The Department of History affirms the understanding that individuals possess innate dignity, an idea underscored by the Judeo-Christian belief that all persons are made in the image and likeness of God.  Informed by the University of Notre Dame's "Spirit of Inclusion" statement (1997), the Department of History welcomes "all people, regardless of color, gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, social or economic class, and nationality" and works to sustain an inclusive environment.

 

Recent News

2 years, 35 students, $125,000 in funding: History seminar prepares undergraduates to do research around the world

September 19, 2017

In the past two years, 35 history majors in Paul Ocobock’s honors seminar have received more than $125,000 in funding to do original research around the world. And every student in his course who applied for funding received it — using the grants to explore archives in France, Ireland, Uganda, China, and South Korea, among other places. But to Ocobock, there is something even more important than his students’ 100 percent success rate in securing funding — the sense of community they develop as they plan their projects together, travel the globe to conduct research, then return to his classroom to begin work on their senior theses.

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Department of History introduces undergraduate minor

August 19, 2017

The Department of History has launched a five-course undergraduate minor, allowing students in any department or college to build a strong foundation in the discipline. The minor begins with an introductory history workshop in which students learn to weigh evidence, evaluate arguments, and understand the nature of historical debate and ends with a capstone seminar focused on research. Students also choose three elective classes from a variety of subfields — from economic history to the history of science and medicine — that can be tailored to fit their interests or course of study.

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Cushwa Announces Postdocs for 2017–2018

June 06, 2017

Cushwa Announces Postdocs for 2017–2018

The University of Notre Dame’s Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism is pleased to announce two incoming postdoctoral fellows for the 2017–2018 academic year. Peter Cajka and Benjamin J. Wetzel will join the center for appointments beginning in July.…

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Noteworthy

2 years, 35 students, $125,000 in funding: History seminar prepares undergraduates to do research around the world

Billups Reception 1200 History major William Robert Billups (right), seen here speaking with other 2017 graduates at an annual reception honoring senior thesis writers, traveled to London to do research as part of the history honors seminar.

 

In the past two years, 35 history majors in Paul Ocobock’s honors seminar have received more than $125,000 in funding to do original research around the world.

And every student in his course who applied for funding received it — using the grants to explore archives in France, Ireland, Uganda, China, and South Korea, among other places.

“The department takes undergraduate research very seriously,” said Ocobock, an assistant professor of history. “We encourage students to be practitioners of history, to go out and do it themselves.”

But to Ocobock, there is something even more important than his students’ 100 percent success rate in securing funding — the sense of community they develop as they plan their projects together, travel the globe to conduct research, then return to his classroom to begin work on their senior theses.

“The honors track courses create a lovely subculture in history — one that we want to extend to the whole program — where our students very much identify themselves as historians and as part of something special,” he said. “We are now seeing how valuable that is.”

“It gives students ownership of their education and builds skills you don’t get in most classrooms. They come back with a sense of being part of something much bigger. And the senior thesis forces them to problem solve in ways they never would in a typical class.”

Developing research skills

Ocobock redesigned and began teaching the honors seminar two years ago. The first class in the sequence, taken in the spring of junior year, focuses on equipping students with the practical skills necessary to conduct their research, which most pursue the summer after junior year.

Ocobock Thesis Reception 1200Paul Ocobock, an assistant professor history, talks with students at the annual College of Arts and Letters event honoring senior thesis projects.

In the second class, taken in the fall of senior year, students analyze what they’ve found and begin writing their thesis projects.

“I want these to be very functional classes,” Ocobock said. “I want to see our senior thesis students doing more rigorous work. I want them to be able to get funding to go off into the world.

“Because no matter where they plan to go after graduation — a Ph.D. program or the business world — if they have refined grant-writing and research skills, interesting stories from abroad to tell job interviewers, and the ability to read quickly, form arguments, and prepare well-written statements, they are set for the rest of their careers.”

Building a dossier

Tianyi Tan Paris 600Senior Tianyi Tan, standing outside the Sorbonne in Paris, spent a month this summer doing research at the Archives Nationales in France.

Senior Tianyi Tan took Ocobock’s first seminar this spring and spent four weeks this summer researching at the Archives Nationales in Paris, with funding from the Nanovic Institute for European Studies

“The spring course was very well-designed and timed to prepare us for our first serious research endeavor,” she said. “It promoted a more conscious, thought-out approach to research.”

After choosing a topic to explore, the students’ first assignment is to complete an application for grant funding, if they need it. They then revise it with guidance from Ocobock, who is also a faculty fellow at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies and has been part of several committees reviewing grant proposals.

Next, with the help of Senior Archivist William Kevin Cawley and Special Collections Curator Julie Tanaka from the Hesburgh Libraries, Ocobock talks with students about what to expect when they arrive at an archive and shows them how files might be structured.

“I ask them what they’ll do first when they see a file,” he said. “You immediately want to jump in and read the text, but you shouldn’t yet. You should first consider who it’s written by, who it’s written to, and how the material came to be organized in that way.”

The class also reviews other types of materials and research, exploring correspondence, memoir, and visual media, as well as how to conduct an interview and how to work with data sets.

Finally, the students complete a personal “research dossier” that details what materials are available at their archives, the opening times of the facility, and the name of the archivist they’ve contacted, as well as a literature review paper that describes the state of their field and what their research questions are.

“Some of them find out hard truths — like the archive they thought would have their information has nothing,” Ocobock said. “So they need to find a different archive and amend their grant application. But the important part is they’re finding that out while they’re still on campus and have the time to revise their plan.”

For Tan, whose thesis explores media censorship in the early years of the French Revolution, the dossier was one of the most valuable assignments.

“Creating the research dossier allowed us to develop our research plan for the summer well in advance,” she said. “I felt very prepared and excited to begin when I arrived in Paris.”

Writing, together

William Billups London 600Billups, who won the Department of History’s award for best thesis on Irish history, said his research experience was crucial to his successful application to a master’s degree program at Cambridge University.

When students return to the second honors seminar in the fall, they share with the group the most important resources they found.

“We read one of each student’s primary documents together and talk about different ways you could interpret it,” Ocobock said. “It’s almost like crowdsourcing historical interpretation.”

The students also explore where their research fits into the field as they begin writing their thesis projects, said William Robert Billups ’17. 

Billups was in Ocobock’s first honors cohort and won the department’s O’Hagan Award for best thesis on Irish history.

“The assignments pushed us to develop our own arguments while exploring major historical traditions,” he said. “The result was that we were able to write theses that were tuned to the major intellectual currents surrounding our topics, making our arguments more engaging and well-defined.”

The experience was invaluable for Billups, who began pursuing a master’s degree at Cambridge University this fall.

“I submitted a draft of my thesis as a writing sample and wrote about my research experiences in London as part of my application to Cambridge,” he said. “But more importantly, my thesis at Notre Dame offered me excellent preparation for the research and writing required by my master’s program.”

As students wrap up their thesis projects in the spring of their senior year, Ocobock continues to meet with the group for an informal writing “boot camp” for two to three hours each week.

“I want to make sure no one ever says they felt alone or left to their own devices,” he said. “There are always social gatherings built in to make it a collective experience.”

Overall, Ocobock sees the senior thesis as an incredibly empowering process for his students.

“It gives students ownership of their education and builds skills you don’t get in most classrooms,” he said. “When students go off and conduct historical research in other parts of the world, it fosters a profound empathy for people of other cultures and people of the past. They come back with a sense of being part of something much bigger. And the senior thesis forces them to problem solve in ways they never would in a typical class.”

Originally published by Carrie Gates at al.nd.edu on September 19, 2017.

Department of History introduces undergraduate minor

James Lundberg 02James "Jake" Lundberg

The Department of History has launched a five-course undergraduate minor, allowing students in any department or college to build a strong foundation in the discipline.

The minor begins with an introductory history workshop in which students learn to weigh evidence, evaluate arguments, and understand the nature of historical debate and ends with a capstone seminar focused on research.

Students also choose three elective classes from a variety of subfields — from economic history to the history of science and medicine — that can be tailored to fit their interests or course of study.

“Our minor will be a terrific option for those students wishing to supplement their programs across the university,” said James “Jake” Lundberg, director of undergraduate studies. “It will expose them to our world-class faculty with expertise in every imaginable subfield of the discipline, while offering a solid foundation in historians’ methods, approaches, and habits of mind.”

Students may contact Lundberg to declare the minor and to create a plan to fit their particular needs.

Cushwa Announces Postdocs for 2017–2018

Cushwa Announces Postdocs for 2017–2018

The University of Notre Dame’s Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism is pleased to announce two incoming postdoctoral fellows for the 2017–2018 academic year. Peter Cajka and Benjamin J. Wetzel will join the center for appointments beginning in July.

Peter Cajka

Cajka, who earned his Ph.D. in history from Boston College this spring, studies 20th-century U.S. intellectual and cultural history with an emphasis on Catholicism. His dissertation is titled “The Rights of Conscience: The Rise of Tradition in America’s Age of Fracture, 1940–1990.” He has published articles in Ohio History and American Catholic Studies, and is a regular contributor to the blog Religion in American History. Cajka received a Dorothy Mohler Research Grant from the American Catholic Research Center and University Archives at the Catholic University of America, and he was a dissertation fellow of the Louisville Institute for 2016–2017. He holds a bachelor of arts in history from the University of Dayton and a master’s degree in history from Marquette University.

Ben Wetzel

Wetzel Headshot

Wetzel researches the intersection of American religion, politics, and intellectual life in the period from 1860 to 1920. He has published articles in The Journal of Church and State and The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. He is currently at work on two book-length projects. The first, based on his revised dissertation, is tentatively titled American Crusade: Lyman Abbott and the Christian Nation at War, 1860–1920. It explores how America’s Christian communities debated the righteousness of the Civil War, Spanish-American War, and World War I. The second, under advance contract with Oxford University Press, is a religious biography titled Theodore Roosevelt: Preaching from the Bully Pulpit. Wetzel earned his bachelor of arts in history from Grove City College, his master’s degree in history from Baylor University, and his Ph.D. in history from the University of Notre Dame.

“The Cushwa Center is extremely fortunate to be welcoming these two very promising scholars this year,” said Kathleen Sprows Cummings, director of the center. “We’re excited to support them as their own research projects unfold, and I know their new ideas and creative energy will enhance Cushwa’s projects and events.”

In addition to pursuing their own research and writing, the Cushwa Center’s postdoctoral fellows support collaborative programs such as the Conference on the History of Women Religious (CHWR), contribute to the production of the American Catholic Studies Newsletter, and coordinate seminars and conferences on campus and abroad.

The Cushwa Center is widely recognized as the leading center for the historical study of Roman Catholicism in the United States. Through its grant programs, lectures, seminars, and international conferences, the center brings together scholars from across the humanities to interpret the American Catholic experience. It also provides resources and critical commentary for media coverage of U.S. Catholicism and collaborates with church leaders and pastoral workers to enhance the vitality of Catholic life in the United States.

History professor receives two major honors from Medieval Academy of America

John Van EngenJohn Van Engen

John Van Engen, the Andrew V. Tackes Professor of Medieval History, received two significant honors from the Medieval Academy of America at its annual meeting in Toronto last month.

A member of Notre Dame’s Department of History since 1977, Van Engen received the association’s Robert L. Kindrick-CARA Award for Outstanding Service to Medieval Studies, which recognizes leaders who develop and promote medieval studies. The award honored Van Engen’s efforts as director of Notre Dame’s Medieval Institute from 1985-1998 and 2014-2016 and the ripple effect his work had on the profession.

Van Engen was also elected president of the Fellows of the Medieval Academy of America, a group formed more than 90 years ago to promote the study of the Middle Ages and recognize scholars around the world who make important contributions to the field.

“I always considered serving the Medieval Institute to be one of the great privileges of my life,” Van Engen said. “It is now very satisfying to think that our efforts to grow it have received this kind of public recognition.”

During his time as director of the Medieval Institute, Van Engen brought an interdisciplinary vision, engaging faculty across campus and enrolling talented Ph.D. students from all fields while also growing the medieval studies undergraduate major. He credited longtime supporter Robert M. Conway with making it possible to host conferences and lectures and produce publications that help made the institute become the largest contingent of medievalists at any North American university.

“As director in the 1980s and ’90s, John Van Engen transformed the Medieval Institute into one of leading centers for research and graduate education on the Middle Ages in the whole world,” said ”http://medieval.nd.edu/about/director/“>Thomas E. Burman, the Robert M. Conway Director of the Medieval Institute. “No one is more responsible for the high esteem in which it is held.”

Three other Notre Dame faculty members are currently MAA fellows: Margot Fassler, director of Sacred Music at Notre Dame and the incoming MAA president; Kathryn Kerby-Fulton, the Notre Dame Professor of English; and Thomas F.X. Noble, the Andrew V. Tackes Professor Emeritus in the Department of History.

“The challenge for me over my three-year term as president,” Van Engen said, “is to work with the other fellows toward new ways to foster learning and scholarship and appreciation for that pivotal thousand-year period in the formation of European society and culture at a time when the humanities are often on the defensive, and the orientation of so many is to the present."

“I always considered serving the Medieval Institute to be one of the great privileges of my life. It is now very satisfying to think that our efforts to grow it have received this kind of public recognition.”

Van Engen’s research has focused on the late medieval religious movement known as the Modern Devotion, cultural and intellectual renewal during the 12th century, and notions of Christianization in medieval European history.

His 2008 book, Sisters and Brothers of the Common Life: The Devotio Moderna and the World of the Later Middle Ages, won the MAA’s Haskins Medal, the Otto Gründler Book Prize, the John Gilmary Shea Prize, and the Philip Schaff Prize.

Van Engen has been a visiting professor at Harvard University and held research fellowships at Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. In 2016, he was elected a member of the Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde (the “Society of Dutch Literature,” founded in 1766) in recognition of his research and writing on the history and literature of the medieval Low Countries.

He won the MAA’s John Nicholas Brown Prize for best first book in 1986, beginning a long tradition of Notre Dame scholars receiving the award. Subsequently, it was won by Kerby-Fulton (1994), Fassler (1997), and the late Olivia Remie Constable (1998).

This year, one of the two Brown Prizes handed out went to Jonathan Lyon, a 2005 Notre Dame Ph.D. and former student of Van Engen’s who is now an associate professor of medieval history at the University of Chicago.

Van Engen is currently finishing the reconstruction and a translation of the writings of 15th religious author Alijt Bake of Utrecht and Ghent, a woman who was until recently unknown and whose multiple works have been inaccessible except to a few specialists.

He then plans to pursue a more general work — a history that will attempt to rethink in part the narrative of the 12th and 13th centuries, a pivotal moment in the making of medieval Europe’s culture, church, and society.

Originally published by Josh Weinhold at al.nd.edu on May 31, 2017.

In Memoriam: Luis Laita

Laita CroweLuis Laita (right) and Michael Crowe, together in Spain.

Distinguished mathematical logician Luis Laita, the first person to receive a doctorate from the University of Notre Dame with training in the history and philosophy of science, died on February 24 after a distinguished career teaching artificial intelligence in his native Spain.

As a Ph.D. student at Notre Dame, Laita studied for a period in the Department of Philosophy with prominent logician Boleslaw Sobocinski before transferring to the Department of History to focus on the history of mathematics. His 1976 dissertation, A Study of the Genesis of Boolean Logic, was directed by Michael Crowe, who is the the Rev. John J. Cavanaugh, C.S.C., Professor Emeritus of the Humanities in the Program of Liberal Studies and Graduate Program in History and Philosophy of Science.

Laita then returned to Spain, where he spent most of his career at the Universidad Politéchnica de Madrid. Laita published more than 100 papers, many of which were in English-language journals. In recognition of his scholarly achievements, the Spanish Royal Academy of Sciences electing him as an associate member in 1994.

Crowe, who kept in touch with Laita over the decades, says his former student had very fond memories of his time at Notre Dame. “He was especially grateful to the Department of History, which showed its breadth by accepting this man of many interests,” Crowe said.

Notre Dame was one of the first universities in the United States to offer a graduate degree in the joint field of history and philosophy of science, with an M.A. first offered in 1970 and a Ph.D. added in 1989. The Graduate Program in History and Philosophy of Science is now housed in the John J. Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values.

Arts and Letters students receive funding for internships around the world

Since it began in 2010, the Arts and Letters Summer Internship Program (ALSIP) has awarded over $600,000 in funding to more than 250 students interning across the country and around the world.

Students in Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters use internships to gain experience and explore career options in a real-world environment—anywhere from C-SPAN in Washington, D.C., to a product design firm in New York City, to a nonprofit organization in Cape Town, South Africa.

The grant program, administered by The Career Center, provides Arts and Letters students with funding to offset travel and cost-of-living expenses for paid and unpaid internships in any industry and geographic location.

“Employers today all but expect students to have engaged in some real-world opportunities like internships prior to hiring them for full-time employment,” said LoriAnn Edinborough, a career experiential program manager at The Career Center. “But the challenge for many students is that these internships are often unpaid—or are paid, but in an area with a high cost of living—forcing them to decide between the value of the experience and whether they can afford to participate.

“The Arts and Letters Summer Internship eases the financial burden of participating. Students know they have the funds to help pay for housing, food, and transportation to and from the internship.”

Developing new products

Lauterbach CopyRachel Lauterbach

Senior Rachel Lauterbach, an industrial design major and business economics minor, worked in New York City this summer at OXO, a housewares manufacturer.

Working as a product development intern in OXO’s food storage product division, Lauterbach did product testing, researched competitors, and analyzed customers’ product reviews. She even gave presentations of her own ideas for new products that would fit well with OXO’s brand.

The internship was a perfect fit, she said.

“It showed me all of the different things that go into getting a product on the shelf,” she said. “So many people—from project managers to engineers are involved in the design process. And they’re very intentional with every decision they make about a product. It was really cool to see how that works. As a designer, it makes you consider those aspects more.”

And while moving to New York City by herself was intimidating at first, Lauterbach said she’s incredibly glad she did it.

“I’d encourage everyone to take that risk,” she said. “This is exactly what I wanted to do, and to be able to do it—even though it wasn’t paid—was amazing.”

Working behind the scenes

This summer, senior Daniel DeToro worked behind the scenes as a television programming intern with C-SPAN in Washington, D.C.

history and economics major, he worked primarily on Q&A, an hour-long interview program with C‑SPAN founder Brian Lamb, and In Depth, a program featuring authors and their books.

DeToro watched and wrote reviews of new episodes so that the network could determine when and if to air them. He also conducted research on upcoming guests and found supplementary materials such as quotes, photos, and video clips to include in the programs.

“I got to do a lot of things, and it was great working with people who knew so much and who were so willing to answer my questions,” he said.

Working for C-SPAN would not have been possible without ALSIP funding, DeToro said. And while he doesn’t plan to pursue a career in the media industry, the experience was a valuable opportunity to see what the working world is like.

“Learning how to interact in a workplace is great experience,” he said. “Seeing those relationships and learning how to convey what you think is incredibly important.”

Exploring the world of nonprofits

SantellaMeghan Santella (right) with students she tutored in South Africa

Junior Meghan Santella interned with the South African Education and Environment Project, a nonprofit offering educational opportunities to neglected youth.

In Cape Town, she tutored 8th- and 9th-grade students in English and life skills, helped with fundraising, and helped write a manual on child protection to be distributed to local schools.

“The exciting realization I had with this internship is that I can truly end up anywhere in the world,” Santella said. “It allowed me to explore the nonprofit sector and learn about the behind-the-scenes work nonprofits do, as well as the hands-on community interaction that is so important.”

The experience also helped her develop an idea for a senior thesis project and define her future career path.

Santella, a sociology major with a minor in business economics, plans to apply for a teaching fellowship with the Alliance for Catholic Education and eventually attend law school.

“This summer taught me that I am passionate about working with and for people in disadvantaged communities in our own country and around the world,” she said. “I’m not exactly sure where my career will take me, but this internship opportunity definitely reassured me that I am on the right track.”

Originally published by Megan Valley at al.nd.edu on December 22, 2016.

Video: Historian Patrick Griffin on imperial reform and revolution

 

“Collective memory is important for any society to have, and when we forget about the things that make us who we are, or we distort the things that make us who we are, we as a culture can often be in trouble.” 

— Patrick Griffin

Patrick Griffin is the Madden-Hennebry Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame. His research interests include colonial and revolutionary America, early modern Irish and British history, and Atlantic history. More information can be found at Patrick Griffin’s faculty page.


Video Transcript

I study early America from what I would call Atlantic perspectives. And so my work really integrates American history with British history and Irish history and how the various kinds of currents, trends, dynamics that defined that space and connected the old world to the new world allowed Americans, particularly in the 18th century, to redefine they were.

Originally when I was going to go to graduate school, I wanted to be a 19th-century American urban historian. And then a funny thing happens: I took a course on 18th-century America, and I immediately fell in love with it. What I saw was kind of a dynamic world that was really on the cusp of becoming something different, and that captured my imagination. It captured my attention and I’ve been brought back time and time again because i just find there’s so many more interesting things to explore in the 18th century. I’ll never get out of it.

Right now I’m working on a book, finishing a book, on the relationship between imperial reform and revolution. In the 1760s, various imperial officials from all different kinds of places wanted to reform their empires. What was the impulse behind that? This is something that the British, the French, the Spanish, the Portuguese were all dealing with in some kind of way. How did this attempt at reform lead people living in faraway places to kind of imagine new futures for themselves? And eventually this would lead to revolution.

Of course, we live in another age of revolution right now, and in the Middle East and other parts of the world, we’re seeing the fruits of imperial reform in different kinds of ways and how that’s borne out in ways that people could not have predicted earlier on. Collective memory is important for any society to have, and it’s when we forget about the things that make us who we are, or we distort the things that make us who we are, we as a culture can often be in trouble.

I think being at Notre Dame has had a tremendous effect on the way that I think about my work. It’s really been, I think, the community of scholars here that’s really influenced and informed me, not only made of good people but really made of first-rate scholars, and I would say also first-rate teachers. Working with them has been something that has really shaped my approach, probably in subtle ways but ultimately profound ways as well.

Originally published by Todd Boruff at al.nd.edu on January 23, 2017.

Video: History major interns at U.S. Embassy in Rome


“An internship abroad is a great starting point for a career abroad,” said Margaret Swinehart, a senior history major in the College of Arts and Letters.

Swinehart spent the summer of 2016 interning at the United States Embassy in Rome, Italy. She worked in the non-immigrant visa unit of the consular section, collecting documents and helping applicants prepare for their interviews.

Swinehart learned about the internship through the Notre Dame Career and Internship Fair hosted by the Career Center. There, she talked with a representative from the U.S. State Department, who was invited to recruit students at the fair by Notre Dame International

“The internship started as just something I was intrigued about,” said Swinehart, who is minoring in constitutional studies and Italian studies. “It has shown me that I would like to pursue a career in government.”

Swinehart had participated in Notre Dame’s spring study abroad program in Rome, and decided that she wanted to stay longer to better experience living abroad.

“I’ve gained a complete new perspective on the city from working here on a daily basis and I would encourage anyone to do it,” she said. “It really has been a great opportunity.”

Originally published by Todd Boruff at al.nd.edu on February 06, 2017.

Partners

  • Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism
  • Gender Studies Program
  • Institute for Latino Studies
  • Kellogg Institute
  • Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies
  • Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies
  • Medieval Institute
  • Nanovic Institute for European Studies
  • John J. Reilly Center