The History of African Economic Agency in Light of Colonialism, Poverty, and Globalization: an Interview with Dr. Moses Ochonu

February 12, 2013 by

Dr. Moses Ochonu, courtesy of Vanderbilt University History Department, 2013

Revisiting major debates on the impact of colonialism on Africa’s economy is a big task. So big, that History Compass allowed African historian Dr. Moses Ochonu of Vanderbilt University the space of two articles to re-open the conversation.

As we’re all aware, issues of poverty and economic marginality on the African continent have assumed more urgency in the world. Now, more than ever, people are asking: how did it come to this?

Historians are in the unique position of returning to historical questions in order to answer the economic questions of the present. The future of Africa’s economy will be determined by the forces of globalization, the international market, as well as domestic innovation, investments in infrastructure, and trade. In light of this future, which is becoming increasingly clear and urgent, Ochonu wanted to revisit the debates over the history of African economies.

In his History Compass articles (available here and here), Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Halloween!

October 31, 2012 by

We at History Compass Exchanges wish everyone a  Happy Halloween! To celebrate, I drew a comic about how sometimes, it’s incredibly apparent which child is going to grow up to become a historian. I’m sure my parents knew I would before I did based on the uncanny historical accuracy of some of my childhood costumes.

Spot the Future Historian, by Angela Sutton, 2012

If you have a funny/poignant/thought-provoking/etc.  idea for a history cartoon, please send it to Angela.C.Sutton[at]Vanderbilt[dot]edu.  If I use your idea I will give you credit here.

History Around the Compass: Science, Technology, Health

October 18, 2012 by

Science, Technology, HealthHistory Compass is pleased to present the second Virtual Issue in their ‘History Around the Compass’ series on

Science, Technology, Health

Available free online until the end of the year.

Disability in the Middle Ages: Impairment at the Intersection of Historical Inquiry and Disability Studies
Irina Metzler

New Directions in the Study of Religious Responses to the Black Death
Justin Stearns

Blood in Medieval Cultures
Bettina Bildhauer

Recent Perspectives on Leprosy in Medieval Western Europe
Elma Brenner

Integrative Medicine: Incorporating Medicine and Health into the Canon of Medieval European History
Monica H. Green

Writing the History of the Natural Sciences in the pre-modern Muslim world: Historiography, Religion, and the Importance of the Early Modern Period
Justin Stearns

Religion and the Enlightenment(s)
M. Sandberg

Science and Technology in India: The Digression of Asia and Europe
Aniruddha Bose

‘Dead Meat’ Dramas: Diseased Meat and the Public’s Health
Keir Waddington

The Ties That Bind: Infanticide, Gender, and Society
Brigitte H. Bechtold and Donna Cooper

The Fertility of Scholarship on the History of Reproductive Rights in the United States
Joyce Berkman

Eugenics and Historical Memory in America
Alexandra Minna Stern

Having a Clean Up? Deporting Lunatic Migrants from Western Australia, 1924–1939
Philippa Martyr

Re-visiting Histories of Modernization, Progress, and (Unequal) Citizenship Rights: Coerced Sterilization in Peru and in the United States
Jadwiga E. Pieper Mooney

Flu: Past and Present
George Dehner

Malaria in Africa
James L. A. Webb Jr.

Polio in Nigeria
Elisha P. Renne

Sowing the Seeds of Progress: The Agricultural Biotechnology Debate in Africa
Noah Zerbe

The League of Nations and the Debate over Cannabis Prohibition
Liat Kozma

The Medical History of South Africa: An Overview
Anne Digby

Constructing a Narrative: The History of Science and Technology in Latin America
María Portuondo

A Survey of the History of Science in New Zealand 1769–1992
Rebecca Priestley

History for the Anthropocene
Libby Robin and Will Steffen

Columbus Day as a Teachable Moment

October 8, 2012 by

This Columbus Day, I challenge historians everywhere to complicate the issues surrounding Columbus.

Columbus Day Comic

The “Discovery” of the New World, by Angela Sutton


Christopher Columbus, and the holiday (or holidays, as the US isn’t the only country who celebrates him) named after him are fantastic opportunities for teachable moments in virtually any history classroom.

In the past, I’ve asked students to read passages of Christopher Columbus’s journal or his letters to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. Together, we’ve reflected on what they have learned in the past about Columbus, and discussed all the things you do when teaching with primary sources: we talked about the reasons sources are generated, and their historical context, and how and why the source came to be preserved in the present.

Then I’ve show them blogs and opinion articles by historians who discuss the less palatable facts about Columbus, by historians like Howard Zinn who highlight how dangerous he was for the Americas,  and by Native American activists who denounce Columbus for what he has done to their Amerindian ancestors.

I’ve asked students to find more information on the controversy surrounding Columbus Day, and they came back in full force with news of protests, and more opinion articles.

I then asked students why I’ve asked them to find these things.

“Because Columbus was bad?” asked one.

Before I could answer, another student chimed in. “No, because he’s still important now. What he did is still affecting populations in our country.”


Then I asked what our honoring this man each year says about how America values its native populations. Then the class moved into a discussion of how the US perceived of itself and why we use this day to celebrate Columbus instead of the contributions of Native Americans.

By this time the class was fired up. I didn’t have to ask any more questions, and instead focused on moderating the discussion between students. The class touched on many important points related to imperialism, racism, colonialism, colonial legacies, hegemony, and power – all the things a good history class should uncover.

In this way, Columbus Day has become a valuable teachable moment to show students that history is living, and that something that happened in the 1400s can still affect the way we perceive of ourselves as a nation today.

Chick-fil-A and the History of Queer Boycotts

August 28, 2012 by

Recent furor over Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy’s funding of organizations explicitly opposed to same-sex marriage has made consumers across the political and social spectrum evaluate how their spending habits are in fact political decisions.

Opponents of marriage equality and some free market supporters have asked what gay men and lesbians hope to achieve by calling for boycotts against Chick-fil-A. Many see economic action against Cathy and Chick-fil-A as anti-Capitalist, even un-American, arguing incorrectly that it violates his freedom of speech. The history of queer economic activism, however, demonstrates just what is at stake, and what boycotting can achieve.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sports and Celebrations: A Special Virtual Issue

June 3, 2012 by

In 2012, the UK will host the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and will celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. To mark these historic events, Historical Research is pleased to present a selection of previously published papers and recent IHR podcasts on the theme of ‘Sports and Celebrations’:

Rules for the Observance of Feast-Days in Medieval England
Volume 34, Issue 90, November 1961

The Book of the Disguisings for the Coming of the Ambassadors of Flanders, December 1508
A. R. Myers
Volume 54, Issue 129, May 1981

‘For refreshment and preservinge health’: the definition and function of recreation in early modern England
Elaine McKay
Volume 81, Issue 211, February 2008

Sports and celebrations in English market towns, 1660–1750
Emma Griffin
Volume 75, Issue 188, May 2002

The Cult of the Centenary, c.1784–1914
Roland Quinault
Volume 71, Issue 176, October 1998

Bonfire Night in Mid Victorian Northants: the Politics of a Popular Revel
D. G. Paz
Volume 63, Issue 152, October 1990

Queen Victoria opens Parliament: the Disinvention of Tradition
Walter L. Arnstein
Volume 63, Issue 151, June 1990

Reynolds’s Newspaper, Opposition to Monarchy and the Radical Anti-Jubilee:Britain’s Anti-Monarchist Tradition Reconsidered
Antony Taylor
Volume 68, Issue 167, October 1995

The ‘Last Night of the Proms’ in historical perspective
David Cannadine
Volume 81, Issue 212, May 2008

Exhibiting a new Japan: the Tokyo Olympics of 1964 and Expo ’70 in Osaka
Sandra Wilson
Volume 85, Issue 227, February 2012

The Olympics, documentation strategy and the Minnesota Method The Olympics, documentation strategy and the Minnesota Method
Cathy Williams
IHR Archives and Society podcast, February 2012
Read the HistorySPOT blog post for this podcast

‘A Man Cannot See His Own Faults’: British Professional Trainers and the 1912 Olympics'A Man Cannot See His Own Faults': British Professional Trainers and the 1912 Olympics
David Day
IHR Sport and Leisure History seminar series, February 2012

Sport’s Role in 1951′s Festival of Britain Sport's Role in 1951's Festival of Britain
Iain Wilton
IHR Sport and Leisure History seminar series, March 2012

Eighteenth-Century French Studies: A Special Virtual Issue

May 30, 2012 by
Part of Interior of the Comédie-Française (A.Meunier, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Part of Interior of the Comédie-Française (A.Meunier, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies is pleased to present a Special Virtual Issue on Eighteenth-Century French Studies, comprising previously published papers and an original Introduction by David McCallam.

David McCallam

Voltaire and War
Haydn Mason
Volume 4, Issue 2, September 1981

Illegal Gambling in Eighteenth-Century France: Incidence, Detection and Penalties
John Dunkley
Volume 8, Issue 2, September 1985

Images of Islam in Some French Writings of the First Half of the Eighteenth Century
Ahmad Gunny
Volume 14, Issue 2, September 1991

Sexual/Textual Politics in the Enlightenment: Diderot and d’Épinay Respond to Thomas’s “Essay on Women”
Mary Trouille
Volume 19, Issue 1, March 1996

“Vous avés achevé mes tableaux”: Michel-Jean Sedaine and Jacques-Louis David
Mark Ledbury
Volume 23, Issue 1, March 2000

Candide and La Nouvelle Héloïse
Robin Howells
Volume 29, Issue 1, March 2006

Rehearsals at the Comédie-Française in the Late Eighteenth Century
John Golder
Volume 30, Issue 3, September 2007

“La différence de couleur n’en fait point dans l’âme”: Behn’s Oroonoko and the French Anti-Slavery Debate
Ursula Haskins Gonthier
Volume 31, Issue 2, June 2008

Education in the Eighteenth Century: A Special Virtual Issue

May 29, 2012 by
Part of Frontispiece, Mary Wollstonecraft, Original Stories

Part of Frontispiece, Mary Wollstonecraft’s Original Stories (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies is pleased to present a Special Virtual Issue on Education in the Eighteenth Century, comprising previously published papers and an original Introduction by Michèle Cohen.

Read it exclusively online:

Michèle Cohen

The Treatment of Education in the Encyclopédie
D S Wilson
Volume 11, Issue 1, March 1988

Berquin’s L’Ami des Enfants and the Hidden Curriculum of Class Relations
John Dunkley
Volume 16, Issue 2, September 1993

Capturing (and captivating) childhood: The Role of Illustrations in Eighteenth- Century Children’s Books in Britain and France
Penny Brown
Volume 31, Issue 3, September 2008

“The Proper education of a Female …is still to seek”: Childhood and Girls’ Education in Fanny Burney’s Camilla; or, a picture of Youth
Coral Ann Howells
Volume 7, Issue 2, September 1984

London’s Charity School Children: The “Scum of the Parish”?
Dianne Payne
Volume 29, Issue 3, September 2006

“A Little Learning”? The Curriculum and the Construction of Gender Difference in the Long Eighteenth Century
Michèle Cohen
Volume 29, Issue 3, September 2006

“Leisure to be Wise”: Edgeworthian education and the possibilities of Domesticity
Richard De Ritter
Volume 33, Issue 3, September 2010

History Teaching in Late Eighteenth-Century Russia
David Saunders
Volume 10, Issue 2, September 1987

The British Reception of Madame de Genlis’s Writing for Children: Plays and Tales of Instruction and Delight
Gillian Dow
Volume 29, Issue 3, September 2006

Educating Christian Men in the Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries: Public School and Oxbridge Ideals
William Van Reyk
Volume 32, Issue 3, September 2009

Autonomy and Perfectibility: The Educational Theory of Godwin’s The Enquirer
K. E Smith
Volume 5, Issue 2, September 1982

Conference on Latino Los Angeles

April 20, 2012 by

Dear colleagues and friends:
You are invited to a conference on “Latino Los Angeles,” to take place on Saturday, April 21st at The Autry National Center of the American West. Organized by the Historical Society of Southern California (HSSC), this interdisciplinary conference looks at how Latinos are shaping and restructuring three main themes in Los Angeles: community, the arts, and education. What major challenges face Latino communities today? How do artists address key issues and themes among Angelenos? How effective are educational institutions in meeting the needs and concerns of the Latino community? Scholars, filmmakers, journalists, and artists will address the contemporary Latino experience in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire, and film clips and music form part of the program. Tickets, which include continental breakfast, a boxed lunch, and refreshments, are $50 for members of the HSSC and the Autry, $65 for non-members, and $25 for students. To RSVP, email, call (323) 460 5632, or visit
Keynote Speaker: George Sánchez (USC)
Denise Blasor (Bilingual Foundation of the Arts)
The Gene Corral Trio
William Deverell (USC)
Jerry Gonzalez (University of Texas, San Antonio)
Yolanda Gonzalez (Los Angeles artist/curator)
Jeff Gottlieb (Los Angeles Times)
Josh Kun (USC)
Anthony Macías (UC Riverside)
Kenneth Marcus (University of La Verne)
Adonay Montes (University of La Verne)
Lilia D. Monzó (Chapman University)
Enrique Murillo (Cal State San Bernardino)
Gilda L. Ochoa (Pomona College)
José Luis Valenzuela (UCLA)
Antonio Gonzalez Vasquez (Inland Mexican Heritage)
Ruben Vives (Los Angeles Times)
Jon Wilkman (Wilkman Productions)
Sponsors: Historical Society of Southern California; International Studies Institute, University of La Verne; Autry National Center of the American West

Santa’s Helper in Blackface: An Interview with Dutch anthropologist Pooyan Tamimi Arab about Racism and the history of Zwarte Piet

December 5, 2011 by

On November 13, 2011, a group of Afro-Caribbean Dutch protestors were arrested in the city of Dordrecht, Netherlands for protesting figures associated with the Dutch holiday tradition of Sinterklaas. (You can see a play-by-play of the protests and arrests here) These figures, deemed Santa’s helpers, are called Zwarte Pieten (or Black Petes), and they arrive  on a steamboat alongside Sinterklaas (or St. Nicholas, the Dutch Santa) dressed in Shakespearean clothing and wearing wooly black afro, braided, or dreadlock wigs, bright red lipstick, golden earrings, and blackface. The Zwarte Pieten are the comedians of Sinterklaas who cheerfully play brass instruments, throw sweets, play tricks, and often end up as the butt of practical jokes throughout the holiday season.

Two Zwarte Pieten, courtesy of Wiki Commons

People from outside of the Netherlands are often shocked when confronted with the Zwarte Pieten. They associate these figures with  the American tradition of blackface minstrel-shows which contributed to the proliferation of racist stereotypes, attitudes, and perceptions within a racially divided society. The Dutch are aware of this issue, and how it looks to outsiders. This year, Vancouver’s cancellation of the Sinterklaas celebration due to Zwarte Piet made it into the Dutch news. The organizer of the festival said “We will have to teach the Canadians and the entire North-American population what Zwarte Piet really is.” This attracted much commentary and criticism from the Netherlands. But foriegn outrage and rejection to the Zwarte Piet isn’t new to the Dutch:  In 2008, Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, made the decision to remove Zwarte Piet  from its holiday lineup in response to tourist and layover flyers’ protest. Yet despite criticism from the outside world, Zwarte Piet remains a popular figure whom the vast majority of Dutch people want to keep at the center of Sinterklaas festivities. Read the rest of this entry »

What’s happening in the history of early modern Ireland?

October 20, 2011 by

Anybody seeking an answer to the question posed above could do worse than to check out the podcasts now available from the Tudor-Stuart Ireland Conference held last month at University College Dublin.

They are available here.

Map of Ireland from 1592 by Abraham Ortelius
Map of Ireland from 1592 by Abraham Ortelius (Wikimedia Commons)

This two-day event brought together a large number of Irish history scholars, from the postgraduate to the professor. Judging from the number of speakers and the attendance levels, the organisers were right to assume that there was a need for such a conference, and plans are already afoot for a further instalment next year.

Read the rest of this entry »

History Around the Compass: Aspects of the Occult

October 20, 2011 by
ParanatellontaSource: Wikimedia Commons

History Compass is pleased to present a Special Virtual Issue on the Occult in History, freely available until the end of the year.

Table of contents as follows:

Astrology in the Middle Ages
Hilary M. Carey

Magic in the Middle Ages: History and Historiography
David J. Collins

Magic and Impotence: Recent Developments in Medieval

Catherine Rider

Kabbalah: A Medieval Tradition and Its Contemporary Appeal
Hava Tirosh-Samuelson

Magic and Divination in the Medieval Islamic Middle East
Edgar Francis

Traditions and Trajectories in the Historiography of European Witch

Thomas A. Fudge

A New Trumpet? The History of Women in Scotland 1300–1700
Elizabeth Ewan

Deference and Dissent in Tudor England: Reflections on
Sixteenth-Century Protest

K. J. Kesselring

Sexuality, Witchcraft, and Honor in Colonial Spanish America
Nicole von Germeten

Vaya con Dios: Religion and the Transnational History of the

Pamela Voekel, Bethany Moreton and Michael Jo

The History of Prophecy in West Africa: Indigenous, Islamic, and

Joel E. Tishken

The Missionary Impact: The Northern Transvaal in the Late Nineteenth

Alan Kirkaldy

Travel Course: Chicago

September 19, 2011 by

Chicago Skyline
Last night there was informal junior faculty mixer at a local restaurant in the old train depot that’s near our campus. Since I do love me some trains, I was thrilled with the venue. And at one point in the evening when my social veneer had dropped a bit, I began to reveal just how fascinated I am by railroads (for those of you who don’t know me, let’s just say that when I bought my kids a toy wooden train set it was probably more for me than for them–and I won’t reveal here how much I enjoyed setting up elaborate railway systems around our living room)…

In the midst of my railroad enthusiasm a colleague mentioned to me that I should construct a ‘travel course’ around the theme of 19th-century American railways (my university offers many very popular travel courses during the interterm and summer) with Chicago as the ‘hub’ of the course.  In that vein, here’s my idea: Read the rest of this entry »

McArts Degree

September 15, 2011 by

A McArts degree? NO! (Wikimedia Commons)

Throughout the fall term last year, every time I entered the Arts Building of my campus I had to walk over the words “McArts Degree.” In the first week of term someone had painted them in two-foot-high, whitewashed letters at the entrance to the building. They were impossible to miss. It dominated the small outdoor plaza. These words remained there, confronting me and everyone else who entered the building, until they were finally obliterated by the snow and cold.

This message affected me every day that I went to the university.

Read the rest of this entry »

History Compass Exchanges Comics: Summer Research: The Fantasy & The Reality

June 27, 2011 by


If you have a funny/poignant/thought-provoking/etc.  idea for a history cartoon, please send it to Angela.C.Sutton[at]Vanderbilt[dot]edu.  If I use your idea I will give you credit here.



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