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

For history major Micah Johnston, a year of service was a ‘master class’ in relationship building 

September 19, 2018

Now a senior program office for IREX in Washington, D.C., Micah Johnston '06 spent his first year after graduation volunteering for the Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly in Chicago. He spent his days visiting the homes of elderly individuals who did not regularly see friends or family. “Spending a year in service helps other people, but it can also be a master class in learning about the world, learning about other people, incorporating that into the education you get at Notre Dame,” he said.

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Department of History Confers 2018 Graduate Writing Prizes

September 07, 2018

On September 6, during the annual Opening Reception for the Department of History, Prof. Jaime Pensado, director of graduate studies, announced the winners of the following graduate writing prizes. Entries were accepted from across the graduate cohorts, and each  prize includes a certificate and cash award.…

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Noteworthy

Brad Gregory

10 11 18 Spotlight Brad

Kristian Olsen | October 11, 2018 

Brad Gregory, Director of the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study and Dorothy G. Griffin Professor of Early Modern European History, received a 2018 Expanded Reason Awards Honorable Mention for his book, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society (Belknap Press, 2012).

Organized by the Francisco de Vitoria University (Madrid) and the Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation, the Expanded Reason Awards aim to recognize academic achievements that advance Pope Benedict’s proposal to widen the horizon of reason.  

“In the context of a positivist and relativist culture, Joseph Ratzinger and later Benedict XVI points out the deep division of knowledge and the excessive specialization of the university field that leave out an overall vision that gives meaning to each specific science,” says Fr. Federico Lombardi, President of the Ratzinger/Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation and a jury member for the prize. In opposition to this prevailing culture, the Expanded Reason Awards “seek to promote a transdisciplinary dialogue that not only appreciates the interdisciplinarity of the sciences, but also affirms the relevance of broader philosophical and theological concerns.”

The awards are distributed in both teaching and research categories, with Brad Gregory receiving honorable mention for his research. John C. Cavadini, Notre Dame Professor of Theology and Director of the McGrath Institute for Church Life, led a team of four colleagues from Notre Dame that won one of the awards in the teaching category.

The prize-giving ceremony took place on September 24, 2018 in the Casina Pio IV, home of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, in the Vatican Gardens. The celebration occurred in conjunction with an international symposium focused on the possibility for dialogue among science, philosophy, and theology in university communities today. Winners of the Expanded Reason Awards were invited participants during the conference and had the opportunity to meet Pope Francis after the weekly papal audience, on September 26.

Read more here.

Originally published by Daily Domer Staff at dailydomer.nd.edu on October 11, 2018.

Brad Gregory Wins Expanded Reason Awards Honorable Mention

Brad Gregory Expanded Reason Awards 2

Brad Gregory, Director of the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study and Dorothy G. Griffin Professor of Early Modern European History, received a 2018 Expanded Reason Awards Honorable Mention for his book, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society (Belknap Press, 2012).

Organized by the Francisco de Vitoria University (Madrid) and the Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation, the Expanded Reason Awards aim to recognize academic achievements that advance Pope Benedict’s proposal to widen the horizon of reason.  

“In the context of a positivist and relativist culture, Joseph Ratzinger and later Benedict XVI points out the deep division of knowledge and the excessive specialization of the university field that leave out an overall vision that gives meaning to each specific science,” says Fr. Federico Lombardi, President of the Ratzinger/Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation and a jury member for the prize. In opposition to this prevailing culture, the Expanded Reason Awards “seek to promote a transdisciplinary dialogue that not only appreciates the interdisciplinarity of the sciences, but also affirms the relevance of broader philosophical and theological concerns.”

The awards are distributed in both teaching and research categories, with Brad Gregory receiving honorable mention for his research. John C. Cavadini, Notre Dame Professor of Theology and Director of the McGrath Institute for Church Life, led a team of four colleagues from Notre Dame that won one of the awards in the teaching category.

Unintended Reformation

The prize-giving ceremony took place on September 24, 2018 in the Casina Pio IV, home of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, in the Vatican Gardens. The celebration occurred in conjunction with an international symposium focused on the possibility for dialogue among science, philosophy, and theology in university communities today. Winners of the Expanded Reason Awards were invited participants during the conference and had the opportunity to meet Pope Francis after the weekly papal audience, on September 26.

“It is a great honor to have my book, The Unintended Reformation, recognized in this way by the Expanded Reason Awards,” Brad Gregory said. “The Awards, like NDIAS and Notre Dame as a Catholic research university more broadly, encourage an integral understanding of all knowledge within a vision of reason and academic freedom that is not constrained by metaphysical naturalism.” 

Contact:

Kristian Olsen / Fellowships, Outreach, and Operations Program Manager

Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study / University of Notre Dame

kolsen1@nd.edu / 574.631.2830

ndias.nd.edu / @NotreDameIAS


About the NDIAS:

The NDIAS supports research that is directed toward, or extends inquiry to include, ultimate questions and questions of value, bringing together leading thinkers from around the world to live and work at the University as fellows in a residential intellectual community. These cross-disciplinary scholars, scientists, and artists pursue innovative research projects as they engage and contribute to the research of Notre Dame colleagues and students from multiple disciplines, augmenting the life of the mind on campus. To learn more, please visit ndias.nd.edu.

Originally published by Kristian Olsen at ndias.nd.edu on October 08, 2018.

Department of History Confers 2018 Graduate Writing Prizes

On September 6, during the annual Opening Reception for the Department of History, Prof. Jaime Pensado, director of graduate studies, announced the winners of the following graduate writing prizes. Entries were accepted from across the graduate cohorts, and each  prize includes a certificate and cash award.

The Vincent P. De Santis Prize - best research paper not yet accepted for publication
Tomás Valle, "Crafting the Map of Orthodoxy: The Case of Eilhard Lubin”
Faculty Jury: Profs. Linda Przybyszewski & Sarah Shortall

The Phillip Gleason Prize - best published article
Jorge Puma, “Small Groups Don’t Win Revolutions: Armed Struggle in the Memory of Maoist Militants of Política Popular” in Latin American Perspectives
Faculty Jury: Profs. Ted Beatty & Rebecca McKenna

The John Highbarger Memorial Dissertation Prize - best Ph.D. dissertation in History
Sam Fisher, "Fit Instruments: Gaels, Indians, and the Diverse Origins of Imperial Reform and Revolution”
Faculty Jury: Profs. Paul Ocobock & Evan Ragland

For more detailed information on the winning papers, including the faculty jury comments, click here.

History alumna wins MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant

Nikole Hannah-Jones '98Nikole Hannah-Jones ’98; Photo courtesy of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Nikole Hannah-Jones, a 1998 Notre Dame graduate, has won a fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation — commonly known as a “Genius” Grant.

Hannah-Jones, who majored in history and African American studies (now Africana studies), is an investigative reporter for The New York Times Magazine, covering issues of racial inequality, especially in education. 

The MacArthur Foundation — which annually gives the $625,000 grants to 24 “exceptionally creative people” — lauded the way Hannah-Jones combines “analyses of historical, academic, and policy research with moving personal narratives to bring into sharp relief a problem that many are unwilling to acknowledge still exists and its tragic consequences for African American individuals, families, and communities.”

After earning her bachelor’s degree at Notre Dame, she received a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina in 2003. After working at the Raleigh News and Observer, the Oregonian, and ProPublica, she joined the New York Times in 2015. 

The same year, she co-founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, a trade organization striving to increase and retain the number of reporters and editors of color working in investigative journalism.

“I knew from the beginning, when I wanted to be a journalist, that I wanted to write about race. And I wanted to write not just that racial disparity exists, but how it comes to be and why it still exists,” she said. “And if I really wanted to drill down into why black Americans are at the bottom of every indicator of well-being in this country, I knew I had to start with housing and had to start with schools.”

In 2015, she produced three radio stories for This American Life illustrating how school desegregation can lessen the achievement gap between white children and students of color, but the political difficulty that comes with it often prevents school systems from further integrating. The series won a Peabody Award.

Her first-person New York Times Magazine article, “Worlds Apart: Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City,” won a 2017 National Magazine Award, and her story, “Segregation Now …” for The Atlantic was a finalist for the same prize in 2015.  

“Nikole’s work is distinguished by brilliant historical research, tough interviews, sharp incisive writing, and a profound moral core,” New York Times deputy publisher A.G. Sulzberger, executive editor Dean Baquet, and New York Times Magazine editor Jake Silverstein said in a statement. “She pours her heart, mind, and soul into everything she does, and her work truly has the power to change lives.”

Originally published by Josh Weinhold at al.nd.edu on October 12, 2017.

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.

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