HGSA Seminar: Alessandro Saluppo on Violence and Terror in Ferrara, Italy

11.23.2015 Alessandro Saluppo
Join the History Department’s Graduate Student Association at their Research Seminar on Monday, November 23 at 4:00 pm in Keating 105.  Alessandro Saluppo will present on his doctoral research: “Violence and Terror: Imaginaries and Practices of Squadrismo in the Province of Ferrara, 1914-1922”

Alessandro’s dissertation provides a new and innovative reading on fascist violence by examining the violent practices of Ferrara’s fascist squads, which pioneered the methods of agrarian Squadrismo and earned a reputation for extreme brutality during the fascist rise to power (1921-1922). Drawing on the phenomenological program of social science research on violence, studies on the anthropology of violence and the most recent praxeological approaches to Fascism, the study concentrates on the performative and expressive-symbolic dimensions of squadristi violence and their effects on bodies and social subjectivities.

This presentation, part of a continuing graduate student Research Seminar Series organized by the HGSA, is open to all students and faculty. This series is envisioned as a forum for advanced History graduate students to share their dissertation projects and research experiences with a wider audience. Please come!

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Understanding the Attack on Paris: A Discussion with Fordham History Faculty

Understanding the Attack on Paris

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Magda Teter: History’s New Professor of Jewish Studies Marks an Anniversary in Interfaith Relations

Screenshot 2015-11-12 21.58.21

The newest addition to the Fordham History Department and the first holder of the Shvidler Chair in Jewish Studies, Dr. Magda Teter, is making a name for herself and Fordham at home and abroad. On October 27, Dr. Teter presented at a conference on the Declaration Nostra Aetate in Lublin, Poland. Her presentation, “The Theological and Historical Jew in Jewish-Catholic Relations,” opened the conference and was a keynote address. The two other speakers were Riccardo di Segni, the Chief Rabbi of Rome, and Archbishop Henryk Muszyński, the Primate of Poland. The three addresses were followed by a discussion panel, which also featured prominent Jewish and Catholic participants, including the Chief Rabbi of Poland. Throughout the discussion. the panel continuously referred back to Dr. Teter’s talk, both a testament to her and the significance of history in the current discourse about Catholic-Jewish relations.

This conversation continued at the Fordham Annual Fall McGinley Lecture,  “Rejecting Hatred: Fifty Years of Catholic Dialogue with Jews and Muslins since Nostra Aetate on November 10-11. The lecture, which was given by Fordham’s own Professor Patrick J. Ryan, SJ, was followed by responses from Dr. Teter and Dr. Hussein Rashid from Hofstra University.

The History Department looks forward to the Shvidler Chair installation on Monday, November 16  in the Corrigan Center on the 12th floor of Lowenstein at 5:30PM. Dr.Teter will present a lecture entitled  “Alienation to Integration: Rethinking Jewish History”.

Welcome to the History Department, Magda Teter!

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by | November 13, 2015 · 9:00 am

The History of “Capital”: Steven Stoll on the Origins of the Term

John of Genoa

In anticipation of our Thursday event “Tracking the Global History of Capitalism” with Sven Beckert, we asked Professor Steven Stoll to tell us about the history of the term “capital”. Where does the word come from, and what does it say about the history of capitalism?

Professor Stoll writes:

Sven Beckert’s Empire of Cotton is about how cotton became the key commodity in the making of nineteenth-century global capitalism. It’s the story of land and slavery, financiers and merchants, and competition between the American South and India for dominance in production. But Beckert hesitates to define capital or capitalism. Here is a quick take and a few thoughts about the word itself and the world it creates.

Capital is money in motion. It’s not a bag of seed or a college education or an idea for a new business or your terrific potential as an artist or the car you drive to work. It’s not even the same thing as wealth. If capital is any of these things, then it’s existed for as long as Homo sapiens and has no historical specificity. It is surplus value in the act of generating surplus value–profit that creates profit. Marx expressed it as M→C (LP + MP)→P→C’→M+∆M, in which Money is advanced to buy Commodities, consisting of Labor-Power, the Means of Production (which would include land or factories and raw material). Labor is the most important purchase because it is the only factor that creates more value than it costs. If a capitalist pays someone $10 for a day’s work he can use their labor-power to manufacture $100 in widgets. Labor combined with the means of production results in second-order Commodities. These must be sold for the original Money advanced, plus an increment (the surplus-value). Money does not become capital until or unless it is advanced. To paraphrase Forest Gump, capital is as capital does.[i]

The word first appeared between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries for the top or head of something (from caput, or head), like the Corinthian capital of a marble column. It referred to the greatest height or degree, like a capital crime, a capital enemy, capital wounds, and a seat of government (all between 1400 and 1600). At the same time capital developed toward an important sum of money. Fernand Braudel found this sense of the word in Italian as far back as 1211. St. Bernardino of Siena wrote in the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century of “that prolific cause of wealth we commonly call capital.” But sums of money had not yet become perpetuating funds.

Other English words carried similar meanings. Cattle and chattel came into English between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, not as words for barnyard creatures but for property, goods, and even money itself. Horses, oxen, and bovines became cattle (around 1400) because they were significant property. The word did not refer to animals as animals in the fifteenth century and did not refer specifically to bovines until the sixteenth century. Stock, another word for accumulated value, stood for something that sprouted and spawned endlessly like a stem or tree trunk until about 1380 when it shows up as a word for domesticated animals. It did not describe a growing herd of livestock until the sixteenth century. But once it did, around that time, stock took a turn. It began to take on meanings similar to capital. It 1526 it referred to money that could be invested, and by 1714 the word was in common use as the subscribed capital of a merchant house.

Capital pulled away from these other words. By the time Smith published The Wealth of Nations political economists in Britain and France had already given capital the meaning it carries today. Smith used the term “capital stock,” suggesting money that reproduced a percentage of itself in a given time. According to Braudel a Russian consul made the essential distinction, reporting that France under Napoleon Bonaparte fought “with her capital,” while the countries that France invaded fought “with their income.” For centuries few institutional pathways existed for employing income in order to earn income. Capital appeared along with these pathways, as people needed a word to differentiate this new entity from merchant wealth and the dividends represented by lambs and calves.[ii]

Historians ask all sorts of questions about capital. One of them is who is inside and who outside its creation. If the owner of one of a sandwich shop on 9th Avenue in New York City reinvests some of her profit by buying bread and tomatoes or by making improvements to the kitchen does that make her a capitalist? What if she has a retirement account with a brokerage firm? Is she a capitalist for making a living in a society organized by capital? To think so blurs categories. It equates the owner of a bodega to the owners of Standard Oil. Firms that generate vast capital have certain characteristics. They tend to operate across national boundaries. They diversify their investments, so that they do not commit themselves to any one commodity. They have deep ties to governments and the global political economy that includes international banking. And they are always looking for new places to get hold of resources and hire labor. There are certainly small capitalist firms, and a business like Wal-Mart began as a country store in an Arkansas town. Capitalism comes from the larger social order, but it then seeks to dominate it. That does not describe the owner of the sandwich shop.

On second thought, maybe we are all capitalists in certain sense. Whether we generate capital or not, command it or not, manage it or not, capital has brought almost all of our occupations into existence. Occupations shape identities, situating people within institutions that lend internal coherence to the social system, regardless of its contradictions. And that social system is tightly bound up with the United States, so much so that many patriotic Americans make little or any distinction between the freedoms detailed in the Bill of Rights and “free enterprise,” even though entrepreneurship has existed for as long as people bought and sold things and even though capitalism in the eighteenth century is nothing like what it is today. “The worst error of all,” Braudel reminds us, “is to suppose that capitalism is simply an ‘economic system’, whereas in fact it lives off the social order, standing almost on a footing with the state, whether as adversary or accomplice.”

So complete has capital become throughout the social order that it appears to have emerged from the natural order, and the behavior it instills seems to many people to be an expression of universal human motives and aspirations. As three historians observe, “One of the distinguishing features of a free-enterprise economy is that its coercion is veiled … Far from being natural, the cues for market participation are given through complicated social codes. Indeed, the illusion that compliance in the dominant economic system is voluntary is itself an amazing cultural artifact.”[iii]  It might be true that the gentry did the same thing in 1650 that they did in 1250. They extracted value from people and environments. But they did it differently than anyone had before, through a discipline imposed by rents and wages, through social codes and cues that appeared to be independent of people. They aren’t. Perhaps the most radical idea we can have about capital, the single most subversive thing we can think about it, is that it begins as nothing more than a relationship between people. Like the meanings of words, relationships change.

[i] “I should say that this is the circuit of capital. It is not a formula for capitalism, which is an entire social system that is based on the recreation or reproduction of capital. Once people began to produce capital they became committed to it, created institutions to further it, connected their identities to it, or could no longer what life was like before it. Capital found its way into so many facets of life and became the basis of giant amalgams of people and production, not to mention nation-states, that any substantial change now seems like it would amount to the end of the world.” – Marx, Capital, Volume 1, 247.

[ii] Fernand Braudel, Wheels of Commerce, tr. Sian Reynolds (New York, 1982), 232-234; Oxford English Dictionary; Smith, Wealth of Nations, 353-355.

[iii] Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt, and Margaret Jacob, Telling the Truth About History (New York, 1994), 120-1.

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On the Road with the Outremer Map Project

Bethlehem, from the Oxford Outremer Map

Bethlehem, from the digitally restored Oxford Outremer Map

Graduate students and fellows from the History Department and the Center for Medieval Studies at Fordham, under the direction of Dr. Nicholas Paul and Dr. Laura Morreale from each department respectively, are collaborating in an effort to open up the conversation and further understand a 13th century map which has not previously been studied in depth. Their project is called The Oxford Outremer Map and it is their goal to “use digital tools and the open global forum of the internet to bring to light a neglected medieval intellectual and cultural artifact.” Through the creation of their website, these collaborators not only hope to provide someone with a foundation of understanding of the map but also encourage other scholars to analyze it and contribute to the unfolding discussion.

Toby Hrynick, a first year PhD student in the History Department who received his MA in Medieval Studies, has been working on the project since its inception in the summer of 2014. On November 6, Toby will be taking the map project on the road, giving a conference paper about the map and participating in a digital workshop at the Haskins Society‘s Conference at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota.

We talked to Toby to get some more details on the project and his experience working on the map… Continue reading

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Last Day to Register: O’Connell Initiative Inaugural Event- Sven Beckert on Global History of Capitalism

Just a reminder that today is the last day to register for next Thursday’s major event inaugurating the O’Connell Initiative, Sven Beckert’s talk on “Tracking the Global History of Capitalism”. The talk is at 6PM at the Lincoln Center Campus and a reception will follow. Come along and hear one of this country’s most exciting historians talk about the importance of the global historical perspective! You can register for the talk here.

Screenshot 2015-10-28 11.12.03

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Building A Digital History Archive: A Year With The Bronx African American History Project

BAAHP celebrating uploading of interviews to Digital Commons with professors, students, and members of the community (l-r Morgan Mungerson, Eddie Mikus, Andrea Benintendi, Danielle Rowe, Dr. Jane Edward, Dr. Mark Naison, Robert Gumbs, and Damien Strecker)

BAAHP celebrating uploading of interviews to Digital Commons with professors, students, and members of the community (l-r Morgan Mungerson, Eddie Mikus, Andrea Benintendi, Danielle Rowe, Dr. Jane Edward, Dr. Mark Naison, Robert Gumbs, and Damien Strecker)

As a follow up to the launch of the Bronx African American History Project’s archive of digital recordings, we asked Damien Strecker, a PhD student in History at Fordham, to tell us more about the project. He writes:

Last fall, I began my journey towards a PhD in History under the helpful guidance of Professor Mark Naison. Dr. Naison’s Communists in Harlem During the Great Depression greatly influenced my Master’s research on the nationalist activity of Harry Haywood, an active member of the Communist Party USA during the interwar period. My initial meeting with Dr. Naison to discuss my research assistantship with the Bronx African American History Project (BAAHP) provided a window into my new work environment. He passionately described to me the history of the project and the goals for the academic year—and then proceeded to crank up the bass on a Redman hip hop track he told me I had to hear. Entering my second year working on the project, the music is still playing and the important historical work continues to march forward.

Last year, I worked to accomplish a number of goals: 1) organize, label, and safely store the hard copies of all BAAHP files 2) digitize and safely store electronically as many files as possible 3) finish transcribing and summarizing old interviews. With the help of five undergraduate workers, we succeeded in transferring the physical materials of the project to Fordham’s Rare Books and Special Collection, digitizing the interview audio, and finishing nearly all of the transcriptions and summaries.

While the tasks seem straightforward, each week provided new and unforeseen challenges, especially in regards to file formatting. Where on campus can I find a mini-DV player? What audio and video formats are the most common and universal now? Do we format our files for Apples or PCs? The BAAHP began over a decade ago and the archive reflects the monumental changes in technology over that time period. The BAAHP collection includes VHS, DVD, analog audio cassettes, Mini-DVs, and CDs as well as a number of different antiquated electronic file formats. The general trend within history to digitize primary sources is a fantastic development that will bring the tools of history to anyone with internet access. However, the rapidly changing pace of file formats may complicate things as technology changes over time. One can envision a future historian in 20 years trying to unearth Windows Media Player software or QuickTime to read an important file. Despite possible technical difficulties, the digitization of historical archives is an exciting development that will make materials much more accessible to everyone. Don’t throw away your white gloves and microfilm reader just yet, but digitization is happening rapidly and the BAAHP is proud to be a part of this movement.

With the task of general organization and file format uniformity secured last year, we quickly accomplished the long held goal of making the interviews accessible electronically via Fordham’s Digital Commons. Now that the public can access the interview files via the internet, we can concentrate efforts on publicizing the archive’s content. People from 5 different continents accessed the files within the first week of going public. People from all over the world will get to access files covering topics ranging from early jazz, church activism, hip hop, education, and African immigration. Dr. Jane Edward of the African American Studies Department initiated the important work of chronicling the story of recent African immigrants in the Bronx.

The global reach of the BAAHP is promising, but ultimately, it is about the Bronx. In an effort to engage the community, the BAAHP will be creating curriculum materials that local educators can use in their classrooms. As a former middle school and high school social studies teacher, I know the actual process of interpreting and writing history can be intimidating for students and teachers alike. Starting next semester, we will begin giving presentations in local schools about Bronx history, oral history, and the BAAHP collection. Also, we will be disseminating a 3 day model mini unit for teachers. They can use it to get students excited about writing histories of local relevance and familiarity.

In the world of graduate school and academia, it is easy to get lost in our own worlds, reading, teaching, and researching.   In the end, we all should desire to share what we have learned with the world—not just those privileged enough to scan their ID onto campus. I’m proud to work with BAAHP in their efforts to preserve and share the rich cultural history of the borough Fordham calls home. The cultural contours of the Bronx continue to change and the BAAHP will be there to make sure the people’s stories will not be forgotten.

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Talking Through the Issues: A Podcast Series on the Crusader States

Screenshot 2015-10-19 20.52.34A new conversation has started within the History Department at Fordham. Under the direction of Dr. Nicholas Paul, graduate students in his Crusader States class are developing podcasts as a means to initiate discussion. The course, “charts the social, political, and cultural history of the feudal principalities (sometimes called “Crusader States” “the Latin East” or the ‘Frankish Levant”) that were established by Latin Christians in the Eastern Mediterranean in the wake of the First Crusade.” The podcasts, in turn, each focus on a specific theme within the current scholarship, from the background to the First Crusade in the Eastern Mediterranean, to the relationships between Latin Europeans and eastern Christians and Muslims, through the cultural, social, and political development of the Crusader States themselves

What are the advantages of the podcast format? Tom Schellhammer, a student in the course, commented that, “Historical scholarship must also embrace the current trend towards technological interaction,” as “Technology allows us to reach a wide audience, and this idea is a fantastic intro to anyone interested in learning more about the Crusader States. A podcast can build interest by succinctly covering the important discussion points on any one topic, and highlighting the importance of the topic and asking intriguing questions that spark even more debate and scholarship.”

For Tom, and all of the students in The Crusader States, further and broader discussion about the aftermath of the First Crusade is the ultimate goal, and they believe that using podcasts promotes that within and beyond their seminar. Tom says, “I think that as a class we have come up with some thought provoking questions which might benefit a larger community studying the Crusader States.   I find the material challenging and want to hear outside comments upon the work that we are doing, so I appreciate the opportunity to be heard and receive feedback on our discussions. On a topic that has interest in such widespread and diverse communities,  the podcasts truly help reach outside thoughts and opinions and ignite those same thoughts to be shared here at Fordham.”

Check out all the podcasts and listen to Tom address issues faced by the Crusader military and debate whether the creation of new states was inevitable in the aftermath of the First Crusade. History is about so much more than the sources analyzed and papers written– it is about sharing what we learn with others in hopes of creating an atmosphere of inquiry, debate, and ultimately, understanding.




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Sven Beckert’s “Empire of Cotton”: A Conversation

1922 Alexandria docks

Dockworkers load cotton in the port of Alexandria, Egypt, 1921

Faculty and students in the History Department are getting extremely excited about the upcoming November 5 event to launch the O’Connell Initiative in the Global History of Capitalism. The event, which  will feature a talk by Harvard University’s Sven Beckert on “Tracking the Global History of Capitalism,” is particularly exciting for the faculty who have read and been inspired by Beckert’s  award-winning 2014 book Empire of Cotton: A Global History. We asked two members of our faculty, David Hamlin and Christopher Dietrich, to sit down and share their thoughts on the book. Their conversation is transcribed below, and it represents both a wonderful entry point into the book’s larger themes and a meditation on the value of studying capitalism from a global perspective. Continue reading

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Historians Recognized at Graduate School Awards Ceremony

Annual Awards booklet

Graduate students in the History Department collected over a dozen awards at this year’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Awards Ceremony. There was a great turnout as historians came to be recognized and to join in the well-earned celebration.


(l-r) Salvatore Cipriano, Jr., Stephen Leccese, Brandon Gauthier, Louisa Foroughi, Jeffrey Doolittle, Christine Kelly, Alisa Beer, Louie Valencia-Garcia, Tobias Hrynick


The full list of students receiving awards in 2015

Melissa Arredia, Senior Teaching Fellowship

Edoardo Marcello Barsotti, GSAS Summer Fellowship

Alisa Beer, Senior Teaching Fellowship

Salvatore Cipriano, Jr., Archival Research Assistantship, Research Support Grant, Professional Development Grant

Stephanie DePaola, Research Fellowship

Jeffrey Doolittle, Senior Teaching Fellowship

Louisa Foroughi, GSAS Summer Fellowship

Brandon Gauthier, Alumni Dissertation Fellowship

Tobias Hrynick, HASTAC Fellowship, Loomie Prize

Christine Kelly, American Studies Summer Institute Fellowship

Stephen Leccese, American Studies Summer Institute Fellowship

Christopher Rose, Paul A. Levack Award

Louie Valencia, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellow

Pedro Cameselle, Research Support Grant

Laurence Jurdem, Research Support Grant

Joseph Passaro, Research Support Grant

Alessandro Saluppo, Professional Development Grant



Congratulations, everyone!

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