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Department of History

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 40 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.


NEW BOOK! Peter Lake , Bad Queen Bess?: Libels, Secret Histories, and the Politics of Publicity in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth I (Oxford University Press, 2015)

NEW BOOK! Peter Lorge , The Reunification of China: Peace through War under the Song Dynasty (Cambridge University Press, 2015)

David Wheat has won the 2015 Jamestown Prize, for Atlantic Africa and the Spanish Caribbean, 1570-1640, awarded by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, for an exceptional scholarly manuscript pertaining to the early history of the Atlantic world.

The Vanderbilt Historical Review released its first issue (Spring 2016) on January 12. It has articles written by students from Vanderbilt, Boston College, University of Chicago, University of Edinburgh, Stanford University, Yale University and University of Virginia. "My colleagues and I have been deeply impressed by the analytic rigor and consistently high writing standards evident in all the articles," said Joel Harrington, Centennial Professor of History and chair of the department at Vanderbilt University. "We are also very proud of Robert and his editorial team for producing such a high quality scholarly publication."
Link to article in MyVU
Link to journal
Link to VHR home page

Paul Kramer has received an NEH fellowship for the 2016-17 academic year.

Congratulations to Catherine Molineux and Christopher Loss , who have been named 2016 Chancellor Faculty Fellows.

Michael Bess had an interview about his new book, Our Grandchildren Redesigned: Life in the Bioengineered Society of the Near Future, which is the cover story of the Nashville Scene this week.

Jeff Cowie's The Great Exception: The New Deal and the Limits of American Politics  has just been released by Princeton University Press. Cowie has become a faculty member at Vanderbilt University, Department of History, as of January 1, 2016.  Welcome!  His web page will be up shortly.

Moses Ochonu's book, Colonialism by Proxy, was awarded Finalist for the Melville Herskovits Prize for the best book in the field of African Studies published in 2014.

Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos presented the 2015 Chancellor's Cup to Associate Professor of History Frank Wcislo during a surprise ceremony on Nov. 6. The Chancellor's Cup is given annually for "the greatest contribution outside the classroom to undergraduate student-faculty relationships in the recent past."

Arleen Tuchman was awarded $48,500 from the National Institutes of Health. This will support her on leave as she writes her book Diabetes Types: Cultural History of a Chronic Disease.

See all of the new faculty book publications here.

Julia Cohen has received a Chancellor’s Award for Research. The Chancellor’s Awards for Research recognize excellence in research, scholarship, or creative expression.  Chancellor Zeppos cited the two award-winning publications Julia produced in the past year: Becoming Ottomans: Sephardi Jews and Imperial Citizenship in the Modern Era , which won the 2015 Barbara Jelavich Prize of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies, the 2014 National Jewish Book Award in the category of “Writing Based on Archival Material,” and (together with Sarah Abrevaya Stein) Sephardi Lives: A Documentary History, 1700-1950 , which won the 2014 National Jewish Book Award in the category of “Sephardic Culture.” Her articles include "Oriental by Design: Ottoman Jews, Imperial Style, and the Performance of Heritage," American Historical Review 119:2 (April 2014), which was awarded the 2014 Berkshire Conference of Women Historians’ Article Prize for an article in any field of history other than the history of women, gender, and/or sexuality.

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.

updated Jan. 25, 2016

See many more announcements about Professors and Graduate Students here.