Thematic Fields of Study

The Department of History houses thirteen thematic fields of study. Click on each to read more about the area of study, as well as to see a list of faculty who specialize within that area.

American Indian and Indigenous History

American Indian and Indigenous Studies is a vital area of study at the University of Minnesota. Three faculty trained in indigenous history offer undergraduate and graduate courses, and the University houses the oldest Department of American Indian Studies in the country with a faculty offering a large curriculum in the Ojibwe and Dakota languages plus courses centering on history, literature, the cinema, political science, the legal system, anthropology, and more. Minnesota has long been a leader in graduate training in the field, and the presence of the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Workshop offers access to this lively scholarly community for students and faculty alike. Faculty scholarship in AIIS engages with a multiplicity of approaches, including sovereignty, representations, education, public history/heritage studies, and broader connections to global indigeneity.

Faculty

  • David Chang: Race and nationalism, American Indian, native Hawaiian, 19th and 20th century United States
  • Kirsten Fischer: Colonial and revolutionary America, United States, social and intellectual
  • Patrick McNamara: Latin America, Mexico
  • Jean O'Brien: Colonial American, Native American
Culture, Media, Technology, Ideas
This thematic area brings together the study of anthropological concepts of culture and cultural change, and histories of technology, communications, and the transmission of symbolic production. We are interested in the reframing of intellectual history as part of the dense fabric of cultural and social forms. We study science as practice and idea, communications media as reflections and generators of social and political change, as well as the broad category of historical subjectivities. We are also interested in philosophical thought both as generator of novel and powerful interpretations of social life, and as reflection of situated dilemmas of culture in a specific time and place.

Faculty

  • Margaret Carlyle: Early Modern Europe, France, women, science and medicine
  • Tracey Deutsch: United States, women's history, business
  • Kirsten Fischer: Colonial and revolutionary America, United States, social and intellectual
  • Andrew Gallia: Ancient history
  • Erika Lee: 20th century United States, Asian-American, immigration, American West
  • Patricia Lorcin: Modern France, western imperialism, colonial and postcolonial, Mediterranean
  • Howard Louthan: Early modern Europe; Central Europe; cultural, intellectual, and religious History
  • Mary Jo Maynes: Modern Germany, European social, women
  • Hiromi Mizuno: Modern Japan, gender and sexuality, cultural studies of science and technology
  • Helena Pohlandt-McCormick: Africa, South Africa, social and cultural history, comparative women's history
  • JB Shank: Early modern Europe, France, European intellectual, history of science
  • Igor Tcoukarine: 20th century Europe, Eastern and Southeastern Europe, history of tourism
  • Thomas Wolfe: European Union, Soviet Union, history of media and communications, pragmatism
Economy, Capitalism, Business, Labor, Class, Slavery
The history department has a strong cohort of faculty who teach and research economic history and the history of capitalism. We work in many regions of the world, and from a variety of perspectives and methodologies, but share a commitment to understanding the historical evolution of systems of exchange, labor, and purchase that shape peoples’ lives. We are distinguished by our capacious view of economic history. Fields of interest include labor and work, legal history, consumption and consumer society, population change and demographics, commercial practices, and the emergence and operations of capitalism. Chronologically, we span the medieval period as well as early modern and modern eras, and study locations across the globe, particularly the US, European, and Asian economies. Many of us do work that is explicitly comparative or transnational.

Faculty

  • Juhana Aunesluoma: 20th century Europe, Cold War, Scandinavia, Finland
  • Tracey Deutsch: United States, women's history, business
  • Katharine Gerbner: Atlantic world, early America, comparative early modern, Caribbean, religion, race
  • Christopher M Isett: Post-war East Asian political economies, global and post-war capitalism, East Asia's Cold War, comparative economic history, agrarian, 18th–20th century China
  • Mary Jo Maynes: Modern Germany, European social, women
  • Hiromi Mizuno: Modern Japan, gender and sexuality, cultural studies of science and technology
  • Lisa Norling: American Revolution, 18th and 19th century America, women and gender, maritime
  • Kathryn L Reyerson: Medieval Europe, Mediterranean Europe, Medieval France, social and economic history, legal history
  • Ajay Skaria: South Asia, environmental history
  • Barbara Y Welke: American legal and constitutional, American women's, and modern American history
  • Thomas Wolfe: European Union, Soviet Union, history of media and communications, pragmatism
Empire, Colonialism, Postcolonial Studies
Many history department faculty and students explore the arenas of imperialism, colonialism and post-colonial studies. Courses are regularly taught with a thematic, chronological, or geographic focus both at the graduate and undergraduate level. Some of the research and teaching on these themes is global in scope; some center on a particular region or empire such as the British Empire or the Japanese Empire. Thematic courses include such topics as slavery, the history of capitalism, imperialism and its critics, and imperial violence.

Faculty

  • Giancarlo Casale: Islamic world, Ottoman Empire, pre-modern and early modern world history
  • Sarah Chambers: Colonial Latin America; gender, cultural, and legal history
  • David Chang: Race and nationalism, American Indian, native Hawaiian, 19th and 20th century United States
  • Anna Clark: British, Irish, European, women, gender, sexuality
  • Gary Cohen: Austria and Germany, Central and Eastern Europe, modern European social and political history
  • Tracey Deutsch: United States, women's history, business
  • Kirsten Fischer: Colonial and revolutionary America, United States, social and intellectual
  • Andrew Gallia: Ancient history
  • Katharine Gerbner: Atlantic world, early America, comparative early modern, Caribbean, religion, race
  • Allen F Isaacman: Central and Southern Africa
  • Christopher M Isett: Post-war East Asian political economies, global and post-war capitalism, East Asia's Cold War, comparative economic history, agrarian, 18th–20th century China
  • Mai Na Lee: Southeast Asia
  • Patricia Lorcin: Modern France, western imperialism, colonial and postcolonial, Mediterranean
  • Nabil Matar: Modern Arabic literature; Arab-Islamic civilization
  • Saje Mathieu: African-American, American social and political history, comparative immigration
  • Hiromi Mizuno: Modern Japan, gender and sexuality, cultural studies of science and technology
  • Jean O'Brien: Colonial American, Native American
  • Helena Pohlandt-McCormick: Africa, South Africa, social and cultural history, comparative women's history
  • Daniel Schroeter: Jewish, North African, Mediterranean
  • Ajay Skaria: South Asia, environmental history
  • Theofanis G Stavrou: Russia, modern Greek studies, Eastern Orthodoxy
  • Liping Wang: Modern Chinese social and cultural
  • Thomas Wolfe: European Union, Soviet Union, history of media and communications, pragmatism
Family, Demography, Quantitative History

Since the beginning of human culture, home and family have been key arenas where historical processes have unfolded. Family life, in turn, has always been shaped by local and global historical dynamics. Many historians at Minnesota investigate history through family relationships (for example, changing gender, sexual, and generational relations), or through demographic shifts (such as socio-economic patterns and trends in the age at marriage or birth and death rates) or through the roles played by family ideals in political life—for example during modernizing revolutions and during the Cold War. We work on family history in all global regions – the ancient Near East, medieval through modern Europe, Latin America, colonial and modern Africa, and East and Southeast Asia. We draw on a wide range of historical sources including archaeological evidence, fiction, art, and oral history as well as legal codes, census records, and memoirs.

Historians who work with census materials have developed huge data bases housed in the Minnesota Population Center, an interdisciplinary center where researchers develop methods for studying quantitative evidence for the historical study of the family. Family life, often thought of as a relatively unchanging realm of merely private and local interest, in fact has played and continues to play a major role in world history.

Faculty

  • Sarah Chambers: Colonial Latin America; gender, cultural, and legal history
  • J. David Hacker: Demographic history, quantitative history, American Civil War
  • Christopher M Isett: Post-war East Asian political economies, global and post-war capitalism, East Asia's Cold War, comparative economic history, agrarian, 18th–20th century China
  • Ruth Mazo Karras: Medieval Europe, women and gender history
  • Elaine Tyler May: United States, American studies, American women
  • Mary Jo Maynes: Modern Germany, European social, women
  • Lisa Norling: American Revolution, 18th and 19th century America, women and gender, maritime
  • Steven Ruggles: American demographic and social history
Food, Environment, Agrarian History
Until recently the majority of the population lived in the countryside where food shortages and environmental crises profoundly affected people’s daily and lived experiences. Often environmental crises and food production systems have been interconnected with most environmental crises produced by human actions. The Department of History offers a wide variety of courses that explore food, environment, and agrarian history. A number of faculty conduct research and offer interdisciplinary graduate seminars on topics such as the social basis of food insecurity, coping with food shortages, indigenous knowledge and technology, environmental degradation, and landscape and historical and memory. The Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences also teach courses on related themes.

Faculty

  • Tracey Deutsch: United States, women's history, business
  • Allen F Isaacman: Central and Southern Africa
  • Christopher M Isett: Post-war East Asian political economies, global and post-war capitalism, East Asia's Cold War, comparative economic history, agrarian, 18th–20th century China
Legal History, Human Rights
Legal history and human rights is a dynamic field at the University of Minnesota with faculty and graduate students interested in law and human rights working in almost every geographic and temporal field of study, including US, Latin America, Africa, medieval, early modern, and modern Europe, and South and East Asia. Areas of special strength include personhood, citizenship, race, gender, class, sexuality, disability, childhood and family, immigration, rights and social movements, and genocide. Minnesota’s long-history of training graduate students in legal history and human rights is sustained through the program in law and history including graduate coursework, the legal history workshop, and a close relationship with the Law School, which has faculty with special strengths in human rights, family, labor, and criminal law.

Faculty

  • Susanna Blumenthal: American cultural and intellectual history, Anglo-American legal history, history of human sciences
  • Sarah Chambers: Colonial Latin America; gender, cultural, and legal history
  • Christopher M Isett: Post-war East Asian political economies, global and post-war capitalism, East Asia's Cold War, comparative economic history, agrarian, 18th–20th century China
  • Ruth Mazo Karras: Medieval Europe, women and gender history
  • Erika Lee: 20th century United States, Asian-American, immigration, American West
  • Mary Jo Maynes: Modern Germany, European social, women
  • Patrick McNamara: Latin America, Mexico
  • Kathryn L Reyerson: Medieval Europe, Mediterranean Europe, Medieval France, social and economic history, legal history
  • Barbara Y Welke: American legal and constitutional, American women's, and modern American history
Politics, Citizenship, National Identity
Political action, ideas, and institutions have long been major concerns of historians, and members of the University of Minnesota history faculty address the politics of many lands and eras from a variety of perspectives. In recent years our teaching and research about politics has focused in particular on the construction and performance of political loyalties and identities, whether by popular or elite elements, and on the social, economic, and cultural factors that have shaped political processes. Examining the development of political life, structures, loyalties, and identities as dynamic and contingent phenomena offers a rich field of inquiry. Studies of the historical development of citizenship have expanded as well, embracing issues of inclusion and exclusion and citizens' empowerment, agency, and claims on government.

Faculty

  • Juhana Aunesluoma: 20th century Europe, Cold War, Scandinavia, Finland
  • Giancarlo Casale: Islamic world, Ottoman Empire, pre-modern and early modern world history
  • Sarah Chambers: Colonial Latin America; gender, cultural, and legal history
  • Gary Cohen: Austria and Germany, Central and Eastern Europe, modern European social and political history
  • Andrew Gallia: Ancient history
  • Carol Hakim: Modern Middle East
  • Erika Lee: 20th century United States, Asian-American, immigration, American West
  • Mai Na Lee: Southeast Asia
  • Patricia Lorcin: Modern France, western imperialism, colonial and postcolonial, Mediterranean
  • Howard Louthan: Early modern Europe; Central Europe; cultural, intellectual, and religious History
  • Saje Mathieu: African-American, American social and political history, comparative immigration
  • Elaine Tyler May: United States, American studies, American women
  • Patrick McNamara: Latin America, Mexico
  • Hiromi Mizuno: Modern Japan, gender and sexuality, cultural studies of science and technology
  • Kevin Murphy: Urban, gender and sexuality, political and cultural
  • Jean O'Brien: Colonial American, Native American
  • Helena Pohlandt-McCormick: Africa, South Africa, social and cultural history, comparative women's history
  • Daniel Schroeter: Jewish, North African, Mediterranean
  • Paul C Stone: United States trans-Mississippi Western & North American frontier; American church & religious; 20th century Southwestern
  • Igor Tcoukarine: 20th century Europe, Eastern and Southeastern Europe, history of tourism
  • Eva von Dassow: Near East
  • Liping Wang: Modern Chinese social and cultural
  • John Watkins: Sovereignty and queenship, medieval and early modern diplomacy, premodern political culture, classical and medieval origins of the Renaissance
  • Barbara Y Welke: American legal and constitutional, American women's, and modern American history
Public History, Historical Memory
Scholars in the department are interested in how collective memories of the past are produced and disseminated by a vast array of individuals and institutions across space and time. We study, for example, how individual memory shapes collective memory broader understandings of history; how the past is memorialized and mobilized by cultural and political elites as well as by disenfranchised and marginalized groups; and how museums and filmmakers mobilize historical narratives. Faculty in in the Department of History offer courses that examine the theory, methods, practice, and politics of public history, explore the possibilities and challenges of the production and dissemination of histories in nonacademic settings, and interrogate the intersections of memory and history.

Faculty

  • Juhana Aunesluoma: 20th century Europe, Cold War, Scandinavia, Finland
  • Gail Dubrow: United States, urban, women's, Asian-American, public history
  • Kirsten Fischer: Colonial and revolutionary America, United States, social and intellectual
  • Erika Lee: 20th century United States, Asian-American, immigration, American West
  • Mai Na Lee: Southeast Asia
  • Mary Jo Maynes: Modern Germany, European social, women
  • Patrick McNamara: Latin America, Mexico
  • Kevin Murphy: Urban, gender and sexuality, political and cultural
  • Jean O'Brien: Colonial American, Native American
  • Helena Pohlandt-McCormick: Africa, South Africa, social and cultural history, comparative women's history
  • John Watkins: Sovereignty and queenship, medieval and early modern diplomacy, premodern political culture, classical and medieval origins of the Renaissance
  • Thomas Wolfe: European Union, Soviet Union, history of media and communications, pragmatism
Race, Ethnicity, Migration, Disaporas
The race, ethnicity, migration, and diasporas cluster broadly examines the movement of peoples within and beyond borders; the racial and ethnic categories and identities they inhabit, challenge, and create; racial and ethnic relations amongst and across groups; the intersections of race and ethnicity with class, gender, and sexuality; the consequences of migration; and the connections of dispersed peoples across borders. Some of us focus on one of these categories more than the others, or on one locality, group, or chronological period; some of us seek to examine multiple aspects of race, ethnicity, migration and diaspora through comparative, transnational, and global analyses that intersect with borderlands and global history. Institutional resources like the Immigration History Research Center enhance the opportunities for work in this area.

Faculty

  • Sarah Chambers: Colonial Latin America; gender, cultural, and legal history
  • David Chang: Race and nationalism, American Indian, native Hawaiian, 19th and 20th century United States
  • Gary Cohen: Austria and Germany, Central and Eastern Europe, modern European social and political history
  • Gail Dubrow: United States, urban, women's, Asian-American, public history
  • Kirsten Fischer: Colonial and revolutionary America, United States, social and intellectual
  • Katharine Gerbner: Atlantic world, early America, comparative early modern, Caribbean, religion, race
  • Erika Lee: 20th century United States, Asian-American, immigration, American West
  • Mai Na Lee: Southeast Asia
  • Malinda Lindquist: African-American, United States
  • Patricia Lorcin: Modern France, western imperialism, colonial and postcolonial, Mediterranean
  • Saje Mathieu: African-American, American social and political history, comparative immigration
  • Patrick McNamara: Latin America, Mexico
  • Jean O'Brien: Colonial American, Native American
  • Helena Pohlandt-McCormick: Africa, South Africa, social and cultural history, comparative women's history
  • Daniel Schroeter: Jewish, North African, Mediterranean
  • Andrea Sterk: Ancient and medieval Christianity, late antiquity, Byzantium history
  • Igor Tcoukarine: 20th century Europe, Eastern and Southeastern Europe, history of tourism
  • Barbara Y Welke: American legal and constitutional, American women's, and modern American history
Religion

Faculty in the Department of History working in many geographic areas engage with religion in their research and teaching. History faculty are particularly interested in how religion is inflected by race, ethnicity, and gender; the relation among religion, culture, and belief; how people perform "religious" behavior through familial and social rituals and customs; the role of religion as a cohesive as well as disruptive force in multiethnic states or empires; the ways religious systems configure authority; pilgrimage in the context of population movements and migrations; religion and social movements; modernity, secularization, and crises of religious identity, as well as challenges to the narrative that connects modernity and secularization; religion and the public sphere; and religion in relation to science.

Religion in cross-cultural encounters is a particularly important theme for us, including religion as an aspect of colonialism; the encounter between European ways of knowing and those elsewhere; missionary enterprises and how they negotiate with prospective converts the meaning and practice of religion; religion in trading networks and diasporas; how religious norms operate in religiously plural environments; religious difference as a cause of stability and cooperation as well of instability and violence.

Faculty

  • Iraj Bashiri: Islamic world and literature
  • Kirsten Fischer: Colonial and revolutionary America, United States, social and intellectual
  • Katharine Gerbner: Atlantic world, early America, comparative early modern, Caribbean, religion, race
  • Ruth Mazo Karras: Medieval Europe, women and gender history
  • Howard Louthan: Early modern Europe; Central Europe; cultural, intellectual, and religious History
  • Michael Lower: Crusades, Medieval Mediterranean, Christian-Muslim relations
  • Nabil Matar: Modern Arabic literature; Arab-Islamic civilization
  • Daniel Schroeter: Jewish, North African, Mediterranean
  • JB Shank: Early modern Europe, France, European intellectual, history of science
  • Ajay Skaria: South Asia, environmental history
  • Theofanis G Stavrou: Russia, modern Greek studies, Eastern Orthodoxy
  • Andrea Sterk: Ancient and medieval Christianity, late antiquity, Byzantium history
  • John Watkins: Sovereignty and queenship, medieval and early modern diplomacy, premodern political culture, classical and medieval origins of the Renaissance
  • Thomas Wolfe: European Union, Soviet Union, history of media and communications, pragmatism
Science and Technology Studies, Environment

How do networks of technology change politics, culture, social relations, and the environment? How are knowledge-making and power related? How do the class, gender, race, and environmental contexts shape science, technology, and medicine? Historical studies of science, technology, and medicine, often working closely with environmental studies, are among the most exciting new areas of historical study of recent decades. History faculty at Minnesota are particularly interested in the cultural, intellectual, and social aspects of science and technology, from early modern to post-modern times, in the West and non-Western worlds.

The history of science, technology, and medicine means more than the development of space science, atomic weapons, genetics, or modern hospital system; it includes various ways of observing and “knowing” nature and of changing or preserving our physical and spiritual worlds, healing our bodies, and engineering society with a vision of the future. Therefore, the questions we investigate include not only how scientific discoveries are made, or how diseases are cured. We also explore how experts and knowledge-makers view the world; how scientific values clash or work together with religious, cultural, and ideological values; what technologies enable empires to be built; how science fiction envisions the future; and how our sense of time, space, and the body have been shaped through new technologies.

Faculty

  • Margaret Carlyle: Early Modern Europe, France, women, science and medicine
  • Christopher M Isett: Post-war East Asian political economies, global and post-war capitalism, East Asia's Cold War, comparative economic history, agrarian, 18th–20th century China
  • Malinda Lindquist: African-American, United States
  • Hiromi Mizuno: Modern Japan, gender and sexuality, cultural studies of science and technology
  • JB Shank: Early modern Europe, France, European intellectual, history of science
  • Barbara Y Welke: American legal and constitutional, American women's, and modern American history
  • Thomas Wolfe: European Union, Soviet Union, history of media and communications, pragmatism
Women, Gender, Sexuality, LGBTQ History

The history department has a longstanding commitment to and an international reputation in the histories of women, gender, and sexuality. Our faculty includes prominent scholars of gender and sexuality and our alumnae consistently go on to do important work in these areas. The leading journal in the field, Gender and History, is currently edited at the University of Minnesota. Discussions of gender and sexuality history permeate much of the department’s intellectual life and are the focus of the thriving Workshop on the Comparative History of Women, Gender, and Sexuality started in 1992. Areas of particular thematic strengths include gender and legal history, imperialism and colonialism as gendered processes, religion and gender, gendered histories of capitalism, histories of girlhood, and the history of sexuality.  Comparative and transnational work is a particular strength of the department.

Faculty

  • Margaret Carlyle: Early Modern Europe, France, women, science and medicine
  • Sarah Chambers: Colonial Latin America; gender, cultural, and legal history
  • Anna Clark: British, Irish, European, women, gender, sexuality
  • Tracey Deutsch: United States, women's history, business
  • Gail Dubrow: United States, urban, women's, Asian-American, public history
  • Kirsten Fischer: Colonial and revolutionary America, United States, social and intellectual
  • Ruth Mazo Karras: Medieval Europe, women and gender history
  • Malinda Lindquist: African-American, United States
  • Elaine Tyler May: United States, American studies, American women
  • Mary Jo Maynes: Modern Germany, European social, women
  • Kevin Murphy: Urban, gender and sexuality, political and cultural
  • Lisa Norling: American Revolution, 18th and 19th century America, women and gender, maritime
  • Helena Pohlandt-McCormick: Africa, South Africa, social and cultural history, comparative women's history
  • Kathryn L Reyerson: Medieval Europe, Mediterranean Europe, Medieval France, social and economic history, legal history
  • Liping Wang: Modern Chinese social and cultural
  • John Watkins: Sovereignty and queenship, medieval and early modern diplomacy, premodern political culture, classical and medieval origins of the Renaissance
  • Barbara Y Welke: American legal and constitutional, American women's, and modern American history