Lincoln Lecture at NIU

The W. Bruce Lincoln Lecture will be held on Monday 29 September 2014 at 7:30 p.m. in Altgeld Auditorium at Northern Illinois University.

This year’s speaker is Deborah Cohen, Peter B. Ritzma Professor of the Humanities and Professor of History, Northwestern University. Her lecture is entitled, “FAMILY SECRETS: SHAME AND PRIVACY IN BRITAIN.”

Raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Deborah Cohen was educated at Harvard (BA) and Berkeley (Ph.D.).  Her specialty is modern European history, with a focus on Britain.

Her first book, The War Come Home: Disabled Veterans in Britain and Germany, 1914-1939, was published by the University of California in 2001, and awarded the Social Science History Association’s Allan Sharlin Prize. Her second book, Household Gods: The British and their Possessions, was published by Yale University Press in 2006; it won the American Historical Association’s Forkosch Prize for the best book on Britain after 1485 and was the co-winner of the North American Conference on British Studies’ Albion prize for the best book on Britain after 1800. Cohen has held fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, the National Humanities Center, the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, the American Council of Learned Societies (Frederick Burkhardt Fellowship for Recently Tenured Scholars) and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Her most recent book, Family Secrets, was published in 2013 by Viking Penguin in the UK and by Oxford University Press in the US. It has been named a “Book of the Year” by The Sunday Times [London], the Times Literary Supplement, and The Spectator.

Posted in European History, Lectures and Seminars, War, Culture, and Society | Leave a comment

New Fellowship in Renaissance Art History

The Villa I Tatti research center in Florence has announced a new fellowship in Renaissance art history.

One David and Julie Tobey Fellowship, for three months, is available each academic year to support research on drawings, prints, and illustrated manuscripts from the Italian Renaissance, and especially the role that these works played in the creative process, the history of taste and collecting, and questions of connoisseurship. Proposals on a variety of subjects with a substantive component of research on drawings, prints, and illustrated manuscripts done on paper or parchment types are welcome.

The Villa I Tatti website provides application information.



Posted in Art History, Early Modern Europe, Early Modern World, Grants and Fellowships, Italian History, Renaissance Art and History | Leave a comment

The Problem with Bill Gates and ‘Big History’

When Bill Gates heads to the gym, he gets big ideas.

One day at the gym, Bill Gates was watching a DVD on Big History by Professor David Christian. “As Gates sweated away on his treadmill, he found himself marveling at the class’s ability to connect complex concepts,” according to The New York Times. “‘I just loved it,’ he said. ‘It was very clarifying for me. I thought, God, everybody should watch this thing!'”


Bill Gates, the billionaire founder and ex-CEO of Microsoft, has become one of the most influential educational reformers in the world. His Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has granted billions of dollars to charities, including an estimated $500 million to educational organizations.

The New York Times reports that: “during an hour on the treadmill, Gates, a self-described nerd, would pass the time by watching DVDs from the Teaching Company’s “Great Courses” series. On some mornings, he would learn about geology or meteorology; on others, it would be oceanography or U.S. history.”

The Teaching Company has been around for years, peddling certain professors’ courses on tape, CD, and now DVD. The selection of courses offered by the Teaching Company tends to focus on broad synthetic courses with recognizable or catchy titles.

Bill Gates and David Christian have now launched a Big History Project, involving digital timelines, graphics, and an e-textbook. Gates’s foundation has invested $10 million into the project, according to The New York Times.

Gates aims to get the Big History Project into high schools and colleges across the United States. According to The New York Times, “this fall, the project will be offered free to more than 15,000 students in some 1,200 schools.” The Big History Project has apparently already been approved for use in the University of California system. Big History courses are rapidly expanding in the United States and are already being offered in Australia, South Korea, and the Netherlands.

The New York Times report concludes that: “One day, perhaps, Big History might even become a successor to Western Civ and World History.”

This is education reform as entertainment. The Teaching Company videos and TED talks both seem to rely on the same sort of slick production and a simplistic video “hook” to keep the viewer entertained. Unsurprisingly, David Christian has also produced a TED talk entitled “The History of Our World in 18 Minutes.”

There is also a darker side to the Big History Project. Bill Gates, a computer magnate posing as an educational “philanthropist”, clearly aims to expand the market for his own educational software and operating systems to run them. Gates is claiming the power to choose the historian, historical subjects, readings, images, graphics, and textbooks that should be used in teaching history at the high school and college level—all based on what he personally finds intriguing.

This dangerous model of educational “reform” threatens to reduce education to a delivery device for corporate interests and whims, removing researchers and experts from curricular decision-making processes. This trend in educational policy seriously undermines academic freedom, curricular integrity, teaching innovation, and the pursuit of knowledge.

Enormous sums of money are currently being invested in digital education, but high-tech companies and their leaders increasingly seem to want to subvert researchers’ and teachers’ abilities to formulate curricular goals and educational programs.

Should Bill Gates really have the ability to transform curricula and education policies while sweating at the gym?

The New York Times reports on Bill Gates and the Big History Project.

See also my previous post entitled “The Gates’ Foundation’s Influence on Higher Ed” about the influence of major philanthropic foundations on higher education policy.



Posted in Academic Freedom, Digital Humanities, Education Policy, Humanities Education, The Past Alive: Teaching History, Undergraduate Work in History | 2 Comments

New Report on Jobs for Historians

The American Historical Association (AHA) has released a new report on jobs for historians. The AHA normally issues its job reports in January each year, but has decided to shift the annual report to September, at the beginning of the hiring cycle.

The AHA reports that “The number of positions advertised with the American Historical Association during academic year 2013–14 was 7 percent lower than it was in 2012–13. This is the second year in a row that the number of jobs has fallen. The 2013–14 total of 638 is still higher than the nadir of 569 jobs reached in 2009–10, but is still far from the pre-recession peak of 1,064 positions advertised in 2007–08.”

The distribution of job openings by geographic field is always important.


This data is based on the AHA’s own job ads and those posted on H-Net. 

The data for the 2013-2014 hiring cycle shows 82 tenure-track Assistant Professor openings in European history, along with 28 Visiting Assistant Professorships, and 23 lectureships.

The full jobs report is available at the AHA Perspectives online.

Posted in Careers in History, Humanities Education, Jobs and Positions | Leave a comment

Marc Bloch Prize


Marc Bloch Prize in Early Modern and Modern European History

The Department of History and Civilization of the European University Institute is welcoming submissions for the Marc Bloch Prize in Early Modern and Modern European History (15th-21st centuries) to the author of the best new MA thesis (awarded in 2013 or 2014) in early modern or modern European history and in the history of Europe in the world.

We would be grateful if you could kindly bring the attached announcement to the attention of any recent graduate who might be interested in participating in the competition. More information can be found on the Marc Bloch Prize webpage.

Current MA candidates and recent MA recipients in European history at Northern Illinois University may want to apply for this prestigious prize, which carries a monetary award.

The deadline for this year’s competition is 1 November 2014.

Posted in Early Modern Europe, European History, Graduate Work in History, Grants and Fellowships | Leave a comment

Seventeenth-Century Imperialism and New York

New York is apparently not celebrating its 350th anniversary this week.


According to an article in The New York Times, “On August 26, 1664, 350 years ago Tuesday, a flotilla of four British frigates led by the Guinea, which was manned by 150 sailors and conveying 300 redcoats, anchored ominously in Gravesend Bay off Brooklyn, between Coney Island and the Narrows. Over the next 13 days, the soldiers would disembark and muster at a ferry landing located roughly where the River Café is moored today, and two of the warships would sail to the Battery and train their cannon on Fort Amsterdam on the southern tip of Manhattan. Finally, on Sept. 8, the largely defenseless settlement tolerated a swift and bloodless regime change: New Amsterdam was immediately renamed New York.”

This transition resulted from the colonial competition between the Dutch and British empires in the Americas. Although the Dutch Republic and Britain both promoted Protestant versions of Christianity, their competing maritime commerce and naval policies resulted in several wars during the mid-seventeenth century.

Dutch settlers established New Amsterdam in the early seventeenth century, but the town remained small. The heart of the Dutch maritime empire was in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean. There were numerous other larger Dutch colonial holdings in the Atlantic World, but  New Amsterdam’s position as an important North American harbor placed it conflict between the two rival maritime empires.

New York official celebrates its founding by the Dutch in 1625, but choosing this date had to do with late twentieth-century politics.

The New York Times reports on the anniversary.

Posted in Atlantic World, Early Modern Europe, Early Modern World, Empires and Imperialism, European History, European Wars of Religion, Maritime History, War, Culture, and Society, Warfare in the Early Modern World | Leave a comment

Word and Image Graduate Workshop

Graduate Research Methods Workshop for Early-Career Graduate Students

Word and Image in the Renaissance
Led by James A. Knapp, Loyola University Chicago; and Jennifer Waldron, University of Pittsburgh

Application deadline: September 22
Workshop: 9 am to 5 pm Friday, October 24
Open to graduate students in a terminal master’s program and those who have not yet completed comprehensive exams in a PhD program. No language prerequisites.

Download a PDF flyer to post and distribute:

“All media are mixed media,” claims theorist W. J. T.  Mitchell. This workshop will examine several key issues in the long history of “mixed” media by focusing on interrelations between text and image in Renaissance Europe.

The workshop will explore broadsides, pamphlets, frontispieces, emblem books, maps, atlases, and other items from the Newberry Library collections.  In addition to broadly framing the historical and theoretical issues raised by word-image relations in the Renaissance, the workshop leaders will present specific examples of how changing technological and cultural conditions have influenced text-image relations, including the role of visual techniques in the organization and production of knowledge, particularly the production of world maps and universal histories in an era of nascent globalization; the impact of Reformation iconoclasm on visual and print culture, from Lutheran satire to Foxe’s book of martyrs and beyond; and the challenges and opportunities surrounding digitization of early modern printed books and images, from Early English Books Online to the Folger’s digital Shakespeare texts for iPad.

Students with concentrations in literature (of any European language), history, art history, manuscript studies, history of the book, and other relevant disciplines are encouraged to apply. Limited enrollment is by competitive application; students from Center for Renaissance Studies consortium schools ( have priority, in accordance with the consortium agreement. Fees are waived for students from consortium institutions. Such students  may be eligible to apply for travel funds to attend ( Each member university sets its own policies and deadlines; contact your Representative Council member in advance for details.

For more information on the workshop, see the Newberry Library website.

Posted in Archival Research, Early Modern Europe, Early Modern World, European History, Graduate Work in History, History of the Book, Lectures and Seminars | Leave a comment