Economic History

AHA Member Spotlight: James Benton

James Benton is a Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation Fellow at Georgetown University, where he is helping the university implement the recommendations of its Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation, which were announced in September 2016. He lives in Northern Virginia and has been a member since 2015.

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.

Searching for the Quotidian in the Archives: Trade, Fraud, and Intercultural Relations in the Early Modern Mediterranean

This is the final post in a series by Jesse Hysell, one of this year’s AHA Today blog contest winners. His posts examine material exchanges between Venice and Egypt in the early modern period. Previous Posts include: Cultural Encounters and Material Exchanges in the Venetian ArchivesThe Politics of Pepper: Deciphering a Venetian-Mamluk Gift Exchange, and The Gift Thieves: Interpreting a Scandal in Early Modern Venice

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.

18th-century indenture contract, Wikimedia Commons

Transforming the US History Survey with a Focus on Labor in the Atlantic World

By Kimberly D. Hill

About three years ago, I realized I needed to reorganize the first few weeks of my early US history survey course. Following the 13 colonies-centered chronology of the textbook made the course seem too familiar to students and encouraged rote memorization. Still, I worried that too many changes would make the course difficult for freshmen and sophomores to navigate. The Bridging Cultures program gave me the confidence to embrace the challenge of teaching transnationally and offer students alternatives to the standard history texts and narratives.