News sections

News & Events

Letter from the Chair

Recent News

We are mourning the death of our colleague Mark Leff, who passed away on Sunday, February 22.

Mark H. Leff
(January 23, 1949 - February 22, 2015)
Mark H. Leff, 66, of Urbana, died in his home on Sunday, February 22, after a year of living with cancer....
Mark, son of Sam and Melitta Leff, was born in 1949, in Cincinnati, Ohio, and grew up in Washington DC. He received a B.A. in Economics from Brown University and a Ph.D. in History from University of Chicago. He taught American History at the University of Illinois from 1986 to 2012. He married his wife of more than forty years, Carol Skalnik Leff, in 1971.

He will be remembered and deeply missed by Carol and the rest of his loving family including: his daughter Alison Leff Washabaugh, her husband Bill Washabaugh, and their son Rowan; his son Ben Leff and Ben's fiancee Melissa Schoeplein; his sister Deborah Leff; and his stepmother Adele Leff.

Mark was a passionate, devoted and challenging teacher who was beloved by his students and believed the study of history helped create informed, engaged citizens. Among numerous teaching awards, he was named the Carnegie Professor of the Year for the state of Illinois in 1998. He cared deeply for his family and many friends and constantly reminded them how much he loved them. Mark was a kind, warm, person with a quirky sense of humor who routinely put others before himself in his personal life as well as in involvement in community social justice organizations. And he was self-effacing to a fault; if given the chance, he would have quickly (and incorrectly) pronounced himself unworthy of the preceding praise.

The date and location of a celebration of Mark's life will be announced later. In lieu of other gestures of condolence, gifts may be made to the Eastern Illinois Food Bank or the ACLU of Illinois.

Mark Leff


Congratulations to Rebecca Mitchell who has recently accepted a postition as Asst Professor (tenure track) at Middlebury College, Vermont.

We proudly share Ph.D. candidate Kyle Mays' article 10from Indian Country Today Media Kyle is a scholar of urban history, Indigenous Studies and Indigenous popular culture. In this article he speaks of Black-Indigenous Histories Beyond the Norm.

Congratulations to the winners of the First Annual History Soapbox event to choose the book that changed the world, and bravo to all participants. The winner, chosen by a jury of History honors students, was Carol Symes's presentation of the Emperor Justinian's Corpus Juris Civilis (Body of Civil Law, 529-534 C.E.)Second place went to Fred Hoxie, for The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1771); and third to Silvia Escanilla Huerta, for Andres Garcia de Cespedes, Regimiento de navegacion (Regiment of Navigation, 1606).Also dramatically making their cases were Peggy Brennan, for Christopher Columbus, Libro de las Profecias (Book of Prophecies, 1502); Mark Steinberg, Thomas More, Utopia (1516); John Randolph, Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818); Mark Micale, Sigmund Freud, Three Essays on a Theory of Sexuality (1905); Utathya Chattopadhyaya, Mao Tse Tung, Little Red Book (1964); Marc Hertzman, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965); Terri Barnes, Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua, eds., This Bridge Called My Back (1981).

Professor Sundiata Cha-Jua, expert on the civil rights movement, speaks of the importance of the new film, "Selma"on A Minute With....

A Minute With... Professor Tamara Chaplin, modern France historian speaking of The Christmas Truce of WWI.

Carol Symes has recently been named the executive editor of "The Medieval Globe" journal. She has introduced the inaugural issue with a discussion of The Black Plague.

The Dept of History is proud to announce that Antoinette Burton and Robert Morrissey have won the coveted 2015 NEH Fellowships. Antoinette for her project, "Wars Against Nature? Environmental Fictions of the First Anglo-Afghan Wars," and Bob for "The Illinois and the Edge Effect: Bison Algonquians in the Colonial Mississippi Valley." We also congratulate Bob for being appointed a CAS Fellow for next year. We salute you, Antoinette and Bob!

The Association for Women in Slavic Studies just awarded our Chair, Diane P. Koenker, with the Outstanding Achievement Award during the annual convention of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies held in San Antoinio, Texas. We celebrate you, Diane! Congratulations!

Professor Craig Koslofsky on the PBS series, "How We Got To Now".

CONGRATULATIONS to Professor Jimena Canales who was named the Thomas M. Siebel Chair in the History of Science.

H-France online forum featured our Clare Crowston's book, "Credit, Fashion, Sex: Economies of Regard in Old Regime France." Read the essays of the four reviewers and the response by Clare.

Read How Did the Nazis Become So Popular? 13An article in the LAS News where our own Peter Fritzsche 14discusses how the Nazi party came to power.

CAREERS NIGHT 2014 (opens in a new window)15 was an enlightening evening of discussion with four of our very own alums. We learned how they were able to go from being History graduates to where they each are today.

We recently welcomed the Fall 2014 Incoming Graduate class.1What a fun group of scholars! We are looking forward to working with them in the coming years.


The Department of History faculty overwhelmingly voted to approve the following resolution at its meeting on September 3, 2014.

Whereas academic freedom and a commitment to fairness and transparency in all academic procedures and practices, including faculty hires, form the foundations of the American public higher educational system;

Whereas Chancellor Phyllis Wise, on August 1, 2014, summarily and without faculty consultation, informed Dr. Steven Salaita that she would not forward his contract to the Board of Trustees, thereby voiding every preceding review by faculty and administrative personnel;

Whereas Chancellor Wise’s August 22, 2014, explanation for her action in the name of “civility” threatens to undermine the protection of tenure and the right to free speech, and obscures the role played in this decision by political pressure;

Whereas President Robert Easter and the Board of Trustees endorsed this violation of shared governance, due process, and academic freedom on August 22, 2014;

Whereas the American Association of University Professors in an August 29, 2014, letter to Chancellor Wise expressed its “deep concern,” and stated that “Aborting an appointment in this manner without having demonstrated cause has consistently been seen by the AAUP as tantamount to summary dismissal, an action categorically inimical to academic freedom and due process and one aggravated in his case by the apparent failure to provide him with any written or even oral explanation”;

The faculty of the Department of History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign declares its lack of confidence in the leadership of the current Chancellor, President, and Board of Trustees. We call on the Chancellor, the President, and the Board of Trustees to reverse this decision by reinstating Dr. Salaita.


War is everywhere on our minds right now, war in the present and war in history. Here is our Peter Fritzsche's minute comment on the meaning of the Second World War.

A Minute With....Mark Steinberg. Our own Mark Steinberg, Professor of Russian history, talks about Vladimir Putin and today's Russia

CONGRATULATIONS to our newest Dean's List and Bronze Tablet honorees. We have 58 students on the Spring 2014 Dean's List which is comprised of the top 20% of a college class or curriculum. We are also very proud of our five Bronze Tablet graduates: Holly Gooden, Steven Grosso, Neha Nigam, David Rahimi and Grant Snyder! The Bronze Tablet honors only the top 3% from each college's graduating class. You can see the complete lists here.

A Minute With......Sundiata Cha-Jua. Sundiata speaks of the significance of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Take a look at the June 13, 2014, "A Minute With..." . Our own Jerry Davila, LeMann Professor of Brazilian History, gives insight on Brazil and the World Cup. He also authored an article in The Huffington Post: "World Cup Protests Signal Democratic Progress for Brazil." and was cited in the NY Times article: "Brazil on Edge as World Cup Exposes Rift."

We are extremely pleased to announce the news that Kristin Hoganson and Erik McDuffie have both been named Richard and Margaret Romano Professorial Scholars. Hearty kudos to both!

Join us July 10th for the Chicago Friends of History Book Club Event featuring a discussion with Professor James Barrett about his book, "The Irish Way: Becoming American in the Multiethnic City."

May 2014 Congratulations, graduates and new alumni! Best of luck for your brilliant futures! View Convocation photos here.

Bob Morrissey's article, "Kaskaskia Social Network: Kinship and Assimilation in a French-Illinois Borderland," has just won the Lester J. Cappon Award for Best Article in the William and Mary Quarterly in 2013.

On behalf of the CHI/programming committee and its "A Book in Common" (ABC) subcommittee we are pleased to announce the ABC book selection for 2014:

Marc Bloch, Strange Defeat (Norton, 1999; originally 1940).
This book is Marc Bloch's account of France's defeat in WWII, written in 1940 and first published in French in 1946. It raises interesting questions about the relationship between military events and deeper structures, the political investment of historians, the possibilities and limits of writing histories of the present, and the meaning of history when written from a perspective of loss and defeat.

Copies of the book are currently available in the History office (309 Gregory Hall) for those faculty and students planning on joining us for the meeting to discuss the book. Our discussion is scheduled for Wednesday August 27, 2014 (time and place TBA).

April 19, 2014, The Department of History held the Annual Awards Celebration and Reception. The day began with a Friends of History Board Meeting, followed by the Honors Colloquium (which showcased senior honors theses') and the Awards Ceremony. Click the link above to see pictures.

Please join us for our celebration of the history work done all over campus, our annual "Historians Among Us" lecture. This year, we feature Daniel Schneider, of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, speaking on Wednesday, April 16, at 3 pm in 307 Gregory Hall, on "Monopolizing 'Nature's Means and Methods': Sewage Treatment, Patents, and the Foundations of Modern Biotechnology."

Please join us in celebrating the announcement that Tariq Ali has won the Sardar Patel Dissertation Prize for the best dissertation written on South Asia in any institution of higher learning in the United States for 2012. He will be honored at a ceremony at UCLA in May. Congratulations, Tariq!

We are pleased and delighted to announce that Kristin Hoganson has been invited to hold the Harold Vyvyan Harmsworth Visiting Professorship in American History at Oxford University for 2015-2016. Inaugurated in 1922, the Professorship has been held by many of the most eminent historians of America and is tenable on a year-long basis. Since 2001, holders of the Chair have been affiliated to both Queen's College, Oxford, and the Rothermere American Institute. She joins a list of fellows that reads like a Who's Who of American history.

Please join us for the annual Friends of History lecture (opens in a new window)on Thursday, April 3, at 3 pm. Professor Nick Cullather of Indiana University will speak in 311 Gregory Hall on "Doris Day and the Economists: Imagining the Expert in the Development Decade."

Congratulations to Marc Hertzman, whose book, Making Samba: A New History of Race and Music in Brazil has just been awarded Honorable Mention by the Bryce Wood Book Award Committee of the Latin American Studies Association. The award is given at each Congress of the association to an outstanding book on Latin America in the social sciences and humanities published in English in the United States. Not just first book, not just history book -- this is a huge prize. Bravo, Marc!

We are very pleased to share the news that Tamara Chaplin, who has already won the LAS Teaching Award, has been selected as the winner of the campus Undergraduate Teaching Award. We are very proud of Tamara and her commitment to excellence in teaching. Thanks also to the awards committee for preparing the award-winning nomination. Brava, Tamara!

History Alums! Here’s your chance to share your love of history with hundreds of Chicago-area students. Please volunteer to serve as a judge for the 2014 Chicago Metro History Fair. Judges evaluate historical research projects produced by Chicago-area students in grades 6-8 or 9-12. Details here.

Join us Celebrating 100 Years of Liberal Arts & Sciences at the University of Illinois. View a timeline of the College's History.

Professor Bruce Levine, a prominent scholar of US slave emancipation, was interviewed on Feb 12, 2014, by the editor of The After Slavery Project.

We take great pride in announcing Faculty members Terri Barnes and Dana Rabin and Graduate students Kyle Mays and Patryk Reid as the recipients of the 2014-15 IPRH Fellowships.

Congratulations to Professor Tamara Chaplin and TA Sandra Henderson, who have been selected as recipients of the LAS Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

The Department of History at the University of Illinois wishes to express its support of the statements issued by both Gender and Women’s Studies and Asian American Studies with respect to the social media assaults on Chancellor Wise, and on the whole notion of free speech, represented by the Twitter events of January 27th and 28th, 2014. We join with our colleagues in condemning both the speech acts themselves and the climate of disrespect and violence that such acts reflect and produce. We are committed to both academic and civic work that challenges the view that these are simply acts of misguided individuals. As historians we understand the high cost of ignoring structural explanations and the equally high price that racialized minorities, indigenous communities, women and LGBTQ people pay when institutionalized forms of racism, sexism and homophobia go unchallenged. We ask colleagues across campus to stand in solidarity with Chancellor Wise. We urge all members of our community to remember the responsibility each of us has for fostering a campus where difference is respected as a core element of our work as students, teachers and co-workers.

A Minute With....Diane Koenker, our Chair and expert on Russia and the Soviet Union, on the historical background to Sochi as a destination in the Soviet Union and on the political contexts of the Sochi Olympics which officially opens February 7, 2014.

2013 Graduate Class is pictured here

A Minute With ...Terri Barnes, our own historian of Southern Africa regarding Nelson Mandela.

Best-Sellerdom! We congratulate Bruce Levine, whose 2013 book, The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution that Transformed the South, is the number 2 Best Selling Civil War title for 2013, as reported by the magazine, Civil War Monitor.

Congratulations to James R. Brennan, who has won the 2013 Bethwell A. Ogot Book Prize, awarded by the African Studies Association for the best book on East African Studies for his book: Taifa: Making Nation and Race in Urban Tanzania. Read the news announcement.

The Council of Editors of Learned Journals has awarded The Journal of Late Antiquity, which is edited by Ralph Mathisen, the 2013 recipient of the distinctive Codex Award.

View Inside Illinois' front page article about Clare Crowston's study of the "regime of credit" which she wrote about in her new book: Credit, Fashion, Sex: Economies of Regard in Old Regime France.

On November 20, 2013, History alumna Christina Brodbeck, a tech industry entrepreneur and founding member of YouTube, spoke about Building a Career on an LAS Foundation. Her profile can be viewed here.

Attention Illinois History Alumni-
The department's annual newsletter, History@Illinois, wants your news for its next issue, to be published in spring 2014. Please send your updates and achievements to The editors would appreciate receiving your notes by November 15, 2013 (You can find a link to last year's issue on line on our web site.)
Thank you!

CONGRATULATIONS to Professor Jerry Dávila, who was invested on October 16th as the first Jorge Paulo Lemann Chair in Brazilian History. Mr. Lemann, the benefactor of the chair and of the Lemann Center for Brazilian Studies, attended and was recognized by Chancellor Phyllis Wise for his generosity toward the University of Illinois. Chancellor Wise and LAS Dean Brian Ross presented Professor Davila with a medallion signifying his position. Diane Koenker introduced Jerry, who then spoke eloquently about his vision of Brazilian history at Illinois. Photos from the event can be viewed here.

We are thrilled to announce that Adrian Burgos has been selected to receive the 2013 Larine Y. Cowan Make a Difference Award for Teaching and Mentoring in Diversity. He will be honored at the 28th Annual Celebration of diversity on November 8, 2013. This is an honor richly deserved for all the work Adrian has done in the classroom, in the graduate program, and in between on behalf of diversity as practice. Congratulations, Adrian!

On October 18th, Bruce Levine gave a plenary address at the Newberry Library's conference on the "Home Front: Daily Life in the Civil War North." His talk: "Reshaped by the 'Logic of Events': Changing Views of Slavery and Race in the Union and Confederacy."

Professor Dana Rabin gave the annual Associate Professor Lecture in the History Department on Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 3pm in Greg Hall 317. This was an occasion where we had the privilege of hearing work from a book in progress and discussing it with the author. The title of Dana's talk was "’Wedding and Bedding’: Making and Unmaking Law in the Act of Union between Britain and Ireland (1801)"

Kristin Hoganson gave the 2013 IPRH Annual Distinguished Lecture on September 26th. She spoke from her new work in progress on the topic, "Colonialism, Postcolonialism, Pork and Corn: How Anglo-Saxonist Pigs Can Help Us Reconsider the Roots of the Modern American Empire."

Swanlund Professor Fred Hoxie has been named the winner of the 2013 Caughey Western History Association Prize for the most distinguished book on the history of the American West: This Indian Country: American Indian Activists and the Place They Made (Penguin, 2012).

Check out this "minute with" Fred Hoxie on the current American Indian mascot controversies.

Congratulations to Adrian Burgos, an LAS Centennial Scholar, and to all the Centennial Scholars announced this week.

LAS Centennial Scholars : Ten faculty have been named Centennial Scholars in honor of the 100th anniversary of the creation of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois.

Congratulations to Brian Ingrassia (Ph.D. 2008), whose book, The Rise of Gridiron University: Higher Education's Uneasy Alliance with Big-Time Football (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2012), has just won the 2013 Book Award, in their monograph category, from the North American Society for Sport History.

Kudos to grad student Derek Attig whose research is quoted in a NY Times Sunday Book Review section in an article on prisoner library at Guantanamo Bay. Read the article here.

Hearty Congratulations are due to several of our current graduate students and a recent Ph.D. for their accomplishments:

Diana Georgescu has been awarded a Mellon-Council of European Studies Dissertation Completion Fellowship for 2013-14.

Rachel Koroloff has been named a Junior Fellow for 2013-14 at the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

Troy Smith, Ph.D. 2012, has accepted a tenure-track assistant professor position in US History at Tennessee Tech University.

The chosen book for A Book in Common AY 2013-14 was The Earth After Us: What legacy Will Humans Leave in the Rocks? by Jan Zalasiewicz (opens in a new window), The talk was held Wednesday, 9/25.

The first annual History Career Night was September 19, 2013 7:30-9:30 pm

Fred Hoxie has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Historians Among Us Lecture
Jonathan Ebel, Dept. of Religion
"This is my body: Soldering, Salvation, and American Civil Religion."
April 17, 2013 - 3:30pm, 307 Greg Hall

More from our sports historian and film commentator, Adrian Burgos...

Interview he did with Jeff Bossert was excerpted as part of their 12 O’clock newscast

And was also featured in the Afternoon Magazine (April 15),

Graduate Student, Derek Attig's research has recently been quoted in a NY Times Sunday Book Review section in an article based on the prisoner library at Guantanamo Bay.

Robert Morrissey has been awarded a Faculty prize from The Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH) for "Kaskaskia Social Network: Kinship and Assimilation in the French-Illinois Borderlands, 1695-1735," published in The William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd Serial, 70, number 1, January 2013.

IPRH has awarded T.J. Tallie, a Graduate Student Honorable Mention, for "White Liquor; Settler Colonialism and the Racial Politics of Alcohol in Colonial Natal, 1856-1897," written for History 599: Dissertation Research and Writing in Fall 2012, under the direction of Antoinette Burton.

David Roediger and Elizabeth Esch have been awarded the International Labor History Association (ILHA) Book of the Year Award for 2012 for "The Production of Difference," published by Oxford University Press.

Bruce Levine's NPR broacast may be viewed at

Peter Fritzsche's W.D. and Sara E. Trowbridge Professor Investiture Ceremony, November 5, 2012 Fritzsche-Trowbridge

Jerry Davila has been elected vice-president and president-elect of the Conference on Latin American History, an affiliate of the AHA and an organization representing 1,100 Latinamericanist historians. Jerry will be serving a four-year term in the various leadership capacities, stewarding this important organization into the future.

Bruce Levine taped a brief interview for a program called "Law and Disorder" on WBAI-Pacifica radio, based in NYC (99.5 FM) re: the new "Lincoln" film and the historical reality it's meant to portray. It aired today (Wednesday) at 9AM on WBAI and throughout the week on 50 affiliate stations, and also on the web at <>

Craig Koslofsky's book, Evening's Empire, which is listed among The Atlantic's Books of the Year 2012, has been listed in the 15 best books reviewed in The Atlantic or published in 2012: for the Top 5 and the 10 Runners Up, see

For all those interested in the brave new world of online teaching, please check out Terri Barnes's blogpost on Coursera, just published in South Africa.

We are pleased to share the news that Bruce S. Hall (PhD 2005), who now teaches at Duke University, is the co-winner of the AHA Martin A. Klein Prize in African History in 2012 for his book, A History of Race in Muslim West Africa, 1600-1960 (Cambridge University Press, 2011). Congratulations, Bruce!