Welcome to History
Looking forward to the past since 1894
309 Gregory Hall, 810 S. Wright Street, Urbana, IL 61801
Office Hours: M - F, 8:00 AM - 12:00 and 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Letter from the Chair
Welcome to the History Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Why study history? Because it is the foundation of a liberal arts education whose critical engagement with the past teaches us how to confront the way we live today. Here at Illinois, we take great pride in the teaching we offer to undergraduates, in the training of graduate students to carry on the work of historians, and in the history writing produced by our renowned faculty members. Our website is your gateway to the department, whether you are interested in the careers history majors can pursue, or upcoming departmental lectures and conferences, or the work of our faculty, or how you can help support the department to maintain its excellence. We need the critical insights that studying history provides, now more than ever. Please join us!
Diane P. Koenker
Professor and Chair
News & Announcements
We are mourning the death of another colleague and friend. Ralph Fisher passed away on April 4, 2015. He taught in the History Dept from 1957 until retirement in 1988. Ralph was very active around campus and founded the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center. He was a great promoter of Russian and Soviet history, and a kind and considerate person.
Ralph Talcott Fisher, Jr., 94, of Urbana, Illinois, passed away on April 4th, 2015, three hours shy of his 95th birthday.
A memorial service will be held at Clark Lindsey Retirement Community in Urbana, Illinois, on Monday, April 13th at 10 a.m. Pastor Emily Labrecque of the Community United Church of Christ in Champaign will be officiating.
Ralph Talcott Fisher, Jr. was the son of Ralph Talcott Fisher of Oakland, California, a bank officer at American Trust Company and Margaret Merriam of Newburyport, Massachusetts. Both of Ralph’s parents were active and public-spirited members of their church and community. Ralph was born in Washington, D.C. where his father was working briefly to help set up the Veterans’ Administration after WWI.Ralph was reared in Oakland and graduated from University High School and the University of California, Class of 1942. He was president of the Associated Students in 1941-42.Upon receiving a B.A. in History, he got an assignment of second lieutenant in the Army during WWII.After serving in the U.S. and in China and earning the rank of major, he returned to schoolâ€” first at the University of California in Berkeley for his master’s degree, and then at Columbia University for his doctorate, with a specialty in Russian and East European history. He taught for 6 years at Yale University, working closely with George Vernadsky and Sergei Pushkariev.In 1957 he became a professor at the University of Illinois in the History Department.
Collaborating with librarians Larry Miller, Marianna Tax Choldin, and others, Ralph led the effort to build an outstanding research library in the Russian and East European field, which continues to attract scholars from all over the world. His decision to focus significant funds on the library also drew eminent professors to join the University of Illinois faculty. His contributions to the Slavic and East European field are enormous. Ralph officially retired from the University of Illinois in May 1988, though he continued his involvement in university and community activities.
Ralph married Ruth Meads, Berkeley class of 1943, social worker, and they have enjoyed 72 years together. They had three children: twins, Tad and Meg,and younger son Alby. Besides for being a wonderful father, his children will remember him for playing cowboy songs on his guitar, rough-housing with them on the living room rug, and keeping a well-stocked backpack. They will also remember how he memorized all of Pushkin’s poem Eugene Onegin,which took three hours to recite. The family will remember a wonderful sabbatical year in Vienna, Austria, and bus trip into the U.S.S.R. that same year. Ralph also led the family on a series of summer trips to California, by a variety of routes, visiting family, friends and national parks on the way.
Ralph has enjoyed hiking, singing and making cabin repairs every summer with his extended family at Upper Echo Lake in the Sierra Nevada mountains, where his father, class of 1901 at UC Berkeley, had been a guide at the turn of the century.Ralph’s father built the Echo Lake cabin in 1924, and the family still gathers there.This is Ralph’s favorite place on earth.
Ralph is predeceased by his brother and best friend, Galen Reid Fisher.He is survived by his wife Ruth, his son Tad (Ralph Talcott) and wife Yeshodara Menon (Seattle, WA), daughter Meg (Margaret Manson) and husband Arn Krugman (Sunderland, MA), and son, Alby (Albert Meads)and wife Marina Talet (Sao Paulo, Brazil).He is also survived by his sister Margaret Fisher Mellen, sister-in-law, Mary Ann Quackenbush Fisher, five grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews and their families.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be given to the Russian, East European and Eurasian Center. Please send donations for the Ralph and Ruth Fisher Endowment Fund #773497 to:
University of Illinois Foundation, P.O. Box 3429, Champaign, IL 61821-3429
The family wishes to thank the staff at Carle Hospital for its excellent care of Ralph and his family during this past week. They would also like to thank Ralph’s colleague and friend, Susan Schnuer for her warmth and helpful guidance at this time.
IN DEFENSE OF HISTORY - Thank you to Thomas Dowling, undergrad student of LAS with a passion for History, for the great opinion piece published in The Daily Illini, March 9, 2015!
Professor Bob Morrissey also has a newly published book entitled, " Empire by Collaboration: Indians, Colonists, and Governments in Colonial Illinois Country". Kudos, Bob!
Congratulations to Professor Ken Cuno on his newly published book, "Modernizing Marriage: Family, Ideology, and Law in the Nineteenth-and Early Twentieth-Century Egypt."
Please help us in congratualating Professor Leslie Reagan in being awarded the 2015 IPRH NEH Summer stipend for her project, Seeing Agent Orange: Quilt of Tears. She was one of only two faculty members nominated from our campus through IPRH.
View the news archive
Recent Faculty Publications
Robert Michael Morrissey (author)
Empire by Collaboration: Indians, Colonists, and Governments in Colonial Illinois Country
Kenneth M. Cuno (author)
Modernizing Marriage: Family, Ideology, and Law in the Ninteenth-and Early Twentieth-Century Egypt
Antoinette Burton (editor)
Ten Books That Shaped the British Empire. Creating an Imperial Commons
Maria Todorova (editor)
Remembering Communism: Private and Public Recollections of Lived Experience in Southeast Europe
Antoinette Burton (editor)
The First Anglo-Afghan Wars
Antoinette Burton and Tony Ballantine (authors)
Empires and the Reach of the Global 1870-1945
Clare Crowston and John McKay (authors)
A History of Western Society
Keith Hitchins (author)
A Concise History of Romania
Clare Crowston (author)
Credit, Fashion, Sex: Economies of Regard in Old Regime France
Antoinette Burton (editor)
The Feedback Loop: Historians Talk about the Links between Research and Teaching