Mark Antony Goes to Armenia

Lee E. Patterson returns to Armenia once again in his latest article, titled “Antony and Armenia,” recently published in TAPA, the official journal of the Society for Classical Studies (formerly known as the American Philological Association).

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The piece examines the role Armenia played in Mark Antony’s eastern activities, especially his disastrous Parthian war.  It also situates Armenia in the wider politics of the Roman world that saw Antony ultimately oppose Octavian and ally with Cleopatra.  Contrary to the common belief that Antony annexed Armenia as a Roman province, Patterson posits that a proper accounting of the evidence, scant though it is, and of the broader historical context argues against Antony’s intent to reduce Armenia to anything other than a client state.  In an earlier publication Patterson argued against the emperor Caracalla’s annexation in the 210s.  This pattern is consistent with overall Roman policy regarding Armenia (the emperor Trajan being a notable exception), which Patterson is currently exploring in a book project.  The latest issue of TAPA is available to subscribers of Project Muse and can be accessed here.

Undergraduate History Research: From Royal to Clever Bastards

Eastern Illinois University History Department undergraduate and graduate of Charleston High School, John Bays, recently presented a poster at the Showcase EIU in March and then delivered a paper at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) at Eastern Washington University near Spokane in April on an intriguing group of courtiers.

John Bays at the Honors College's EIU Showcase in March

John Bays presenting at the Honors College’s EIU Showcase in March

This week John will be graduating with Departmental Honors after successfully completing his thesis on the political and cultural roles of the royal mistresses and natural sons of King Charles II at the English late-17th century court. Along the way, John received an Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity (URSCA) award from Eastern to research this subject, traveling with his thesis advisor, Dr. Newton Key, to both the Rare Book Room at the University of Illinois Library and especially the Newberry Library in Chicago to read rare material from the 17th century as well as genealogical information on the bastards and their mothers. Rather than being ignored, the illegitimate sons were used by the king as part of the magnificence of his court, receiving honors and positions. Younger sons proved remarkably adept at surviving at court past the Revolution after their father’s death, and even into the Hanoverian era.

John began his interest in things historical in courses taught by Matt Schubert at Charleston High School. He was quite interested in the Tudor Court, but moved studying to late-17th century Stuart Court when Dr. Key suggested this subject. It takes a while to decipher the meaning of status and ceremony at courts, but John enjoyed going through “the process of becoming a real historian.” He especially liked the chance to present the material at the Honors Showcase and then at NCUR. NCUR found him in a session with gender and literary studies, where fielding “lots of questions” was “a really good experience.” Writing the thesis, John added, is a good “springboard to Graduate School,” and he enters the M.A. program in History at Eastern in the Fall.

Organization of American Historians (OAH) in STL: Gen Ed in the Morning; Cardinals at Night

From the desk of Dr. Debra Reid:

I had the pleasure of participating on a panel on designing general education courses at the Organization of American Historians conference in St. Louis, Missouri, April 17. The OAH Programsession brought together veterans who shared their perspectives on a process that people seem to love to hate – general education. I talked about the philosophy of general education, about differences between top-down and department-driven curriculum reform, and about methods that can engage students in the U.S. History survey since 1876. Other panelists talked about incorporating ethical conundrums (Robert Sampson, Millikin University) and about maintaining high standards (Maureen Nutting, North Seattle Community College).

Between sessions I met Lea VanderVelde (University of Iowa), author of Mrs. Dred Scott: A Life on Slavery’s Frontier (Oxford, 2010). I wish she could have met Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz who was at the conference but not in the room at the time. I am sure that the OAHlogowomen of John Brown’s family, the subject of Laughlin-Schultz’ award-winning,  The Ties that Bound Us: The Women of John Brown’s Family and the Legacy of Radical Feminism (Cornell, 2014) would have plenty of things to talk about with Mrs. Dred Scott. It sounds like an interesting possibility in light of the upcoming 150th anniversary of Reconstruction. Malgorzata Rymsza-Pawlowska presented at the OAH as well, in a session entitled “Working across Spaces of History Pedagogy: Classroom, Exhibit, Community.” She met David Thelen at her session. He co-wrote The Presence of the Past:  Popular Uses of History in American Life (Columbia, 1998), a book that the Historical Administration graduate students were assigned as summer reading last year.

In between all this stimulation, I took a break and went to the ball game. The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Cincinnati Reds on runs batted in by Yadier Molina. How sweet it is!

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History Majors Win Social Science Writing Awards

The History Department is proud to announce that two of its students recently won Social Science Writing Awards for their respective research projects. Ryan Lawler, senior history major, won first place in the competition for his paper,  “Sexual Uses of Myth as a Basis for a Male-Dominated Society” and junior history major Michael Olson won the runner-up prize for his paper, “Eisenhower and Lebanon, 1958.”

Ryan Lawler (left) & Michael Olson (right)

Social Science Writing Awards Winners: Ryan Lawler (left) & Michael Olson (right)

The Social Science Writing Awards competition is administered through the Dean’s Office of the College of Sciences, and each year the awards recognize the best papers written by undergraduates across the following departments: Economics, History, Political Science, Psychology and Sociology-Anthropology.  Congratulations to Ryan and Michael on their fantastic achievement!

History Club Elects New Executive Board

The History Club at Eastern Illinois University recently elected its Executive Committee for the 2015-16 academic year. The new ExCom will be: Cayla Wagner (Club President), Quentin Spannagel (Club Vice President), Nick Waller (Club Treasurer), and Brandon West (Club Secretary).

From left to right: Brandon West, Cayla Wagner, Quentin Spannagel, Nicholas Waller

From left to right: Brandon West, Cayla Wagner, Quentin Spannagel, Nicholas Waller

Congratulations to our new leadership team and also a very big thank you to our fantastic outgoing ExCom who made this year such a success – President Emily McInerney, Treasurer Ryan Lawler, and Secretary Tom Travis, we will miss you!

History Majors Win Distinguished Seniors Awards

The History Department is proud to announce that history majors Taylor Yangas and Emily McInerney have been selected to receive Distinguished Senior Awards by the Office of Alumni Services.

Congratulations to Taylor Yangas (left) and Emily McInerney (right)

Congratulations to Taylor Yangas (left) and Emily McInerney (right)

The Distinguished Senior Awards recognize students who have demonstrated outstanding character and leadership through academic achievement, campus and community involvement, and/or extra-curricular honors or awards. Taylor and Emily will be recognized for their achievements at an awards luncheon to be held on Saturday, April 25. Congrats to both of them on their awards!

History Professors Address and Respond to the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL)

From the desk of Dr. Newton Key:

On April 14, a group of faculty and students gathered in Booth Library to discuss one aspect of the Middle East, in a presentation entitled “Making Sense of ISIS/ISIL,” organized by Prof. Jinhee Lee, History, as part of Asian Heritage Month. Panelists Prof. Brian Mann (History), Prof. Hasan F. Mavi (Kinesiology), and Prof. Newton Key (History), moderated by Prof. Gordon Tucker (Biology), made brief opening presentations. Prof. Mann noted ISIS has different strategies and goals than al-Qaeda, though historically they have similar origins. Mann also noted that active ISIS or even ISIS supporters were a small group compared with the large Muslim population world-wide. Both Mann and Prof. Mavi stressed the very un-Islamic nature of the self-titled Islamic State. Mavi distinguished between the faith and culture of Muslims and that of the ISIS “modern pirates.” He also noted Muslim suffering in the 2nd half of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st. Prof. Key noted the importance of the Syrian Civil War in providing a space for ISIS, as well as the vast spaces across which fighting continues to take place (noting ISIS current holds what is the equivalent of a huge chunk of Illinois-sized Syria combined with a huge chunk of California-sized Iraq).
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After a break for pizza and soda (many thanks, Asian Studies), attendees asked about the relative success of ISIS social media campaigns and the sociological even psychological make-up of those joining from abroad. The panelists suggested distinguishing media wars from actual fighting, that ISIS could seize the jihadi mantle on social media because al-Qaeda followed a more “traditional” route for modern, guerilla or terrorist war of hiding and being slow to lay claim for actions. The panelists also suggested distinguishing means and ends, the some joining ISIS from outside Syria-Iraq might be attracted by horrific acts of violence or rape, but that in theory the violent terror of ISIS could be viewed as the means, while their ends could be viewed as a new, in their view “ideal” state. Mann pointed out the intriguing development that, much against all previous Islamic teachings, ISIS now believed that they could identify and punish heretics. Key noted a key question for academics is how we can understand or comprehend ISIS (or other) horrific events or actions before condemning without condoning (accepting) them.
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Ninety minutes was not enough time to explain the vast issues involved in the spread of ISIS (let alone the Syrian Civil War), but the panelists hope they brought a bit more historical, not hysterical context to bear.