Continuing our Summer Postcards series, PhD student Damien Strecker tells us about an interview he conducted as part of his research on the history of St. Augustine Church in the South Bronx with Creighton Berry, a former member of its congregation. Read Damien’s account of his illuminating trip below. Continue reading
Tag Archives: US History
Greetings from the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.! I am here doing research in the Robert Lansing and Charles Evan Hughes papers. Lansing was Secretary of State for Woodrow Wilson during the Paris negotiations for the peace treaty to World War I. In his papers, I am looking at the correspondence relating to the founding of the League of Nations and the ideas of sovereignty and self-determination for oppressed peoples in Central Europe and, to a lesser extent, the former Ottoman Empire. Hughes was Secretary of State from 1921 to 1925. In his papers, I am examining what was known as “The Mandates Controversy,” which was essentially a debate in the United States about the secret treaties between the British and French governments, both during and after the war, to divide up the rich oil-producing areas of the Middle East. How would the League of Nations monitor the “trustee powers” of Britain and France, as they ostensibly managed the Mandates of Mesopotamia and Syria for their own benefit? What would be the role of the United States, which had not joined the League of Nations but still maintained its right, as a participant in the Allied victory in the war, to representation in the Mandates? How would the trustee powers respond to American entreaties to open up their economies to American, in particular Standard Oil, investment? I am finding a lot of interesting information and, as a nice surprise, also found an old friend, who has just accepted a job at King’s College in London, in the Reading Room.
In the evenings, I am taking my 7-year-old son around the Capitol Hill area and giving him contemporary civic lessons. “Look, son, there’s Congress. That’s where petty lawmakers have tried to gut education spending and prevent major social welfare advances for our most disadvantaged citizens,” and that sort of thing. I hope everyone is having an equally fantastic summer!
This story is part of her forthcoming book from Harvard University Press, For Work and Family: A Real Feminist History of “Having it All”
Congratulations to Laurence Jurdem, who received his PhD in History at Fordham, for publishing an article in the National Review.
This year, in conjunction with the department’s O’Connell Initiative, the History Department awarded a $250 O’Connell Research Award for the most original graduate student research on the history of global capitalism. This year’s winner was MA student Grace Healy, who won for her final research paper entitled “Swamp or Climax Region? Congressional Perceptions of the Everglades, 1947-1989” We asked Grace for details of her research, and she reports:
My project focused on the Everglades in South Florida, specifically the way in which members of Congress have thought about that landscape over the course of the second half of the twentieth century. As the people who mark the boundaries of land that will be preserved, I believe that congressmen’s perceptions of land, ecosystems, and the environment in general are an important aspect of conservation history.
I became interested in the Everglades because I enjoy analyzing the contradictory (or balanced, based on your perspective) way that Americans have managed land. For example, large portions of the Everglades are being protected because of its distinct environment. At the same time, however, vast tracts of the Everglades have been altered and manipulated for commercial reasons. I think that attempting to understand why certain types of landscapes are managed in these divergent forms is not only important to a historical understanding of the United States but also relevant to the environmental movement going forward.Professor Stoll was an excellent mentor throughout this project. At times he pushed me to think more critically about certain aspects, at other times he knew exactly what text I should read to gain more insight. I think he was most helpful when I was I was still developing my ideas. It can be really difficult to find the right project that can be completed in about a semester and half. Professor Stoll really helped me tailor my ideas so I could deeply investigate this one important aspect of the Everglades.
“Created by the Department of History to identify particularly impressive history majors and offer them an intensive introduction to research and writing history papers,” the History Department’s Mannion Society invites students to join in their sophomore or junior year. By their senior year, therefore, Mannion Society members have had extensive training and supervision assisting them with their final projects. We reached out to graduating members of the Society to ask them about their projects. Here’s what they said:
My project explored the ramifications of the introduction of the Stinger missile by the United States government to the mujahidin during the Soviet-Afghan War. During the war, the United States ran the largest covert operation in history, supplying the mujahidin with weapons with which to fight the Soviets. I argue that the introduction of the Stinger missile was the turning point in the war, as it had a great impact militarily, psychologically, and diplomatically. The Stinger allowed the mujahidin to effectively counter Soviet aerial attacks, punctured the Soviet aura of invincibility, and, most importantly, ended American plausible deniability. The Stinger proved American involvement in the war, which could have provoked an extreme Soviet response. The Stinger missile changed the course of the war, and marked a departure from conventional Cold War tactics regarding plausible deniability.
My research seeks to understand how the AFL-CIO’s power in Congress diminished during the Nixon administration. I explore this question by examining the differences between the union’s successful lobbying campaign against the Supreme Court nominations of Clement Haynsworth and G. Harrold Carswell Court in 1969 and 1970 and the organization’s failure to block the nomination of William Rehnquist in 1971. I contend that the Rehnquist proceedings reflect larger social changes that split the AFL-CIO from its allies and discredited the organization’s testimony against Rehnquist. While the AFL-CIO criticized the conservative stances of Haynsworth, Carswell, and Rehnquist on civil rights, its opposition to the Philadelphia Plan and its failure to address affiliates’ discriminatory practices undermined the AFL-CIO’s relationship with the NAACP. Further, the apparent contradiction between the organization’s avowed stances and its own pervasive discrimination opened the organization’s testimony to criticisms, which the union could not deflect without NAACP support. In addition, the law and order issue, largely absent in the Haynsworth and Carswell hearings, predominated the Rehnquist proceedings. The AFL-CIO condemned Rehnquist’s conservative stances on such civil liberties issues as wiretapping and the right to protest. However, the union’s arguments seemed to contradict the average worker’s growing concerns about crime, particularly as Nixon deliberately tied the issue with the rise of the New Left to divide the working class from the Democrats. Meanwhile, as radical antiwar elements gained influence in the Democratic Party, the AFL-CIO chose to abandon the party rather than promote compromise reforms. AFL-CIO leaders thus became more closely tied to the Nixon administration and offered their full-fledged support for the president’s decision to invade Cambodia. During the Rehnquist proceedings, then, former allies such as Americans for Democratic Action lost credibility by adopting unpopular stances regarding civil liberties issues, while the AFL-CIO’s condemnation of Rehnquist’s law and order views and his support for expanded executive power were, like its civil rights testimony, dismissed as illegitimate.
“The Golden Apple: Pietro Andrea Mattioli’s Influence on the Usage of the Tomato in Renaissance Italy,” tells the story of the Sienese herbalist and physician, Pietro Andrea Mattioli. In 1544, Mattoli published his seminal work, I discorsi. This groundbreaking herbal included the first description of the tomato in European literature. Its subsequent editions (the 1554 updated edition in particular) included the first European name for the tomato, pomi d’oro, and a detailed illustration of the plant, which reflected its increased cultivated in the Italian peninsula in the decade between the initial publication and the updated edition. Mistakenly believed to be a relation of the controversial mandrake, the tomato was generally condemned or ignored by Europeans. An extended research project for the Mannion Society, this research demonstrates the mutability of culture and the invaluableness of Mattioli’s writing; it was this audacious herbalist who, against convention, encouraged the usage of the tomato as a culinary ingredient. As a result of Mattioli’s influence, European herbalists, botanists, and physicians from John Gerard to Rembert Dodoens echoed Mattioli’s observations that would dominate herbal literature in almost every major European language for centuries. As a result, the tomato’s association with Italians overshadowed the tomato’s true colonial origins, cementing the tomato’s exalted position in the Mediterranean diet and Italian cuisine.
Steven Stoll became a member of the Fordham History Department in 2008. His classes and research focus on the history of capitalism and environmental history and more specifically how these two topics intersect. Stoll’s work is extremely relevant today as politicians and scientists debate climate change; activists and industry clash over fracking; California struggles through drought; and farmers raise ethical concerns about GMOs. But what is environmental history? For Stoll, environmental history is the story of how humans have changed the planet, how societies have lived well (or not so well) with the environment, and how different societies at different points in time have thought about ‘nature’. He explained that people’s ideas about the Earth and the environment have changed drastically over the last 400 years. Stoll said, “Students, and a lot of other people, look at New York City and how we live today—the kinds of houses we live in, the kinds of energies and conveniences we have—and though they know it hasn’t always been this way, they assume that all of this is normal, that things are supposed to be this way.. I try to show them that our way of life has existed for an astonishingly short period of time. To me, the most exciting use of history is to take ideas that people think are universal or derived from ‘nature’ and reveal their recent origins.”
Professor Stoll questions the notion of progress, his views are in direct opposition to what most of his students and readers learned growing-up in Western society. Walt Disney World’s Carousel of Progress celebrates progress without any critical examination and perpetuates the idea that each new technological advancement is an inevitable improvement to society. However, Stoll argues that there is no “spirit of progress embedded in human history” driving technological change. He explains that technological progress “occurs for very specific reasons, but always because someone invents something that fulfills a social goal.” What constitutes progress depends on who benefits from technological change, he says. Stoll encourages his students and readers to step outside of their lives and experiences to critically examine the world.
He laughed good naturedly while saying, “My courses are about how everything we know comes out of the past, just like any other historian.” His course on North American environmental history is not just abstract topics (like the nature of progress) but covers people, inventions, and events like the Erie Canal, the construction of American railroads, the fate of the passenger pigeon, the Ice-Age migration of American-Indians, and the history of industrialization. He explores the interaction between capitalism and the environment in his two books The Fruits of Natural Advantage: Making the Industrial Countryside in California and Larding the Lean Earth: Soil and Society in Nineteenth- Century America.
Stoll is currently working on his fifth book, which focuses geographically on the Appalachian Mountains. “At first, I didn’t really know what I wanted to say about it, honestly. It’s a big and complicated place. But I knew I wanted write about how the people who lived in the mountains lost their land, how mountain people who lived in log cabins became coal miners, not necessarily by choice, but how the industry and the state transformed their environment and forced them into wage work as the only way to make a living.” In his book on Appalachia, Stoll examines how ‘mountain people’ lived independently with their own system and means of survival and the factors led to the destruction of this way of life. He also explores aspects of mountain society itself, like population growth and environmental erosion, and also how society changed when “capital came into the mountains.” The book covers Appalachia between the Whiskey Rebellion and the Great Depression.
Long after speaking with Dr. Stoll my brain was stuck on the slice of avocado I had with my lunch. Who grew this avocado? Who owned the land it was grown on? Who, if anyone, owned the genetic code in the seeds? Who picked and packaged this fruit? What are the conditions under which they work? If it was a California avocado, how much water did it take to grow this fruit? Who has the ‘right’ to water during a shortage,? It was just an avocado, which I had eaten so many times before but now it was so much more than that.
If you’re interested in Steven Stoll’s work you can read his article “No Man’s Land” published online in the Orion Magazine, as well as his two books The Fruits of Natural Advantage: Making the Industrial Country Side in California and Larding the Lean Earth: Soil and Society in Nineteenth-Century America. And, of course, be on the look-out for his upcoming monograph on Appalachia.
The Fordham History Department is proud to announce the History Colloquium Conference for 2016. The conference takes place this Thursday morning in Flom Auditorium on the lower floor of the Walsh Library. Once again, our students will present on a diverse range of topics using a variety of approaches and sources material. Click on paper titles to find abstracts of these presentations.
Session I: Recovering Lost Lives from the Archives (10:00-10:40)
Amanda Haney, “Thomas Boleyn, A Man of Power in his Own Right”(Abstract)
Damien Strecker, “Edler Hawkins and the Formation of St. Augustine (Abstract)
Session II: Conflict, Identity, and Society (10:40-12:00)
Sajia Hanif, “The Marketplace of Death: the Crusade of Varna 1444” (Abstract)
Robert Effinger, “’Pursue One Great Decisive Aim with Force and Determination’: Prussian and Russian State, Economic and Military Reform, 1806-1815″ (Abstract )
Jason McDonald, “Japanese Teeth and Skulls in American Newspapers, 1884-2012” (Abstract)
Giulia Crisanti, “‘Balkanism’ and ‘Balkanization’ in Western Media During the Yugoslav War of the 1990s” (Abstract)
Session III: Culture and Politics in the 20th Century US (12:15-1:15)
Nicole Siegel, “Cantors On Trial: The Jazz Singer, Its Responses, and the American Jewish Experience 1927-1937″ (Abstract)
Grace Healy, “Swamp or Climax Region? Congressional Perceptions of the Everglades, 1947-1989” (Abstract)
Michael McKenna, “Heads We Win, Tails You Lose: Television and the Rise of the New Right, 1964-1976” (Abstract)
Lunch will be served for all participants and their guests at 1:15 in the History Department
Every year, Fordham graduate students head to the archives to pursue their research projects. We wrote to Stephanie De Paola, holder of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Research Fellowship, for an update on her work in both Italian and American archives for her dissertation, An Intimate Occupation: Race, Gender, and Sexual Violence in Occupied Italy and Post 1945 Memory. Read on for Stephanie’s postcard from the archives.