Dr. Thomas P. Anderson Memorial Prize in History

The ECSU Department of History is proud to announce the establishment of the Dr. Thomas P. Anderson Memorial Prize in History for students attending Eastern. The prize is to be awarded by the Department of History to a graduating senior history major who has exhibited exceptional scholarly achievement in this field during his or her undergraduate years. The first recipient will be named in the Spring 2017.

Dr. Thomas P. Anderson was a professor in Eastern’s History Department from 1969 until his retirement in 1994, and served for many years as a chair of the department. He was also a distinguished scholar and expert in Latin American history.  He was named a Connecticut State University (CSU) Professor in 1990 and received professor emeritus status following his retirement. The Memorial l Prize was established in his honor by his family members.

Thomas P. Anderson

Thomas P. Anderson


So what does a History professor actually do when not teaching? Part 2

Funny you should ask.

Professor Scott Moore traveled to Prague in the Czech Republic from January 21-25, 2017 to attend a recent conference hosted by New York University, Prague.  The conference explored the complexity of bureaucracy in Central and Eastern Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and included papers that covered a range of topics from the strategies used by Catholic monks to navigate the imperial bureaucracy of the Ottoman Empire to the way film producers maintained creative freedom under communism.  Professor Moore’s paper, “Resisting the ‘Constraining Net of Bureaucratic Form’:  Images of Educational Bureaucracy in Late-Imperial Austria” examined the tense relationship between teachers and educational administrators in Austria at the end of the nineteenth-century [Plus ça change…].  You can learn more about the conference at:  https://wp.nyu.edu/gsas-bureaucracy_in_central_europe/.

And now for a European-looking cityscape:

Castle Hill, Prague

Castle Hill, Prague

So what does a History professor actually do when not teaching? Part 1

Dr. Davis recently returned from Paris, where he presented a talk at the Institut National des Language et Cultures Oriental (INaLCO) and served as a member of a Ph.D. defense (soutenance) at the University of Paris (Diderot-VII). In the French system, graduate students seeking a Ph.D. have a lengthy public defense of their work, which is often well-attended and lasts several hours. Dr. Davis, along with Dr. Philippe Le Failler (University of Provence), was a pré-rapporteur  for the dissertation submitted by Johann Grémont, titled “Pirates et contrebandiers le long de la frontière sino-vietnamienne: une frontière à l’épreuve? (1895-1940)” [Bandits and Smugglers in the China-Vietnam Borderlands] Grémont successfully passed the defense and will formally submit his final dissertation soon.

Powerpoint: The International Lingua Franca

Powerpoint: The International Lingua Franca

While in Paris, Dr. Davis also gave a talk connected to his recent book at the INaLCO, “Entre refuge et liberté: la forêt, les Yao, les groups Tai-Kadai et les Viêt aux XIXe-XXe siècles” [Between Flight and Freedom: The Forest, the Yao, Tai-Kadai Groups, and the Viet in the 19-20th Centuries].

Eastern History Department remembers one of its own

The Eastern History department is sad to learn of the passing of Thomas P. Anderson, a former History faculty member, who taught here from 1969-1994. Early on, he served in the U.S. Navy, and then got his Ph.D. from Loyola University in Chicago. He published multiple books and articles on 20th century Central American history, testifying at multiple congressional panels on his topic of human rights violations in El Salvador. At Eastern, he also served as chair of the department, was selected a CSU Professor in 1990, and received emeritus status after his retirement.

Our condolences to his family and friends.

Eastern Historians report on the AHA


Three members of the Eastern History Department attended the recent annual meeting of the American Historical Association (AHA) in Denver over January 5-8, 2017. Professor Thomas Balcerski chaired and commented on a panel, Professor Caitlin Carenen presented a paper as part of a panel, and Dr. Anna Kirchmann participated in a panel honoring her recently published books.


On Thursday, January 5, Prof. Balcerski presided over the panel, “A Question of Intent: Alcoholic Insanity, Violence, and the Law in 19th-Century America.” The panel was sponsored by the Alcohol and Drugs History Society, an affiliate society of the AHA, and the Coordinating Council for Women in History. A theme of the panel was the efforts of professionals in defining the meaning of such existential categories as murder and suicide. Read more about all the ADHS panels at their web site: https://pointsadhsblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/17/adhs-at-aha-2017

The City of Denver played host to the 131st annual meeting of the American Historical Association.

The City of Denver played host to the 131st annual meeting of the American Historical Association.

On Friday, January 6, Prof. Carenen presented a paper as part of a panel entitled “For God and Country: Linking Faith Communities in the United States during World War I.” The panel was co-sponsored by the American Society of Church History. As a whole, the four papers looked at the influence of religion and different ethnic groups on patriotic wartime efforts in the United States during World War I. Carenen’s paper, entitled, “’We Jews Have Sold our Birthright’: The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the Struggle over Sectarian Relief Efforts in World War I,” discussed Jewish fundraising during the war for exclusively Jewish victims of the war. American Jews wanted to help Jews who were suffering in World War I and so they raised over seven million dollars in the U.S. to do so. But it wasn’t that simple. Many Jews wondered if they should accept money from non-Jews to help only Jews. Others wondered if it was wise to be an exclusively Jewish relief organization at a time when uber-Patriotism condemned “hyphenated” groups. Still others worried about abandoning a long history of self-help if they accepted Gentile money. Despite the fact that in the end, the relief organization did accept non-Jewish money, the discussion revealed the uncertain place American Jews felt they occupied in the United States during World War I. Read more about the American Society of Church History at their web site: https://www.churchhistory.org.

On Saturday, January 7, Prof. Kirchmann participated in a special panel organized by the Polish  American Historical Association, an affiliate of the AHA, titled “Author Meets Critics Session for The Polish Hearst: Ameryka-Echo and the Public Role of the Immigrant Press by Anna Jaroszyńska-Kirchmann.”  In the panel, three noted historians from the fields of social history, and specifically the history of immigration and communication, commented on Prof. Kirchmann’s latest book.  In response, Prof. Kirchmann addressed her critics and broadly discissed her methods, evidence, and argument.  Read more about Prof. Kirchmann’s book at the University of Illinois Press web site: http://www.press.uillinois.edu/books/catalog/72fpc9dk9780252039096.html and about the Polish American Historical Association at their web site: http://www.polishamericanstudies.org/index.html.


Congratulations to Dr. Bradley Davis for his book now out from the University of Washington press:DAVIMP

Dr. Davis will be giving a talk on his book this April 12, at 3 PM in Science 301.

Book description:

The Black Flags raided their way from southern China into northern Vietnam, competing during the second half of the nineteenth century against other armed migrants and uplands communities for the control of commerce, specifically opium, and natural resources, such as copper. At the edges of three empires (the Qing empire in China, the Vietnamese empire governed by the Nguyen dynasty, and, eventually, French Colonial Vietnam), the Black Flags and their rivals sustained networks of power and dominance through the framework of political regimes. This lively history demonstrates the plasticity of borderlines, the limits of imposed boundaries, and the flexible division between apolitical banditry and political rebellion in the borderlands of China and Vietnam.

Imperial Bandits contributes to the ongoing reassessment of borderland areas as frontiers for state expansion, showing that, as a setting for many forms of human activity, borderlands continue to exist well after the establishment of formal boundaries.

Modern Echoes

Modern Echoes

History Participates in Democracy at Work Events

Faculty and students from the History Department recently participated in the Democracy at Work events on campus.  Drs. Carenen and Balcerski offered open classrooms about the elections of 1800, 1896, and 1932, department faculty and students from History Club organized a Presidents and First Ladies trivia game, and department faculty and students attended events on campus.

Dr. Carenen’s open classroom examined the historical context of the 1896 and 1932 presidential elections and what they might tell us about the current presidential election. She argued that all three elections shared two things in common: the use of fear and scapegoating as a useful political tool and the idea of the political “outsider” as the new “insider.” William Jennings Bryan scapegoated Republican businessmen and Wall Street while the Populists sometimes scapegoated Jews; Franklin Delano Roosevelt engaged in little scapegoating but pointed to “fear itself” as America’s primary enemy, while the Republicans feared FDR’s inexperience and authoritative response to the depression. Donald Trump has scapegoated immigrants and has used fear of terrorism and crime to motivate Americans; while Clinton has argued that the only thing we have to fear is Trump himself.  Likewise, Bryan was a political outsider, while FDR claimed no economic expertise or knowledge, and both Trump and Bernie Sanders built their campaigns on being “outsiders” to a corrupt political system, embodied to many Americans by the ultimate political insider, Hillary Clinton.
Dr. Carenen at her open classroom on the elections of 1896 and 1932:CC DemWorks

Dr. Balcerski’s open classroom considered the pivotal presidential election year of 1800, when the Federalist incumbent President John Adams faced the Democratic-Republican challenger (and sitting Vice-President) in a rematch from the 1796 presidential election. Jefferson defeated Adams, but because of the ambiguous nature of the Constitution, a deadlock ensued between Jefferson and his presumed Vice-President, Aaron Burr (finally, Jefferson was elected President and Burr elected Vice-President, with the Twelfth Amendment subsequently passed to clarify the procedure). Called by historians the “Revolution of 1800” for its historic transfer of power from Adams to Jefferson, the election still offers us many lessons, most importantly, how Americans must always stand ready to safeguard our cherished democracy in times of turbulent transition. Students walked away better prepared to place the current election cycle in the long, often times divisive tradition of past event.
Dr. Balcerski at his open classroom on the election of 1800:

TB 1DemWorksIn addition, Dr. Balcerski organized a History game that was played by some 100 students, faculty, and administrators at the tent outside of Webb Hall (President Nuñez stopped by at one point).  The game tested knowledge of both the Presidents and the First Ladies in an interactive fashion: students placed the correct name to the portrait of the President or place the portrait of the President to the portrait of the First Lady.  Prizes of candy and presidential rulers were awarded for correct responses.  History faculty members Drs. Thomas Balcerski, Anna Kirchmann, and Scott Moore and majors Patrick Thomson, Claire Tensa, and Adrianna Mihalek from the History Club helped to run the event.
Students play the Presidential History game with History Club helping out:

DemWrks QuizStudents pose for the camera, all smiles while playing the First Ladies Puzzle:

DemWrks students

Finally, history majors attended the student presidential debate; the opening of the opening reception of the exhibit, “Visualizing Democracy: Political Cartoons of the 2016 Election,” and the public event, “The Immigrant Project: A Multi-media, Oral Story Telling Performance,” both at the Fine Arts Instructional Building; and various other open classrooms around campus.  It was a great week for U.S. History at Eastern.
History majors attend the opening reception for “Visualizing Democracy: Political Cartoons of the 2016 Election”:

DemWrks students1

Eastern History at the Benton Museum of Art

On Friday, September 9, 2016, students and faculty from the History Department attended the opening of the new exhibit, “Presidential Campaigning Over the Decades: The Mark and Rosalind Shankman Collection of American Political Flags and Textiles,” at the William Benton Museum of Art on the University of Connecticut, Storrs campus.  Professors Joan Meznar and Thomas Balcerski joined History majors McKenzie Korte and Sara Dean for the opening of the exhibit and the moderated panel discussion: “Presidential Campaigning Over the Decades: The 2016 Presidential Election in Historical Context.”  The exhibit, which features campaign flags from the era of George Washington through Teddy Roosevelt, will be on view through December 18, 2016.  For more information, please see the museum website at http://benton.uconn.edu

Professors Meznar and Balcerski and History majors McKenzie Korte and Sara Dean pose for the camera with in front of the 1856 election presidential banner promoting Democrat James Buchanan and running mate John C. Breckinridge, on display at the William Benton Museum of Art at the University of Connecticut.

Professors Meznar and Balcerski and History majors McKenzie Korte and Sara Dean pose for the camera in front of the 1856 election presidential banner promoting Democrat James Buchanan and running mate John C. Breckinridge, on display at the William Benton Museum of Art at the University of Connecticut.

History was Made

And made well. The Eastern contingent of the “Making History” conference returned on March 11.

In was has become an annual affair, the four chairs of History Departments at Western, Central, Eastern and Southern hosted the second annual CSU “Making History” Conference. This year the conference took place at CCSU. As last year, both faculty and students presented their research papers and posters. Eastern’s Department of History was well-represented. Professor Thomas Balcerski presented a paper “Beards, Bachelors, and Brides: The Surprisingly Spicy Politics of the Presidential Election of 1856.” Professor Joan Meznar presented a paper on “Religion and Abolition of Slavery in Brazil.” Students Jacqueline Ray and Bethany Marion prepared a poster on “Samson Occom’s Life and Legacy;” Carl Kraus presented on “Colonial Norwich: Slave Society or Society with Slaves?”; Sabreena Croeau spoke on “The Detrimental Effects of the U.S. – Saudi Arabian Alliance,” and Christopher J. Morris presented a paper “Got a Donkey in the Crosshairs: The Partisan Anticommunism of Senator Joseph McCarthy.” Students Alaina Torromeo and McKenzie Korte, whose papers on colonial slavery in Connecticut were also in the program, were unable to participate in the conference.

Student and faculty presenters (L-R): Jacqueline Ray, Dr. Anna Kirchmann, Dr. Joan Meznar, Sabreena Croteau, Bethany Marion, Christopher Morris, Carl Krauss, and Dr. Thomas Balcerski

Student and faculty presenters (L-R): Jacqueline Ray, Dr. Anna Kirchmann, Dr. Joan Meznar, Sabreena Croteau, Bethany Marion, Christopher Morris, Carl Krauss, and Dr. Thomas Balcerski

In addition to the presenters and the Department’s Chair Dr. Kirchmann, several of the students from the History Club attended the conference. While at the conference, the Eastern group was glad to run into two recent history alumni, Bethany Niebank and Jared Leitzel, who are now graduate students in Central’s public history program.

Dr. Kirchmann commented: “‘Making History’ brings together both faculty and students in our four departments and while facilitating the exchange of academic knowledge, it helps us to get to know each other better. This year’s conference was a great event, which allowed our students to experience first-hand a professional conference. All our presenters did a fantastic job and I was very proud of them.”

Eastern Attendees at the 2016 Making History conference

Eastern Attendees at the 2016 Making History conference. From L to R, back to front: Dr. Ania Kirchmann, Jacqueline Ray, Sabrina Bell, Dr. Joan Meznar, Sabreena Croteau, Chris Morris, Carl Krauss, Dr. Thomas Balcerski, History alum Jared Leitzel, Sara Dean, Bethany Marion, Alexa Potter, and History alum Bethany Niebanck.