Debating African American Leadership

In Dr. Balcerski’s HIS 322: African American History from 1877, students debated a series of questions about the famous African Americans Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois. The questions were as follows:

  1. It’s a new century in America.  What do you make of the plight of African Americans in the year 1900?
  2. Outline your views on education and citizenship.  What does your opponent get wrong on these subjects?
  3. What comes next?  How will the African American experience change over the next 50 years?  What will America in 1950 look like for African Americans?

Divided into two larger teams—either Washington or DuBois—each side worked in smaller groups to prepare key points of supporting evidence.  From these smaller teams, three spokespersons were chosen to participate in the debate, with each person permitted one minute for a statement and thirty seconds for rebuttal.  Professor Balcerski scored the debate.

Each side offered compelling commentary on the historical questions of the best possible tactics for African Americans in the year 1900.  While both sides faithfully defined their views, Professor Balcerski awarded the win to the DuBois team.  Both sides left with smiles on their face, as seen in the photo taken after the debate.

Now everybody shake hands...

Now everybody shake hands…

Stay tuned for the next debate, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., will face off against Malcolm X in the year 1963!


Congratulations to last Spring 2017 seminar paper winners

Congratulations to the authors of the best seminar papers in Spring 2017:  

Joseph DeMarco for his work on Jefferson, Adams, and the Question of Tripoli.

Joe DeMarco with award

Joe DeMarco with award

And, Adam Murphy for “A Professor’s Experience in Indonesia: Examining the Partnership Between University of Kentucky and Bogor Agricultural College, 1957-1966.”

Adam Murphy with award

Adam Murphy with award



Bandits! Soon to be a movie

The Department of History is proud to present a book talk by Dr. Bradley Camp Davis on Wednesday, September 27, 3-4 pm, in the Connecticut Room of Gelsi-Young Hall. Dr. Davis will discuss his recently published book Imperial Bandits: Outlaws and Rebels in the China-Vietnam Borderlands (Washington University Press, 2017). Light refreshments will be served. The event is sponsored by the Department of History and the Office of Equity and Diversity.

Conference Commemorates Eastern’s Dr. Lynch

On September 9 and 10, a weekend workshop took place in the Humanities Institute on UConn’s campus in Storrs that honored the work of Professor Catherine Lynch (1949-2015), who taught history at Eastern from 1995 to 2007. Co-organized by Peter Zarrow (UConn) and Bradley Camp Davis (Eastern), the workshop, titled “Nation, Race, and Survival: Transnational Discourse and Activism in the Construction of the East Asian Modern,” brought together scholars from across the United States, Canada, Europe, and China . A summary of the workshop, and an explanation about what historians do at workshops, follows.


After welcoming remarks by Cathy Schlund-Vials, Professor of English and Director of the Asian and Asian American Studies Institute (UConn), Gu Hongliang (East China Normal University) presented a thoughtful summary of Professor Lynch’s forthcoming book, Liang Shuming and the Populist Alternative in China. Forthcoming from Brill next year, Professor Lynch’s book examines how Liang Shuming, a twentieth century intellectual who sought to develop an approach to social reform based in the Chinese countryside, produced a populist understanding of political change in the decades before the communist revolution in China. As Professor Gu made clear in his remarks, Professor Lynch’s work engages with some critical questions in English-language scholarship, but will also reverberate in the Peoples Republic of China, where studies of Liang Shuming have become quite popular since the 1990s. Professor Gu also announced that he will soon finish editing a series of interviews, comprising dozens of hours, that Professor Lynch conducted with Liang Shuming in Beijing before his death in 1988. These interviews will be published in the coming years.


Peter Zarrow, Professor of Chinese history (UConn), then offered his thoughts on Professor Lynch’s work and on Gu’s remarks, which set the tone for the workshop.“Crafting the Image of the Public Leader out of the Chinese Crisis, ” a keynote talk by Rudolf Wagner (University of Heidelberg and Harvard University) analyzed the ways in which visual culture and references to George Washington (yes, that George Washington) played a significant role in nineteenth century Chinese political discourse.


Over the next two days, in morning and afternoon sessions and over lunch, coffee, and dinner, workshop participants discussed each other’s essays. Essays ranged from dissertation chapters from the two Ph.D. Candidates (graduate students finishing dissertations) to article drafts or book chapters from other historians. This particular workshop  involved brief presentations (10 mins) of pre-circulated essays (20-30 pages) followed by open discussion.


The workshop concluded with a feedback session chaired by Joshua A. Fogel, Professor and Canada Research Chair at York University. Professor Fogel reviewed each paper and offered detailed comments to individual authors, leading to discussion about common themes among the essays. After concluding the workshop, the organizers (Zarrow and Davis) discussed a follow up meeting next year. Professor Wagner also proposed that interested participants submit their essays for publication in journals, offering some advice about which journals might be interested.


A full list of the papers and authors is below.



Workshop: “Nation, Race, and Survival: Transnational Discourse and Activism in the Construction of the East Asian Modern,” UConn Humanities Institute, September 9-10, 2017

 in honor of the memory of Professor Catherine Lynch, 1949-2015


Essays and Authors



Session One 

-Bradley Camp Davis (Assistant Professor, Eastern Connecticut State University), “The Task of the Transliterator: Writing and Culture in Late Imperial Vietnam”

-Vinh Quoc Nguyen (Ph. D. candidate, Harvard University). “From dynastic nemesis to national hero: The rehabilitation of Nguyễn Huệ in Hán-Nôm historiography in early 20th-century colonial Vietnam”


Session Two 

-Wen Yu (Ph.D. candidate, Harvard University), “Defining Antiquity in a Global World: Kang Youwei and the Making of a Progressive Intellectual Culture in Late Qing”

-Wynn Gadkar-Wilcox (Professor, Western Connecticut State University), “Particularity and Universality in the Adaptation of Reformist and Modernist Ideas in the Vietnamese Examination System, 1904-1919”


Session Three

-Joshua Van Lieu (Associate Professor, LaGrange College), “Korean Translations of Vietnam: Relocating the Great Han Empire in World Historical Precedent”

-Eileen Vo (Assistant Professor, Gallaudet University), “Đồng Sỹ Hứa: (1915-2004), A Radicalized Interpreter: Mediating and Translating Conflict on a French Plantation in the New Hebrides”


Session Four 

-Douglas R. Howland (Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), “The Territorial Foundations of the Sovereign State in East Asia”

-Alexis Dudden (Professor of History, University of Connecticut), “Politics of Empire”


Session Five

-Rebecca Karl (Professor of History, New York University), “He-Yin Zhen and Anarcho-Feminism in China at the Turn of the Twentieth-Century”

-Victor Zatsepine (Assistant Professor, University of Connecticut), “Training for Revolution: Chinese Students in Moscow in the 1920s”

Congratulations to Dr. Kirchmann

President Elsa Nunez gives Dr. Kirchmann the customary CSU Professor box of flowers

President Elsa Nunez (apologies for the lack of accents) gives Dr. Kirchmann the customary box of flowers awarded to every CSU Professor

At last week’s University Meeting, our very own Dr. Kirchmann was awarded the prestigious position of “CSU Professor.” I won’t reproduce the entirety of the Board of Regents’ motion – there were a lot of “Whereas…” and “Dr. Anna Jaroszyńska-Kirchmann,” as you can see here – but the highlights include her being described as:

  •  “a highly distinguished teacher and scholar”
  •  “a prize-winning author of scholarly works”
  •  serving in “leadership roles for professional organizations and on editorial boards of professional journals”
  •  and the list goes on…

So congratulations to Dr. Kirchmann!


Welcome Warriors of History

Before classes started last week, the History department welcomed new History majors to the fold. There was food and drink, and we all learned some valuable lessons about chronology. And one or two things about the program as well.

As the History department’s chronicler, I provide the following photographic evidence for posterity:

Dr. Kamola makes a key point, explaining the Timeline Game (patent pending)

Dr. Kamola administers the pledge to not cheat during The Timeline Game (patent pending)

Action Shot

Professors proctoring the process

Good thing someone thought to bring a dolly for this shot of new majors comparing notes: "When was the battle of Hastings?"

Good thing someone thought to bring a dolly for this shot of new majors comparing notes: “When was the battle of Hastings???”



How I Spent My Summer, By Dr. Bradley Davis

Because we academics don’t actually have three months off in the summer, we have a report of Dr. Davis’ labors during summer “break.”

This summer, Dr. Davis spent several weeks reading materials in the Vietnamese imperial archives, a collection that has only recently become accessible in Hanoi. Over seven weeks, he read the administrative records of the Nguyễn Dynasty, which ruled the entire country of Vietnam from 1802 to 1862, and continued to independently rule the northern and central sections of the country until French colonial rule in the 1880s. Focusing on the period from 1820 to 1847, Dr. Davis compiled materials on ethnic Chinese labor, territorial disputes between Vietnam and other countries, and the legal status of elephants. Together with historians from the Vietnam National University, the Institute of Hán-Nôm Studies, and the École Française d’Extrême-Orient, Dr. Davis has formed an Imperial Archives Research Group, which will develop reference materials for researchers interested in these documents.

While in Hanoi, Dr. Davis also gave a talk (in Vietnamese) on his recent book, Imperial Bandits, to the Institute for Cultural Studies. Two podcast series, from Northern Illinois University and the Australian National University, have published episodes featuring Dr. Davis discussing the book (links below). He also published a chapter in an edited volume – “Between Nation and Ethnos: Genealogies of Dân Tộc in Vietnamese Contexts,” in Regna Darnell and Frederic W. Gleach ed. Histories of Anthropology Annual: Volume 11 – Historicizing Theories, Identities, and Nations. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2017.

He is also really looking forward to the fall!

Bradley Camp Davis, “Imperial Bandits: Outlaws and Rebels in the China-Vietnam Borderlands” (U of Washington Press, 2017)


Successional Crisis Averted

In Ancient Rome, Emperors were assassinated by their Praetorian Guards. Medieval Byzantines had a tendency to blind their rulers when they were forced from power. French Revolutionaries invented the guillotine just so they could chop off their former leaders’ heads. And we all know that the WW2-era Italians liked to hang theirs upside down from their bootstraps. More than a few wars throughout history have been waged over who would succeed to the throne, and what to do with the losers.

For Eastern’s History department, the transition is not nearly so dramatic – we just switch offices. All to say that we have a new department chair, chosen by popular acclamation. So please give a hearty thanks to our outgoing department chair of the last four years, Dr. Ania Kirchmann, and an equally hearty welcome to our new incoming department chair, Dr. Joan Meznar.

Although there was no coronation ceremony, Dr. Meznar now occupies the official chair office in Webb 331, while Dr. Kirchmann has moved her office to Webb 333. In the shuffle, Dr. Bradley Davis has relocated to Eastern Hall.