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Faculty News

News of other faculty members will appear in the Summer 2019 newsletter.

Ken Alder continues to work on his history of technology, told from the perspective of the objects themselves. In Fall 2018, he was in residence in Berlin at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, where he worked on the fascinating life-story of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo (aka Job ben Solomon), a Marabout Fulbe from current-day Senegal, who was sold into slavery in 1731 in exchange for a gun, labored on a tobacco plantation on the Chesapeake, escaped, was captured, but was sent to London, where he worked with the founders of the British Museum identifying and translating amulets, and then returned to his homeland on the Gambia, where he again (supposedly) encountered the gun. As of January 2019, Ken is back on Northwestern campus and directing the Science in Human Culture Program.

Michael Allen remains at work on his book, now titled New Politics: The Imperial Presidency, The Pragmatic Left, and the Paradoxes of Democratic Power, 1940-1980, with plans to finish the manuscript during his next leave. Teaching, advising, and parenting fill up the remainder of his time. He recently published a review essay on Ken Burns’s documentary The Vietnam War in Diplomatic History.

Recently Kevin Boyle has spent lots of time writing policy statements, letters of concern, and a whole bunch of reports for the American Historical Association’s Professional Division, which he chairs. In between he’s written essays on Eugene Debs, the origins of mass incarceration, the Ford Rouge plant, Flint’s Chevy in the Hole, neighborhood segregation, and – his favorite – why he keeps showing up for protests, though he’d rather stay home. Now he’s in the midst of what he hopes are the final revisions of his book, The Shattering: America in the 1960s.

Lina Britto is delighted to have a book contract with University of California Press for the publication of her first monograph The Marijuana Bonanza: The Rise and Fall of Colombia’s First Drug Paradise. While she works on final revisions of the manuscript, she has been flirting with her second book project, a counterintuitive history of how her hometown Medellin (Colombia) transitioned from a industrial haven to a cocaine dystopia between the 1960s to the 1980s.

In 2018 John Bushnell signed a contract with a publisher in Moscow for a translation of his 2017 book Russian Peasant Women Who Refused to Marry; the translation is well under way. He expanded on one short section of that book in a paper he gave at a conference on Old Believers and Archaeography in Ekaterinburg (just on the Siberian side of the Urals Mountains) in October 2018, “The Schism in the Spasovite Covenant”; the long article based on that paper will be published in 2019 in The Herald of the Ekaterinburg Theological Seminary (yes, rather recondite). And over the course of 2018 he wrote about 80 percent of a short book with the working title Escaping the Shame of Giving Their Daughters Away: Bride Theft and Bridal Laments in Northern Russia.

Peter Carroll was thrilled to hang out and discuss history with former NU colleague Sarah Pearsall (U of Cambridge) at the American Historical Assoc. 2019 meeting in Chicago. Our panel, “Love Gone Wrong [doesn’t it, one way or another, at some point, almost always?]: The Politics of Subversive Affections in Comparative Perspective,” questioned whether “love conquers all.” Sarah analyzed a popular 18th century tale of an ardent lover selling his beloved into slavery, while I discussed a notorious 1930s same-sex murder case in Hangzhou, involving a female couple who were both students at the National Art Academy. I have an essay on the murder, consequent trials, and scandal, “‘A problem of glands and secretions’: Female Criminality, Murder, and Sexuality in Republican China,” in a recent book, Sexuality in China.

Haydon Cherry spent the 2017-2018 academic year on leave in Hanoi, supported by a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He was gathering materials for an intellectual biography of Đào Duy Anh, one of the most important Vietnamese scholars of the twentieth century. His first book, Down and Out in Saigon: Stories of the Poor in a Colonial City will be published by Yale University Press in May.

Deborah Cohen finished up her research on Anglo-Argentine business families, and has an article forthcoming on the subject in Past & Present. She’s at work on a book about a set of American foreign correspondents -- among them, John Gunther, Dorothy Thompson, H.R. Knickerbocker and Vincent Sheean -- who reported from interwar Europe and Asia. The highlight of the academic year has been teaching modern British history amid the Brexit debacle, and finding that nearly every lecture now needs a drastic overhaul!

Dyan Elliott has completed a monograph entitled “The Corrupter of Boys: Sodomy, Scandal, and the Medieval Clergy” this past fall. The manuscript has been submitted to the press and is currently out with readers. She has been invited to speak on this work at Loyola University, University of Chicago, Barnard College of Columbia University, and presented a paper at 53nd International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI. Elliott also had the opportunity to be a part of a forum commenting on the Metropolitan Gallery’s show, Heavenly Bodies in an online article entitled: “Time, Gender-Bending, and the Medieval Church.”

Caitlin Fitz was thrilled to receive tenure last spring. Now on an ACLS-sponsored leave, she is sailing full speed ahead on her new project, which explores Latin Americans’ impact on early U.S. abolitionism and civil rights activism. Caitlin joined the editorial board of Early American Studies as well as the nominations and program committees of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic. She has also continued to enjoy reviewing books for the Wall Street Journal.

In 2018, Leslie Harris had several long-standing projects published, including the essay ”The Greatest City in the World? Slavery in New York in the Age of Hamilton,” in Renee Romano and Claire Potter’s book, Historians on Hamilton: How a Blockbuster Musical Is Restaging America’s Past; and the volume of essays Sexuality and Slavery: Reclaiming Intimate Histories in the Americas co-edited with Daina Ramey Berry. She also taught a freshman seminar on Northwestern and Evanston history as a way to learn more about the fascinating place she arrived in three years ago.

Daniel Immerwahr published the book he’s been working on since 2011, How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States, in February with Farrar, Straus and Giroux. He’s continued to teach U.S. Foreign Relations and Global History. Now he is researching the history of foreign relations in comic books.

Robert Lerner has exhausted himself in recent months overseeing a volume that will include editions of medieval texts in seven different languages – he certainly doesn’t understand the Czech. A French translation of his biography of Ernst Kantorowicz is scheduled to appear in April. An article on “Jews, Muslims, and Christians in Late-Medieval Spain” is said to be out but he hasn’t yet seen it. Lerner presided over a faculty discussion group treating Kantorowicz’s King’s Two Bodies at Stanford. (The verdict was that it was a great book, but not a good one.) Most exciting and consequential by far was the appearance of Late Medieval Heresy: New Perspectives. Essays in Honor of Robert E. Lerner (Boydell and Brewer), with most of the superlative contributions coming from Lerner’s former students. He is brimming with pride.

Melissa Macauley received a Research Innovation Grant from the WCAS to begin work on a new project tentatively titled “War and Revolution on the Chinese Maritime Frontier, 1929-1958.” She spent several happy weeks this winter working in the 80-degree weather of southern China. She presented papers at various venues, most notably a conference on the South China Sea sponsored by U.C. Berkeley and the University of Cambridge and held in Berkeley, which was also warm and sunny.

Sarah Maza is completing her second three-year term as Director of the Chabraja Center for Historical Studies, a position she has thoroughly enjoyed. Her most recent book, an introduction to the field of history entitled Thinking About History was published by the University of Chicago Press in September 2017 and has adopted as a text for both graduate and undergraduate classes around the country. Two Chinese translations are forthcoming. She has been interested recently in the methodological issues involved by the history of children, and hosted an international conference, “Writing History Through Children,” at Northwestern in October 2018.

Joel Mokyr, who holds appointments in both Economics and History, continues to spend more time in Harris Hall, now that the Economics department has moved to the northern edges of campus in a pretentious and corporate-looking building, risibly named Kellogg Global Hub. He published a number of articles, among them “The Past and the Future of Innovation: Some Lessons from Economic History,” Explorations in Economic History, Vol.69, July 2018, pp.13-26; “The Economics of Apprenticeship.” In Maarten Prak and Patrick Wallis, eds., Apprenticeship in Early Modern Europe, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming. 2019; and “Religion, Culture and the Great Enrichment.” in Navigating History: Economy, Society, Knowledge, and Nature; Essays in Honour of Prof. Dr. C.A. Davids (Amsterdam: Brill, 2018). In December 2018 he was awarded a doctorate honoris causa by the Universidad de la Republica in Montevideo, and elected a distinguished fellow of the American Economic Association. He continues to work on two books and co-direct the Northwestern Center for Economic History which fielded a number of major conferences in 2018.

Edward Muir continued to work on his much too big book, The Renaissance of Trust: Italy 1350-1650, and to conduct the dissertation defenses of his last graduate students. Along the way he loved teaching, wrote some articles, and glanced up from his desk to see some of his contemporaries drink the Cool Aid of retirement.

Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern notes, “My 2018 academic year was a period of interregnum. I spent my time adapting and reworking my previous achievements and planning for the future. Together with my co-author Paul Robert Magocsi, I amended and corrected our book Jews and Ukrainians: one thousand years of coexistence, the second revised edition of which was published in Canada and Ukraine both in English and in Ukrainian (Toronto and Uzhgorod, 2018). With Ruth Ann Gruber, I edited and prepared for publication the English version of the Polish book Sztetl Routes (Lublin, 2018). I worked together with a formidable Ukrainian translator Yaroslava Strikha preparing the authorized Ukrainian versions of my books The Anti-Imperial Choice and The Golden Age Shtetl which appeared with KRYTYKA and Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute (both Kyiv, 2018), and nominated for the Best 2018 Ukrainian Book Award. My much esteemed senior colleague Joel Mokyr encouraged me to undertake a project I was postponing for years--Jews and the human rights movement. Following his advice, I started to work at the former KGB archives in Ukraine on what I hope will take a shape of a monograph tentatively entitled ‘National Democracy Behind Bar: Jewish and Ukrainian Dissidents.’”

Carl Petry spent the last year writing chapters for the survey of the Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt and Syria, under contract with Cambridge University Press. So far, four are drafted: political synopsis, ethos of the military elite, the global Sultanate, and political economy. Under preparation: the civil elite as bureaucrats, jurists and scholastics. Still to come are chapters on formal and popular culture, and the rural hinterland. All of these plus revisions are due by the end of 2019; an extension will be likely.
Among Petry’s desultory pursuits, the most interesting was his service as lead external evaluator for a long-term funding proposal from the University of Bonn, submitted to the German Research Foundation in May 2018. Its title: “Beyond Slavery and Freedom, Agency within Asymmetrical Structures of Individual and Group Dependencies in Premodern Societies,” which has a distinctively Germanic flair. The proposal text (in English) ran to 250 pages, and was presented, along with two other finalists in the competition, by a 20-person delegation of Bonn faculty and state elected officials. Their effort was prodigious, but warranted by the successful outcome: a grant of 50+ million euros to be spent developing a center for slavery studies at the university. Since many of these faculty are colleagues, the result was personally gratifying. I also reflect over the agenda of the Foundation to sponsor research in the Humanities and Social Sciences at this level for a single institution. Unlikely over here with our obsession on STEM.

David Schoenbrun published four peer-reviewed articles in 2018. In May of 2018, he was invited to spend the month of March, 2019, at Sciences Po, in Paris, discussing his recently drafted book manuscript on ethnogenesis in East Africa over the past millennium and conducting workshops on the importance of early African history in today’s Africa.

Michael Sherry reports, “My major scholarly activity has been to complete a manuscript for the book “Go Directly to Jail: The Punitive Turn in American Life,” and send it to the University of North Carolina Press, where, as of February 2019, it is under review.”

David Shyovitz spent the past year at work on a book that explores how medieval Jews and Christians thought about the boundaries between humans and animals. As the project has progressed, it has expanded to include a cast of characters that includes Jews with bird heads, angels trapped in dogs’ bodies, fish who observe the Sabbath, and more. David has recently delivered lectures on these and other topics at Harvard, Notre Dame, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the University of Illinois, Chicago, the University of Tennessee, and the Newberry Library. In addition to his regular course offerings, David developed a new undergraduate class on the history of “Monsters and the Occult,” taught a quarter-long course on Jewish-Christian relations for the Alumnae of Northwestern, and led a study tour to Spain for the Chicago Jewish Federation. Since the fall of 2018, he has been serving as Director of NU’s Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies.

Scott Sowerby has been working on his next book, Divided Continent: The Violent Origins of Religious Toleration in Early Modern Europe. Despite the title, he hasn’t encountered any violence on his recent trips to archives in Dublin, Paris, Amsterdam and Copenhagen. Perhaps the closest he came was when he showed up to the French diplomatic archives at La Courneuve on the outskirts of Paris, having been assured that they would be open that day, only to find they were closed. He also published what was described by the Wall Street Journal as an “illuminating essay” on William Penn’s politics in a volume on Penn’s career as an imperial administrator. Venturing briefly into the theatrical realm, he stumbled upon a previously unknown poem by the seventeenth-century playwright Robert Davenport in a castle in Carlisle, England, and published an analysis of it in Notes and Queries.

Helen Tilley has spent the last year finishing up her term as director of Science in Human Culture and writing two articles, a historiographical essay on science for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History (published in 2018) and a reflection, for a special issue of Isis, on enduring fault lines in the history of science for those who work on non-Western regions and those who focus on Europe and North America (March, 2019). She is currently editing a seventeen-chapter issue of the annual history of science journal, Osiris, on “Global Medical Cultures, Properties, and Law” and is also annotating with her collaborator, Michael Oladejo Afoláyan, their English translation of a 1910 text in Yorùbá, Ìwé Ìwòsàn (Book of Healing), which will be published with the University of Wisconsin Press. She plans to spend her upcoming sabbatical at Cambridge University writing her book on traditional medicine and African decolonization during the global Cold War.

Garry Wills writes, “Because of my book What the Qur’an Meant, I was asked to deliver the 2018 commencement address at Zaytuna College, the first accredited Muslim college in the United States.”