Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Moving Features

To promote easier readability, navigation, and visual appeal, The Real World feature and our student profiles have been moved.

These new pages are still under construction and will soon be merged with the rest of the blog.  In the meantime, head on over to their new homes and let us know what you think.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Emilie Davis’s Civil War Debuts at HSP

On Thursday evening, as part of the Juneteenth celebrations taking place throughout the city, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania celebrated the release of the much-anticipated Emilie Davis’s Civil War. The book is the product of the Memorable Days Project, completed by Villanova’s own Dr. Judy Giesberg and several of her students – Ruby Johnson, Rebecca Capobianco, Theresa Altieri, Tom Foley, and Jessica Maiberger.

The Memorable Days Team: (from left-right) Tom Foley, Rebecca Capobianco, Dr. Judy Giesberg, Theresa Altieri, Jessica Maiberger, and Ruby Johnson.
The event began with a discussion about the project and what scholars can learn from the diaries. The Memorable Days team took turns reading from the diaries on some of the key themes: emancipation, work, play, worry, and love. Dr. Giesberg then spoke on the importance of the project. As a young woman who worked, studied, and participated in many institutions in Civil War era Philadelphia, Emilie Davis provides a unique perspective on how an African American woman experienced the Civil War. From her concerns about her father being in the path of the Army of Northern Virginia as they moved through Pennsylvania to seemingly trivial things such as the weather or going out for ice cream, Davis’s words reveal important insight into the African American community in Philadelphia during the Civil War.

The team then spoke on the challenges of working on the diaries. Once they overcame the difficulties of transcribing Davis’s handwriting, which was small, abbreviated, and often in now-faded pencil, they had to figure out what she was actually talking about. Names, places, institutions, and events needed to be researched, often going off of merely names or references. While some of the names mentioned remain a mystery, their research unearthed a web of political, religious, and social institutions, as well as a vivid cast of characters that brought life to the African American community of Philadelphia.

After the discussion, the Historical Society held a reception and displayed related documents from their collection. In the addition to the diaries (small, pocket-sized books with even smaller handwriting), the staff exhibited documents from Camp William Penn, the Institute for Colored Youth, and various other documents commemorating emancipation and the fight for equal rights in Philadelphia.

The final product, Emilie Davis's Civil War (Penn State University Press)
The event was well-attended by interested members of the community, who asked a variety of questions, bought copies of the book, and sought to learn more at the exhibits. The contents of Emilie Davis’s diaries have shed new light on the African American community in Civil War Philadelphia and will hopefully spark new questions for historians to pursue. Congratulations to Dr. Giesberg and the Memorable Days team; the event was a just celebration of their hard work and achievements with the Emilie Davis diaries.

Check out the book at Penn State University Press.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Villanova Students, Graduates, Faculty Attend Civil War Conference in Baltimore

This past weekend, the Society of Civil War Historians held their biennial academic conference in Baltimore.

Villanova at the SCWH Conference: Mike Johnson, Dr. Giesberg, Eileen Brumitt, and Jim Kopaczewski  
The conference featured panels on a variety of topics which encouraged participants to think about the Civil War era in new ways. Historians presented papers and led discussions which looked at the war in a number of different ways, such as gender, race, economics, memory, and even international perspectives. From the opening panel “Dwelling in the Archives,” to the concluding one “Waging Peace: The Past, Present, and Future Scholarship on Reconstruction,” the topics promoted lively discussions among historians from the around the country (and world) with a diverse set of interests.

Villanova’s own Dr. Judy Giesberg participated in two panels. For the discussion “Teaching the New Military History,” she presented a paper on ways to bring social and military history into a class on the Civil War. Her presentation included a social history tour of the Gettysburg battlefield, which extends beyond the Union and Confederate armies by looking at how the battle influenced the lives of soldiers and civilians alike.

Dr. Giesberg also presided over the panel “Bodies of War: Material Perspectives on the American Civil War Era.” Here she responded to papers presented on how the legacy of clothing, facial hair, and disability-related humor can influence the ways we think about the Civil War.

Though he described him as a "certifiable weirdo," Sean Trainor suggested that Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's beard was part of a trend of facial hair becoming a part of manhood. (National Archives)
Overall the conference sparked lively discussions about the Civil War, as well as the state of present and future scholarship. By looking at new sources or by asking new questions, scholars are demonstrating new ways of thinking about the era, which are culminating in exciting new projects. For a conference novice such as myself, the SCWH event in Baltimore was a great learning experience, not only for the insight on upcoming trends in Civil War scholarship but for getting the feel for academic conferences.

Check out the full agenda here.

Are you doing something history-related this summer? Are you attending a conference, presenting a paper, traveling for research, or have an interesting job? We would love for you to share. Contact us and tell us all about it.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Team Emilie to Reunite, Speak on African American Community During the Civil War

On the evening of Thursday, June 19, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania will present Emilie Davis' Diaries: A Chronicle of the African American Community During the Civil War. Dr. Giesberg and the graduate students who worked on the Emilie Davis Diaries will lead a panel discussion the Davis project as well as provide insight into the African American community in Philadelphia during the Civil War. 

Team Emilie (http://davisdiaries.villanova.edu/)
The event is the perfect opportunity to support fellow and former colleagues, as well as to celebrate the sesquicentennial through a part of the Civil War era that is often overlooked.

More information on the event can be found here.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Graduate Students Introduced to the Wide World of the Freedmen's Bureau

This week Ashley Stevens, an Archives Technician at the National Archives at Philadelphia spoke to a group of graduate students on the opportunities of using the Freedmen’s Bureau Records for research.

Photo by Dr. Judy Gieberg
Officially the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, the Freedmen’s Bureau operated in southern states from 1865-1872 to provide assistance to millions of freed slaves as well as to thousands of poor, displaced white refugees. The Bureau, under General Oliver Otis Howard, undertook a wide array of actions, including guaranteeing marriage licenses, overseeing labor contracts and requests for compensation or aid, providing medical care and education, ensuring legal justice for freed blacks, and even running Freedmen’s Home and Savings Banks.

As a result of their many actions, the Freedmen’s Bureau left a massive collection of records. The National Archives began microfilming the records in the 1970s, but due to lack of funding were forced to stop. Fortunately they resumed their efforts in 2000 after Congress passed the Freedmen's Bureau Records Preservation Act. Today most, though not all, of the Bureau’s records are available on microfilm.

In her presentation, Stevens demonstrated some of the many resources included in the Bureau’s records, documents such as censuses, marriage records, various economic records, school reports, legal documents, and records of abandoned lands. The vastness of the Bureau records is overwhelming, which is why Stevens stresses to researchers that working in the collection is a slow process, not a sprint.

Despite living as man and wife for fifteen years and having nine kids, the marriage of Thomas and Jane Harris was not legally recognized until 1866. (National Archives)

The records of the Freedmen’s Bureau could certainly be a valuable source of research for those interested in the era of the Civil War and Reconstruction. It could also be a great genealogical tool, as Stevens herself is using it to try to trace her family history.

The final piece of advice from the presentation was to consult the National Archives page on the Freedmen’s Bureau as well as a finding aid created by the office in Atlanta to check out which states have which records. Although active throughout the South, the records of the Bureau varied by state.

Overall, the presentation was insightful and made potential research in the Freedmen’s Bureau records seem a little less daunting. Of course, those eager to jump right in with a visit to the National Archives office in Philadelphia will have to wait, as they are preparing to move to a new location.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Congrats, Newly Minted History Masters!


Some very excited grads!
Back, L-R: Bryan Shinehouse, Andrew Coons, Hayley Stevenson, Alex Langer, Brian Gallagher, Kent Weber.
Front, L-R: Joseph Jasinski, Alicia Parks, Haddi Bergstrom, Joanna Voortman, Eileen Brumitt.
Photo courtesy of Eileen.

On May 17, twenty-one grad students made the transition to official Masters of History.

Alex Langer
Alicia Parks
Andrew Coons
Bill Gay
Brian Gallagher
Bryan Shinehouse
Colin McNulty
Eileen Brumitt
Gary Flavion
Grant Carter
Haddi Bergstrom
Hayley Stevenson
Jeremy Angstadt
Joanna Voortman
Joseph Jasinski
Kent Weber
Maria Savini
Pat Madden
Pat Moore
Robert Miller
Rusty Beckham

Congratulations and best of luck in your future endeavors!  You will be greatly missed in class, around the department, and in general.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Reformatting in Progress

We will be reformatting over the next few days.  Please bear with us as we transition to a design inspired by the WWI centenary.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Civil War Students (and Matt) Visit Gettysburg

On Friday Professor Giesberg took a group of students to tour Gettysburg National Military Park.

The trip started with a battlefield tour from a National Park Service ranger, who showed us around the park while narrating the buildup and three days of the battle. He also gave us histories of some of the many monuments of the battlefield, highlighting the importance of memory and politics in the ways we commemorate events.

The group then got a tour of Culp’s Hill from Peter Carmichael, Director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College. Professor Carmichael showed us where some of the bloodiest fighting of the war took place, as well as the locations of several Confederate mass graves. He also shared stories from his research on how common soldiers experienced the battle and understood loyalty to army and country.

Group at Culp's Hill with Peter Carmichael (Photo by Dr. Judy Giesberg)

The day ended with a trip to the Visitor Center. Here the group saw the film A New Birth of Freedom, viewed the Gettysburg Cyclorama, and went through the Gettysburg Museum.

And posed with a familiar face. (Photo by a stranger, but with the camera of Dr. Judy Giesberg)

Overall the trip was a great experience. In addition to a last hurrah for a number of graduating students, the terrific battlefield guides offered new perspectives for thinking about not only the battle, but the ways we study history and memory. Perhaps the only thing that could have made the day better was if we had seen a ghost, but no such luck.

Special thanks to Professor Giesberg for organizing everything and for driving, as well as the History Department for funding the trip.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Fighting Like Demons, Recreating Like Men

Civil War scholars, especially students of Professor Giesberg, know that the ranks of the Union and Confederate armies were not exclusively boy's clubs. But what about war reenactments 150 years later?

Frances Louisa Clayton (Library of Congress)
 Leigh Stein's recent piece "I Would Have Followed Them Into Battle" looks at efforts of women today to pick up where these Union and Confederate women left off. They have taken up roles as reenactors, and even sued the National Park Service to secure the right to do so. 

Like their counterparts 150 years ago, women today also must seek to hide their gender on the battlefield. Take for example the regulations for the reenactment at the 150th Anniversary of Gettysburg:

"Women portraying soldiers in the ranks should make every reasonable effort to hide their gender. Hundreds, if not thousands, of women passed themselves off as men in order to serve as soldiers during the war—on both sides, and we will never know exactly how many did so because their disguises were so good. Honor them. If any Army or event volunteer (as above) determines the female gender at not less than 15 feet, that individual will be asked to leave the field/ranks."
Clearly the "Angel of the Battlefield" was not the only role for women during the Civil War. It seems only just that it should not be the only role they play in the reenactments either.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Graduate History Research Recognized

A whole slew of History folks!  Standing, L-R: Dr. Adele Lindenmeyr, Graduate Dean; Dr. Alexander Varias, Faculty Editor; Dr. Marc Gallicchio, research advisor; Dr. Rebecca Winer, research advisor; Alexander Langer, author.  Seated, L-R: Laura Layne, Peer Reviewer; Alexandra Webster, Student Editor; James Holmes, author and Graduate Research Essay Prize recipient; Dr. Judith Giesberg, History Graduate Program Director; Dr. Whitney Martinko, research advisor.  Not pictured: Jennifer Putnam, author.
On April 29, the Office of Graduate Studies unveiled the 37th annual edition of Concept, Villanova's Graduate Arts & Sciences journal.  History traditionally has a strong showing in the interdisciplinary journal, and this year was no exception.  Three history students were recognized for their outstanding research with the publication of their papers in both the print and online editions of Concept.
  • In print:
    • James Holmes, "'I Trust the Gospel and All its Contents': The Disputation of Jirji the Monk and Medieval Islamic Knowledge of the Bible".  James also received the Graduate Research Essay Prize.  Dr. Rebecca Winer advised his research.
  • Online:
    • Jennifer Putnam, "NAGPRA and the Penn Museum: Reconciling Science and the Sacred".  Dr. Whitney Martinko advised her research.
    • Alexander Langer, "Dr. No and Dr. Strangelove: Cold War Anxiety in Film, 1962-1964".  Dr. Marc Gallicchio advised his research. 
History students and faculty were also involved in the reviewing and editing process.*  Alexandra Webster served as a student editor.  Laura Layne served as a peer reviewer.  In addition, Dr. Alexander Varias served as a faculty editor.

Copies of Concept will be distributed around the department, so pick one up to see what your colleagues have been working on.  

*If I missed anyone, please leave a note below.