Boston University Arts & Sciences

CAS News

Department Spotlight: History

In this section, we check in with each academic department to learn what is going on in their neck of the CAS woods.

Boasting a highly productive and distinguished faculty, a commitment to excellence in research and pedagogy and top-class programs in several different fields, the BU History Department is gaining increased renown in several key areas. In particular, the department displays potential for leadership and international recognition in: Boston and the Atlantic World (a key component of BU's larger effort to become "Bostonís University"), African and African American History, American Political History, and the Twentieth Century History Initiative.

The department recently launched new partnerships with the School of Law (a joint JD-MA program in Law and History) and the College of Communication (a team-taught course called "Drafts of History: Journalism and Historical Revision"), as well as a professional development program for teachers in the Boston Public Schools.

The 2010–11 year was a banner year for the History doctoral program. Operating under the more competitive framework for graduate admissions introduced by new GRS Dean Jeffrey Hughes, History made eight fellowship offers and attracted seven of those recruits. With one additional self-financed doctoral student and three MA candidates, the department not only recruited one of its largest classes of incoming students ever, but its strongest. Many impressive young men and women will join the program in September 2011.

History faculty won a number of prestigious academic prizes and fellowships during 2010–11. Jim McCann and Eugenio Menegon took home impressive prizes for their most recent books. McCann's Stirring the Pot (previously named U.S. best in the category) won the Best in the World Prize (that's right—best in the world!) for books on Africa at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Paris. The Asian Studies Association awarded Menegon's Ancestors, Virgins and Friars: Christianity as a Local Religion in Late Imperial China its 2011 Joseph Levenson Book Prize. Meanwhile, Simon Rabinovitch was appointed Peter Paul Assistant Professor, and President Barack Obama named Allison Blakely to the National Council on the Humanities.

The faculty also performed impressively in international fellowship competitions. Rabinovitch won an International Fellowship from the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Study, Menegon received Henderson Senior Humanities Fellowship from the BU Humanities Foundation, and Sarah Phillips held a fellowship from the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History. The biggest prize, however, went to Jonathan Zatlin, who scored a rare trifecta with awards from the Earhart Foundation, the Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship, and the Berlin Institute for Advanced Studies.

Under the aegis of BU's larger strategic partnership with the University of Warwick in England, the department this year launched a collaborative research initiative on the Atlantic World, a prominent area of expertise at both institutions. The collaboration began in September 2010 with planning sessions for the Inaugural BU/Warwick Atlantic World Conference. The conference took place in March 2011 at Boston University.

The conference identified areas of complementary research and constructed the foundation for collaborative research in the future. A second conference—The Atlantic World After 1789—will take place in Warwick during Spring 2012. The conference papers will become the basis for an edited collection of articles that stakes out a new direction in this field. While most Atlantic history has focused on the period between 1492 and 1789, seeing the closing of the slave trade and the collapse of early modern empires as an end point, Warwick and BU scholars are pioneering a new approach, focused on processes of decolonization, cultural formation, and economic development that should produce significant new scholarship. The edited volume will help to define this emerging field of research.

Return to the August 2011 Newsletter

Keep Us in the Loop

Let us know about news or upcoming events. Please send news items to, or call Patrick Farrell at 617-358-1185. Announcements about upcoming events can also be submitted online. Events geared toward students should be submitted to the Student Programs Office.

For all matters regarding your alumni, please contact Associate Director of Alumni Relations Kirsten Lundeen at 617-358-5525 or Assistant Director of Alumni Relations Lauren Hall at 617-353-1060.

Boston University

Boston University
Arts & Sciences
725 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215