writers Talk about History and Creativity,” featuring Ava Chin, Clint Smith, and Natasha Trethewey, attracted a packed crowd to Harris 108.

Leslie Harris at podium with panelists

The CCHS roster of lunch lectures commenced with our Fall “Ice Cream Lecture,” an opportunity to experience a signature talk by one of our department’s distinguished teachers.  Initiated last year to celebrate the Center’s 15th anniversary, in September 2023 the lecture was delivered by Daniel Immerwahr on the scintillating topic, “Everything You Wanted to Know about Guano but Were Afraid to Ask.”

Over the course of the year the Center’s Distinguished Scholars series featured lunchtime talks by Judith Byfield (Cornell) on “Serendipity and the Historian’s Craft,” Ruth Rogaski (Vanderbilt) on “Knowing Manchuria: Environments, the Senses, and Natural Knowledge on an Asian Borderland,” Stefan Link (Dartmouth College) on  “Towards a Global History of the Great Depression” and Criag Koslofsky (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) on “Fanon’s ‘Shameful Livery’: Toward a Dialogue between Early Modern Studies and Afropessimism.”

Prof. Immerwahr speaking at the Ice Cream Lecture

The Boyce Lecture in Medieval Studies, the annual History of the Book, organized with the University Libraries and the English Department, and our joint lectures with the Center for African American History and the Holocaust Education Foundation of Northwestern, offered Northwesterners and the larger community intellectual stimulation throughout the academic year. In the Fall and Winter quarters the History Department’s faculty and graduate students participated in workshops to learn about and critique faculty work-in-progress. The Center held its annual event celebrating newly published books by faculty of the department to coincide with the March 2024 visit of prospective History graduate students to Northwestern. A variety of special and co-sponsored events rounded out the CCHS calendar.

Our ongoing global partnership with the School of History at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) resulted in a weeklong Spring visit by six QMUL graduate students and two faculty members for a symposium at which paired grads from QMUL and Northwestern presented their research. Our guests participated in university events, met with faculty and graduates, and made use of archives at Northwestern and in Chicago.

The Center community of associates was significantly larger than usual this year, with four Chabraja Postdoctoral Fellows in Public Service, engaging with public history in journals and archives, as well as two teaching postdocs. In addition, Menzi Nxumalo from the University of Pretoria in South Africa joined the new Material History Lab, along with Macham Mangut from the University of Jos in Nigeria. Both these scholars are engaged in West African archaeology under the guidance of Professor Akinwumi Ogundiran. Two Breen Graduate Fellows and one Quinn Graduate Fellow spent the year working on their dissertations and participating in the life of the Center. CCHS gave out a record number of 14 summer 2023 fellowships to support graduates working on public history in a variety of non-profit institutions, mainly in the Chicago area, from the Chicago History Museum and the Newberry Library to the Frances Willard House and Shorefront Legacy Center in Evanston.

CCHS group gathers in Harris Hall L27

The highly successful Leopold Fellows program, which provides funding to allow undergraduates to collaborate with faculty on their research, received a bumper crop of applications for 2023-24. This academic year a record number of 40 Leopold Fellows worked on 16 different faculty projects on a wide range of topics. Leopold Fellows presented their research to their peers and center associates at the end of each quarter. The Center’s engagement with undergraduates also includes support for the creation of new, broad-ranging History classes. This past year the CCHS Teaching Initiative funded course releases to enable two historians to design new general courses with the help of a graduate student: Professor Deborah Cohen’s course on “Entrepreneurship:  A Global History” in Fall 2023 and Professor Michael Allen’s course on “American Wars” in Spring 2024.

Overall, this was a truly successful and innovative year. For more, see the CCHS website at


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