Author Archives: Guest Blogger

Playing the Long Game: Career Diversity for Future PhDs

By Taylor Perk

At any AHA annual meeting, it’s easy to spot dozens of well-dressed individuals preparing for interviews in the hopes of finding a job within the academy. In the past few years, however, with the advent of Career Diversity, the flavor of the meeting has changed a bit. At the Colorado Convention Center, only a few rooms over from the Job Center, one could find several PhD students and faculty members gathered to think beyond the professorial life. 

“A Historian Walks into an Archive . . .”: Humor and Historical Research

By Jennifer Vannette

Historical research can be quite funny even when investigating a serious topic—there is humor to be found in documents, in people, and in the process. I study the intersection of religion and politics in the late 1940s and early 1950s, with a particular emphasis on nongovernmental organizations’ attempts to advance human and civil rights in the United States and at the newly formed United Nations. It is fascinating, to be sure, but often disheartening to examine prejudice—the early Cold War, with its racially tinged communist witch hunts, roiled with emotions including fear, frustration, and even desperation.

Creating Circumstances: Edward Bernays, Psychoanalysis, and the Making of American Consumer Culture

By Joseph Malherek

In 1929, it was socially acceptable for women to smoke at home and in certain public spaces, such as a hotel lobby. Smoking on the streets, however, was another matter altogether. George Washington Hill, the president of the American Tobacco Company, sought to quash this old taboo. He enlisted a public relations consultant, Edward Bernays, who had, in his years as a press agent, perfected the art of “creating circumstances” that would attract favorable coverage—and thus free publicity—in newspapers.

Memory and Peace in Colombia

By Joshua M. Rosenthal

Colombia has maintained a reputation as a country of forgetting since the world fell in love with Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. Since then, others have added to the tradition. In the recently translated Reputations, the novelist Juan Gabriel Vásquez updates the idea, “Forgetfulness was the only democratic thing in Colombia: It covered them all, the good and the bad, the murderers and the heroes, like the snow in the James Joyce story, falling upon all of them alike.” Nor are such assertions confined to literature.

More Human than Alien: Researching the History of UFOs

By Greg Eghigian

In the summer of 1947, private pilot Kenneth Arnold described seeing nine bright objects flying in close formation at remarkable speed near Mount Rainier in Washington. Soon after, when pressed by curious journalists, he described the strange aircraft as “flat like a pie pan and somewhat bat-shaped,” noting they “flew like a saucer would if you skipped it across water.” Though he never uttered the phrase “flying saucer,” newspapers throughout the world rapidly adopted the term. Just weeks after Arnold’s sighting, a Gallup poll revealed that nine out of ten Americans were already familiar with the moniker.

Why Study Russian History?

By E. Thomas Ewing and Virginia Tech Students enrolled in HIST 3604: Russia to Peter the Great

Last fall, Virginia Tech students taking History 3604: Russia to Peter the Great engaged in a sustained discussion on “why study history?” In the class, we often took examples from current news or recent history and established connections to the historical period covered by the readings, lecture, and assignments (here’s a link to the syllabus). Each week, a group of two or three students wrote a short statement explaining how the readings illustrated the value of studying history, which we then discussed in class.

A Flag, a Dinner Bell, and a Hand-Dug Well: Using Artifacts to Make Meaningful Connections to the Past

By Michelle M. Martin

When I began my directorship of the Little House on the Prairie Museum south of Independence, Kansas, the promise and challenges the museum faced swirled in my mind. For any small historic house museum, problems tend to outweigh the possibilities. Founded in 1977, the Little House on the Prairie Museum preserves the Kansas homesite where Charles Ingalls and his family lived from 1869–71. The museum features a replica of the one-room cabin the family lived in while in Kansas along with a 19th-century one-room schoolhouse and post office moved to the site to ensure their preservation.