New England Historical Association Conference at Eastern

On Saturday, October, 2017, Eastern Connecticut State University hosted the 99th meeting of the New England Historical Association (NEHA) at the Student Center.

The NEHA conference at Eastern brought together undergraduates, graduate students, independent scholars, and faculty of all levels, from assistant professor to emeritus, in a collegial and welcoming environment.  The topics ranged temporally from colonial New England to the Falklands War and geographically from the history of Southeast Asia to the Balkans.  Several roundtables addressed best practices in historical research and teaching the history survey.

Eastern History faculty, alumni, and students were well-represented on the program (link:  In the early morning panels (8:30-10:00am), Miles Wilkerson ’15 presented “The Moral Treatment: On the Institutionalization of People with Disabilities in the Anglophone Atlantic, 1660-1860,” while Dr. Barbara Tucker moderated a lively discussion for the panel “Liberty for Whom? Perspectives on Slavery and the American Civil War” and Dr. Jamel Ostwald commented on the session “Remembering Wars and Warriors.”

Dr. Tucker welcomes the audience to Session 3: “Liberty for Whom? Perspectives on Slavery and the American Civil War.”

Dr. Tucker welcomes the audience to Session 3: “Liberty for Whom? Perspectives on Slavery and the American Civil War.”

At the same time, Adam Murphy ’18 presented “A Professor’s Experience in Indonesia: Examining the Partnership Between University of Kentucky and Bogor Agricultural College, 1957-1966,” for which Dr. Joan Meznar chaired and commented on the overall panel, “The Influence of the West on the World, for Good and Ill.”

Adam Murphy presents at the NEHA conference on research conducted as part of History coursework at Eastern.

Adam Murphy presents at the NEHA conference on research conducted as part of History coursework at Eastern.

At the book exhibit, Eastern faculty were equally present in force, as the publications of Drs. Tucker, Ostwald, Kirchmann, Davis, and Carenen featured prominently.  In the second morning session, Eastern alumnus Jim Loughead ’04 of Mansfield Public Schools was a discussant at a Teaching Social Studies roundtable moderated by NEHA President Troy Paddock.

Eastern Faculty and Alumni presenters gather at the NEHA book exhibit. From right to left: Miles Wilkerson ’15, Dr. Anna Kirchmann, Dr. Jamel Ostwald, Dr. Joan Meznar, Dean Carmen Cid, Dr. Scott Moore, Dr. Caitlin Carenen, and Dr. Thomas Balcerski.

Eastern Faculty and Alumni presenters gather at the NEHA book exhibit. From right to left: Miles Wilkerson ’15, Dr. Anna Kirchmann, Dr. Jamel Ostwald, Dr. Joan Meznar, Dean Carmen Cid, Dr. Scott Moore, Dr. Caitlin Carenen, and Dr. Thomas Balcerski.

Over lunch, Dean Cid welcomed the participants.  She was very pleased to see Eastern join the list of host organizations that includes the region’s leading colleges and universities (link:

At the lunch, NEHA President Troy Paddock presented the organization’s annual award for best book to the prize-winning historian Nathaniel Philbrick (

In the afternoon panel (1:45-3:15pm), Eastern faculty were particularly active.  Dr. Scott Moore presented “The Reluctant Warrior: War and Memory in Habsburg Austria,” along with Dr. Carenen’s “’Grants for Guerillas’: Americans and International Terrorism in the 1970s and 1980s,” in a fascinating panel on “Perceptions of War and Terror from Habsburg Austria to the United States in the Twentieth Century.”

Dr. Balcerski moderated a panel, “Far from Home: Adventure, Labor and Tragedy on the Seas and Across the Ice,” that featured the research of Dr. Tucker, “Ship’s Boys: Child Labor on the High Seas, 1800-1860.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Anna Kirchmann presented ““Don’t Tear Me Down: Urban Renewal in a New England Mill Town” on a panel dealing with “Development and Redevelopment in New England.”  Finally, Dr. Bradley Davis participated in a discussion on “The State of the Historical Survey.”

Dr. Anna Kirchmann presents her research on urban renewal in Willimantic, Connecticut.

Dr. Anna Kirchmann presents her research on urban renewal in Willimantic, Connecticut.

The NEHA meeting at Eastern was one for the history books.  According to Martin Menke, Executive Secretary of NEHA, approximately 115 people attended the twenty sessions of the conference, which places the fall 2017 conference on the high-end of historical attendance and scope of panels.

The leadership of NEHA were very appreciative of Eastern’s facilities and arrangements.  Erik Jensen, NEHA vice president, said, “I heard many compliments from our members and attendees on the quality of the ECSU facilities and the helpfulness of the student assistants. It was a pleasure to bring NEHA to Eastern.”

The students and faculty of the Eastern History Department truly stood out for the quality of their participation, whether presenting research or asking questions from the audience.  The NEHA conference was a banner day for History at Eastern.

Did Louis XIV Love Battles Too Much?

After presenting a paper at a conference hosted by the French Defense Department’s Historical section (Service historique de la Défense) in 2015, Dr. Ostwald just published the expanded book chapter:

Ostwald, Jamel. “Louis XIV aimait-il trop la bataille?” In Les dernières guerres de Louis XIV: 1688-1715, edited by Hervé Drévillon, Bertrand Fonck, and Jean-Philippe Cénat, translated by Jean-Pascale Esparceil, 99–120. Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2017.

Book cover: The Last Wars of Louis XIV, 1688-1715

Book cover: The Last Wars of Louis XIV, 1688-1715

His chapter, “Did Louis XIV love battle too much?”, discusses the conflicting views about battle held by France’s Sun King – a ‘risk-averse’ monarch who frequently avoided field battle, yet who loved his fortresses so much that he was willing to risk a much larger battlefield defeat in order to preserve them. This paradox of a cautious battle-seeker complicates the broader Western tendency to draw a clear distinction between those who seek, and those who avoid, the risks of battle in the open field.

Historians Turn East

Two members of the History Department faculty recently discussed their work with university audiences.  On September 20, amidst dire predictions that the world would end in three days, Dr. Stefan Kamola inaugurated the Fall 2017 Faculty Scholars Forum with a talk entitled “After the Apocalypse: The Mongols, the End of Time, and the Birth of Iran.”

"The white area here..."

“The white area here…”

As the September 23 apocalypse failed to materialze, Dr. Bradley Davis explained (on September 28) the challenges of conducting research for his recently published book, Imperial Bandits: Outlaws and Rebels in the China-Vietnam Borderlands.

"The white area here..."

“The white area here…”


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!


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.

Another sad note

The History department just learned that another former History faculty member passed away. Dr. Leon Sarin (online obituary here) taught at many different institutions, and at many levels, throughout his long career. He ended up at Eastern, teaching North American history until his retirement in 1994. He founded the Canadian Studies program here at Eastern, and spent 28 years educating several generations of Eastern students.

Our condolences to his family and friends.