Dear Alumni and Friends,
I am pleased to announce the fall 2010 edition of the UCLA History Department newsletter. This is my first note to you since becoming Chair of the Department in July. I want to take this opportunity to thank Ned Alpers, who served as Chair so gracefully for the past five years.
These are challenging times, to be sure. California finds itself in a very serious budgetary crisis from which escape will likely come gradually and painfully. The University of California cannot and no longer does depend on Sacramento for the bulk of its operating budget.
And yet, in the face of challenge, UCLA continues to thrive. A recent ranking by the Times Literary Supplement placed our institution as the eleventh best university in the world. And our own History Department was rated between fourth and eighth by the National Research Council in its most recent surveys of departments at American universities.
Even more to the point, we at UCLA remain as committed as ever to being a public university that serves the citizens of the state. And we in the History Department are more committed than ever to the public mission of history. In the first instance, we teach students, nearly 13,000 of them, every year. We also train hundreds of graduate students who are the teachers and scholars of the future.
Beginning this year, we are redoubling our efforts to bring history and historical knowledge into mainstream public debate. It is our belief that historical knowledge is essential to, though often absent from, important policy deliberations. Our faculty of seventy outstanding historians has a great deal of expertise to contribute to our understanding of virtually every region of the world.
With that in mind, we have inaugurated the “Why History Matters” series (see more below) in which historians engage issues of great contemporary relevance. You can also go to our website under the “History Matters” link (http://www.history.ucla.edu/news-events/history-matters) to see opinion pieces on contemporary issues written by our faculty members. Keep your eyes out for more notices of our public activities, as we move forward with our mission of bringing historical literacy to as wide a public as possible.
It is the public that we serve, and it is the public on whom we rely as partners. Please consider a contribution to one of the great history departments in the country, as we work to ensure that “history matters.”
In concluding, I’d like to express my gratitude to our Board of Advisors (previously History Department Council) on whom the Department relies for leadership, guidance, and generous financial support.
Professor and Chair, UCLA Department of History
The UCLA History Board of Advisors
As we face this uniquely challenging moment in the history of our state, our university and the world, the UCLA History Department is fortunate to have a Board of Advisors comprised of distinguished and prominent alumni across the globe. I am honored to call them colleagues and grateful for their philanthropic commitment and partnership as we develop a strategic vision that will chart the course to further excellence and international leadership in the field of history
I look forward to showcasing the achievements, contributions, and innovative ideas of our Board in future communications. Should you wish to inquire about joining the Board, please contact Kira Baccari, Director of Social Sciences Development (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Kim Morris, Associate Director of Social Sciences Development (email@example.com) in the UCLA College Development Office.
As part of our commitment to elevating the public mission of history, the Department is inaugurating an exciting new public series this year titled “Why History Matters.” (http://www.history.ucla.edu/news-events/history-matters ).
The aim of the series is to bring UCLA historians into conversation with notable public officials and personalities. We do so based on the belief that historical knowledge is essential to, but often conspicuously lacking from, public debate on issues of great importance. The UCLA History Department intends to take a leading role in demonstrating both the relevance and significance of history in the broader public realm today.
Our first “Why History Matters” event featured our own Arch Getty, a noted expert on Soviet history, in conversation with former Senator Gary Hart. The two speakers spoke before a packed room at the UCLA Faculty Center on November 16, 2010. Professor Getty began his remarks by identifying some of the key and recurrent characteristics of Russian history, many of which, he argued, have been repeatedly ignored by American policy makers. Senator Hart concurred with Professor Getty’s lament about the failure to understand Russian history, and argued that US-Russian relations were among the most important American foreign policy priorities over the next quarter century. Indeed, the two speakers made clear how important it was to know the history of one’s partner or adversary in the diplomatic arena. The “Why History Matters” series will continue on Feb. 24, 2011, with a panel devoted to same sex marriage featuring attorney David Boies, Harvard professor Nancy Cott, and UCLA historian Ellen Dubois.
Faculty Profile: Ghislaine Lydon
Ghislaine Lydon joined the UCLA History Department after receiving her Ph.D from Michigan State University. She completed her undergraduate degree at McGill University in Montreal. At the time, she spoke and wrote better French than English, which is why she chose to study at a bilingual university. Although her parents are English speakers (American mother, British father), she grew up in non-English speaking countries (Chile, Switzerland and France). Familiarity with several languages made it is easier for Lydon to access a variety of historical literatures.
Her dissertation dealt with the organization of trans-Saharan camel caravan trade from the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries. Ghislaine revised the first volume of the dissertation focused on the nineteenth century and turned it into a book entitled On Trans-Saharan Trails: Islamic Law, Trade Networks and Cross-Cultural Exchange in Nineteenth-Century Western Africa (Cambridge University Press, 2009). This book is an in-depth study of trade network systems in a Muslim environment. Ghislaine drew on a wide array of primary sources to inform her study. She interviewed over two hundred elders, officials and families, including retired caravaners and their descendants in the countries of Mali, Mauritania, Morocco and Senegal. These interviews provided unique insights into the history and culture of the western Sahara, and the logistics and dangers of desert crossings.
One of the key aims of this important book is to promote a continent-wide approach to African history, and in so doing, to mend the scholarly divide that has separated the study of Africa into North Africa and so-called Sub-Saharan Africa. Widely acclaimed by scholars, the book will be awarded the first Martin Klein Prize by the American Historical Association for the best book in African history published in 2009. For her next book, Ghislaine will build on several threads from her first book to produce a broad study of the evolution of literacy and legal institutions in the history of Muslim Africa.
As a student in the Jewish field in UCLA’s History Department, Liora has focused on a significant point of convergence between Jewish, Middle Eastern, and European history: the modern history of Palestine and Israel. Her dissertation, “Babel in Zion: The Politics of Language Diversity in Jewish Palestine, 1920-1948,” considers language ideology and practice in the Jewish community of Palestine during the decades prior to the establishment of the state of Israel. She uses the prism of language to explore a formative tension between the Zionist nationalist ideal of Hebrew exclusivity and the persistence of language diversity.
In stressing the notable success of this revival project, scholars have tended to obscure the lasting social value of other languages—including Arabic, Yiddish, German, and English—in a society located in the Middle East, constituted largely of Jewish immigrants, and ruled by a British power. Her work relies on archival documents as well as journalistic sources, memoirs, oral histories, and ephemera to capture the scope of this language diversity on the level of the everyday and Jews’ often ambivalent reflections about the layers of cultural contact that defined their society. The persistence of multilingualism, she argues, points to the central place of global trade, cultural exchange, and political negotiation in the life of the Yishuv and challenges a straightforward narrative of linguistic consolidation and national return.
Liora chose UCLA for graduate study because of the History Department’s depth and breadth in both Jewish and Middle Eastern history and the university’s world-class Center for Jewish Studies. Since coming to UCLA, she has taken courses in the department’s Middle East and Europe fields in addition to the Jewish field and has built up proficiency in Arabic as well as Hebrew. Over the course of her graduate career she has been supported by UCLA’s Chancellor’s Fellowship, the Jacob K. Javits Fellowship, the FLAS Fellowship in Arabic, the Schusterman Foundation, and the Foundation for Jewish Culture.
Alicia Williams is a graduating senior double majoring in History and African-American Studies. Her interest in history began in an American history class that she took in community college. The course introduced Alicia to the practice of history as a series of stories that explain why events happened and how those events affected people rather than the mere recitation of names and dates. As a result, Alicia came to UCLA eager to be a history major focusing on 20th-century American history. To narrow her focus, she decided to double major in African-American Studies and is currently working on an honors thesis for the History Department that bridges history and sociology. Her research focuses on the socialization of African-American children of police officers, specifically looking at how that profession influences the messages children receive about the historic tension between the police and the black community and about racial profiling.
Alicia, a McNair Scholar (awarded to a first-generation college student in memory of the late astronaut Ronald McNair), has excelled in the UCLA History Department. She has also chosen to take on a variety of leadership roles as President of Phi Alpha Theta, the History Honors Society, and Editor-In-Chief of two undergraduate journals, Quaestio, a History Journal, and Epoche, a journal focusing on the Study of Religion.
You can now direct your Chancellor’s Associates gift to the History Department where it will be used immediately to support the faculty, students, and programs that make it one of the best in the nation.
As a Chancellor's Associate you may be eligible to receive added benefits which include complimentary admission to on-campus athletic events (except football and men’s basketball) and access to the John Wooden Center and Sunset Canyon Recreation Center. For more information about the Chancellor's Associates, UCLA Fund and directing your gift to the Department of History please go to http://www.theuclafund.ucla.edu/.