By Daniel Franke
Carol Symes’s AHA Today post, “Medievalism, White Supremacy, and the Historian’s Craft,” raises a number of important issues about the impact of recent political and academic controversies on the historical profession. I have long admired Symes’s work, and at the present writing she has graciously agreed to present a paper in a session I have organized for the 2018 International Medieval Congress at Leeds. We share a common intellectual lineage as well: we are both students of Joseph Strayer’s students—she of Thomas Bisson at Harvard, I of Richard Kaeuper at Rochester.
In the past year, historians have frequently been called upon to make meaning of news. From Confederate monuments and statues around the country to President Donald Trump’s travel ban executive orders, historians have answered the call to provide historical perspective and analysis. As AHA executive director Jim Grossman wrote recently in Perspectives, the assumption that “historians should have a voice in public culture and in public policy” is a guiding principle for the AHA’s agenda.
By Kaete O’Connell
Last winter while leafing through the Official File at the Truman Library for material on Herbert Hoover’s 1947 economic mission to Germany, I was struck by a vibrant burst of color. The monochrome of telegrams and correspondence was replaced by colorful sketches of chickens, Lifesaver candies, and a family of beans marching to a can for preservation. The drawings were bound together with thank-you notes penned by young recipients of US food relief. German children clearly appreciated the “gift” of food, pleasing occupation officials keen to capitalize on American charity.
By Carol Symes
With every passing day, the AHA’s upcoming annual meeting on the theme of Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism in Global Perspective is becoming more and more urgent. In particular, a group of sessions on The Modern Legacy of Premodern Racial and Ethnic Concepts anticipates a number of recent events and controversies that have drawn attention to the close links between white supremacism and medievalism: that is, the projection of modern agendas onto the medieval past, or the selective use of that past to further such agendas.
By Julia M Gossard
While lecturing on Magellan’s famed voyage that circumnavigated the early modern world, I asked the student who had chosen to trace the voyage on a map if she had any further insights. Somewhat surprisingly she retorted, “Not historically, but it did take me a really long time to draw that line representing Magellan’s voyage. I can’t imagine having actually done it in the 16th century.” Her comment opened up an engaging (unplanned) discussion about the realities of sea travel, culture shock, and geography in the early modern world.
In 1920, Britain changed its pension laws to allow women to receive compensation for any injuries sustained during the First World War. However, because time had passed since their active service, many found themselves having to prove that their symptoms were directly related to their war experience (and not a result of prewar hereditary conditions or postwar events). They had to find a doctor, a superior from their service, or, at the very least, a family member who could attest that the cause of their suffering was from their service.
Fabian Klose is a senior researcher at the Leibniz Institute of European History (IEG) in Mainz and privatdozent at the history department at the LMU Munich. He lives in Mainz, Germany, and has been a member since 2014.
One of the most challenging aspects of studying the case notes of women treated for war trauma is that I encounter them at some of the worst moments of their lives. There are often few ways to find more information about them, or to learn what their lives were like after they were released. In many cases, the only story that I can craft about the women I study is about their incarceration in asylums and hospitals, or about their struggle for pensions and medical recognition through their postwar pension files.