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A Postcard from Argentina

What do historians do over spring break? Dr. Elizabeth Penry, Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies, traveled to Argentina for research and sent us this postcard from Buenos Aires.

With the support of a generous Faculty Research Grant from Fordham University, I have begun work on a new project on indigenous literacy practices in the colonial Andes (16th – 18th centuries). Over the spring break, I traveled to Buenos Aires to work in the Archivo General de la Nación. The geographic focus of my work is that region of the Andes that became the modern nation of Bolivia. Part of the Inca empire at the time of the Spanish invasion, it formed the southern region of the Viceroyalty of Peru for over 200 years until it was incorporated into the new Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata, headquartered in Buenos Aires, at the end of the 18th century.

A 1768 Complaint about Book Burning

Finding information about indigenous literacy is a little like hunting for a needle in a haystack; there isn’t any division in any colonial archive dedicated to the topic. But in addition to 250 years of detailed records of royal orders, the Argentine national archives are particularly rich with census and economic records for the region, and sometimes surprising information turns up. Orders coming from Spain demanded that schools be established in every indigenous town and that native Andeans should learn Spanish, but they rarely provided monetary support. However, I found tax records that list funds paid for indigenous village school teachers. Even more interesting is how many indigenous people were labeled ‘indios ladinos’ the term Spaniards used for natives who were fluent in Spanish language and culture. Indios ladinos were identified as town criers, translators, church sacristans, and frequently were responsible for writing legal petitions for their communities. In one unusual case that I found, an indio ladino accused a priest of being complicit in the burning of books. Although he claimed not know the titles of the destroyed books, this native Andean was horrified by the sight and filed a complaint with officials. All these small details will allow me to create a detailed composite picture of indigenous practices related to literacy in the colonial period.

A 1592 order for a new census following a measles epidemic

A 1611 Census Report

Besides archival work, I met with colleagues at the Universidad de Buenos Aires. The university has a very active program in Andean history and it was great to compare research notes with fellow scholars. Argentine colleagues made my research much easier by sharing their detailed knowledge, as well as catalog records of local archives. Of course, just being in Buenos Aires is wonderful. One of the wealthiest countries in the world at the turn of the 20th century, Argentina, like the US, is a nation of immigrants. In particular, large numbers of Italians (like the family of Pope Francis) came to Buenos Aires, influencing the cuisine and the language. After a day of archival research, it’s hard to choose between a parrillada (grilled meats) or ñoquis (gnocchis) prepared Roman style to go with un buen Malbec. One of the great joys of working on the colonial Andes is the opportunity to work in archives in many different countries, and to have colleagues literally around the globe.

Entrance to Archivo General de la Nación in Beunos Aires

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From History, To Business

An article recently published by the American Historical Association, titled “History at the Office: How a Business Analyst Uses Her History Degree”, shows the way in which the author, Stephanie Fulbright, used her degree in History to garner success outside of the world of academia. To read about the ways in which a degree in History can prepare one for the business world follow the link below:

History at the Office: How a Business Analyst Uses Her History Degree

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Studies show…

An article recently published in The Chronicle of Higher Education titled “Over Time, Humanities Grads Close the Pay Gap With Professional Peers” shows that those who study the humanities do well in the job market over time. To read about the employment strengths and career skills of those who study the humanities follow the link below:

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Faculty Fellowships 2018-19

Congratulations to the faculty members of the Fordham History Department that have won Faculty Fellowships for the 2018-19! Continue reading

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PhD Candidate Glauco Schettini wins ASMI Postgraduate Essay Prize

Congratulation to Glauco Schettini for receiving the Association for the Study of Modern Italy Postgraduate Essay Prize. The ASMI is a UK-based organization founded in 1982 by the Oxford historian Christopher Seton-Watson, and promotes research into Italian history, society, culture, and politics from the eighteenth to twenty-first century.

Glauco’s essay, “Building the Third Rome: The New District in Prati di Castello, 1870-1895,” examines the creation of a new neighborhood in Prati di Castello (the area surrounding the Vatican) after Rome’s annexation to the Kingdom of Italy in 1870. Continue reading

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Postcard from Italy

From left to right: Dr. Matt McGowan, Martin Nelson, and Bryan Whitchurch.

The History Department’s own blog contributor and MA student, Martin Nelson, spent the beginning of his summer helping the Fordham Classics Department guide a study tour that explored ancient Roman sites in Naples, Ostia, Herculaneum, Pompeii, and, of course, Rome. As part of the blog’s Postcard series, he had this to say about the experience… Continue reading

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Medieval Seminar Class Stages Successful Conference

On Friday, May 5 students of the Medieval Political Cultures Conference staged a successful half-day conference presenting the research conducted over the 2016-7 academic year. The students had organized the conference over the past weeks, putting together a program of four panels of papers that drew out common themes across their respective research projects. Each panel consisted of three papers, with ample time for questions at the end of each. They addressed a large audience of their peers from Fordham’s medieval graduate programs, Fordham faculty, distinguished visitors, and their friends and family. For pictures from the conference and commentary that was posted on social media, you can read the storify here or follow it below.

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History Day 2017

Join us tomorrow for History Day! 

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Tuesday, October 25: Nicholas Paul on Missing Men in the Age of the Crusades

Join us Tuesday, October 25 in Keating 1st Auditorium, where Fordham History faculty member Nicholas Paul will talk about the twin phenomena of death and disappearance at great distance in the age of the crusades. Dr. Paul’s research into missing crusaders stems from his 2012 book To Follow in their Footsteps: The Crusades and Family Memory in the High Middle Ages, which last year was awarded the John Nicholas Brown Prize by the Medieval Academy of America. Reflecting on the research that he did for the book, Dr. Paul will talk about the larger problem of death and disappearance, especially when soldiers are fighting at very great distances from their homelands, and the implications of these experiences for their own communities. Why do some societies, like United States in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, become consumed by a sense of loss and the urgency of recovery, and what technologies have evolved to combat war’s most insidious consequence: oblivion?

np-talk

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Listening to the History of Jackson Heights, America’s First Garden City

7565204288_c3bf5bd2dd_bOne of the greatest advantages to working as a historian in New York City is the vast archive that is the city itself: the people, the architecture, the social and cultural footprints that they leave behind. We recently reached out to Fordham History MA student Scott Brevda to learn about his oral history project concerning the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens. This is what he told us:

As part of my graduate work with the Fordham University History Department, I developed the Jackson Heights Oral History Project. As a third generation and lifelong resident of Jackson Heights, I had spent my life immersed in the residents’ stories of this area its history, and the history of its preservation. I set out on this project to memorialize, in their words, their stories and the history of this neighborhood.

The project had two primary focuses. The first centered on the historic character and associated preservation of Jackson Heights. Mainly built between the Two World Wars, the planned community of Jackson Heights had been constructed as a city within a city intended for those commuting to work in Manhattan. Designed and built under the tenets of the Garden Movement, Jackson Heights’s commercial and residential buildings where structured to emphasize light, air, and space – things often lacking in a city. The sunrooms, terraces, and interior & exterior gardens found in the historic residential area were included providing its residents a place to escape the sounds and smells of the city. Containing some of the first and most preserved examples of garden apartments in the United States, Jackson Heights– at the behest of its residents – was granted the status of Historic District by the City of New York in 1993. This status creates common standards for residential and commercial structures and prevents developments or alterations which deviate from those criteria.

The interviewees are comprised, generally, of two different groups: the first being community leaders known to be involved in preservation; the second, an eclectic mix of current and former neighborhood residents. What quickly became apparent, after the first few interviews, was that most residents belonging to the second group were not familiar with their neighborhood’s exceptional history. Those of the first group, like Gloria Daini and Daniel Karatzas, are those who were and are actively involved in the preservation of Jackson Heights and understood its history. However, based on the interviews, the average Jackson Heights resident does not understand the historic character of Jackson Heights in preservationist terms and concepts. Never the less, the interviewees not familiar with the aforesaid preservationist terms posses an instinctual or intuitive understanding of the area’s “character.” They denote the area as different, special, something worthy of protection even though they cannot precisely identify what that something is.

This project’s second focus was a more general one: to record the resident’s personal stories of and within Jackson Height. These detailed recollections of the neighborhood proved truly enchanting. Their vivid retrospectives and narratives from decades past quickly came to dominate the interviews. They were engaging and enthralling to the point of distraction; I found myself mesmerized more times than I would care to admit. One of the more memorable interviews was conducted jointly with Fred Anderes and Ann Agranoff, who have lived together in Jackson Heights for decades. Having raised their daughter in one of the Historic District’s garden apartment – which they still inhabit – they recounted the trouble mixing children with many of the building’s residents. This conflict reached its zenith in the use of the building’s private interior garden when the other residents would only allow children to be in the garden as long as they did not run on the grass (the garden is nearly all grass), yell, play sports, or other activities which hallmark childhood. Such disputes are as old as Jackson Heights itself; as the New York Times just recently highlighted in the article “Co-op Wars: Do You Dare Walk on the Grass?”

Another was conducted with Daniel Dromm, Councilman for the 25th District comprising Jackson Heights and surrounding neighborhoods. His first-hand insights into the politics and legal mechanisms of city government which enforces landmarks protections were insightful. Councilman Dromm was delightfully candid about the political realities of historic preservation in his district and the City at large. Furthermore, his experiences in finding both acceptance and a home in Jackson Heights and in its LGBT community underscores both the neighborhood’s exceptional diversity and the continuing debate over LGBT issues that has only become relevant in the past few decades and recently.

With over 20 interviews comprising native, non-native, and previous Jackson Heights residents, the interviews provide an intimate look at the historic preservation and individual histories of one of the most diverse and historic communities in New York. Each interview contains a different facet of life in the neighborhood from the recent arrivals to the long term residents. I am happy to announce that the Project is now viewable online. For those who are interested in listening to the interviews, they may be found at www.jacksonheightsoralhistory.org I hope, time permitting, to expand the project.

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