Category Archives: Publications

Prof. Magda Teter wrote “When Poverty Became Profane” in the April 29th issue of the New York Review of Books.

On April 29, 2021, Prof. Magda Teter published, “When Poverty Became Profane” in the April 29th issue of the New York Review Books. Below is an excerpt of Teter’s debut NYRB piece.

“The questions about poverty and charity we are facing now, in the middle of a major economic and public health crisis, are not new. They reflect our moral values as well as our social, legal, and political structures. (Tellingly, in the US, charitable giving is intertwined with tax codes.) To be sure, these values do change over time and vary across regions and cultures. In Judaism, tzedakah—roughly, charity—is a moral obligation, a mitzvah. (Although a mitzvah is also considered a good deed, in Hebrew it means a religious precept or commandment.) “Formal institutions for poor relief,” not just individual almsgiving, Kaplan writes, were already

“prescribed” in the Mishnah and the Tosefta—ancient Jewish texts from the second and third centuries CE. Zakat, or almsgiving, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

In Christianity, by contrast, charity is not a commandment or a pillar of religious practice, though Jesus’ teachings about poverty and wealth have played an important part in the development of Christian views on charity and on the role of the poor within society. In Christian medieval communities, for example, poverty was not considered shameful. Quite the opposite: poverty as a voluntary way of life was seen as a manifestation of piety, embodied most famously by Saint Francis of Assisi and the members of mendicant orders. In the seventh century Saint Eligius reportedly said, “God could have made all men rich, but He wanted there to be poor people in this world, that the rich might be able to redeem their sins.” The poor begging at church entrances were a common sight, offering the wealthy an opportunity to give alms. Even the word for “hospice” suggested an aura of holiness. In Paris, it was Hôtel-Dieu, and among Jews of Northern Europe it was called a hekdesh, related to the Hebrew root for “holy,” k-d-sh.

Then, Kaplan notes, echoing the historian Thomas Max Safley, “something happened to charity in early modern Europe.” In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, crop failures led many of the rural poor to move to cities. Frequent epidemics overwhelmed local hospices, and religious individuals and institutions alike were unable to provide adequate support to the sick and the poor. More formal solutions were needed, and almsgiving and poor relief became increasingly regulated. Now the poor were no longer seen as a means of redemption for the rich but as a public nuisance and a social burden, and perhaps as a vector of disease.

The cities began to define who was deserving and undeserving of aid. Public begging was increasingly banned, poverty was gradually criminalized, and residency was required to qualify for poor relief. In 1516, for example, Paris banished “vagabonds.””

You can follow Prof. Magda Teter on Twitter @MagdaTeter.

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Graduate Student Lisa Betty is Featured in the Fordham Ram, discussing Veganism, and White Supremacy.

Fordham University undergraduate Abby Delk wrote the featured piece. Delk writes in part: “Lisa Betty, a Ph.D. candidate and teaching fellow in Fordham’s history department, has put a great deal of time and energy into her research on modern health and wellness movements and their ties to colonialism and white supremacy. Much of her research focuses on critiquing the modern veganism movement for its inherent racism.”

You can find Lisa Betty’s full article in the Medium here.

You can follow Lisa Betty on Twitter @almostdrlisabetty

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Prof. Asif Siddiqi Creates a New Digital Archive Collection on Yuri Gagarin, the First Human to Travel Into Space on April 12, 1961.

Prof. Asif Siddiqi curated, selected, and annotated documents to comprise a new Digital Archival collection on Soviet cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, for the Wilson Center’s Cold War International History Project. The first human to travel into space, fifty years ago, on April 12, 1961. You can click this link to access more information.

Prof. Siddiqi writes: Collectively these 20 declassified documents provide an extraordinary peek into the preparations and implementation of the flight of Yuri Gagarin, the first Soviet cosmonaut, who flew into space in his Vostok spaceship on April 12, 1961.

The documents come from a variety of archives including the Archive of the President of the Russian Federation (APRF) and the archive of the Energiya Rocket-Space Corporation. Most of these have been published in collections of documents published in Russia including: V. A. Davydov, ed., Pervyy pilotiruyemyy polet: sbornik dokumentov v dvukh knigakh, kn. 1-ya (Moscow: Rodina MEDIA, 2011).

You can follow Prof. Asif Siddiqi on Twitter @historyasif

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Prof. Nana Osei-Opare’s article, “If “‘If You Trouble a Hungry Snake, You Will Force It to Bite You’: Rethinking Postcolonial African Archival Pessimism, Worker Discontent, and Petition Writing in Ghana, 1957-66,” is now out on via the Journal of African History.

Prof. Nana Osei-Opare’s article, “‘If You Trouble a Hungry Snake, You Will Force It to Bite You’: Rethinking Postcolonial African Archival Pessimism, Worker Discontent, and Petition Writing in Ghana, 1957-66,” is now available on the Journal of African History 62(1)(2021). Below is the article’s abstract:

My aim is twofold. Highlighting the value and importance of African archives in the construction of postcolonial African histories, I first reject what I call ‘postcolonial African archival pessimism’: the argument that postcolonial African archives are too disorganized or ill-kept to be of much, if any, value in configuring postcolonial African histories. Second, primarily through petition and complaint letters, I examine how Ghanaian workers protested racist and abusive workplace environments, government malfeasance, stagnating wages, and unfair dismissals in Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana. These archival gems illuminate how workers made claims to and performances of citizenship and reminded the state of their importance, politically and practically, to building the Ghanaian project. From Ghanaian and British archives, I seek to complement histories that highlight the centrality of African workers — through their letters and feet — in articulating the contradictions and aspirations of postcolonial African states.

You can follow him on Twitter @NanaOseiOpare

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Prof. Saul Cornell, the Paul and Diane Guenther Chair in American History, published “What today’s Second Amendment activists forget: The right to not bear arms” in The Washington Post.

On January 18, 2021, Prof. Saul Cornell, the Paul and Diane Guenther Chair in American History, published “What today’s Second Amendment activists forget: The right to not bear arms” in The Washington Post.

Prof. Saul Cornell
Prof. Saul Cornell

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Prof. Christopher Dietrich publishes “Erasing the Marks of Domination: Economic Sovereignty, Decolonization, and International Lawmaking in the 1950s and 1960s” in Journal of the History of International Law / Revue d’histoire du droit international.

Prof. Christopher Dietrich publishes “Erasing the Marks of Domination: Economic Sovereignty, Decolonization, and International Lawmaking in the 1950s and 1960s” in Journal of the History of International Law / Revue d’histoire du droit international.

Below is the abstract:

This article tells a legal and intellectual history of oil and decolonization in the 1950s and 1960s through the projects of international institutions including the UN Permanent Sovereignty Commission and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the work of anti-colonial lawyers Hasan Zakariya and Nicolas Sarkis. It examines the ideas and infrastructure of decolonization as they related to the question of how international law could be used to win economic sovereignty.

Christopher Dietrich
Christopher Dietrich

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Prof. Asif Siddiqi publishes “Whose India? SITE and the origins of satellite television in India” in History and Technology: An International Journal.

Prof. Asif Siddiqi publishes “Whose India? SITE and the origins of satellite television in India” in History and Technology: An International Journal.

Below is the abstract:

This essay explores the origins of the Satellite Instructional Technology Experiment (SITE), a project that used a NASA satellite to beam educational programs to over two thousand villages in India in the mid-1970s. Touted as a major success in using advanced technology for the purposes of poverty alleviation, the results of the project remain contested. I argue that the causes of its ambiguous outcome can be traced to the late 1960s when Indian and American scientific elites mobilized support for this project by uniting a coalition of diverse actors that each imagined a different ‘India’. Although each of these ‘Indias’ represented a starkly different vision of the nation, they were consonant for a brief historical moment, thus enabling SITE to come to reality. Their ability to do so depended on framing as monolithic and passive, the one population central to the project, the ‘poor and illiterate’ of India.

Asif Siddiqi
Asif Siddiqi

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Graduate Student William Tanner Smoot Publishes “Sacred Memory and the Formation of Monastic Identity and Friendship in Eadmer of Canterbury’s Vita S. Oswaldi” in Revue Bénédictine.

Graduate Student William Tanner Smoot published “Sacred Memory and the Formation of Monastic Identity and Friendship in Eadmer of Canterbury’s Vita S. Oswaldi,” in Revue Bénédictine, Vol. 130, Issue 2 (2020).

Below is the Abstract:

Between the years of 1113-1116, Prior Nicholas and the monks of St. Mary’s, Worcester, petitioned Eadmer of Canterbury to re-write the vita of their monastic founder St. Oswald. The years preceding this request were a period of hardship for the community of St. Mary’s, as the brethren coped with the burning of their church, the death of monastic elders, and the installation of a royal clerk as bishop of Worcester. In the face of such trials, the monks of Worcester turned to St. Oswald to justify their continued existence and consolidate their corporate identity. Yet, their decision to solicit Eadmer raises questions about the devotional function of the new Vita S. Oswaldi for the brethren of Worcester. While Eadmer modelled his text on Byrhtferth of Ramsey’s eleventh-century biography, he altered the nature of St. Oswald’s sanctity by subordinating the saint’s virtuous development to the leadership of the archbishops Oda and Dunstan of Canterbury. Eadmer incorporated St. Oswald into a new sacred hierarchy, whereby the saint’s virtuous life served to support Canterbury’s contemporary claims to English episcopal primacy. The monks of Worcester had maintained an amiable relationship with Canterbury since the Norman conquest, and Nicholas’s decision to commission Eadmer likewise reflects how the chapter of St. Mary’s perceived itself in relation to Canterbury. Nicholas and the monks of Worcester hoped to benefit from Canterbury’s predominance in the English Church, especially regarding the preservation of their corporate rights and influence in future episcopal elections. This article explores the reception of sacred history in the community of St. Mary’s, Worcester, and the manner in which the brethren used the memory of their corporate past to reaffirm their place, identity, and continuity as a monastic body. It further argues that the episcopal priories of Worcester and Canterbury maintained a historical support network, in which members of each community recast information about St. Oswald and England’s ecclesiastical past to reaffirm bonds of monastic friendship and share in sacred prestige.

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William Tanner Smoot

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Prof. Asif Siddiqi Publishes Book Review, “Transcending Gravity: The View from Postcolonial Dhaka to Colonies in Space,” in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

On October 12, 2020, Prof. Asif Siddiqi published, “Transcending Gravity: The View from Postcolonial Dhaka to Colonies in Space,” in The Los Angeles Review of Books.

Asif Siddiqi

You can follow Prof. Asif Siddiqi on Twitter @historyasif.

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Graduate Student Rachel Podd Publishes “Reconsidering maternal mortality in medieval England: aristocratic Englishwomen, c. 1236–1503” in Continuity and Change.

History graduate student Rachel Podd published her first essay, “Reconsidering maternal mortality in medieval England: aristocratic Englishwomen, c. 1236–1503,” in Continuity and Change.

Below is an abstract of the article:

“The characterisation of medieval childbirth as profoundly dangerous is both long-standing and poorly supported by quantitative data. This article, based on a database tracking the reproductive lives of 102 late medieval aristocratic Englishwomen, allows not only for an evaluation of this trope but also an analysis of risk factors, including maternal youth and short birth intervals. Supplemented with evidence from medieval medical tracts and osteoarchaeological data related to pubertal development and nutrition, this study demonstrates that reproduction was hardly the main driver of mortality among elite women.”

You can find the full paper here.

Rachel Podd

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