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Department of History

Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos (left) presents the 2014 Earl Sutherland Prize to Jane Landers, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of History. (Joe Howell/Vanderbilt) Moses Ochonu, Africa in Fragments: Essays on Nigeria, Africa, and Global Africanity (Diasporic African Press, New York 2014) Julia Phillips Cohen, editor, Sephardi Lives: A Documentary History, 1700-1950 (Stanford University Press 2014) Book photo Book The Modernity of Others Making Freedom harringtonbook claybook

History at Vanderbilt

History has been an integral part of the undergraduate and graduate curriculum at Vanderbilt since the University was founded, in 1873. The first undergraduate students of the discipline immersed themselves in subjects as various as the Roman Empire, English constitutional history, the history of religion (including Islam), political economy, and contemporary American politics. Graduate study came early—in the 1880s—to Vanderbilt. Taught in weekly seminars, a new instructional form, students were expected to master the standard texts—in ancient history and in legal history, for example—while the more advanced among them engaged in innovative research on such issues as the Civil War, local government in the South and Southwest, and the tariff, Henry George and socialism. Vanderbilt’s first PhD in history was awarded in 1899, one of only three awarded in the South before 1900.

Today, the Department of History’s 41 full-time faculty members offer courses that span the globe—from Africa and Asia to Europe, Latin America and the United States—and that introduce students to a range of historical questions and methodologies. The undergraduate program attracts over 200 majors, and the graduate program annually enrolls about 10  students in a variety of fields. Department faculty are at once devoted and skilled teachers on the one hand and innovative and accomplished researchers and writers of history on the other.


Jane Landers was awarded the prestigious Earl Sutherland Prize for Achievement in Research during Vanderbilt University’s Fall Faculty Assembly. Landers, an international expert on slavery and emancipation during the 18th and 19th centuries, holds the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Chair in History.

Joel Harrington was presented the Chancellor's Awards for Research. Harrington, Centennial Professor of History, was noted for his book The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century.

JUST PUBLISHED! Leor Halevi, co-editor, Religion and Trade: Cross-Cultural Exchanges in World History, 1000-1900 (Oxford University Press 2014)

JUST PUBLISHED! Moses Ochonu , Africa in Fragments: Essays on Nigeria, Africa, and Global Africanity (Diasporic African Press, New York 2014)

JUST PUBLISHED! Julia Phillips Cohen , co -editor, Sephardi Lives: A Documentary History, 1700-1950 (Stanford University Press 2014)

Helmut Walser Smith  was named a 2014 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow. As a Guggenheim Fellow, Smith will be finishing a book titled Finding Germany: A History of Discovery and Salvage, 1500 to 2000, which will be published with W. W. Norton in the United States and C. H. Beck in Germany.

Vanderbilt University faculty members Samira Sheikh , Tony Stewart , and David Wasserstein will be co-directing an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation John E. Sawyer Seminar at the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities on the theme " When the Fringe Dwarfs the Center:  Vernacular Islam Beyond the Arab World" during the 2015/2016 academic year.

William Caferro has been awarded a fellowship at the Italian Academy at Columbia University 2014-15.

JUST PUBLISHED! Elizabeth Lunbeck , The Americanization of Narcissism (Harvard University Press, 2014)

Congratulations! Dan Usner has received the, "Newberry Consortium in American Indian Studies Faculty Fellowship at the Newberry Library," for academic year 2014-15. 

See many more announcements about Professors and Graduate Students here.