Postcard from Rachel Podd, Digging Up Medieval Bones in Poland

The History Department received this great postcard from PhD student Rachel Podd, who spent part of the summer at archaeology field school. Here’s what she had to say:

Note: For ethical and legal reasons, I cannot post photographs of the human remains excavated during this summer. Accordingly, the photographs within this blog post are from the Giecz website.

Skull with a coin between its teeth.

Over the course of three weeks in July, due in part to generous grants from Fordham, I was able to take part in an archaeological dig and field school run by Ohio State University in Giecz (pronounced “Getch”), Poland. Though modern Giecz is quite small, with a population of around 150 people and an hour walk to the nearest train station, it was once a center of profound political importance to the Piast dynasty, the first historical dynasty of Poland. In 966, Prince Mieszko I was baptized as a Christian, possibly at Ostrów Lednicki, and accordingly, the Piast stronghold at Giecz, which was likely constructed during the eighth century was expanded to include a chapel, though construction was never completed.

Ostrow Lednicki, the chapel where Prince Mieszko I was baptized

Excavations of the stronghold at Giecz began over ten years ago, uncovering over 300 human inhumations. The burials also included a variety of grave goods, namely silver beads, swords, bone combs, and coins. Beginning in 2014, however, the excavation of a second cemetery about a five minute walk from the stronghold, in what is today a corn field, began – the burials are likely that of a small village which supported the Piast stronghold, dating from roughly the year 1000 CE. Over the course of two years, 29 adults and 26 juveniles, 22 of which were under six years old, were uncovered. Over three weeks this July, we uncovered seven more burials, four of which were juveniles.

The site of Rachel’s dig.


The school where Rachel and the other archaeologists stayed.

Field school was both incredibly rewarding and tough – luxury was hard to come by, as we slept on air mattresses in the unused middle school in Giecz. Each day began at 6:00 AM with breakfast. Afterwards, a small group would remain behind to wash artifacts and bones, while the rest would head out to the field. Excavation continued until 4:00, when the main meal of the day would be served, and then lecture until 7:00, with quizzes twice a week. Topics included identifying bone fragments and determining side, as well as sexing and aging skeletons and paleopathology (that is, determining disease from skeletal remains).

Ultimately, the bones of medieval people offer us one of the most comprehensive methods for understanding the lives of the so-called medieval 99%. In a world where literacy was restricted to the elite, and the survival of written records spotty, particularly in a country like Poland which was heavily and repeatedly damaged by foreign incursions, the bodily remains of medieval men, women and children offer us a method of ingress into life cycle, burial practice, occupation and health.

Some pottery recovered from a midden near the site.

Thanks so much Rachel!

If you are interested in further information on medieval osteology in general, and the excavations in Giecz in particular, please see the works and links below: [this is the main website for the Giecz field school, and has more pictures and information]

Mays, Simon. The Archaeology of Human Bones, 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2010.

Kowaleski, Maryanne. “Medieval People in Town and Country: New Perspectives from Demography and Bioarchaeology.” Speculum 89, no. 3 (2014): 573-600.

Fleming, Robin. Britain after Rome: The Fall and Rise 400-1070. New York: Penguin Global, 2010.


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History Major Katherine DeFonzo on Her Internship at the Smithsonian

History major Katherine DeFonzo in the Archives Center at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC.

Earlier this summer, History major Katherine DeFonzo reached out to faculty member Christopher Dietrich about the work she was doing at her internship at the Archives Center at the American Museum of National History (a part of the Smithsonian Institution). Katherine wrote:

I just wanted to share with you a project that I’ve gotten to work on during this first week of my internship at the Smithsonian. I remember watching a scene from All in the Family during your class, and the museum recently received many boxes from the collection of Jean Stapleton, who played Edith Bunker on the show. My fellow interns and I have spent much of this week organizing and cataloging them! It has been very exciting: in the collection we found her programs from the Emmy Awards, many newspaper clippings about her performances, and some letters written between her and other famous individuals, including Bill Clinton! It has been interesting to see how her roles reflected the changes that took place in the US during her lifetime.
We wrote back to Katherine to find out more about her internship and her experience this summer working as a Reference Intern at the Archives Center. She told us a bit about how she got the position, the work she’s been doing, and how it relates to her work at Fordham.
As a History major, I am considering pursuing a career working in a museum or archive. Hoping to gain experience in this area, I applied to several internships at various Smithsonian organizations through the Smithsonian Internship online Portal, including the Museum of American History Internship Pool. Mr. Joe Hursey, a reference archivist in the Archives Center at the Museum, reached out to me. I was offered a position as a reference intern.


I work 9-4 each day from Monday through Friday. During the hour before the Archives reading room opens, it is part of my job to tidy up the reading room for the day and re-shelve document boxes that were used the previous day. Each day, I have a two or three hour shift helping to staff the reference desk. When researchers come into the reading room, it is my responsibility and that of my fellow interns to pull and bring out the boxes that they have requested. I have also occasionally been tasked with responding to phone or e-mail questions from researchers. When not working on the desk, I work on processing and assisting with the upkeep of various collections. This has involved alphabetizing and sorting by date collection materials; copying newspaper articles from those collections; and sometimes rehousing photographs and slides from the collections. My fellow interns and I were also tasked with helping to come up with the series and subseries titles that would be used to organize some new collection materials. As part of my internship, my fellow interns and I also got to hear some curators in the museum share their experiences with us, and we were able to visit other historical institutions throughout Washington D.C. such as the Library of Congress Manuscript Division and the Archives of American Art.


As a student in the Honors Program who almost always has at least one book checked out of the Fordham Library, I am glad that this internship gave me the opportunity to better understand the extensive knowledge that librarians and reference archivists must have in order to serve the students and researchers who come to them for assistance. I have always believed that preserving and making accessible primary source documents is essential to the preservation of history, and I am grateful that this internship allowed me to see some of the ways in which that is done. While none of my Fordham classes have involved a hands-on component that could have prepared me for the actual processing work that this internship has required, the extensive amount of writing that I have done as an Honors Program student has prepared me to write the blog post that I have about the Jean Stapleton Papers, which I hope will be published. I hope that I will be able to utilize some of the research skills that I have improved over the course of this summer as I begin to complete research for my Honors Thesis.
Thanks so much for the update, Katherine. The History Department is proud to have one of its own helping out at at such an important repository of American history and culture.

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Hamlin on the Building of Germany’s “Empire in the East”

Big news from Fordham History’s Professor David Hamlin!  On 13 July, Cambridge University Press published  Germany’s Empire in the East; Germans and Romania in an Era of Globalization and Total War. Where many studies of European empire in the twentieth century focus on imperial projects in the global south, Professor Hamlin’s book demonstrates the place of central and eastern Europe in that story and the important role of economic forces played in shaping global empires. The book tells how the Germans, when “confronted with the global economic and political power of the western allies…  turned to Eastern Europe to construct a dependent space, tied to Germany as Central America was to the US.” We reached out to Hamlin for some comments on the process and how the ideas for the book emerged.

The book was many years in the making; in part because it changed as I researched and wrote it.  Initially, I was expecting to explore how Germany transformed Romania into a dependency well before the First World War; it would be a story emphasizing continuity.  Instead, I found myself crafting a story of the impact of the First World War on German policy; it became a story of discontinuity.  Rather than a story narrowly about the longue durée of German imperial ambitions, it became an examination of how the disruption of commercial, financial, and legal links during the war reshaped how Germans viewed the international economy, and thus their links to their neighbors.  From that emerged a German variant of western imperialism, one that was a response to the conscious restructuring of global markets during the war.

The model of the modern research university assumes that a Professor’s research will shape and inform what he or she teaches.  That certainly was true for me.  I have gradually assigned greater weight to the First World War in my course on the Third Reich (Hitler’s Germany) as well as reshaping how I discuss Hitler’s dream of Lebensraum.  In my courses on European diplomatic history, I have added discussions of competing ideas of political and legal order and tried to link more clearly the experience of the First World War to the international goals of the Nazi Party.  I also try to link the British experience of economic warfare and the significance of global economic mobilization in the First World War to Neville Chamberlain’s policies in the late 1930s.

Congratulations Professor Hamlin, we look forward to seeing where your research will take you next.

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Wabuda Sheds New Light on the Dynamic Archbishop Thomas Cranmer

 This week sees the publication of Professor Susan Wabuda‘s new study of the life and career of the archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556). Professor Wabuda was interviewed by the book’s publisher Routledge and you can read that interview on their website. We took the opportunity to ask Professor Wabuda some questions of our own about how the new book relates to her earlier research and the ways that it intersects with her teaching and other projects at Fordham.
The story of the book:

Wabuda told us that toward the end of 2010, the British publisher Routledge approached her to write a new biography of Thomas Cranmer, the sixty-eighth archbishop of Canterbury, for the Routledge Historical Biographies series.  A that point, she was already deep in a draft of another book, a new study of Cranmer‘s Cambridge colleague Hugh Latimer, but Routledge’s invitation made her realize that it was possible to let each project inform the other.

Thomas Cranmer  is meant to be an engaging and highly readable account of the archbishop’s life.  Although he is a familiar figure in Tudor history,  in her research Wabuda was able to discover aspects of his career that now can
be known for the very first time. In particular, she was fascinated by the earliest expression of evangelical reforms at the University of Cambridge in the sixteenth century, which she was able to refer to briefly in Thomas Cranmer.  The next book will explore in detail the leading role Latimer had in the Reformation in England.

Susan Wabuda (photographed by Susan Bolognino).

How the book relates to teaching and other projects at Fordham:

October 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the release of Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses, one of the great watersheds in the history of the West. Wabuda looks forward to the graduate class she will teach this fall (2017) on Luther and the Reformation. This graduate class will doubtless be fascinating, but Wabuda also offers regular undergraduate classes on Tudor and Stuart England, the Renaissance, and the English Reformation.

She reports that:

It is exciting to lead class discussions on Henry VIII’s many marriages and the political and diplomatic problems that England and western Europe faced in the early modern period.  Wonderful guest speakers come to my classes,  most frequently Arthur L. Schwarz of New York’s Grolier Club, who speaks on rare books of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.   A number of international scholars have delivered  the St. Robert Southwell, S.J.  Lecture at Fordham University, which I administer. Our speakers have included Susan Brigden (University of Oxford), Peter Marshall (University of Warwick),  Andrew Pettegree (St Andrew’s), Miri Rubin (Queen Mary University of London), and  Bill Sherman (the new director of the Warburg Institute in London).
Exciting indeed. Congratulations Professor Wabuda!

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Grad Student Publications, A Summer Series: Pt. 4 Jeff Doolittle

Jeff Doolittle

Students in Fordham’s MA and PhD programs produce original research of the highest quality, and are encouraged to publish this work when and where it is appropriate during their time in the program. The academic year 2016-2017 saw the appearance of articles by a number of our students in different peer-reviewed volumes and journals. We asked our students who published their work to tell us a little bit about the articles and the writing process and we’ll feature these students and their publications in a short blog series.

This week we report on an article published this past year by History PhD student Jeffrey Doolittle. We recently heard about Jeff Doolittle’s adventures in the archives at the abbey of Montecassino in Italy, where he has been researching medical manuscripts on the earlier middle ages. His article, however, tackles a very different question in a much later period. Entitled “Charlemagne in Girona: Liturgy, Legend and the Memory of Siege” it addresses a liturgy composed for the emperor Charlemagne that was written in a fourteenth-century manuscript. The article was published in The Charlemagne Legend in Medieval Latin Texts, ed. William J. Purkis and Matthew Gabriele, pp. 115-47. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2016.

Jeff wrote to us to describe the process of writing and revising the article:

This article has certainly changed a lot since it began as a seminar paper in Dr. Nicholas Paul’s graduate course on the crusades some six long years ago! In its published form, part of an edited volume by William Purkis and Matthew Gabriele on the Latin legends of Charlemagne, my article provides a brief overview of the cult of St. Charlemagne in Girona, Spain, which was celebrated in the cathedral of the city from the middle of the fourteenth century up until its suppression in the late fifteenth century. Central to Girona’s unique liturgical office was a narrative of Charlemagne’s role as a liberator of the city from the Muslims in the context of a dramatic siege, ultimately aided by the miraculous intercession of Mary. To make matters more interesting, there were no indications from other sources that Charlemagne himself had ever stepped foot in Girona nor had directed any attack against the city; the tradition seems to have been a later medieval development. I focus on the narrative of siege in the article, and argue that the fourteenth-century liturgy’s emphasis on Charlemagne’s imaginary siege of Girona and his triumph should be read against the much more recent and traumatic siege, also at the hands of a French crusading king from the north during the Crusade against Aragon (1284-5), where Girona was also the victim. This project has taken a long journey as it has transformed with Dr. Paul’s help from an inchoate seminar paper to a more focused conference paper given at the International Medieval Conference at a session organized by Drs. Purkis and Gabriele, and finally to a published contribution in their volume. Above all, I am grateful for the guidance and constructive comments at each juncture from many people, all of which helped effect this transformation.

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Grad Student Publications, A Summer Series: Pt. 3 Louisa Foroughi

Students in Fordham’s MA and PhD programs produce original research of the highest quality, and are encouraged to publish this work when and where it is appropriate during their time in the program. The academic year 2016-2017 saw the appearance of articles by a number of our students in different peer-reviewed volumes and journals. We asked our students who published their work to tell us a little bit about the articles and the writing process and we’ll feature these students and their publications in a short blog series.

Doctoral candidate Louisa Foroughi

This week we highlight the work of Louisa Foroughi, a PhD candidate mentored by Dr. Maryanne Kowaleski. Louisa recently published a book chapter entitled “‘If yt be a nacion’: Vernacular Scripture and English Nationhood in Columbia University Library, Plimpton MS 259.” The chapter was published in the collection Europe After Wyclif, edited by  J. Patrick Hornbeck II and Michael van Dussen (New York: Fordham University Press, 2017), pp. 265-287. .

Louisa’s work puts two heretical tracts from fifteenth-century England into their social and religious context. These two tracts were likely written as part of a series of debates over bible translation that took place at Oxford in the late fourteenth century, sparked by the reformer John Wyclif. His ideas and the English bible produced by his followers were both condemned as heretical by Archbishop Arundel in 1407, but, as Louisa’s work shows, interest in and desire for an English bible continued through the end of the fifteenth century.

The story of how Louisa came to write this piece is a tale of true interdisciplinarity, and it underscores the dynamic nature of medieval studies at Fordham. Louisa found these tracts, one of them previously unknown to scholars, during a manuscript studies class led by Dr. Susanne Hafner that she took in the first semester of her master’s degree at Fordham’s Center for Medieval Studies. She subsequently presented a talk about the tracts at a conference organized at Fordham by J. Patrick Hornbeck II of Fordham’s Department of Theology and Michael van Dussen of McGill University, and her work was published in the peer-reviewed edited collection of papers that developed out of that conference. Louisa’s archival research on the owners of the tracts during summer 2014 led her to develop a dissertation project that explores the tastes and self-construction of yeomen in late medieval England, a project that has been generously funded by Fordham’s History Department and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Congrats, Louisa! We look forward to reading about more exciting discoveries from the archives.

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Grad Student Publications, A Summer Series: Pt 2: Elizabeth Kuhl

Students in Fordham’s MA and PhD programs produce original research of the highest quality, and are encouraged to publish this work when and where it is appropriate during their time in the program. The academic year 2016-2017 saw the appearance of articles by a number of our students in different peer-reviewed volumes and journals. We asked our students who published their work to tell us a little bit about the articles and the writing process and we’ll feature these students and their publications in a short blog series.

This week we feature the work of Elizabeth Kuhl. Elizabeth is a medievalist in the final stages of her PhD at Fordham. Publishing is nothing new for Elizabeth: the first fruits of her dissertation were published in the Journal of Medieval History in 2014. She recently published her second article: a contribution to the volume A Companion to the Abbey of Le Bec in the Central Middle Ages (11th-13th Centuries), edited by Benjamin Pohl and Laura Gathagan. We reached out to Elizabeth to ask her a bit about the article and how it relates to the work she’s done for her dissertation.

My article focuses on education at the monastery of Bec in the central Middle Ages. Evidence for how schooling worked in this period is limited, so I used books the monks produced to get at their topics and methods of study. The monks combined excerpts from classical texts on the trivium with patristics and with their own works in many genres. It seems that creating this kind of personal florilegium was a common part of intellectual life at Bec. The books show that the monks were in touch with methods of education at the nascent universities, but that they also had their own emphasis on integrating literary and logical skill into a total way of life centered around study and prayer. While doing archival research for my dissertation, I looked at as many surviving manuscripts from Bec as possible, and noticed that a number of them shared these characteristics; my preliminary conference paper on the manuscripts eventually turned into this chapter.

Thanks Elizabeth, and keep up the great work!

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Postcard from the Archives: Jeffrey Doolittle

We received a postcard from PhD student Jeffrey Doolittle updating us on his year as a Fordham University GSAS Research Fellow:

A medievalist at work: Jeff’s workplace in the reading room at the abbey of Montecassino

Throughout this past spring, I have been happily ensconced in Italy conducting research for my dissertation. I am currently exploring the medical culture of the Benedictine abbey of Montecassino in the ninth-century through a study of one of its products, Archivio dell’Abbazia, Codex 69, a project that requires an extensive codicological and paleographical analysis of a small corpus of manuscripts written in the Beneventan script. Thanks to a GSAS Research Fellowship, I was able to visit a number of archives in Northern Europe last fall; this spring and summer, I spent most of my time in Cassino researching at the Archivio dell’Abbazia of Montecassino under the patient guidance of the archivist, Don Mariano Dell’Omo. St. Benedict’s famous monastery, of course, is located at the top of a mountain, and the archive is also only open in the morning when buses do not run. So I woke up especially early and hiked up every day, a trip that ordinarily took about 1.5 hours. Fortunately, and in the spirit of Benedictine moderation, I did not have to walk both ways; there was a bus to come back down.

The “Chiostro del Bramante”- one of the two cloisters of the abbey of Montecassino

When not at the Archive, I was able to make use of the resources of the “Laboratorio per lo studio del libro antico” at Università degli Studi di Cassino e del Lazio Meridionale and its incredible digital library of medieval manuscripts, and I remain especially thankful for the expertise and kind assistance of the curators of the laboratory, Drs. Lidia Buono, Eugenia Russo and Stella Migliorino. Using Cassino as a base, I have also been able to visit the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (Florence), the Biblioteca Casanatense (Rome), the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City) and the Biblioteca Nazionale in Naples.

Since July 1, I have moved on to the United Kingdom where I will deliver a paper at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds. I will also visit a few additional archives in the UK and Ireland including the Hunter Library in Glasgow, before returning home by the end of July.


Thanks for the postcard, Jeff. We look forward to seeing you when you’re back and hearing more about your research and archival discoveries.

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Oil Revolution: Congratulations to Professor Christopher Dietrich

Chris and his book at the Bronx Beer Hall

Big news this week as Cambridge University Press announces the publication of the new book Oil Revolution:Anticolonial Elites, Sovereign Rights, and the Economic Culture of Decolonization by Fordham History’s own Professor Christopher Dietrich. The eagerly awaited volume is the result of many years of scholarship by Dietrich. Emerging from his doctoral work at the University of Texas at Austin, Dietrich’s book tackles a topic of major significance, not only for the history of twentieth-century US foreign relations, but to the shape of the world today:

According to the website of Cambridge University Press:

Through innovative and expansive research, Oil Revolution analyzes the tensions faced and networks created by anti-colonial oil elites during the age of decolonization following World War II. This new community of elites stretched across Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Algeria, and Libya. First through their western educations and then in the United Nations, the Arab League, and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, these elites transformed the global oil industry. Their transnational work began in the early 1950s and culminated in the 1973–4 energy crisis and in the 1974 declaration of a New International Economic Order in the United Nations. Christopher R. W. Dietrich examines how these elites brokered and balanced their ambitions via access to oil, the most important natural resource of the modern era.

The History Department remembers fondly when leading scholars in Dietrich’s field, including  Mark Bradley of the University of Chicago, Monica Kim of NYU and Craig Daigle at City College joined Fordham’s own Asif Siddiqi and other faculty and students to workshop the book manuscript in the Spring semester of 2015. It was clear then that this was an exciting project, and the glowing series of endorsements from major figures in Dietrich’s field on the book’s back cover make it clear that he has brought the project to its full fruition. Congratulations Chris!

Oil Revolution: Anticolonial Elites, Soveriegn Rights, and the Economic Culture of Decolonization by Christopher Dietrich is currently available in paperback and hardback.





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Grad Student Publications, A Summer Series: Pt. 1 Stephen Leccese

PhD student Stephen Leccese, who recently published two journal articles.

Students in Fordham’s MA and PhD programs produce original research of the highest quality, and are encouraged to publish this work when and where it is appropriate during their time in the program. The academic year 2016-2017 saw the appearance of articles by a number of our students in different peer-reviewed volumes and journals. We asked our students who published their work to tell us a little bit about the articles and the writing process and we’ll feature these students and their publications in a short blog series.

First up is Stephen Leccese, an American historian in the PhD program working with Professor Christopher Dietrich. Leccese has achieved the remarkable feat of publishing two journal articles virtually simultaneously. He wrote to tell us about both:

“John D. Rockefeller, Standard Oil, and the Rise of Corporate Public Relations in Progressive America, 1902-1908,” Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 16.3 (July 2017): 245-63.

This article is a shortened version of my Master’s research paper, which Prof. Chris Dietrich advised. I became interested in progressivism in Prof. Dietrich’s American Political and Intellectual History since 1877 class, particularly on how the “robber barons” defended themselves against attacks from progressive muckrakers who exposed businessmen’s unethical practices. For a case study, it was natural to look at the Standard Oil Company, the most visible of the great trusts and the subject of muckraker Ida Tarbell’s classic The History of the Standard Oil Company. Since the Supreme Court successfully dissolved Standard Oil in 1911, historians have exclusively considered the company’s response to Ida Tarbell insufficient from a public relations perspective. Yet from what I saw, no historians had actually examined what the company did do. That was how I found my historiographical gap. I decided to go into the archives and tell the story of how Standard Oil and John D. Rockefeller attempted to recover their reputations with public statements, official histories, and some of the first professional PR agents in American history. When placed in historical context, this response was groundbreaking – the field of PR was in its infancy, so Standard Oil agents were largely making this up as they went along. Going further, I tied this small study to the Progressive Movement at large. In the Standard Oil case, progressives attacked a corporation, and that corporation defended itself by developing the PR field. This started a trend of other businesses following suit, and by the 1920s the modern public relations field was largely established. Therefore, I argue that the anti-business activities of the progressives inadvertently helped big business establish itself. The editor of the Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era liked this provocative argument about progressivism, and it definitely helped get this article published.


“Economic Inequality and the New School of American Economics,” Special Issue – Growing Apart: Religious Reflection on the Rise of Economic Inequality, Religions 8.6 (2017): 99-110.

This article began life as my first-year PhD research paper, where I examined how a new generation of American economists argued that consumer spending was key to economic growth, breaking from previous classical economics. After some revising, I presented the paper at the Growing Apart: The Implications of Economic Inequality Interdisciplinary Conference at Boston College in March, 2016. After the conference, the organizers contacted me and said that my paper was among a group that they would like to publish in a special issue of the journal Religions (the conference sponsor was the BC theology department, hence the journal choice). I accepted and expanded the paper into a peer-reviewed piece. In the article, I examine how the various crises of the late nineteenth century – namely economic depression and increasing labor unrest – showed a group of younger economists that economic inequality was harmful to the social fabric. They argued that greater equality would create a working class that had increased spending power, which would lead to economic growth and more stable class relations. My main sources were numerous economic publications and several archival collections that these economists left behind. After establishing this new theory of consumption, I trace how the New Economists tried to put their ideas into practice. Importantly, they formed the American Economic Association in 1885 with the intention of spreading their message among the economic community. I conclude briefly by showing that by the 1890s, the New Economists were influencing public policy by working with politicians – particularly, several directly advised Theodore Roosevelt, first when he was governor of New York and later when he was president. The overall claim is that mass consumption was an aspect of social reform, something that is typically not considered in histories of consumerism.


Thanks Stephen, and congratulations on your two articles!


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