The West Virginia University Department of History published two books in 2010, eight in 2011 and have three more forthcoming in 2012. This impressive number of publications is representative of the department’s tradition of strong scholarship.
“The publication by both established and newer colleagues is a testament to the Department’s high level of scholarship, creativity and productivity,” said Elizabeth Fones-Wolf, department chair. “It is important to note that these books are being published by an array of major scholarly presses, including NYU, Cornell, Cambridge and Oxford.”
This type of scholarly work is conducive to Eberly College’s hopes for becoming a leader in West Virginia University’s emergence as one of the nation’s premier institutions of higher education— leading conversations and research in the humanities, social and natural sciences.
“The History Department’s faculty members have received national and international recognition for their work. It has benefitted from the hiring of a group of dynamic new faculty over the past several years,” Fones-Wolf said.
Brian Luskey authored, “On the Make: Clerks and the Quest for Capital in Nineteenth-Century America,” in which he examines the experiences of young male clerks working in commercial offices and stores in 19th-century American cities to illuminate at once the power of the ideology of self-making and the important contests over the meanings of respectability, manhood, and citizenship that helped to determine who clerks were and who they would become. Drawing from a rich array of archival materials, including clerks’ diaries, newspapers, credit reports, census data, advice literature, and fiction, Luskey argues that a better understanding of clerks and clerking helps make sense of a volatile capitalist economy and the fluid urban society it shaped in this pivotal era.
“Modern World History,” by Mark Tauger is an undergraduate world history textbook, the first one to be designed and written as a web-based text from the start. It is the work of a large team of historians, using an outline Tauger developed. It seeks to provide a more balanced approach to world history, with particular emphasis on the 20th century. It also takes full advantage of documents, videos, and other resources of the Internet.
Robert Maxon published two books this year. “Kenya’s Independence Constitution: Constitution-Making and End of Empire,” provides a detailed account of the evolution of the constitution that came into effect at the nation’s independence on Dec. 12, 1963. The book illuminates the process of constitution-making, specifically the battle over federalism as an appropriate system that occupied Kenya’s political leaders and the British Colonial Office during 1962 and 1963. The result was a semi-federal constitution that was altered soon after independence.
Maxon’s second book. “Britain and Kenya’s Constitutions, 1950-1960,” describes the process, which produced three constitutions for colonial Kenya: the Lyttleton Constitution of 1954, the Lennox-Boyd Constitution of 1957, and the Lancaster House Constitution of 1960. All were imposed by Britain and reflected the changing political, economic, and social conditions of a decade marked by the Mau Mau Rebellion and the failure of the British constitutional model known as multiracialism.
“Deconstructing the Cherokee Nation,” by Tyler Boulware, aims to fill the gap in Cherokee historical studies by addressing two significant aspects of Cherokee identity: town and region. Though other factors mattered, these were arguably the most recognizable markers by which Cherokee peoples structured group identity and influenced their interactions with outside groups during the colonial era. Boulware argues that local communities and geopolitical divisions structured society and only hesitatingly allowed for a national community to emerge. But a more clearly defined nation did emerge. By showing how village and regional affiliations shaped Cherokee life, this volume illuminates the nature of nationhood and Native self-definition. It focuses especially on the understudied importance of social and political ties that gradually connected villages and regions and slowly weakened the localism that dominated in earlier decades.
Kate Staples published her book “Daughters of London: Inheriting Opportunity in Late Medieval London.” In medieval Europe, women had multiple identities often tied to their marital or life-cycle status, yet all women were united by their experience as daughters. Through an examination of the Husting wills of late medieval London, Kate Staples focuses on daughters and their chances to own, rent, and manage property. These daughters were provided opportunities to be active economic agents in a world often described as hostile to women. She also considers parents’ influence through their bequests and the visualization of daughters’ household spaces that these bequests allow. By focusing on daughterhood, and particularly urban daughters’ experiences of inheritance, we can refocus the lens through which we see and understand women’s lives in the medieval past.
“The Bolivian Revolution and the United States, 1945-Present,” by James Siekmeier, is a story of David vs. Goliath in international relations. It recounts how Bolivia, after its Revolution of 1952, interacted with the United States. In the wake of its victory in World War II, the United States had started to undertake ambitious nation-building projects in the Third World using the tool of economic aid, as it had successfully done with the Marshall Plan for Western Europe. Bolivia represented the first of these experiments, and its process and outcome have much to tell us about the limits of U.S. power. Bolivia proved capable not only of achieving compromises in reaction to U.S. initiatives but also of influencing U.S. policy through its own actions. Unlike most other studies of the revolution, this book follows the story through the early 1970s and traces the shifting relationships between the two countries over a longer span of time.
“The Civil War, The First Year of the Conflict Told by Those Who Lived It, November 1860-January 1862” was co-edited by Aaron Sheehan-Dean with Brooks Simpson and Stephen Sears. The Library of America is tasked with preserving the best American writing. This volume is the first of four planned volumes collecting the best writing on the Civil War (one for each years of the conflict). It conveys the story of the war through a broad group of actors – from politicians and generals to common soldiers and people on the home front. Unlike many anthologies, ours conveys the full complexity of the experience: men, women, black, white, free people, and enslaved are all represented.
Mark Tauger’s, “Agriculture in World History,” looks at farmers, farming, and their relationships to non-farmers from the classical societies of the Mediterranean and China through to the 21st century. This unique study examines the ways that urban societies have both exploited and supported farmers, and together have endured environmental changes and crises that threatened food production. The book pays addresses the Little Ice Age of the 14th-19th centuries and the global warming that followed, the rise and fall of slavery and serfdom, and the development of farming technologies from Chinese wet-rice cultivation to genetic modification. The book pays particular attention to recent issues such as the farm crises of the 1980s and the declining numbers of farmers despite rising world population, growing corporate control of agriculture, and pollution and genetic contamination from modern farming practices. The book provides concise background information for anyone interested in understanding the urgent current problems of farming and food supplies.
“Science and Empire: Knowledge and Networks of science in the British Empire,” by Joseph Hodge, identifies and analyzes the web of scientific networks crisscrossing the British Empire through which scientific knowledge and authority were produced, circulated and legitimated, critically engaging with new ways of thinking about networked connections across space. It offers a comparative perspective that surveys a variety of scientific initiatives and circuits, including networks of agronomists, anatomists, botanists, foresters, geologists, marine biologists, oceanographers and physicists. As they chart the evolving practices, strategies, theoretical ideas and agendas among research scientists, technical advisers, imperial administrators, and native peoples in Africa, Australia, Britain, India and elsewhere, each chapter combines rigorous research with theoretical reflection based on the latest literature, as well as serving as a useful introduction to that literature.
Coming in 2012
Joshua Arthur’s upcoming book, “Excavating Modernity,” examines the intersection of political culture, the historical disciplines and the idea of Rome (romanit�) under Mussolini’s regime. Across several case studies in historical scholarship, urban archaeology and museum display, Arthurs explores the ways in which political leaders and intellectuals approached the Roman past as a blueprint for creating a Fascist modernity.
The English version of Matt Vester’s book on Jacques de Savoie, duke of Genevois-Nemours, is a biography of a renaissance prince, the head of a cadet branch of the house of Savoy, Europe’s oldest dynasty. His lands were located in the Alps and in France, where he was a leading member of the court during the early wars of religion. His wife, Anne d’Este, counted among her grandparents Lucrezia Borgia and King Louis XII of France. This book analyzes the role of Jacques de Savoie in international politics, the contours of his territorial authority in his Alpine lands, and his relationship to his cousin, Duke Emanuel Filibert of Savoy. Jacques was the heir of Emanuel Filibert to the throne of Savoy, but he also ruled over an independent apanage within the Savoyard domains, making the interactions between the two simultaneously conflictual and cooperative. On the whole the book offers a detailed description of the complexities of late renaissance political culture in France and Italy.
“American Horizons” by Aaron Sheehan-Dean, focuses on the movement of people, goods and ideas through North America from European settlement to today. It’s intended to introduce students to U.S. history by contextualizing that story in terms of the global influences that shaped American life and in terms of how American ideas, products, movements, and actions shaped the rest of the world.
For more information, contact Elizabeth Fones-Wolf, chair of the Department of History, at (304) 293-2421 ext. 5239 or Elizabeth.Fones-Wolf@mail.wvu.edu
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