It’s Course Registration Time!

Take a look at the upper-level courses being taught by our great professors for Fall 2019! If you have questions about them, please contact Dr. Jeanne Petit (petit@hope.edu).

History 141-01 The Historian’s Vocation
MWF 12:00 -12:50 PM
Jeanne Petit

Do you love history, but struggle to answer when people ask you, “What are you going to do with that history major (or minor)?” In this course, we will examine the ways the study of history can become the foundation of your larger vocations in life, whether in a career or as a civically-engaged member of your community. We will consider how the skills you will develop as a historian (reading critically, researching widely, writing effectively) provide a foundation for a variety of careers, as well as for a life of meaning and purpose. As part of this course, students will work with the Boerigter Center for Calling and Career, learn practical skills, such as how to write a resume, and develop a plan for pursuing experiential learning opportunities that will aid in vocational exploration and discernment.

This course is required for all history majors and minors who entered Hope College in the Fall of 2018 and later.
Pre-requisite: HIST 140 (can be taken in the same semester)

History 200 02A: The Iron Curtain: Eastern Europe during the Cold War
TR 1:30-2:50 PM
Mizuho Nakada

This course will focus on the relationship between Eastern-European citizens and their communist party regimes during the Cold War. The course will explore how people were mobilized for and also spontaneously participated in the “national socialist revolution” of 1950s. We will also examine the changes in later decades as those in civil society contested their regimes in the 1960s and then shifted to conformity and retreat into private life in 1970s. Special emphasis will be placed on the compatibility between social justice and civil liberty.

History 200 01B: Asia in Western Imagination (GLI)
MWF 1:00-1:50 PM
Wayne Tan

What is Asia? Where are Asia’s boundaries? How do we encounter Asia in everyday life? In this course, we will find answers to these questions through a survey of historical sources written since the 1800s about travels in foreign lands, the violent clash of empires, and the possibilities and limits of cultural exchanges. We will learn how to read texts and images—how English-speaking and non-English-speaking writers encountered the Other, how knowledge was disseminated across cultural borders, and how we, as contemporary readers, have inherited some of these assumptions. In other words, we use Asia as a space for questioning how we render the foreign vaguely familiar, and produce (and reproduce) what we thought we always knew.

Flagged for global learning international.

History 210 01: The Roman World (GLI)
MWF 2:00-2:50 PM
Al Bell

The Romans dominated the Mediterranean world for centuries. Their language, literature and architecture are still the basis for western culture. Sometimes they seem like modern people, except for those funny togas, but when we look at them more closely we see that their culture might have been a thin veneer over the barbarism of gladiator games, slavery, and vast inequality between social classes. Through the study of written documents and archaeological remains we will try to understand who the Romans were and why we are still so fascinated by them.

Flagged for global learning international.

History 252 01: Civil War America (GLD)
MW 3:00-4:50 PM
Fred Johnson

This course spans the years from 1820 to 1877, starting with the Missouri Compromise and progressing through the Civil War and Reconstruction. During this period, as the United States expanded its territorial boundaries, forged a political identity, and further achieved a sense of national unity, sectional rivalries, industrialization, reform movements, and increasingly hostile confrontations over the language and interpretation of the Constitution led to crisis. This course will examine how those factors contributed toward the 1861-1865 Civil War, with subsequent special emphasis being placed upon how the conflict and post-war Reconstruction influenced America’s social, political, cultural, and economic development as it prepared to enter the 20th
century.

This course is flagged for global learning domestic.

History 295 01: Ancient Rome & The Third Reich: Facist Appropriations of Classical Thought
MWF 2:00-2:50 PM
Lee Forester & Bram ten Berge

This course is an in-depth examination of Nazi Germany and the ancient Greco-Roman ethnic perceptions that influenced the formation of Nazi ideology. We start by looking at Tacitus’ Germania, an ethnographic account of the peoples, geography, resources, and customs of the Germani, the Germanic tribes that eventually overthrew the Western Roman Empire. We will then analyze how this text, and the Roman perceptions of the Germanic peoples expressed in it, were appropriated by the leaders of the Third Reich to support their vision of racial superiority. This course will train students to recognize the dangers in using ancient documents to justify modern beliefs and practices.

History 357 01: U.S. Cultural History (GLD)
MWF 9:30-10:20 AM
Jeanne Petit

Spanning the years from the Civil War through the late 20th century, this course examines the ways both ordinary people and elites created, challenged and shaped American culture.  Students will consider cultural history on two levels.  First, we will explore changes in the ways American men and women of different classes, races, and regions expressed themselves through popular and high culture—including forms like vaudeville, world’s fairs, movies, and literary movements like the Harlem Renaissance.  Second, we will analyze the influence of cultural ideas on political, economic and social changes, such as fights for African-American and women’s rights, the emergence of consumer culture, class struggles during the Great Depression, participation in World War II, protesting in the 1960s, and the rise of conservatism in the 1980s. Students will learn the various ways historians interpret cultural phenomena and then do their own interpretations in an extensive research paper. Flagged for global learning domestic.

History 395 01: Friend or Foe: China and the U.S. in Trade, War, and the Missionary Movement
MWF 11:00-11:50 AM
Gloria Tseng

America’s trade war with China has been much in the news, the latest episode in a multifaceted relationship that began in the eighteenth century. The US was a young nation; China was a declining empire. Yankee merchants were eager to make a fortune in the China trade, and missionaries were eager to take the Gospel to “China’s millions.” As the young nation became the leader of the free world, and revolutionaries turned China into a Communist state, the two countries have been both allies and enemies, and their citizens have regarded “the other” with curiosity, benevolence, suspicion, admiration, contempt, or hostility at different points in the two countries’ relationship. This course offers a historical overview of this evolving relationship.

 

 

 

Alumna Feature: The Accidental Archaeologist

Crystal Hollis ’10 looking for graffiti in Southwark Cathedral

Hello, I’m Crystal and I stare at walls. No really, I spend hours in small buildings shining light on walls and recording what I see – I’m an archaeologist who specializes in medieval graffiti. I didn’t plan to be an archaeologist; I just kind of ended up here and happen to love it.

I first learned of medieval graffiti when I was visiting old churches on a study break during my MA in London. Initially, I was drawn to the scavenger hunt aspect of graffiti – that I could find some cool things that no one else had noticed, or if their existence was posted somewhere that I could follow the directions, see them for myself, and check them off my personal list.  Eventually, this gave way to a deeper interest in the reasons behind the graffiti and inscriptions I was finding. I wanted to understand their role in medieval society and be able to take that knowledge to breathe life into the distant past. I started to look past the big beautiful inscriptions and focus on the more common and mundane – understanding that sometimes a scratch was just a scratch, but that other time a scratch on the wall had a meaningful purpose like protection or remembrance.

Inscription of a swan in St. Albans Cathedral

Graffiti became a doorway to understanding and tangibly connecting with the average person of late medieval and early modern society – the more marginalized and forgotten individuals who only show up as a blip on the historical records’ radar if they’re lucky. While staring at a stone, I’ve witnessed a whole culture–gossip in Latin on the walls, pleas for remembrance during a plague, a whole host of animals and faces, staves of music carefully laid out, building plans, and even reminders to pray.

My time at Hope set the foundation for the work I do today. While much of what I do starts out in the field with observing, recording, and cataloging graffiti, the real work takes place behind the scenes when I get back from site visits and have to ‘do something’ with the data. Researching building histories through primary sources, finding corresponding secondary sources, and of course writing all make up the part of my work that people actually see – publications and presentations. Not to sound like a cliché, but HIST 140 (the class where Turabian, editing, rewriting, and source selection is taught) has ended up being my life-saving toolkit all too often. I still have Turabian on my shelf. I still read my papers out loud and edit them viciously. I still get notoriously picky about what I submit.

Hope also prepared me for the odd blend of history and technology that I use to document, sort, and analyze my finds. My minor in computer science – where I learned basic database construction and design – has been crucial to storage and analysis of my graffiti data as I have thousands of images that need to be organized and easily accessed. At the time I wasn’t sure if having a history major and computer science minor would really be useful and it turns out the blend of humanities and science education I received has been perfect for my career in archaeology.

When I graduated with my history degree I never thought I would end up an archaeologist, much less a specialist in historic graffiti. There was no grand plan there I must admit–I just found something I loved and used the tools I had to make it work. My work has taken me to some amazing places like behind the scenes at the Tower of London and the roof of Southwark Cathedral in search of inscriptions and their stories. It’s hard work, and in some cases, I’ve had to play catch up in terms of archaeological education, but at the end of the day if you want to do something badly enough, I’ve learned you can figure it out, make it work and excel.

Crystal Hollis, ’10

After spending nine weeks in Europe researching churches and cathedrals this summer, I’m looking forward to a number of new projects. Next year I’ve been booked to speak for the second year in a row in central London, and following that I will begin projects on graffiti in two Hertfordshire churches. I’m hoping that a proposed project in Finland will also be on my list next year. Finally, the beginnings of a PhD in the UK are on the horizon for next autumn. I never thought I’d get this far but I’m excited to see where I end up going.

 

Student Feature: Halla Maas

Halla Maas doing research at the Van Raalte Institute

While doing research this summer as part of Mellon Grand Challenges Grant on “Imagining Peace,” I have come to appreciate protesting in a historical context. My partner, Olivia Brickley, and I researched in the Joint Archives of Holland, and we found amazing articles in The Anchor about the Vietnam war and Hope students’ reactions to it. Students wrote articles about the draft, the Kent State massacre, Hope student participation in a protest in Washington D.C., and peace protests on campus. According to one article in The Anchor by Paul Goodman, some Hope students were radicalized to the point where they fought for justice by burning their draft cards. Another Anchor article described how, in 1971, students from Hope College took part in a massive protest for peace in Washington D.C. These students were protesting not only the draft, but also the killing of students at Kent State and America’s involvement in the war in Cambodia.

When the Kent State massacre occurred on May 4, 1970, Tom Donia wrote an article in The Anchor about the events that unfolded. In this incident, four students were killed and nine wounded by national guardsmen because they were protesting to end the war in Vietnam. This massacre led Hope students to protest for peace in Cambodia, Vietnam, and America. Donia interviewed James Stills, a Hope College student, who spoke in the Pine Grove against the war and the deaths of the four Kent State students: “For too long students have hidden in a shell in order to ‘do their own thing,’” Stills said.  He continued, “If we are ever to do anything for our country, the time is now. What others have died to start we must live to see finished, and that is a change.” Stills believed that the younger generation must end what has been started by protesting for peace and justice for the lives lost in Cambodia and at home in America.

Hope graduate Glen Pontier (‘68) resisted the draft, and protested the war during his resulting imprisonment. The Anchor reporter, Mary Houting, wrote an article explaining that Pontier was imprisoned at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut, for avoiding the draft. During his imprisonment, he fasted for peace with 11 other inmates, and they became known as the Danbury 11. They began water fasting on August 6, 1972, to protest the American atrocities in Indochina. Pontier stated that they would stop fasting once America stopped committing mass genocide in Vietnam. He shared his thoughts with with Houting about the draft system, saying that “there is little fair about a system which chooses some men to die and others to live, while causing all to exist in a state of uncertainty until their fate is decided.”

On April 24, 1972, the army-navy recruiting center on West Eighth Street in Holland was closed down on Friday as a result of a small anti-war protest staged by Hope students. Image courtesy of the Anchor (April 24, 1972)

Many Hope students who protested focused on stopping the draft. In The Anchor, George Arwady wrote an article in 1966 about John Cox, a Hope student (and later professor of English), who, with a group of nine other students,  protested for peace during the Tulip Time parade. Cox and his colleagues interrupted the parade and marched for peace because they believed that both the draft and the war were unjust.  In 1969, Tom Donia wrote an article in The Anchor about the Academic Affairs Board’s request to the President to cancel classes for a Vietnam Peace Moratorium, where students and faculty would discuss ways to end the war. These students spoke out against the war because they believed that the only way to end the war was through a peaceful negotiation. In 1973, some Hope students stampeded the draft center in Holland. The Anchor article titled, “Decry Killing: Hopeites Stage Protest,” explained that students set up their protest in front of the Army-Navy recruiting center on West Eighth Street. These students shut down the recruitment base and collected 250 signatures for their petition. Their petition read, “We the undersigned believe that God our Father has given man life. He has asked man to prosper and grow, and above all to have faith in Him. What God has given life, let no man destroy. Let neither the leaders of North Vietnam, the U.S., Thailand, South Vietnam, the Philippines, Australia, the People’s Republic of China, the U.S.S.R., New Zealand, or any other nation or person usurp the power of God.” These students believed that the war in Cambodia was killing God’s creation. Because of this, these students protested to end the war in order to save human life.

These protests all had one end goal: peace for a world in disarray. This research helped me to see that protesting can make a difference. Without protesting, we would not be able to advance or even be heard when things are going wrong. For instance, the Black Lives Matter movement was important for African Americans because they were getting their voices heard over the oppression that they have lived in for centuries. Feminists would not have been able to change the patriarchal world that we live in without protests. Thus, protesting helps the world because it is a way for other people to hear the voices of the oppressed, concerned, and angered souls.  

Faculty Feature: Dr. Gloria Tseng

The Historian’s Craft

Renowned French historian Marc Bloch (1886-1944) is one of the great heroes of our discipline. He revolutionized the field of history as one of the chief proponents of the Annales movement, which championed innovations in the study of history—incorporating economics, geography, and sociology; elevating ordinary lives and the mentalities and beliefs of rural society as worthy subjects of scholarship; and working from the vantage point of the long term, that is, across the centuries. More importantly for me on a personal level, he embodied the best ideals of the French republic, patriotism held in balance with universal humanistic ideals, and not a strident nationalism or narrowly exclusive nativism. A French Jew who fought valiantly in the First World War, he volunteered to fight in the Second World War at age 53. He wrote a soul-searching account of the French defeat, Strange Defeat, as the French army was retreating pell-mell in 1940. Due to his service during the First World War, the Vichy government allowed him to continue teaching despite its racial laws. When Germany moved to occupy all of France after the 1943 Allied landing in North Africa, Bloch joined the French resistance network in Lyons, was captured and tortured after about a year, and was executed along with some twenty other resistance fighters shortly after the Allied landing in Normandy and before the liberation of Paris. It was during the two years of teaching in Vichy France that he drafted The Historian’s Craft, a guide to historical methodology and a personal reflection on the value of history as an intellectual endeavor, which would remain unfinished. Both Strange Defeat and The Historian’s Craft were published posthumously. It is evident that history was integral to Bloch, to the entire person. I find it deeply moving that during the darkest hour of his country, active engagement in the exigencies of the moment did not preclude scholarship, and vice versa. If integrity means the whole person without contradictions, then Bloch is an exemplar.

This spring a personal experience, on a much smaller scale than the world-shaking events that dictated the last five years of Bloch’s life, got me thinking about history and its place in the life of a person or family. It started with a phone call from my youngest cousin. “Hey, I’ll trade you the grading of papers for the translation of my mom’s journals,” the voice coming from the phone said. “You don’t know what you’re offering, but sure, I’d be happy to do it,” I retorted bemusedly. This cousin’s mother had passed away a few years ago, and he discovered her journals as the family was going through her affairs. “My dad said that I could keep them if I wanted; otherwise, he’s going to throw them away,” my cousin continued. “Do keep them! They’re precious!” my historian’s instinct prompted me to reply. Three months passed, and I went to Colorado Springs during spring break to keep my promise. I had a plan. We would make a catalog of the journals, twenty-four notebooks in all, during the week I was there. Afterwards, he would scan the entries that interest him most and send them to me for translation. I’d dictate; he’d type. Fancying myself in Geoffrey Reynolds’s place, I had in mind something along the lines of our Joint Archives.

As students of history invariably find out by experience, research proposals often need to be modified in the course of a project. I had several surprises once we started going through the first notebook. First, I had envisioned neat, print-like handwriting that I could skim quickly to get the gist of each journal entry. The reality was far different, and especially challenging for a non-alphabetical language such as Chinese. Second, I had approached it as a project, but it was much more personal for my cousin. I wanted to be systematic; my cousin wanted to have an entire entry translated when we came upon an entry that mentioned him or his two sisters. My “research proposal” had to be modified: we made bullet points of most entries and translated the entries for which my cousin wanted translations. In the end, we got through only one notebook. Third, I had to give up my perfectionism; finding the best expression in English for a certain Chinese term really didn’t matter as long as I got the meaning across. Fourth, and the greatest surprise, was the various effects the translation of the first notebook had on the family. A flurry of emails ensued after my cousin sent off the translation to his sisters and father. My uncle, who had wanted to throw away the journals, thanked me for my labors. Each person in the family remembered different details in the journal entries, and the same material evoked varied reactions. Should I have been surprised? Haven’t I always known that history is about people, who always have different perspectives, emotions, and responses to circumstances and events? I was humbled by the reminder that when we write history, we’re dealing with people and telling their stories. We owe it to our subjects to be truthful, not only to events and sources, but also to their perspectives. It was an “Annales” moment for me.

Alumni Feature: Rebecca Fry Debowski ’12

Across the desk my adviser told me, “You will never get a history job if you don’t pursue the social studies composite major.  You won’t be marketable.” I distinctly remember this conversation from my sophomore year and the frustration I felt trying to explain to the adviser that my passion is history.   I saw the social studies major as a mile wide and an inch deep.  If there was one thing I had learned already in my history classes at Hope College, it was that history is about depth.  So instead of listening to this advice, I decided to pursue a Secondary Teaching Degree with a history major and English minor.  After seven years of teaching history, I am glad I went with my instincts and pursued the history major.  The skills I developed obtaining that degree have made me the teacher I am today.

These days, history is treated as an expendable subject in many schools. Lots of elementary schools are cutting out history lessons entirely while secondary history education classes focus on preparing students for state tests, simply filling them with facts drawn primarily from textbooks. When teachers rely on the state standards and focus on test scores, the importance of historical skills and critical thinking is lost.   Studying history naturally leads students to explore different perspectives, converse with people who hold different opinions, and express their own arguments backed with relevant evidence.  These were the skills I learned as a history major at Hope College, and these are the skills I try to emphasize every day as an eighth-grade history teacher.

The history department at Hope was never afraid of difficult topics, but rather they embraced them, teaching us how to carefully peel back the layers and perspectives of a given event.  In his British imperialism class, for example, Professor Baer would lecture about one imperialist event from multiple perspectives.  This approach encouraged me to think critically about how I was previously taught about historical fact.  It made me think about my own life and how I perceived events versus how others in my life may have interpreted those same events.  This has carried into my classroom where I continually challenge the notion of single narratives.  History is often taught in schools from one textbook—too often leaving out necessary voices to understand the complexities of events.  To avoid this, I give my students contradictory primary sources on an event and ask them to determine what happened.  When studying the Constitutional Convention, I have students roleplay different groups of people in America at that time.  Instead of just sending upper-class men to the convention, we include African Americans, Native Americans, working-class people, and women.  When we include more people from that time era, the students’ Constitution looks vastly different than the one created in 1787.   This leads to great conversations about what it means when we say “we the people” or “all men are created equal.”  Hope’s history department pushed me to explore what these statements meant within the context of the past, but also what they mean in the world right now.  These are the same conversations I encourage with my students.

Of course, when exploring tough topics, debates often turn contentious.  At Hope, my professors would encourage discussion and debate.  I remember Professor Fred Johnson encouraging me to challenge his ideas and engage with him in dialogue.  In our current political climate, this kind of civilized discourse is increasingly rare.  Our world feels polarized and discussions often feel contentious.  However, my time in the history department taught me when conflict happens, respectful conversations are important.  Just as my professors taught me to present my own views, even when I didn’t agree with theirs, I encourage my students to do the same.  By practicing respectful discourse and listening skills, students become capable of amazing things. I have found that through role-play discussions and debates, students are challenged to think from another’s view point—building historical empathy as well as empathy towards their peers.

My history major has pushed me to teach by emphasizing depth of learning.  Instead of teaching random facts to students in the hopes that they pass a state test, I see the value in teaching historical skills and critical thinking.  By treating the subject of history as an avenue to critical thinking, not only are students engaged on a personal level, but they are better prepared to participate in our world today.  As citizens, we can choose to be poor historians, choosing to only listen to one side of the story and ignoring context, or we can be conscientious historians.  I hope that my students chose to intentionally seek out additional points of view and engage people in difficult conversations.  My students have the power to shape our country and change the world—I cannot wait to see their impact.

Student Feature: Sarah Lundy

A visit to the Place de la Concorde, one of my favorite spots in Paris

When many people imagine the French capital, trips to the Eiffel Tower, coffee in outdoor cafés, and strolls along the Seine are what typically come to mind. My Paris story is somewhat different. Though I definitely enjoy these aspects of Parisian life, I was not really a tourist during my two-week return to the city this May. Instead, I had the chance to be a researcher, doing archival work at the American Library in Paris (ALP).

The opportunity to conduct student research at such a prominent institution was both exciting and full of unknowns. Although I was in Paris as part of an amazing team (fellow student Michaela Stock and English professor Dr. Natalie Dykstra), I had limited archival experience prior to the project. It was a bit daunting as well to think that I, as a history and French undergraduate student, could contribute in any way to the largest English-language library in continental Europe. Once there, however, my apprehensions fell away. The Library welcomed us with open arms and we were soon up to our elbows in archive boxes and old books. I have always loved books, and I think my love of stories is one of the many factors that first drew me to history.

An inscription written to Boulanger (in French!) from her friend and student, Thea Musgrave
Searching through books from Nadia Boulanger’s personal collection

Archives have a beautiful way of telling stories. Comprising much more than simply books, their collections span decades, movements, and genres to paint a picture of the past that one letter, article, or picture cannot illustrate on its own. At a location like the ALP, which has been accumulating literature since its establishment in 1920, there are quite a lot of stories to be told. My research team and I explored just one of those through the personal collection and records of French composer and teacher Nadia Boulanger. The project gave me invaluable practice in handling archival materials and taught me that seemingly ordinary things can have historical value, too. It let me personally hold history in my hands. As a bonus, I even got to use my French!

It is sometimes easy to reduce the facts and timelines that historians study to impersonal accounts, rather than attribute them to the real people who actually lived them centuries, years, or minutes ago. Yet while photographing letters and transcribing inscriptions written to Boulanger, I also learned just how important it is to look at the lives behind the history. The remarkable things about her were not the number of years that she lived, or the number of books that she owned, but rather the number of people that she influenced in her lifetime. Boulanger was a loving friend and mentor to American and European musicians alike. It was impossible to tell her entire story in two weeks, but I am hopeful that the research and materials we assembled will help to preserve her legacy for generations to come.

To me, Paris itself is a living legacy as well. Nadia Boulanger and the archives of the ALP are just tiny pieces of that great story. I am so thankful to have had the time to dive into the city’s history, if only for two weeks. Everything has a story to tell, and we can all be storytellers.

Alumni Feature: Mike Douma ’04

Assistant Research Professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, and Director of the Georgetown Institute for the Study of Markets and Ethics.

When you have a free afternoon sometime, go visit the archives of the Holland Museum, and ask for an old account book of the Boone Lumber Company (collection T00-1600.5). Set the account book in front of you on a table, open it somewhere in the middle, lean forward and breathe. Suddenly, the smells of a 19th-century lumber yard will fill your nostrils. Trapped in those pages, for well over a hundred years, is the dust of oak, cedar, pine, and hemlock, a testimony to a past age.

Typically, when historians want to learn something about the past, they seek words, not smells. They also tend to put texts before photographs, and letters before old buildings.  All too often, historical research is limited to the papers of politicians at the national archives. And, at many universities, history is taught as mostly a set of fixed content, separate from one’s one interests and personal history. Sometimes, history can feel distant and impersonal.

But as a student at Hope College, I was inspired to look at history from different angles and find connections to my own concerns.  I read my fair share of classic texts by Alexis DeTocqueville, Frederick Douglass, and the like, but I also participated in oral history projects, surveyed local historic architecture, wrote for campus publications, worked in and traveled to archives and museums. Classroom lessons in historical thinking inspired me to think about the myriad ways one might approach historical questions. History department events and invited speakers initiated me into the cult of the footnote. By the time I went off to graduate school in history, I had a set of diverse and profound experiences that taught me to approach the past from different angles.

Now, having written a book titled Creative Historical  Thinking, I can reflect on what makes a creative environment.  Creativity, it seems clear, can only develop when people feel comfortable in asking questions and “playing” with ideas.  In his famous 1938 study Homo Ludens (playing man), Dutch historian Johan Huizinga explained that play was the cessation of formal rules, which could be set aside for a short period of time, so that we can experiment with new ideas. Play is not disorder and lack of seriousness; it is precisely what we must do if we are to discover new kinds of order, as well as new and serious bits of information. Play, Huizinga wrote, was at the core of culture.

Hope College certainly offers a comfortable environment for those who wish to ask questions. Indeed, there is a campus culture of inquisitiveness and respect.  In a small, friendly history department, students enjoy the advantage of being able to forge relationships and get personal feedback from their professors. Small group exercises in class give students the opportunities to think creatively about how history is written, and who controls the narrative. Connections to local historical agencies give students the opportunity to practice in the field.

The old proverb rings true, that people might forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel. Hope makes you feel like a person, not a number. Studying history within a liberal arts tradition highlights the importance of individuals and individual rights, of culture and tradition, religion and being.  In the process of studying history, we not only satisfy our own curiosity, but we build connective social tissues. History must always begin with the individual, develop through curiosity and play, and come together for social ends as we relate what we have discovered. Whether it is studying their Reformed heritage, their own ethnic background, or the great moments in world history, Hope history students have real opportunities to think creatively about history, and to approach it from their own perspective.

To be creative, you must put your fears aside and be open to new experiences. So, I implore you to start looking for new ways to think about and write history. Get my book. Or, for other inspiration, go to the museum; get a whiff of that lumber yard account book. It just might bring you back in time, and change how you think about the past.

Faculty Feature: The Emotional Responsibility of a Historian

Dr. Wayne Tan

At a time when the humanities appear to be in a crisis mode, with declining enrollment numbers across campuses, I want to share my thoughts about how, from a faculty’s perspective, the work I do in history relates back to the core issue of what it means to be in touch with my humanistic outlook. As a historian, it is my job to think critically, articulate my thoughts clearly, and write cogently. This was what I was taught in school and also a lesson that is dear to my heart. Herein lies a question that I had only recently started to reflect on: Can the process of doing history be one that is also rooted in emotions? That is to say, a process that doesn’t pit mind against heart, but instead, one that marries mind with heart? For the longest time, haunting every analytical turn of mind is the fear (stoked gently by conventional wisdom) that emotions cloud judgment. Analysis at its best, we are told, should be clinical, exacting, and stripped of emotional biases in order to present an objective truth. But does it have to be this way—for a historian, fully absorbed as is to be expected in his/her task, to maintain an emotional distance from the object of analysis? After all, is not analysis itself also a subjective experience that is intended to produce a personal interpretive result?

Perhaps owing to my research background in disability history, I am partial to methodological approaches that scour the pages of history to seek out traces of unrepresented and underrepresented communities in our societies. The point of my work, summarized here at the risk of sounding hackneyed, is to give a voice to these communities—communities that have historically struggled for the right to exist despite as well as because of their disabilities and for the opportunities for a better quality of life. This research has also led me down a different yet parallel path of personal growth: I feel deeply for the human subjects who are at the center of the narratives I construct. To disclaim the power of emotions would be disingenuous. I could not ignore the anguished pain I felt upon first reading the case of Carrie Buck (institutionalized and sterilized against her will) in early 20th-century America and her uphill fight against a social system bent on condemning any sign of feeble-mindedness. She was forever ensconced in a legacy of martyrdom because of the inhumanity she had suffered. Nor can I suppress the upwelling current (and sometimes sinking weight) of grief and distress each time I bury myself in victims’ harrowing stories about radiation sickness in the wake of the 1945 atomic bombings of Japan and more recent local and state media reports of residents’ concerns about PFAS contamination and lead exposures from the alleged industrial pollution of drinking water. If these feelings fall under the broad lexical reach of the word “empathy”, then I am proud to identify with an empathetic audience.

There is a reason why I turn to writing. If I could reinvent the metaphor of giving a voice to the voiceless, I see a new significance in restoring emotions to my stories and perspectives—not the formulaic types that evoke sympathy as the be-all and end-all of writing, but the kinds that provide a well-considered context that would frame the writer’s emotional response. The stories I write shape the narratives I tell inside and outside the classroom, in the repertoire of courses I teach here at Hope College and also the everyday conversations I have. Words themselves are a historian’s consummate instruments to disclose thoughtfully an emotional inner self that is inseparable from the context. The singular act of writing, in all its complexity, weaves together the dense substance of words, which impart an emotional complexion to prose. To say this differently, words reveal as much about the emotional state of the writer as they do about the emotional profiles of the characters portrayed and described. That is why when I write, I own my words and take ownership of my emotions. When I speak, I do likewise. This is the emotional responsibility of a historian to himself/herself and to the subjects at hand and my personal response to why history and, more broadly, humanities matter to us. Now more than before.

Alumni Feature: Daniel Owens

Daniel R. Owens
M.Phil Candidate, International Peace Studies
Trinity College Dublin

When I sat down to write this piece about how studying history at Hope has shaped my career and worldview, I found myself unsure of where to begin. Do I write about conducting archival research on the Liberian Civil War and exploring the role of historical narratives in post-genocide Rwanda? What about the semester I spent studying post-conflict transformation in Durban, South Africa? Or perhaps I should devote this space to detail the countless conversations I had with the department’s professors—in their offices, over coffee at Lemonjellos, and even over dinner—about history, yes, but also my aspirations, sense of calling, and fears.

After a few moments staring blankly at my computer, my history training kicked in. Where should I begin? By reviewing what has already been written on this blog, of course! Two themes quickly became evident that mirrored my own experience in the department—the ability to think critically and communicate effectively. I’d like to offer my own perspective on these topics, focusing in particular on critical thinking.

For me, studying history at Hope was not about memorizing dates and events; it was about learning how to analyze messy, competing narratives and ultimately weaving them together into a coherent argument. Through this process, I came to realize that nothing occurs in a vacuum. Exploring the context surrounding a given event or action is often the first, essential step to take in order to unlock explanations (or at least better understand) something that at first glance might seem nearly impossible to comprehend. Allow me to offer three examples of why this matters and how my history training has served me well in this area.

First, as a graduate student in peace studies at Trinity College Dublin, I found that determining potential avenues for resolution to conflicts—be it in Ireland, South Sudan, or Central African Republic—always required a lengthy look back at prior events and the people that shaped (and continued to impact) the conflict.

Second, in my current role working for a leading online travel agency, I’ve learned that how partners and colleagues respond to the requests I make is closely linked to factors that go beyond the specific issue at hand. By keeping things such as their underlying interests and responsibilities as well as their perception of me at the forefront of my mind, I am better positioned to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome.

Finally, in keeping with recent trends, one of the overarching themes of 2018 so far has been rapid change. Headlines of dramatic shifts in politics, economic policy, and technology seem to appear on daily (or hourly) basis. It can be exhausting and more than a little stressful to keep up. That said, I’ve noticed that examining the context of each blaring headline can help make things far less startling, enabling me to more easily grasp what is driving these events or actions. In short, my history training has positioned me well to confront the all-important why question.  

Faculty/Alumni Feature: Chad Carlson, ’03

So I’m in a social setting, mingling with a new acquaintance. I’m asked what I do.

“I’m a professor.” Bad start, haha.
“Of what?” Obligatory response.
“The history of sports,” I say, getting uncomfortable. I don’t like where this inquisition is headed.
“So you must know a lot about sports.”
“Sure, I guess,” I answer noncommittally.
“Well then, do you know who won the World Series in 1984?” Ugh.

As a historian, I’m offended by this question and the many like it that I’ve received over the years. History is not trivia. And yet so many people seem to connect sport history with sport trivia, as if my time in grad school was one long training session to acquire orange wedges (Sports and Leisure) in Trivial Pursuit.

But I have a parlor trick that usually satisfies those who ask about my profession. I can name every team that has ever won the NCAA men’s basketball national championship. (This might be my epitaph!) I have this trick down pat not because I study sport history but because I love college basketball.

It’s my love for college basketball that led me to write the book, Making March Madness: The Origins and Early Years of the NCAA and NIT Basketball Tournaments. I knew all the facts long before I began writing the book.

But what separates me from any other college basketball fan is the fact that I’ve studied history. My book is not an almanac of facts. There are a lot of facts in it, but they serve as nails that fasten the floorboards of the story. My book is a history. It’s a reconstruction of the ways that individuals and organizations navigated the social, economic, and political forces of the 1930s and 1940s to create and sustain the college basketball postseason tournament that has become among the most popular events on the annual American sporting calendar.

The story is fascinating to me. The more time I spent at university archives scouring through previously untouched telegrams, handwritten letters, and microfilms, the more amazed I was at the way certain coaches and administrators created and sustained what is now known as March Madness. The tale is unlikely, unusual, and, more importantly, untold.

The tournament had an inauspicious start. When college basketball coaches offered to run a 1939 college basketball national championship tournament under the auspices of the NCAA, two similar events already existed. Third on the scene, without a home base, without many of the top teams in the country, at the end of a decade marked by severe economic depression, and with the uncertainty of escalating international political tensions, the inaugural NCAA tournament actually lost money. Indeed, the NCAA covered a debt of $2,500 to keep the event going in 1940.

In 2010, CBS and Turner Broadcasting committed to paying the NCAA $10.8 billion for the rights to televise March Madness games. In 2016, the deal was extended for another 8 years, adding $8.8 billion to the contract payout.

This means that a small, poorly attended basketball tournament in 1939 that lost $2,500 has transformed into a mega-sporting event that, 85 years later, makes more than $1 billion per year.

These are some of the facts, the trivia points that people want to know when they ask what I do. And these facts matter. They serve as touchpoints of the past and they flavor the story. But the history, the academic work of understanding human behavior of the past, is in the narrative I’ve created. It’s in the flow, in the trends, and in the arc of the story.

My parlor trick helps me occasionally in Trivial Pursuit and every so often during Trivia Night at the local establishment. But the history of March Madness is so much more complex.

So when you watch March Madness this year, know that there’s a deep, rich, and nuanced story of its origin and early years. The story is compelling and attractive, and it brings an acute and robust context to any facts that anyone can rattle off about the event.

In short, it has a history—a story that I’ve tried to reconstruct as a historian…who also knows some trivia!

Chad Carlson is  Associate Professor of Kinesiology and Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach at Hope College. He will be leading a History Colloquium titled “Why March Madness Matters: Reflections on a Popular Sporting Event’s Forgotten History. The talk will take place on Wednesday, March 28 at 7:00 pm in the Fried-Hemenway Auditorium.