Explaining One’s Research to the Public

From the desk of Dr. Charles Foy:

A basic responsibility of EIU faculty is to create knowledge. For historians, this typically takes the form of monographs published by university press or articles in academic journals. Unfortunately, the readership for these works is generally not extensive. The public’s exposure to history often is limited to the History Channel (Hitler, Hitler and more Hitler!). How to ensure a wider audience for our interesting scholarship? Eastern’s historians are engaging the public on a number of non-traditional and digital medium, including blogs, Twitter, and online essays.

Where can one find EIU history faculty’s informal writing? Here are some examples:

Twitter: Dr. Laughlin-Schultz, a historian of 19th century reform movements and women’s history regularly tweets on these issues, political matters and her new book project on the reformer Lucy Stone at https://twitter.com/bls75.

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Dr. Newton Key tweets on 17th century British history at https://twitter.com/newton_key.

Blogs: Short form essays are a handy means to quickly describe one’s research. The longest-standing blog by a EIU historian is Dr. Key’s Early Modern England blog at http://earlymodernengland.blogspot.com/

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Online Articles: Recently, a plethora of websites have been developed that seek to explain historical issues to the general public. One of these, Red Hooks Water Stories, http://portsidenewyork.org/history-cultural-tourism/, has undertaken to explain New York City’s maritime history to the public.

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This Fall it will be publishing Dr. Charles Foy’s short essay, “Blacks on the New York Waterfront during the American Revolution.” This is essay is a condensed version of Dr. Foy’s recent scholarly article “The Royal Navy’s Employment of Black Mariners and Maritime Workers, 1754-1783,” published in the February 2016 edition of International Maritime History Journal.

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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.

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.

Discussing ISIS

An Asian Studies Colloquium, “The roots, context, and impact of the ISIS/ISIL in and beyond the Middle East region,” with panelists Prof. Brian Mann (History), Prof. Hasan F Mavi (Kinesiology), and Prof. Newton Key (History), moderated by Prof. Gordon Tucker (Biology) will take place 5:00-6:30 PM Tuesday, April 14, 2015, 4440 Booth Library Conference Room. Following the panel presentation discussion will take place over pizza and refreshment. All are invited. (Making Sense of the ISIS panel flyer)

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“Revolutionary Decade: Reflections on the 1960s” at Booth Library

Booth Library’s new exhibit and program series, “Revolutionary Decade: Reflections on the 1960,” will be taking place throughout the Fall semester. Throughout the series, faculty and students will take “a fresh look at the achievements, tragedies, triumphs, extraordinary personalities, and everyday lives of average people during what was arguably one of the most turbulent and eventful decades of the 20th century.”

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Many members of the History Department faculty, along with some of our graduate students, will be participating in the “Revolutionary Decade” programming (for the full schedule of events, please visit the exhibit homepage on the Booth Library website):

Tuesday, Sept. 9, 7 p.m Booth Library West Reading Room
Opening Night/Reception
Dr. Edmund Wehrle, Keynote Address: “No Problem of Human Destiny is Beyond Human Beings: John F. Kennedy and the Spirit of the 1960s”

Tuesday, Sept. 23, 4 p.m., Booth Library Room 4440
The Other Side of the ’60s: Hidden Dimensions of One of America’s Most Significant Decades
– Dr. Lynne Curry, “Sex, Drugs, and the U.S. Supreme Court”
– Dr. Debra Reid, “Between Cairo and Chicago: Resistance to Rights Expansion During the 1960s”
– Dr. Charles Titus, “Cold War Classrooms: How American Education Served the National Security State”

Wednesday, Sept. 24, 4 p.m., Booth Library Room 4440
MA History Student Research Panel: Global Diplomacy in the 1960s
– Moderated by Dr. Edmund Wehrle:
Kimberly Jones, “No Place Like Home: Robert F. Williams — World Exile”
Michael Ludwinski, “The Kennedy-MacMillan Affair: The Making of a
Special Relationship”
Adam Mohebbi, “Inaction, Not Indifference: Rhodesia and Postcolonialism in the 1960s”

Thursday, Oct. 2, 3:30 p.m., Booth Library Room 4440
Fantastic Sitcoms of the 1960s: “I Dream of Jeannie” and “Bewitched”
Dr. Malgorzata J. Rymsza-Pawlowska, “Fantastic Sitcoms of the 1960s: I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched

Wednesday, Nov. 12, 4 p.m., Booth Library Room 4440
Thursday, Nov. 13, 7 p.m., Lone Elm Room, Mattoon Depot

Reflections on Sixties Music
Dr. Newton Key, “Global Influences on the American Pop Charts of the Sixties”

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History Graduate Student Wins 2014 King-Mertz Award

Nichole Garbrough (MA 2014) was recently selected by the EIU Graduate School to receive the prestigious King-Mertz Distinguished Research/Creative Activity Award for her Independent Study project “Delaware Valley Allegiances and Identity in the Eighteenth Century” done under the supervision of Dr. Charles Foy.  This paper addressed the question of how and when residents of British North American changed their identities from being British to being American. Through a careful and detailed analysis of identity Nichole demonstrated Delaware’s unique history among the thirteen colonies and at the same time confirmed that its diversity and lacking a monolithic religious community or mono-crop economy were more typical of colonial America than Massachusetts or Virginia, colonies which most historians have focused their attention.

Nichole’s research for this project was done while taking Dr. Newton Key’s Early Modern England and Dr. Foy’s Early America seminars.

Crowdsourcing history

Newton Key’s article “Crowdsourcing the Early Modern Blogosphere,” originally posted in an Open Peer Review version, has been revised and published in Historyblogosphere: Bloggen in den Geschichtswissenschaften, ed. Peter Haber, Eva Pfanzelter, and Julia Schreiner, 101-118. Berlin, Boston: Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 2013. Co-editor Dr. Eva Pfanzelter and asst. professor at the University of Innsbruck, is also an EIU MA in History (1994).