In Memory of Roy Rosenzweig (1950-2007)



In Memory of Roy Rosenzweig (1950-2007)

Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an Assistant Editor at HNN.



Steve Brier
Joshua Brown
Jack Censer
Daniel Cohen
Marion Deshmukh
Gary Gerstle
Mack Holt
Mills Kelly
Meredith Lair
Elena Razlogova
Amanda Shuman
Peter Stearns

Chris Hale and Pillarisetti Sudhir
Lee White


Washington Post
George Mason University

Career Highlights

Reflections on his Career
About Roy Rosenzweig
Basic Facts


Washington Post ObituaryRoy A. Rosenzweig, 57, a social and cultural historian at George Mason University who became a prominent advocate for “digital history,” a field combining historical scholarship with digital media’s broad reach and interactive possibilities, died Oct. 11 at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington County. He had lung cancer.

Dr. Rosenzweig, who taught history at GMU for the past 26 years, founded the university’s Center for History and New Media in 1994. As its director, he oversaw the creation of online history projects aimed mostly at high school and college students, including Web sites about U.S. history, the French Revolution and the history of science and technology.

Perhaps its most visible project was the September 11 Digital Archive, a collection of 150,000 items — including e-mails, digital voice mails, BlackBerry communications and video clips — made by average citizens at the time of the 2001 terrorist attacks. The center gave the materials to the Library of Congress in September 2003.

The center, part of GMU’s Department of History and Art History, has more than 40 full- and part-time staff members.

Dr. Rosenzweig was an author, filmmaker and documenter of oral histories. His books, including a social history of New York’s Central Park and the labor movement’s struggle in the 19th century for a shorter workday, underscored his interest in presenting what he called “perspectives of ordinary men and women” over the wealthy and powerful.

In the early 1990s, he helped create an award-winning U.S. history survey presented on CD-ROM. He then started the Center for History and New Media, which stemmed from his wish “to democratize the study of the past — both by incorporating forgotten voices and by presenting the fullest possible story of the past to diverse audiences.”

Edward L. Ayers, president of the University of Richmond, who conducted early digital history projects as a University of Virginia history professor, said Dr. Rosenzweig “was the real pioneer in this.”…

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Official Statement from George Mason University

Roy Rosenzweig, a historian and pioneer of digital technology and new media, died from cancer on Oct. 11. Rosenzweig was the Mark and Barbara Fried Chair and director of the Center for History and New Media (CHNM), which he founded in 1994. CHNM has been at the forefront of efforts to use new media and digital technology to promote an inclusive and democratic understanding of the past while reaching new and diverse audiences.

Roy Rosenzweig JPG Just a few weeks ago, Rosenzweig was named as one of the Mason professors to lead CHNM in creating an online National History Education Clearinghouse. The online project will help K-12 history teachers become more effective educators and show their students why history is relevant to their daily lives.

Rosenzweig was involved in a number of different digital history projects, including web sites on U.S. history, historical thinking, the French Revolution, the history of science and technology, world history and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Earlier this year, Rosenzweig received the Distinguished Service Award from the Organization of American Historians in recognition of his contributions to significantly enriching the understanding and appreciation of American history.

Rosenzweig was a graduate of Columbia College and studied at St. John’s College of Cambridge, England before receiving his PhD from Harvard University. Before coming to George Mason in 1981, he was an assistant professor of history and humanities at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, and a Mellon postdoctoral fellow in the Center for the Humanities at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

In 2005, Rosenzweig’s web-based project,”History Matters,” earned him and the CHNM the James Harvey Prize of the American Historical Association. In 2003, he was awarded the second Richard W. Lyman Award for his work with CHNM, particularly the”History Matters” project and the September 11 Digital Archive.

Roy Rosenzweig JPG The $25,000 prize recognized scholarly achievement of unusual merit and impact and innovative use of information technology in humanistic scholarship and teaching. These projects are attempts to make new and rare historical documents free and accessible to anyone and explore how technology can be used to enhance the study of history.

In 1999, Rosenzweig was awarded the Outstanding Faculty Award, the commonwealth’s highest honor for faculty at public and private colleges and universities in Virginia.

He was the coauthor of numerous books, including”The Park and the People: A History of Central Park,” which won the 1993 Historic Preservation Book Award and the 1993 Urban History Association Prize for Best Book on North American Urban History. He also co-wrote”The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life,” which has won prizes from the Center for Historic Preservation and the American Association for State and Local History.

Rosenzweig was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and lectured as a Fulbright professor. He also served as vice president for research of the American Historical Association.

In Appreciation

Amanda Shuman, PhD candiate in Chinese History, former studentIf it weren’t for Roy, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Roy’s advice, generosity, inspiration, and encouragement had a large impact on my life. I would probably not be pursing a PhD in history right now if I had never met Roy.

One night in late October 2002, I went to visit Roy in his office on the GMU campus. I had made an appointment with him per another history professor’s e-mail. I wanted to ask him about the History and New Media M.A. program. I always liked history and was an IT major and it seemed like the field was a perfect fit, though I wasn’t sure it was practical. In fact, I was debating between instructional technology or history teaching. In the midst of our discussion about the program and CHNM, Roy asked about where I was currently working. I told him how much I disliked my IT consulting job. I was thinking of taking some classes part-time and possibly going back to school full-time in the future, though I wasn’t sure how I would do this. Roy immediately encouraged me to apply for a job at CHNM. I was completely floored! I began working at CHNM soon thereafter.

In fall 2003, I took Roy’s Clio Wired class. Our final website project could be on any topic we wished. Despite having trouble finding websites as sample models for my proposed topic, Roy encouraged me to pursue it anyway. My final project was a little website proposal called”Westerners in China.” That was my first research project on Chinese history (ever). I enjoyed researching it so much that I subsequently took an East Asian history graduate class and Chinese language classes in preparation for a doctoral program in Chinese history. For two more years, I continued to work at CHNM. Roy was nothing but encouraging and even curious of my Chinese language studies. When I decided in 2005 to apply for PhD programs in Chinese history, he offered me application advice that was priceless and wrote recommendations for every school.

Roy was the pioneer in digital history and I am honored to have known him for that. Countless people have been inspired by what Roy has written, said, and accomplished. However, I feel especially blessed to have worked at CHNM and known him professionally as an extremely supportive and encouraging supervisor, co-worker, and professor, and personally as a colleague and friend.

Elena Razlogova, Assistant Professor, Department of History, Concordia University, Affiliated Scholar, CHNM; Associate Producer, Gulag: Many Days, Many Lives

Working with Roy, at the Center for History and New Media and as a student, gave one a unique understanding of the purpose and practice of history. Roy founded CHNM because he considered new media a useful means to democratize historical scholarship. In 1995, the Center consisted of the server in a closet, and I was its only employee. Since then, Roy brought together an amazing crew-CHNM now employs over 40 people-and infected us with his relentless work ethic. Some of us who”graduated” from the Center have since taken it as a model for our own ventures in collaborative digital history.

At the Center and elsewhere, Roy applied his unreconstructed”new left” radicalism to new digital realities. In a new medium, the Center’s projects continue Roy’s early work in labor and public history-they take voices and interpretations of ordinary people seriously. This is evident both in the earliest and latest CHNM projects-from the CD-Rom Who Built America, a US history survey”from the bottom up,” to the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, on Hurricane Katrina. Roy chose to collaborate on most of his books, despite historians’ traditional preference for solitary research and writing. He argued for open access and”open source” scholarship at countless academic and government meetings, often with little result, but he never gave up. Thanks to him, articles in the American Historical Review are now open to the public.

To say that Roy was generous to students and junior colleagues would be an understatement. He read entire dissertations and book drafts for students and colleagues, even long after they had moved to other universities. Each time, he would write up pages of detailed suggestions for revision, complete with grammar and typo corrections. He was kind, but brought all of his diverse knowledge to bear on your project. One could always count on him to write a letter of recommendation or help with a grant application, no matter how exasperated he was with an inopportune or last-minute request. Once a university I had applied to unexpectedly requested a second long letter from him, to be emailed the same day, dealing specifically with my work in digital history. I went to his office, and he wrote it right then, in ten minutes, even though he was extremely busy. I got the job.

After working with Roy, it is easy to be a historian and a human being -one just needs to measure everything by his standards. But to those of us who knew him he is irreplaceable.

Joshua Brown, Executive Director, American Social History Project, City University of New York Graduate Center

Roy Rosenzweig JPG

Daniel Cohen, Assistant Professor in the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University and the Director of Research Projects at the Center for History and New Media

Where to begin? It’s the only possible response when asked to remember Roy Rosenzweig. Academics are fortunate if they are able to become pioneers or innovators in a single field; Roy managed to found or advance at least three fields: social history, public history, and digital history. And we often suspect that pioneers and innovators have character flaws associated with the dogged pursuit of the cutting edge: narcissism, aggression, humorlessness. Yet everyone who knew Roy was amazed at his unparalleled combination of brilliance, insight, and incredible hard work with humility, generosity, and laugh-out-loud wit.

Eight years ago I received a call from Roy, who had heard through a mutual acquaintance that I had moved to Washington. I only vaguely knew of Roy, and had no idea why he should want to talk to me, but nevertheless agreed to meet him for lunch. I’m so profoundly thankful I answered his call.

Roy and I ate at a restaurant near his house and had some nice conversation. I thought little of our casual meeting until a year later, when Roy called me to say that he had just gotten a grant and had remembered a few points I had made over lunch and how relevant they were to the grant proposal. The only thing I could remember from a year earlier was that Roy was bursting with energy and ideas and had consumed more coffee over lunch than I drink in a week. We met again for lunch and by the end of the meal he had convinced me to come work with him.

That’s how it began for me, and for countless others. Sitting on a panel with Roy at a conference, meeting randomly over coffee, receiving a congratulatory email from him about an article you had written. No matter how trivial the reason behind the first contact, Roy would remember you, and he would often move these minor encounters–the kind most of us have every day and think nothing of–onto a path toward collaboration and friendship.

I know of no one with as large an address book and as many friends as Roy. But he didn’t just collect these acquaintances superficially, for show or for his own career ends like so many people do on Facebook or LinkedIn. As his social histories of the United States also emphasize, he viewed every human being as a special resource who brings unique talents and ideas into the world, and he liked nothing more than to connect people with each other.

Almost every topic of conversation prompted a welcome referral from Roy:”You should talk to my friend so-and-so, who has done some really interesting work on that subject.” The history of family photos?”She wrote a great article on that.” Standards for library catalogs?”Met this guy at the Library of Congress.” Byzantine art? Documentary filmmaking? Preservation of eight-track tapes? Him, her, and you’re not going to believe this but here’s an email address for you. Now go contact them.

Roy Rosenzweig JPG

But Roy didn’t just bring his many acquaintances together. He reveled himself in collaborating with others. Roy found it deeply unfortunate that unlike in the sciences, the humanities suffered from a serious lack of collaboration. He scoffed at the mythical ideal of the intellectual toiling alone on the great book. Roy co-authored over a dozen major works, not to mention the scores of highly collaborative digital projects at the Center for History and New Media, which he founded at George Mason University in 1994.

A typical but still remarkable moment occurred when Roy received the Richard W. Lyman Award (presented by the National Humanities Center and the Rockefeller Foundation) in 2003 for”outstanding achievement in the use of information technology to advance scholarship and teaching in the humanities.” He got up on stage, used his computer to project a giant list of names onto a screen, and said,”These are all of the people I collaborated with on the projects that this award honors. These are the people that did the work, and I want to thank them.”

Of course, that was just Roy being his usual humble self. Roy’s collaborators will readily admit not only how wonderful but also how daunting it was to work with him. To paraphrase Paul Erdös, Roy was a machine for turning coffee into publications and websites. With his incredible mind and a large coffee nearly always by his side, he was able to produce such a wide and deep array of creative works. When we were writing a book together I would slowly plod along while insightful, beautiful prose seemed to pop off of his laptop at a disturbingly rapid pace. Working with him on a project forced you to elevate yourself, to do the best you could do.

Long before Roy became ill, the staff at the Center for History and New Media would ponder (when Roy was out of the room) what we would do decades hence, when we expected Roy would finally leave this world. In the spirit of Roy’s humor, some of us decided that we would simply have to preserve his brain in a giant vat of fresh-brewed coffee. Others took their cue from science fiction and thought we could transfer his mind onto silicon for the continued benefit of future generations.

If only we could have done so. But perhaps in a partial sense that is what has happened over the last decade. Roy’s thoughts and vision sit on the Center for History and New Media’s server, silently connecting with thousands of people every day, and his books and articles connect with thousands more.

If only those people could have met Roy Rosenzweig in person. He would have liked to have had coffee with them.
–“Remembering Roy Rosenzweig” originally posted on

Jack Censer, Dean, George Mason Universty

During his twenty-six years at George Mason University, Roy Rosenzweig accomplished one miracle after another. The department could claim little national distinction before Roy came; every accomplishment that transpired over the next quarter century bears his mark. Roy worked tirelessly on history, and there is no doubt his reputation drew luminaries like the late Lawrence Levine and newcomer Martin Sherwin to our ranks. Likewise George Mason’s master’s program, enhanced by Roy’s appeal to students, developed into one of the most productive in the nation. Roy likely oversaw over 100 students through the capstone tutorial of our program. He also directed many thesis students in history and the Cultural Studies Program as well. Yet without a doubt, Roy’s greatest achievement was the Center for History and New Media. Launched in 1994, the center took form first as a sign on Roy’s office door. The roots of this Center lay in Roy’s work in association with the American Social History Project at CUNY, led by Steve Brier and now Josh Brown on the revision and digitalization of Herb Gutman’s textbook on U.S. History. This joint collaboration produced a cd-rom that began the digital revolution in history. And it also gave rise to an incredible burst of activity that created a Center with a $2.5 million endowment and grant awards of many millions. The upward trajectory has never slackened.

Here I really want to focus on Roy as a person. Of course, he was a tireless worker. When Daniele Struppa, previous dean of our college, was hoping to create a digital project across the humanities, he asked Steve Brier how it might be possible to amass sufficient manpower. Steve’s answer sticks in my mind, “Well you’ve got Roy. That’s five people.” When Roy and I taught together on two occasions, his preparation for class and his feedback to students showed this same indefatigable level of activity and energy.

Roy could not do enough for people. At the dawn of the age of the personal computer when he understood these newfangled machines as did few other humanities faculty, Roy was a one-man help desk. I called him more than once, but he assisted anyone who asked. He could not turn away anyone in need. He even went computer shopping with colleagues on more than one occasion. He did have one flaw or strength, depending on one’s point of view. He was absolutely dedicated to Apple, and all PC purchasers did have to accept his admonitions about the poor judgment of such a purchase.

Roy loved a party, and he and his wife, Deborah, hosted countless ones. Several years ago they moved from a bungalow to a very spacious home that, like their first house, always seemed to be filled with people. They frequently took in out-of-town colleagues who needed a place to bed down in the D.C. area. Roy and Deborah’s home was, in fact, a magnet that helped to counteract the centrifugal force of this gigantic metropolitan area whose terrible traffic often threatens to push us apart.

My last meetings with Roy illustrated important facets of his amazing character such as his sense of duty and lack of self-importance. Several weeks ago, as he was struggling with illness, he found it difficult to accomplish all he expected to do in running the Center. At this point, I was dean of the college so he asked me, what would be the impact of his inability to fulfill all his duties. Anyone would have been entitled to some slack under these circumstances. Roy would have been well within his rights to presume that his prior contributions and fame spoke for themselves, but instead his humility led him to ask about his obligations. He had presumed no quarter, and the incident illuminated his deep humanity. And, in our last meetings, as he knew the end was approaching, he told me that he was sorry to have put me through this. Facing death, he worried about my feelings. His self-abnegation and concern for others was never more striking.

These stories of Roy’s empathy for other and lack of self centeredness as he fought cancer revealed yet another important character trait, perhaps the most inspiring of all: his courage. I really have never had a hero, but Roy became one to me. I never heard him complain or bemoan his fate, as I and most others would have done. Roy just wanted to live and continue contributing. His example, I hope, will inspire in me more stoicism and determination in the face of difficulties than I have heretofore mustered. This one last gift may leave an indelible mark.

I shall miss Roy to the end of my days, but I shall cherish the numberless experiences we had together. As he was my comrade for so many years, there will always be a void by my side. I hope to fill it with my memories and by trying to maintain my end of our unshakeable bargain to cherish the department and the university as well as the study of history

Meredith H. Lair, Assistant Professor, Department of History and Art History, George Mason Universty

Other people can speak more intelligently about Roy’s scholarship, more intimately about his friendship, than I. What I can say about Roy is that he set a standard of decency and kindness to which we should all aspire.

I began to suspect Roy was more than just a”big name” when I received notice that I had been rejected for a faculty position at Mason. Most search committees never take the time even to notify candidates that a position has been filled, but Roy wrote me personally. The letter was specific to me, not a form letter, and Roy included some handwritten personal remarks at the end. It was the nicest rejection letter I have ever received, so supportively written that it felt more like an affirmation of my work than a piece of unwelcome news. I mentioned the letter to an acquaintance of mine who had also unsuccessfully applied for the position. She replied that she too”had just gotten the world’s nicest rejection letter” specially tailored to her. He did it for everyone. Two years later, after I had joined the faculty in a different position at Mason, I served on a search committee with Roy and saw the process from the other side. Despite that fact that he had served on dozens of such committees, that he had read the dossiers of hundreds, perhaps thousands of hopeful scholars, and that he had written too many rejection letters to count, Roy still worried over the feelings and careers of the bright young historians he could not employ–people he would never meet, people with no titles or grant money to bestow, individuals who might otherwise seem interchangeable in a profession so ruthlessly competitive. They mattered to Roy. And I will always remember, from that uncertain time in my life, how much it meant to me that I meant something to him.

Roy has left many legacies: a new field of history, a brilliant body of scholarship, his students, the department and Center he helped to build. Most important, though, is the standard of conduct he set for all of us in the profession. A half-hour after I found out Roy had died, I was standing reluctantly at the gate for a flight to yet another conference. For my sadness, I did not want to go, but I found myself asking,”What would Roy do?” I think we would all do well, in our current grief and when the stresses of academe become too much, to ask ourselves that question. What would Roy do? And the answer comes: be patient, be kind, have a coffee, and do the work.

Peter Stearns, Provost, George Mason Universty

Roy was obviously one of the most distinguished faculty. He was truly an imaginative historian, from his first book that I still use to the pioneering work he did on the Center for History and New Media. He will be greatly missed personally and professionally, but we will be building on his accomplishments for a long time to come.

Marion Deshmukh, Department of History & Art History, George Mason University

Roy’s untimely death will leave an incredible void personally and professionally. Roy was instrumental in creating so many programs in the History Department and the university, from crafting courses leading to doctoral programs in cultural studies, in community college education, and in our PhD program in History and New Media, one of the most innovative in the country. As others have noted, Roy rarely turned down any request to colleagues or students, however burdensome. We always wondered when (and if) Roy slept—in his abbreviated life, cut short at its prime–Roy accomplished more than most of us can or will if we had ten lives.

Despite his many accomplishments: superb researcher and scholar, innovator in digital history, a terrific teacher and mentor to so many students, he was, as has also been noted, uncommonly modest and unassuming. He shunned the limelight, usually giving others far more credit for what he actually created, wrote, or conceptualized. His work for the AHA, OAH and countless other professional organizations attest to the wide respect he garnered from colleagues in the US and, indeed, throughout the world.

Being a close friend and colleague of Roy’s for decades, this is an especially sad time. The department is mourning one of the truly best people we have ever known. Given his accomplishments, however, his name and creative ideas will, indeed, must live on.

Steve Brier, Founding Director, American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning

My friendship with Roy goes back more than a quarter century. We met at the Radical History Review in the late 1970s, where we were both editors, hit it off pretty quickly because we were both interested in non-traditional ways to do and present history, especially to the public, and decided we’d work together on what would become the Public History issue of the RHR. That volume was our first collaboration and became Presenting the Past, the first book published (in 1986) in the Critical Perspectives on the Past series at Temple University Press that I had the good fortune to co-edit with Roy and the late Susan Porter Benson for more than twenty years.

When Herb Gutman and I launched the American Social History Project in 1981, Roy was on the first (and every subsequent) directors/advisory/editorial board we set up to help us run and advise ASHP. Roy helped us get the first edition of the Who Built America? textbook finished in 1989 and 1991, in the years after Herb Gutman died, serving then as Supervising Editor and on the two subsequent editions, as co-author. He advised ASHP on every one of our multimedia projects, including films and videos as well as teacher guides and teacher training projects.

Roy and I entered the wonderful world of computers together, buying matching Kaypro II computers (which ran the now defunct CPM operating system) in 1982, Roy to do his own academic work and my ASHP colleagues and me to write the WBA? textbook. Our early shared use of computers led us to begin to poke around the emerging field of computer controlled media in the late 1980s. I was down in Arlington visiting one time in 1989, I believe, and Roy and I took the Metro into DC near Union Station to visit a new exhibit of computer controlled training tools and programs that some company or museum was displaying (I remember that one of the exhibits focused on a laserdisc for training fire fighters). Out of that exposure emerged the idea that we really wanted to explore the uses of multimedia to do history. ASHP had been doing films and videos throughout the 1980s, but the computer opened up immense new vistas for improving the teaching and learning of history. Very soon after that (in 1990) I got a call from Bob Stein, who headed a company called Voyager, who said he wanted to turn the WBA? textbook (actually, only the first volume was out at that point) into the first electronic textbook and we (meaning ASHP and Roy) were off on the wild Toad’s ride of creating what became the first history CD-ROM, which Voyager published in 1993. That’s the origins of Roy’s (and our) descent (or ascent, depending on your perspective) into the wonderful world of multimedia.  Everything that Roy did in digital media flowed out of that first collaborative experience, including his founding of the Center for History and New Media at GMU in 1994.

I spent a great deal of time down in Arlington with Roy at the Jackson house in those years writing and thinking about what the WBA? CD-ROM would look like. Sometime in that period (I can’t remember exactly when, but maybe 1992; my colleague, Josh Brown, says it was in the late 1980s), Deborah Kaplan, Roy’s partner and wife, despairing that Roy was never going to do anything other than work all the time on his computer, announced one night at the dinner table that she thought they both needed hobbies, things that would get them to focus on something other than their academic work. She suggested that they both think about what those new hobbies might be and we’d discuss it at dinner in a few nights. I was then witness to the following exchange (this is not a verbatim transcript, but it’s pretty damned close!):

Deborah (brightly): “Well, I’ve thought a lot about what my hobby should be and I’ve decided I’m going to take up gourmet cooking.”

Roy (sitting in uneasy silence):

Deborah (imploringly): “Roy, have you given this some thought? Have you come up with a hobby?”

Roy (hopefully): “Can the computer be my hobby?”

I laugh every time I think about this story (and as those who know me realize, I’ve probably told it a hundred times over the years). It speaks to Roy’s singlemindedness of purpose and his ridiculous intensity and capacity for work, which everyone who knew him admired and, at the same time, was daunted by. I learned after many years of collaborating with Roy on a variety of digital, print, and other kinds of projects that the best thing to do was sit back and admire that dedication and tenacity (and greatly benefit from it) and never, ever (unless you were a masochist) try to match it or him in output.

He was and will always be one of a kind, a brilliant, loving, intense, supportive and totally unique human being. He will be missed by all of us for a very long time, in large measure, because there is no one quite like him and there never will be. We miss you and we love you, Roy, and thank you for everything you did and gave us over these years. And, as Mike O’Malley said to me a few days after Roy died: “How are we supposed to get through things without Roy drawing up our To Do lists?”

Mills Kelly, Department of History & Art History, George Mason University

Yesterday we lost one of the greatest historians and greatest humans I’ll ever have the privilege to know. My colleague and friend Roy Rosenzweig passed away, surrounded by his family yesterday afternoon. Although I’ve known for a while that this was going to happen, I still can’t imagine the world without Roy.

I first met Roy through his words. In the late 1980s I was a PhD student at George Washington University and signed up for a course in American labor history, not because I have a great interest in the field, but because it fit my schedule. I only remember one book that I read that semester (I’m sure the others were good as well) and that was Roy’s Eight Hours for What We Will. That book was so good, I actually re-read it after the semester, just so I could enjoy it a second time, and it remains one of the few volumes of American history to have survived on the few bookshelves I can cram into my office here at George Mason.

I didn’t actually meet Roy for another decade. When I first became interested in how digital media might be transforming student learning in history courses in the late 1990s, the only historian’s work that really spoke to my interests and concerns was Roy’s. Somehow I found my way to the first website of the Center for History and New Media and was very impressed by the work that Roy and his colleagues at George Mason were doing. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that someday I would be named the Associate Director of the Center.

But in the fall of 2000 I saw an ad in Perspectives for a senior digital historian at Mason. The ad had a very short closing date, so rather than applying, I called Roy directly to find out what was going on with the search and whether I, a mere untenured assistant professor, might be considered for the position.

That was the first time I ever spoke to Roy and in many ways it sums up his most defining characteristic–his generosity. Instead of telling me that he couldn’t really give me many details of the search process, he took a good half an hour to explain, in detail, what was happening with that particular search. He very gently told me that, no, I could not be considered for that position, because the department had been given permission to make a senior hire and so they really needed to hire someone already tenured. But then he told me that the department had a second search going on–for a Western Civilization Coordinator–and that I really should apply for that, since much of my work in the scholarship of teaching and learning had been focused on my Western Civ courses. He also gave me a number of useful hints about how to pitch my letter of application to the search committee.

Those who knew Roy well know that he was almost never without a cup of coffee. Well, when I had my AHA interview, Roy was there–it was in a hotel room and the committee members mostly sat on the edges of the beds while I sat in a chair. Five minutes into the interview, Roy kicked over his cup of coffee that he had set on the floor, and we all spent a few minutes cleaning up. I remember thinking that the next person to interview would wonder what in the world had happened to the carpet in that room!

When I came to campus, it was Roy who really sold me on the job at Mason. After a full day of interviewing, he drove me to dinner with several future colleagues and asked me what he could do to help convince me to take the job. The fact that Roy wanted me to work here was the final straw–there was no way I could say no after that.

That was in 2001. For the past six years I have been one of literally dozens and dozens of beneficiaries of Roy’s guidance, friendship, counseling, support, and great good humor. None of the work in digital humanities that I have done since arriving here would have been possible without all of those things I received from Roy. He had so many good ideas, so many helpful suggestions, such an incredible work ethic, that everyone who was anywhere nearby got better just by being in his general vicinity.

During my first semester here, our then department chair, now dean Jack Censer told me once, “Don’t stand too close to Roy.” When I asked why, he said, “Because you’ll get pulled along in his wake and no one but Roy is capable of doing all the things he does in any given day.” Jack, who has known Roy since forever, was absolutely right. No one but Roy is capable of doing all that he did.

Al Gore may not have invented the Internet, but I think it is no exaggeration to claim that Roy invented Digital History as a field of serious scholarly endeavor. Before Roy got involved I’m sure there were others who were playing around with what digital media might mean to our professional practice. But it was Roy who made Digital History into a professional field. For that alone, the profession and many subsequent generations of history students will be forever indebted to this great man.

For myself, I will be inspired by his example for the rest of my life. I know that as long as I’m fortunate enough to be on this earth I will try to live up to the standard that Roy set. And I know that I’ll always fall short.

Roy, I’ll miss you more than I can ever express.

Mack P. Holt, Department of History & Art History, George Mason University

It has been a very sad week for us in the History Department at George Mason. Roy’s death has left a hole in our hearts as well as in our intellects. So many wonderful things could be said about him, and many of them already have been said by others. So, in this time of grieving, I want to reminiscence on a happier time, indeed one of the happiest times I ever experienced with Roy. It was on Saturday night, February 20, 1999. The setting was a colleague’s home, where most of the department and their spouses had gathered to honor Roy, accompanied by lots of food and drink. The occasion was his appointment as a College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Scholar, the closest thing the college had to an endowed chair at the time, and the highest honor the college could give him. As I was also on the review committee appointed by the dean to advise on this appointment, I recall with pleasure one of the dozen or so outside letters by the some of the most distinguished historians in the country whom the dean solicited for their evaluations of Roy’s scholarly accomplishments. One of them began her letter with a striking statement: “Roy is a national treasure!”  I had never thought of Roy in this way (Roy as Grand Canyon? Roy as Julia Child?), but it certainly rang true then, as it still does. But on the night of February 20, 1999 we were gathered in a spirit of fun, pleasure, and boundless admiration for a colleague whom everyone adored. One of our former chairs, Marion Deshmukh, had started the tradition that on such occasions we should endeavor to create some doggerel, scribbled verse, or other creative party piece to honor the occasion. So on that night, I read aloud a limerick I had jotted down earlier in the day. It seemed fitting for the occasion and made me very proud and privileged to call Roy my friend and colleague. Upon re-reading it this week as I have been reflecting on Roy, it still seems fitting and says (in its own abominable way) what I still feel about him, indeed what we all feel.


There was once a historian named Roy
Who was very perceptively coy.
He wondered why history
Was always a mystery
In all that he heard as a boy.

So he decided to make history a vocation,
And studied the American nation.
Though much to his surprise
He discovered all the lies
That had been spread since the beginning of creation.

From Columbia to Harvard he ascended,
Where he his dissertation defended.
He looked at workers’ leisure
And all they did for pleasure
Eight hours every day, so he contended.

But he also met a lady from Brandeis
Whose hold over him began to aggrandize.
So he decided to woo her
And eventually pursue her,
Which made quite a match woman and man-wise.

So he set out in earnest to give chase,
But his beloved was setting the pace.
He found that too often
She was thinking of Jane Austin,
So he rarely made it to first base.

But wedlock and marriage are the ultimate blessing
Despite all the statistics so distressing.
To Washington and George Mason
They both soon did hasten,
Where they began a new life of professing.

Then Roy took off into Central Park
Which became his next major lark.
From the Tavern on the Green
To the eastern ravine,
He recorded it all, even muggers in the dark.

Then he launched the Center for History and New Media,
Which would transform poor old Clio he decreed. He, uh,
Made a CD-ROM that offended,
So the Wall Street Journal contended,
Because of gay cowboys and other such tedia.

But any distress Roy easily disguises
Because his CD-ROM won so many prizes.
And his history of the net
Will be his best work yet,
Or so one of his grad students surmises.

But what one notices of Roy is how hard he works.
There’s nothing or no one that he shirks.
The late hours he keeps
And rumors he occasionally sleeps
Are part of his charming quirks.

But Roy is a friend always unfailing and just,
A constant someone we can always trust.
Even as CAS Distinguished Scholar
He’s never too big for his collar,
Which makes Roy a King among us.

So tonight we have all gathered to attest
That Roy stands out from all the rest.
And though a trite cliché,
It’s true anyway:
We salute you Roy; you’re the best.

[February 20, 1999]

And you are the best, Roy. Rest in peace, dear friend.

Rosenzweig’s Reflections on his Career

American history traditionally has been written and presented from the perspective of the ‘victors’ Roy Rosenzweig JPG –the rich and powerful. My historical work–writing, editing, filmmaking, collecting oral history–contributes to more recent efforts to rewrite U.S. history to incorporate the lives and perspectives of ordinary men and women and to present that vision of our past to the largest possible audience.

In the past several years, I have devoted substantial attention to using new media and new technology to present and teach about the past. That has led to my work in developing two multimedia CD-ROMs in U.S. history, a CD-ROM on the French Revolution, and an Internet web site for teachers of the U.S. History Survey Course called ‘History Matters.’ Roy Rosenzweig JPG The web site for my Center for History and New Media ( provides an introduction to that work. The continuity with my earlier work is my interest in using new media to democratize the study of the past–both by incorporating forgotten voices and by presenting the fullest possible story of the past to diverse audiences.


By Roy Rosenzweig

  • The past is a reservoir of alternatives to the present, many survey respondents told us in pointing toward a possible use of the past for people to shape a civic arena. In perhaps the most far-reaching claim for history’s ability to make available all human experience to any individual, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that”Who hath access The Presence of the Past JPG to this universal mind is a party to all that is or can be done. What Plato has thought, he may think; what a saint has felt, he may feel what at any time has befallen any man, he can understand.” By recovering things from the past or by looking at the experience differently we can see how to think and act differently in the future. The past can challenge us with eloquent, brilliant, troubling material that widens our present experience and wisdom. It provides perspectives to engage, accounts to cross-examine, and opportunities to hone skills of empathy, compassion, and reflection. Good history teachers have long presented students with documents, artifacts, pictures, and films in which people address issues of identity, narrative, and agency thereby introducing students to variety of perspectives on moral issues, political alternatives, and ways of making individual and collective narratives. — Roy Rosenzweig (with David Thalen) in”The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life”
  • In Contemporary and historical accounts, those who lived in Central park before it became Central Park have generally been unrepresented or misrepresented, either ignored or disparaged as a debased population of savages. Legislative discussions and public reports contain only indirect hints that anyone at all lived on proposed park land. Guides to the city that described East Side settlements like Yorkville and Carmanville made no mention of the equally large community of park dwellers. A few newspaper reporters evinced slightly more interest, none of it sympathetic. On March 5, 1856, a Times reporter drew on the recurrent New York motif of a dual city of”sunlight Roy Rosenzweig JPG and shadows” to contrast the”human misery” in its lowest and filthiest depths” within the park boundaries to the luxury and elegance” that he expected to flourish when the finished park rivaled the Champs Elysées. He described the residents as”principally Irish families” living in”rickety…little one storie shanties…inhabited by four or five persons, not including the pig and the goats.” The Evening Post wrote that the duties of the new Central Park police would be”arduous,” since the park was the”scene of plunder and depredations,””the headquarters of the vagabonds and scoundrels of every description,” and the location of”gambling dens, the lowest type of drinking houses, and houses of every species of rascality.” An even more pervasive charge (really an assumption) was that the park dwellers had stolen the land itself, that they were squatters.Most subsequent writers have drawn their information (often embellishing along the way) from a single paragraph written by the park’s first engineer, Egbert Viele, who from the distance of forty years recalled the park as”the refuge of about five thousand squatters, dwelling in rude huts of their own construction, and living off the refuse of the city.””These people who had thus overrun and occupied the territory were principally of foreign birth, with but very little knowledge of the English language, and occupied the territory were principally of foreign birth, with but very little knowledge of the English language, and with very little respect for the law. Like the ancient Gauls, they wanted land to live on, and they took it.”The”pre-parkites,” as one commentator called them, left no firsthand accounts to counter these scornful reports, but it is possible to piece together an alternative portrait of the roughly sixteen hundred residents from manuscript censuses, city directories, tax lists, land records, church registers, and the maps and petitions generated by the acquisition of the park land. More than 90 percent of those who lived on that land were immigrants-mostly Irish or German-or African Americans, compared to about half of the overall population of the city and also uptown Manhatten. More than two-thirds of the adults worked at unskilled and service jobs-as laborers, gardeners, domestics, and the like-and most of the rest as tailors, carpenters, masons, or in other skilled trades. About one in ten ran a small business-a grocery or a butcher shop, for example. These aggregate figures challenge the existing portraits of the”pre-parkites” as criminals and vagabonds. — Roy Rosenszweig (with Elizabeth Blackmar) in”The Park and the People: A History of Central Park”
  • Historians need to join in lobbying actively for adequate funding for both current historical work and preservation of future resources. They should also argue forcefully for the democratized access to the historical record that digital media make possible. And they must add their voices to those calling for expanding copyright deposit-and opposing copyright extension, for that matter-of digital materials so as to remove some of the legal clouds hanging over efforts like the Internet Archive and to halt the ongoing privatization of historical resources. Even in the absence of state action, historians should take steps individually and within their professional organizations to embrace the culture of abundance made possible by digital media and expand the public space of scholarship-for example, making their own work available for free on the web, cross-referencing other digital scholarship, and perhaps depositing their sources online for other scholars to use. A vigorous public domain today is a prerequisite for a healthy historical record.More than a century ago, Justin Winsor, the third president of the AHA, concluded his Presidential Address- focused on a topic that would be considered odd today, that of preserving manuscript sources for the study of history-with a plea to the AHA”to convince the National Legislature” to support a scheme”before it is too late” to preserve and make known”what there is still left to us of the historical manuscripts of the country.” For founders of the historical profession such as Winsor, the need to engage with history broadly defined-not just how it was researched but also how it was taught in the schools or preserved in archives-came naturally; it was part of creating a historical profession. In the early twenty-first century, we are likely to be faced with recreating the historical profession, and we will be well served by such a broad vision of our mission. If the past is to have an abundant future, if the story of Bert Is Evil and hundreds of other stories are to be fully told, then historians need to act in the present. — Roy Rosenzweig in”Scarcity or Abundance? Preserving the Past in a Digital Era”
  • History is a deeply individualistic craft. The singly authored work is the standard for the profession; only about 6 percent of the more than 32,000 scholarly works indexed since 2000 in this journal’s comprehensive bibliographic guide,”Recent Scholarship,” have more than one author. Works with several authors–common in the sciences–are even harder to find. Fewer than 500 (less than 2 percent) have three or more authors.Historical scholarship is also characterized by possessive individualism. Good professional practice (and avoiding charges of plagiarism) requires us to attribute ideas and words to specific historians–we are taught to speak of”Richard Hofstadter’s status anxiety interpretation of Progressivism.” And if we use more than a limited number of words from Hofstadter, we need to send a check to his estate. To mingle Hofstadter’s prose with your own and publish it would violate both copyright and professional norms.Roy Rosenzweig JPG A historical work without owners and with multiple, anonymous authors is thus almost unimaginable in our professional culture. Yet, quite remarkably, that describes the online encyclopedia known as Wikipedia, which contains 3 million articles (1 million of them in English). History is probably the category encompassing the largest number of articles. Wikipedia is entirely free. And that freedom includes not just the ability of anyone to read it (a freedom denied by the scholarly journals in, say, jstor, which requires an expensive institutional subscription) but also–more remarkably–their freedom to use it. You can take Wikipedia’s entry on Franklin D. Roosevelt and put it on your own Web site, you can hand out copies to your students, and you can publish it in a book–all with only one restriction: You may not impose any more restrictions on subsequent readers and users than have been imposed on you. And it has no authors in any conventional sense. Tens of thousands of people–who have not gotten even the glory of affixing their names to it–have written it collaboratively. The Roosevelt entry, for example, emerged over four years as five hundred authors made about one thousand edits. This extraordinary freedom and cooperation make Wikipedia the most important application of the principles of the free and open-source software movement to the world of cultural, rather than software, production. — Roy Rosenzweig in”Can History be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past,” The Journal of American History Volume 93, Number 1 (June, 2006): 117-46

About Roy Rosenzweig

  • “The quotes from actual survey interviews set to rest the myth that Americans are not interested in history. Instead, the Americans they surveyed challenge educators, museums, authors, and filmmakers to present history in authentic and experiential ways that engage them as active participants.” — Barbara Franco, Executive Director, Historical Society of Washington, D.C. reviewing”The Presence of the Past”
  • “Rosenzweig and Thelen have raised imaginative and important questions. They have written an important book that all historians should read and debate.” — Richard White, Stanford University, Journal of American History reviewing”The Presence of the Past”
  • “While the historical profession and its critics have pointed to a vast ignorance among the American people about the past, historians Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelen argue that it’s the commentators who have much to learn. Conducting a phone survey of 1,453 Americans from a variety of backgrounds, the authors soon discovered that their professional training had left them unprepared for how people actually thought about the past. A surprising number of Americans feel unconnected to the nation-centered version of history taught in classrooms, searching instead for an intimate encounter with the past through family histories, the collection of memorabilia, and museum excursions. But these examples of”popular historymaking” are more than just anachronistic remembrances, and Rosenzweig and Thelen recount the ways that Americans use their historical imaginations to live in the present and shape the future.A profound reconsideration of what counts as historical thinking, The Presence of the Past exposes some misconceptions at the heart of the so-called history wars. Historical professionals like Gary Nash, Charlotte Crabtree, and Ross Dunn who argue (in History on Trial) that academic standards must reflect the rich ethnic mixture of the nation miss the fact that most students are alienated from the classrooms that have made them regurgitate volumes of facts. Cultural conservatives like Lynne Cheney and William Bennett, who insist on a triumphant version of the national past, fail to recognize that most Americans do not see their lives as connected to purported heroes like George Washington. A wonderful and refreshing book, The Presence of the Past points toward a democratization of historical consciousness by tenderly exploring how ordinary people remember. — James Highfill, reviewing”The Presence of the Past”
  • It is customary for professional historians as well as some members of our” chatting classes” to dismiss ordinary Americans as historical illiterates. Not so, according to Rosenzweig and Thelen, both professors of history. After surveying 1,500 Americans regarding their attitudes toward the past, they offer some surprising conclusions. Of course, in a narrow sense, many Americans are deficient in their knowledge of history; that is, for example, they are unable to describe the causes of the War of 1812. But in a broader sense, the authors conclude that most Americans have a strong awareness of their historical heritage. Furthermore, they tend to integrate that heritage into their personal lives rather than viewing it as a distant, sterile, and irrelevant series of facts. In what is regarded as a race-obsessed culture, it is striking that many of the respondents to the survey seem to shy away from”identity politics,” preferring to interpret the past in terms of their individual experiences. — Jay Freeman reviewing”The Presence of the Past”
  • In this prodigiously researched, eloquent work, history professors Rosenzweig (George Mason University) and Blackmar (Columbia) have written an outstanding study of the evolution of Manhattan’s Central Park, from its early days as a carriage promenade for the rich to its development as a haven from urban stress for all classes of people. Construction of the park, which was conceived by the wealthy both as a boon to the public and as a means to enhance real estate values, began in 1856. The project displaced 1600 park site residents, including Seneca, an African American community; exploited the laborers who cleared the land; and was rife with disputes between Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the architects who won the design competition. Although the emphasis is on the first 50 years of the park’s development, Robert Moses’s reign as park commissioner from 1934 to 1960 is adequately covered, as is the current controversial dependence on the private sector to finance this beautiful, democratic public space. — Publishers Weekly review of”The Park and the People: A History of Central Park”
  • What took 166 tons of dynamite, six million bricks, 19,000 cubic yards of sand, 20,000 men, and $5 million to build? If you answered New York’s Central Park, give yourself a perfect grade. The same is awarded this magnificent public works history, a masterpiece combining the story of the park, the history of New York, city and state politics, and the people of the city. Central Park was conceived in the 1840s, built in the depression era of 1857, and renovated during the Great Depression. The authors have exhausted primary and secondary sources to produce this definitive work, which surpasses an earlier photographic history, Circle of Seasons . From the work of park designers Frederic Law Olmsted and Calbert Vaux to New Deal park commissioner Robert Moses to the administration of Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, the volume is a rare combination of scholarship and readable text. The emphasis is on the 19th century and the park’s formative decades, including design, property acquisition, and the men whose labor created the world’s best-known park. Ignoring neither the vested interests of the propertied class who stood to benefit from the park nor the fear of crime in Central Park, Rosenzweig and Blackmar produce a model history–not just of the park but of the city and people who turn to it for amusement, recreation, relaxation, and more. — Boyd Childress, Auburn Univ. Lib., Ala. in Library Journal reviewing”The Park and the People: A History of Central Park”
  • “A lively and challenging exploration of the messages and methods of popular history…. [The book] offers candor, analysts, and useful models for future efforts.” — Journal of Social History review of”Presenting The Past : Essays on History and the Public”
  • “In the proliferating scholarship on American working-class history, leisure has been among the last themes to be taken up. Thus, the appearance of Roy Rosenzweig’s book is especially to be welcomed. It is an admirable study on several counts. For one thing, it fully exploits the advantages of local history … His exhaustive research has yielded rich materials, anabling him, for example, to show the changing composition of Worcester’s saloonkeepers and to chart the opening history of the city’s movie houses … especially impressive is his subtle assessment of the impact of the movies on Worcester’s working people.” — David Brody, Journal of American History reviewing”Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870-1920″
  • “Eight Hours For What We Will is a major contribution to modern American working-class history and to the history of a changing American popular and mass culture.” — Herbert Gutman, Distinguished Professor of History, City University of New York reviewing”Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870-1920″
  • “This is conceptually a very innovative and important book.” — Thomas A. McMullin, Historical Journal of Massachusetts reviewing”Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870-1920″
  • “Rosenzweig provides a fascinating study of the interplay of class, ethnicity, and economics in shaping the leisure culture of Worcester’s working class.” — Mark Aldrich, The Journal of Economic History reviewing”Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870-1920″

Basic Facts

Teaching Positions:

Mark and Barbara Fried Professor of History & New Media; College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of History; Director of Center for History and New Media, George Mason University, 1981 to present (Asst. Prof., 1981-85; Assoc. Prof., 1985-92; Prof. 1992-98);
Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow, Center for the Humanities, Wesleyan Univ., 1980 to 1981;
Assistant Professor of History and Humanities, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 1978 to 1980.

Area of Research:

20th-century US, digital history


Ph.D., History, Harvard Univ., 1978
Research student in history on Kellet Fellowship, St. John’s College of Cambridge Univ. (England), 1971-73
B.A., magna cum laude, Columbia College, N.Y., 1971.

Major Publications:

  • (With Stephen Botein, Warren Leon, and others) Experiments in History Teaching, Harvard-Danforth Center for Teaching and Learning, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA), 1977.
  • (With R. Broadman and J. Grady) A Study Guide for”Mission Hill and the Miracle of Boston,” Cine Research Associates, 1980.
  • Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870-1920, Cambridge University Press, 1983.
  • (Coauthor) Water and the Dream of the Engineers (documentary film), Cine Research Associates, 1983.
  • (With Broadman and Grady) What Has Happened to Our Water?: A Study Guide for the Film”Water and the Dream of the Engineers,” Cine Research Associates, 1985.
  • (With Betsy Blackmar) A Social History of Central Park, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1990.
  • (With E. Blackmar) The Park and the People: A History of Central Park, Cornell University Press, 1992.
  • (With S. Brier and J. Brown; also visual editor) Who Built America? From the Centennial of 1876 to the Great War of 1914 (on CD-ROM), Voyager Co. (New York City), 1993.
  • (With D. Thelen) The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life, Columbia University Press (New York City), 1998.
  • (With Daniel J. Cohen), Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2005.

Editor, Contributor:

  • (Contributor) James Green, editor, Workers’ Struggles: Past and Present, Temple University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1983.
  • (Contributor) Charles Stephenson and Robert Asher, editors, Life and Labor: Dimensions of American Working Class History, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 1984.
  • (Editor with Susan P. Benson and Steve Brier, and contributor) Presenting the Past: Essays on History and the Public, Temple University Press, 1986.
  • (Chief editor) Government and the Arts in Thirties America: A Guide to Oral Histories and Other Research Materials, George Mason University Press (Fairfax, VA), 1986.
  • (Editor with Leon) History Museums in the United States: A Critical Assessment, University of Illinois Press (Champaign, IL), 1989.
  • (Contributor) Thomas B. Frazier, editor, The Private Side of American History, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1987.
  • (With others; also executive producer) Who Built America? From the Great War of 1914 to the Dawn of the Atomic Age in 1946 (on CD-ROM), Worth Publishers (New York City), 1999.
  • (Editor, with Jean-Christophe Agnew), A Companion to Post-1945 America, Blackwell (Malden, MA), 2002.

Coeditor of the series”Critical Perspectives on the Past,” Temple University Press, 1985–. Editor of”Newsnotes,” a feature inLabor History, 1979-87. Contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals, including International Journal of Oral History,Monthly Labor Review,Film Library Quarterly,Journal of American History, History Microcomputer Review,Nation, and New York Times Book Review. American Quarterly, member of editorial board, 1987-90, guest editor, 1998-99; member of editorial board, Radical History Review, 1977–, History Computer Review, 1996–, and Journal of Multimedia History, 1997–; coeditor, Federal One, 1981-90. Some of Rosenzweig’s work has been translated into Italian and German.


James Harvey Robinson Prize of American Historical Association for”outstanding contribution to the teaching and learning of history” for History Matters, Jan. 2005;
Virginia Foundation for the Humanities Award for Excellence in the Humanities, December 2004;
Forrest G. Pogue Award for Excellence in Oral History, March 2004;
Richard W. Lyman Award (presented by the National Humanities Center and the Rockefeller Foundation) for”outstanding achievement in the use of information technology to advance scholarship and teaching in the humanities,” 2003. Vice-President, Research Div., American Historical Association, 2003-5;
State of Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award, 1999;
“Edsitement” selection by NEH for”History Matters” Web site;
Historic Preservation Book Prize for Best Book of 1998 from Center for Historic Preservation, Mary Washington College and Award of Merit from American Association for State and Local History for The Presence of the Past;
James Harvey Robinson Prize of American Historical Association for”outstanding contribution to the teaching and learning of history” and finalist, Interactive Media Festival Award for Who Built America? CD-ROM;
Urban History Association Prize for Best Book in North American Urban History; Abel Wolman Prize for Best Book in Public Works History; Abbott Cumming Lowell Prize for Best Book of 1992 from Vernacular Architecture Forum; Historic Preservation Book Prize for Best Book of 1992 from Center for Historic Preservation; New York Historical Association Award for Best Manuscript on New York History, 1991 (for The Park and the People.)
Fulbright Commission, Senior Scholar, Australia, June-July, 1990;
John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, 1989-90;
Forrest G. Pogue Award for Excellence in Oral History, November, 1987;
Albert J. Beveridge Research Grant from the AHA, 1987;
NEH Research Grant for”Central Park: A Social History,” 1986 to 1988;
Distinguished Faculty Award, GMU, 1986;
American Association for State and Local History Research Grant, 1985;
NEH Fellowship for College Teachers, 1984 to 1985;
Research Grant from NEH for Oral History of Government-Sponsored Arts Projects, 1983 to 1985;
Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellowship, Center for the Humanities, Wesleyan Univ., 1980 to 1981.

Additional Info:

Rosenzweig was also member of board of directors,Cine Research Associates, 1978-88, coproducer of the Roy Rosenzweig JPG historical documentary film Mission Hill and the Miracle of Boston, 1979; National Endowment for the Humanities, associate producer of Changing American City film series, 1981-83. Danforth Foundation, organizer and administrator of”Experiments in History Teaching Program,” 1976-77; American Social History Productions, member of board of directors, 1984–; Committee on History making in America, cofounder and member of steering committee, 1989-97; co-organizer and executive producer of the Internet course”History Matters: The U.S. Survey Course on the Web;” coexecutive producer of the interactive CD-ROM and Internet web site”Images of the French Revolution.” Guest lecturer at universities in the United States and abroad, including University of Tokyo, University of Virginia, Yale University, University of Melbourne, and Emory University; consultant to museums, government agencies, and community projects. George Mason University Press, member of editorial board, 1985-90.

Tulane: Caught in the Middle of a Disaster



HNN, 9-02-05

Tulane: Caught in the Middle of a Disaster

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an Assistant Editor at HNN.

This past week hurricane Katrina ripped through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama with New Orleans suffering some of the worst devastation as water levels rose throughout the city, leading to an unprecedented peace-time order to evacuate the entire area.. Students at Tulane University were set to start classes this week. At first the university was hopeful that it would be possible to resume classes on September 1. Soon that date was pushed back to September 7, but with 80 percent of the city flooded the university is uncertain now when the school will reopen. However, with the entire city being evacuated hope seems gone for this semester, if not longer.

Presently the university has relocated, and is now making its administrative headquarters in Houston, Texas. The university’s regular web server is down but Tulane University president Scott Cowan has been managing an emergency page on the Tulane site updating the university community and the public on the school’s status.

Starting last Saturday Tulane officials ordered students to evacuate the university. Tulane arranged for twelve buses to take students to nearby Jackson State University in Mississippi, where it was believed they would be safe. Students had just arrived for the academic year and were reluctant to leave; only 700 of the university’s 13,000 students chose to evacuate. Most stayed on campus never believing the magnitude of the disaster about to befall the city. The situation was no better at Jackson State where the Associated Press reported on August 31 that the university “suffered power outages, darkening the wood-floored gymnasium where the Tulane students were staying. On Tuesday, the gym’s bathrooms went out of service.” Students relocated again on Wednesday to Atlanta’s Georgia Tech University and Dallas’s Southern Methodist University; universities in the two closest cities not affected by Katrina.

University President Cowan reported on September 1, 2005 that there were faculty and staff who remained on campus, living in unsatisfactory conditions. The entire uptown campus was evacuated with only a “core team of public safety and facilities personnel” remaining. Cowan reported that “All of the students who were evacuated to Jackson State University in Mississippi have returned to their homes or are in the process of returning to their homes.”

Campus buildings themselves survived the storm nearly intact, accordimng to the president:”The campus did sustain some damage, though it generally fared very well during the storm. There are many downed trees, some buildings sustained water damage, and some roofing tiles were damaged. The necessary repairs are manageable. The dorms are intact and students’ belongings are safe.”

HNN has been paying special attention to the situation for students and faculty of Tulane’s history department. HNN has set up the Katrina Blog for Tulane History Students & Faculty to help students and professors to communicate. Lists of missing professors and students have been posted along with offers from volunteers ready to offer assistance and housing.

History Department chairman Jim Boyden, safe in Baton Rouge, notified HNN about the history department’s current status. Boyden sadly confessed that he has ” no two-way communication with Tulane administrators,” but added, “I’m very confident that we’ll have answers to basic questions and be able to begin reconstituting the department soon.”

With Tulane’s undergraduate and graduate students having no place to attend classes and with faculty having nowhere to teach; universities across the country are offering to take in Tulane students and faculty for the fall semester, and perhaps the rest of the academic year if need be. Many of these universities will be waiving tuition for the fall semester, while others are offering in-state tuition rates. Early offers were from Atlanta’s Georgia Tech and Dallas’s Southern Methodist University. Approximately 275 Tulane students chose to go to Atlanta, and another 140 went to Dallas including the football team, coaches and training staff. According to the AP “Georgia Tech and Southern Methodist were providing rooms, food, telephones, computer access and free airport shuttle services to the Tulane students and staff.”

Both Cornell University in New York and Texas A&M University have notified HNN via the blog of their offers to admit Tulane students. Cornell University President Hunter R. Rawlings announced that the university will take in some of Tulane’s undergraduate and graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and will possibly allow Tulane faculty to teach as visiting professors. Cornell has set up a site with more information. Texas A&M will let in students from Tulane and surrounding universities in New Orleans including Dillard, Southern, Xavier, and Loyola Universities and the University of New Orleans. Additional universities extending offers include: Yale University in Connecticut; Loyola University in Chicago, Syracuse University in New York; Rice University in Texas; Boston University in Massachusetts; and McGill University in Montreal, Canada among others.

In his most recent post on the Tulane site University President Cowan expressed his gratitude for exterior support for the university writing “When possible, I’ve been trying to scan the student web blogs and am deeply touched beyond words by your support and passion. Your loyalty to Tulane University is touching and vital to our recovery plan.”

Related Links

HNN Katrina Blog for Tulane History Students & Faculty
Hot Topics: Katrina
Tulane University Emergency Information
Cornell Special Katrina Admission Information

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Q & A: Did Republicans Apply an Ideological Test to Bill Clinton’s Supreme Court Nominees?



HNN, 7-25-05

Did Republicans Apply an Ideological Test to Bill Clinton’s Supreme Court Nominees?

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an Assistant Editor at HNN.
Even before he selected Appellate Court Judge John G. Roberts for the Supreme Court President Bush argued that any person he nominated would deserve “a dignified process of confirmation in the United States Senate, characterized by fair treatment, a fair hearing and a fair vote.” To many Republicans that meant that the nominee’s ideology should not be put on trial. If the nominee was qualified he or she should be confirmed. After Judge Roberts was selected Republicans argued that he was possibly one of the most qualified candidates for the bench that had ever been put forward. The obvious conclusion was that he should perforce be approved by the Senate forthwith.

What has been the standard used in the past to measure nominees to the Supreme Court of the United States?

The Bork Legacy

In 1987 President Ronald Reagan nominated Robert Bork to the Supreme Court. After tumultuous hearings, which marked a turning point in the history of judicial nominations, Bork was turned down by the Senate. Since the founding of the Republic the Senate has rejected just a dozen nominees to the Court. But Bork’s rejection came after a highly charged battle over his ideology. This was unprecedented. The fireworks over his ideology began immediately. Within an hour of his selection, Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) took to the Senate floor to denounce Judge Bork’s views on civil rights and abortion and argued, “No nominee, especially a nominee who is well known to have argued ideological positions on issues important to the American people, should be confirmed without full and candid disclosure and discussion of those positions and their importance to him.” As Leonard Gross and Norman Vieira, co-authors of Supreme Court Appointments: Judge Bork and the Politicization of Senate Confirmations, have noted, “The Bork proceedings clearly established a firm precedent for ideological inquiries and for the rejection of judicial nominees, at least in some instances, on purely ideological grounds.” One of the consequences was that presidents afterward would be tempted to nominate individuals who had not left a long paper trail of opinions. Bork had and he had been reproved and rejected.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

After Justice Byron White announced his retirement on March 19, 1993, President Bill Clinton decided to nominate Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the second woman justice of the Supreme Court. When her nomination went to the Senate for confirmation Sen. William Cohen (R-Maine) stated bluntly that the nominee’s ideology was rightly a matter of concern. But Cohen suggested during the hearings that judicial ideology should be used only to determine if the nominee’s philosophy is “so extreme that it might call into question the usual confirmation prerequisites of competency and judicial temperament.” Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) was not pleased with the advance praise of Ginsburg by many senators and argued that “a coronation in advance is not in the best interest of the system.”

Although Ginsburg’s confirmation seemed almost assured the Senate did consider her positions on liberal issues. When asked about her position on abortion Ginsburg was forthright, becoming the first nominee to expressly confirm that she believed in a woman’s right to abortion. Despite her frank admission, few Republicans took the position that her embrace of abortion rulings disqualified her from a seat on the Court. But Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and others became exasperated when she declined to answer Senator Specter’s question about her position on the death penalty. They also expressed frustration when she declined to answer questions about gay rights. When Sen. Cohen pressed her for an answer, she responded, “Senator, you know that that is a burning question that at this very moment is going to be before the Court, based on an action that has been taken. I cannot say one word on that subject that would not violate what I said had to be my rule about no hints, no forecasts, no previews.”

Republicans did not find Ginsburg to be a controversial nominee and on Thursday, July 29, 1993, the Judiciary Committee voted unanimously in favor of her confirmation, a mere six days after the hearings concluded. The Senate then approved Ginsburg’s nomination by a vote of 96 to 3. The three dissenters were Conservative Republicans Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina), Don Nichols (R- Oklahoma), and Robert C. Smith (R-New Hampshire). Sen. Helms said he voted against her because of her position on abortion and the “homosexual agenda.”

Stephen Breyer

President Clinton was able to fill a second seat in the Supreme Court when Justice Harry Blackmun announced his retirement in April 1994. Clinton chose another nominee who would elicit little or no opposition when on May 12, 1993 he announced his selection of Chief Judge Stephen Breyer of the court of appeals in Boston. Breyer was a judicial moderate. As Leonard Gross and Norman Vieira observed, “Breyer was perceived as a candidate without an ideological agenda. Some of his opinions were sure to please liberals, while other opinions would give comfort to conservatives.” The New York Times reported that “in this new low-key era, don’t expect even the conservative Republicans on the panel to raise any serious objections.” (NYT, July 8, 1994) Breyer, formerly chief counsel for the judicial committee, had strong support in both parties. Republican senators like Sen. Hatch wanted Clinton to nominate Breyer. Prior to the hearings Senators Hatch and Strom Thurmond (R-South Carolina) both assured Breyer they would support his confirmation, an indication that Breyer was ideologically compatible to Republicans.

Although Senators Hatch and Thurmond supported Breyer; they and Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyoming) were concerned about Breyer’s ideological position on freedom of religion, an important conservative issue. They were disconcerted his admission that he believed in a wall of separation between church and state. They felt that his position was rigid. As a judge Breyer had ruled that a school district’s officials had the right to visit a religious grade school to evaluate the quality of its teaching; Republicans deemed this a violation of religious freedom. Breyer defended his action by claiming he was more sensitive to the issue then the Supreme Court had been in similar rulings. Breyer also claimed, according to the NYT, that “the great religious wars of three centuries ago were fought over the right of people to pass on their beliefs to their children. It was therefore not surprising, he said, that controversy over the issue increased when it involved schools.” (NYT, July 14, 1994) The senators were also concerned about his position on home schooling; Breyer responded that he approached the issued without a bias one way or the other.

Breyer’s largest hurdle came when Newsday broke a story indicating that he had investments in some of Lloyd’s of London’s insurance syndicates. Senators argued that his investments would create conflicts of interest if Breyer would be presented with “Superfund” cases that could affect Lloyd’s potential liability. In the hearings Breyer promised to sell off his investments in Lloyds, and to make all of his investments public. However, as the confirmation process was winding down Newsday further exposed Breyer as having been on a three-judge panel in a pollution case where the Kayser-Roth Corporation was sued by Lloyd’s of London after being held accountable for cleaning up the site of a chemical spill. The case demonstrated that he had failed to recognize that he had a conflict of interest. (Lloyd’s was directly involved in the case, but it was uncertain if his syndicates were.)

Despite concerns about the Lloyd’s case, the eighteen member Judiciary Committee unanimously voted to approve Breyer’s nomination. Ten days later, on July 29, 1993, after less than six hours of debate, Breyer easily won Senate confirmation by a vote of 87 to 9. The Boston Globe reported, “Conservatives and liberals alike rose to praise his abilities as a judge, with Kennedy and Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah leading the way.” (Boston Globe, July 30, 1994) The nine dissenting senators (all Republicans) included: Conrad Burns (R-Montana), Daniel R. Coates (R-Indiana), Paul Coverdell (R-Georgia), Jesse Helms, Trent Lott (R-Mississippi), Frank H. Murkowski (R-Alaska), Don Nickles (R-Oklahoma), and Robert C. Smith. They indicated they were primarily concerned with Breyer’s ethics, but also objected to his support of federal funding for abortion counseling, his lack of commitment to private property rights, and his opposition to prayer in public schools and at public schools’ graduation ceremonies.

Sen. Smith told the Union Leader that he opposed Breyer because “He will move the court away from the conservative justices’ (William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas) way of the court, which most people in New Hampshire essentially support on most of the issues.” Although he still voted for him, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) “chastised Breyer for his role in promoting a federal courthouse on Boston’s waterfront that he called ‘an exercise in extravagance and arrogance.’ ” (Boston Globe, July 30, 1994)

In the end, despite their reservations, most Republican senators approved of Breyer’s nomination because, as Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) put it, they “take the view that Breyer is the best justice – ideologically speaking – they can expect President Clinton to nominate.” (Christian Science Monitor, July 27, 1994)

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Where History is Making News Around the World



HNN, 7-11-05

Where History is Making News Around the World

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an Assistant Editor at HNN.
If history doesn’t really matter, as so many people, taking their cue from Henry Ford, seem to believe, what do they make of all the events in the news that are directly related to history? This is the question they seldom seem to ask themselves. Of the historical anniversaries of which so much is routinely made, of the tensions between nations arising from disputes about history, of the many arguments about the content of student textbooks–of these things they express a determined insouciance that is downright breathtaking.

One measure of the extent of this indifference can be found on this map, which charts a select list of the news stories posted on HNN during the single month of June 2005. Each star on the map represents a different news story. Mouse over any star to see a short explanation. (Clicking on the star will bring up the original link from which the story was drawn except in those cases where the link became outdated.) As with our Breaking News page, descriptions of events are taken directly from the websites where the news is found; quotation marks are dispensed with in such cases.

Like HNN’s Breaking News page, the map features only those news stories reported in the English-language press. The result is that the map is heavily skewed toward news stories that draw the attention of English-speaking readers, leading to a heavy concentration of stars in the United States and Western Europe, with a sprinkling of stars in Asia. Click here to view the lists of media sources HNN interns use to track news stories featured on the Breaking News page.

View the HNN news map.

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Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman: Interviewed on C-SPAN



HNN, 6-28-05

Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman: Interviewed on C-SPAN

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an Assistant Editor at HNN.

Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman said on C-Span’s “Q&A” that they welcomed the recent press coverage concerning the liberal accusation that as Republicans they are pushing forth a conservative ideological agenda through their involvement with the New-York Historical Society, and specifically, last fall’s Alexander Hamilton exhibit. “Frankly, I didn’t mind any of the publicity, because the New-York Historical Society has been sort of a back number” was Gilder’s comment. “You know,” he continued, “it’s right next to the American Museum of Natural History, that has millions of visitors a year. I’m a trustee there too, so I know the numbers.” Later on he added: “You want to come at it and say, ‘Well, ours is a great story of communism,’ fine. As Arthur Schlesinger [a member of their advisory board] said, the only way you can overcome a bad idea is with a good idea. So, we’ll have lots more controversy, discussion. We’ll bet on the great American story.” In an interview on June 26, 2005 on the C-Span program “Q&A,” hosted by Brian Lamb, Gilder and Lehrman, the co-founders of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, discussed topics ranging from their first meeting, to the founding of the institute in New York in 1994, and its various programs that promote the study of American History. Gilder dominated the interview. Despite recent controversy the interview however, was rather tame, friendly, and nostalgic.

Highlights of the interview included their personal anecdotes about their meeting, reminisces of studying at Yale, and their family backgrounds. Gilder and Lehrman were perhaps most comfortable and relaxed discussing these issues, and enjoyed especially reminiscing about Yale. Gilder described their meeting as eventually leading to “the beginning of just a great friendship.” Lehrman emphasized his patriotic roots “And I can tell a story about my grandfather that I think is – tells the kind of background I – that I did come from – a patriotic, unselfconscious, unapologetic American commitment…. I was thinking of making a European trip to see all about European culture. My grandfather was scandalized. What would you ever want to do going to Europe? I mean, everything is here in America. This is the new Jerusalem. This is a place that has everything that you need and everything that you can see.” While Gilder spoke fondly of Yale “I was just brought up by my father to love Yale. I mean, he never said a word – that I had to apply or should apply. But, you know, in class of ’25, he was a bit of an outsider, being a Jewish guy, in those days. Although there were still good number, but nothing like as many as when I was there – maybe eight percent, nine, percent when I was there. But he loved the place.”

Gilder, who comes from a Jewish family that emigrated to the U.S. in the 1830s, bears more of the financial burden of the institute. Lehrman, whose family were East European Jewish immigrants who arrived in the 1880s, apparently takes a more active role in designing the institute’s strategy. In a friendly way they poked fun at their ancestral differences. Lehrman chided Gilder that ” unlike Dick’s well-heeled Bohemian immigrants, mine were penniless.” Gilder retorted that ” I was a legacy [at Yale] …. Lew had to work to get in.”

When Lamb asked about the controversial Alexander Hamilton exhibit, he was direct without being aggressive: “The criticism that I read, that you two wanted to engineer a – the Hamilton exhibit for purposes to further your own political beliefs because Hamilton represents you more, say, than some of the other people in history. Start with that. What’s your reaction when you read that criticism?” Responding, Gilder and Lehrman, apparently a little uncomfortable, frequently began using hand motions while speaking. Lehrman avoided Lamb’s initial question by just discussing Hamilton’s important place in history and Gilder justified their decision: “we believe that, first, the New-York Historical Society, being established in 1804, Alexander Hamilton having been killed in a duel in 1804, and the New -York Historical Society inaugurating its 200th anniversary, it was perfect.”

Lamb then questioned, “Why is it that college professors are allowed to say and write anything they want to about history, but when somebody like you gets into it, there’s automatic criticism for your particular views?” Gilder said, “I can’t answer the question, because it’s a tough – I hate any tough questions, you know that.” In response to a question about the institute’s alleged rightward bias, Gilder pointed out that the advisory board included “lots of folks on all sides of the political spectrum, probably more left than right.” And Lehrman clarified that if scholars funded by the institute have “a point of view which is different from mine or different from Dick’s, as David Brion Davis, the historian and professor of history said, ‘Not a single person in the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History programs has ever received either a direct or an indirect influence from either of us.’ ”

The remaining portion of the C-Span interview discussed the various programs at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, basic information about the institute, the collection, endowments, especially educational initiatives such as their history high school and American History Teaching programs. The interview focused on the institute’s budget, and the awards and prizes, including the history of the Lincoln Prize based at Gettysburg College, the Douglass prize and the newly inaugurated Washington Prize.

Lamb, wanting to liven up the interview, asked about the possibility of dissidents in the institute’s programs, specifically the history high school initiative: “But do you run into the possibility that a teacher says, out in a high school, ‘I don’t need Gilder Lehrman to tell me how to teach history?’ ” Lehrman responded, “I think I have received two or three letters in the entire history of our programs where there have been objections to the way that we’ve gone about it.”

Lamb returned several times to the Hamilton controversy, hoping to coax more opinions from his interviewees. Both Gilder and Lehrman, however, remained cool and focused on what they viewed as the important issues: the institute and its accomplishments in promoting American history. Lamb at ont point asked if there was some connection between the fact that Ron Chernow, the admiring biographer of Hamilton, won “your new Washington Prize from Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, $50,000.” “What would you both say to the cynics watching saying, “Well of course these two guys would like Alexander Hamilton or Henry Clay or Abraham Lincoln because they both have really done very well in this system and they’re able, now, just to push through history their basic thoughts of it.” Lehrman coolly responded, that “they set the example for us. I mean, Lincoln, in – he sets the example for us.”

In the concluding remarks of a rather uncontroversial interview Lamb wanted Gilder and Lehrman to point out the favorite aspects of their work. For Lehrman it was purely academic; “whenever I teach the subject, for example, the Hamiltonian-Jeffersonian conflicts of the 1790s, General Washington’s – President Washington’s first presidency – whenever I’m teaching the subject, I find it inspiring.” While for Gilder it was the business aspect; “Well, right now, I’m wildly excited about the combination of the Gilder and Lehrman Institute and the New-York Historical Society. We have two different missions, but both focused on history. And Lew and I are working now, very hard, on the Historical Society, because Jim and Lesley and our team at GLI have done such a dandy job. There our job is to get out of the way, whereas here, our job is to get in the way. I like to get in the way.”

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