Author Archives: Guest Blogger

L0035431 A 19th century stethoscope witha bell-shaped end
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
A 19th century stethoscope with a bell-shaped end and a flexable tubing for both ears. Made by Scott Alison
c. 1858 Published:  - 

Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

Thinking Like a Historian in Scrubs: How I Use My BA in History

By David Glenn

Twenty seven years ago, I was a newly declared sophomore history major. I’d fallen hard for labor history. I wanted to study the American workplace as a site of both solidarity and alienation, a place where people can sometimes break free of the chains of class, caste, and gender, while at the same time falling prey to other kinds of oppression. I wanted to write books like Christine Stansell’s City of Women: Sex and Class in New York, 1789–1860 (1986) or Walter Licht’s Working for the Railroad: The Organization of Work in the Nineteenth Century (1983).

Lines of people at the Baltimore City Welfare Office, Maryland (1975), Library of Congress.

Welfare Reform and the Politics of Race: 20 Years Later

By Premilla Nadasen

Twenty years ago this month, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). The act transformed Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), a federal entitlement program for poor single parents and their children, into block grants, or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families with the aim of removing people from the welfare rolls. Passed with bipartisan support, the 1996 act reflected a liberal/conservative consensus around the racialized nature of welfare and the need to encourage work rather than dependency.


How the Culture of “Welfare Reform” Changed the US Army

 By Jennifer Mittelstadt

August 22, 2016, will mark the 20th anniversary of Bill Clinton’s signing of the 1996 welfare reform act, the law that “ended welfare as we knew it.” The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) marked a historic break from the federal government’s commitment to aid poor women and children. It imposed strict employment requirements on recipients of public funds and limited lifetime eligibility for support to no more than five years. As historical retrospectives and evaluations emerge, few recognize the extraordinary impact of the welfare reform agenda beyond the low-income single mothers it targeted.


A Historian in the Stacks: Finding a Professional Home in the Library

By Annie Johnson

Unlike most graduate students, when I started my history PhD at the University of Southern California, I knew I did not want to be a professor. Fresh out of the public humanities program at Brown, I was inspired by the work of public historians like Steven Lubar and Richard Rabinowitz. I figured I would go on and get a PhD, like they had, and then find a curatorial job in a history museum. Not even a semester into my first year, however, my plan began to change (although I didn’t quite realize it at the time).

President Nixon meets with President Mobutu Seko of Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo) in the Oval Office in October 1973. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Conflict in Africa: The Historical Roots of Current Problems

By Elizabeth Schmidt

“The purpose of foreign policy is to promote national self-interest, not the well-being of others.” This provocative statement from the audience sparked a spirited discussion at a Washington History Seminar in April. In response, I argued that nations must embrace a definition of self-interest that is informed by historical and cultural understanding.

US secretary of state John Kerry meets with Chinese president Xi Jinping in July 2014. Credit: US Department of State. Credit: Flickr

America’s Quest to Change China: Reflections on the History of US-China Relations

By Terry Lautz

The United States has held great ambitions for China for a very long time. Prior to the 1949 Communist revolution, the American public cherished the idea of China as a Christian, capitalist, and democratic nation.

Western religion would enlighten people who were perceived as backward and heathen; American business would lift the Chinese out of poverty; and liberal education would inspire progressive government. The long-standing missionary impulse to save the Chinese was reinforced when the United States allied with Chiang Kai-shek against Japan during the Second World War.

Augusta Savage at work on her famous sculpture, The Harp, commissioned by the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. New York Public Library Digital Collections

Far from the Harlem Crowd: Rediscovering the Work and Life of Augusta Savage in Saugerties, New York

By Eric Fitzsimmons and Sarah E. Elia

In 1945, Augusta Savage, a sculptor and a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance, traded the hustle of Harlem for a secluded house, 100 miles north, tucked at the end of a dirt drive in Saugerties, New York. For a long time, her story was said to end there in a retreat from society and the Harlem art world—a narrative that ignored her ongoing work and active social life in her adopted town.

"Clio" by Hendrik Goltzius, 1558-1617, currently held by the Los Angeles County Art Museum.  Clio is the muse of history.

Changing Course: The Flexibility of a History Degree

By Kamarin Takahara

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Because I spent most of my time surrounded by teachers, I answered this question when I was young with: “Well, I want to be a teacher.” As I grew up and experienced new things, however, that question took on a greater significance.

The seeming irrevocability of the answer scared me—like in a final exam, you make a choice, turn it in, and because you can never change the answer, you are stuck with your decision forever.