Top Young Historians: 119 – Katherine Carté Engel


Teaching Position: Assistant Professor, Texas A&M University, 2004 – Present
Area of Research: Early American Religious History, German Immigration, Transatlantic Pietism, Backcountry
Education: Ph.D., American History, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2003
Major Publications: Carté Engel is the author of Religion and Profit: Moravians in Early America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009), the 2010 Dale W. Brown Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, awarded by the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies. Katherine Carté Engel JPG
Carté Engel is also the author of numerous scholarly journal articles, book chapters and reviews including among others:
“Religion and the Economy: New Methods for an Old Problem,” Early American Studies 8(3), Fall 2010, 482-514;
“The Evolution of the Bethlehem Pilgergemeine,” in Jonathan Strom and James Melton, eds., Pietism in Two Worlds (New York: Ashgate, 2009), 163-181; With Jeffrey A. Engel, “On Writing the Local within Diplomatic History: Trends, Historiography, Purpose,” in Jeffrey A. Engel, ed. Lives and Consequences: the Local Impact of the Cold War (Palo Alto and Washington, DC: Stanford University Press and Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2007) 1-32; “‘Commerce that the Lord Could Sanctify and Bless’: Moravian Participation in Transatlantic Trade, 1740-1760” in Michele Gillespie and Robert Beachy, eds., Pious Pursuits: German Moravians in the Atlantic World (New York: Berghahn Books, 2007), 113-126; “Bridging the Gap: Religious Community and Declension in Eighteenth-century Bethlehem, Pennsylvania,” 1650-1850: Ideas, Aesthetics and Inquiries in the Early Modern Era, 11 (2005), 407-442; “The Strangers’ Store: Moral Capitalism in Moravian Bethlehem, 1753-1775,” Early American Studies 1(1), January 2003, 90-126, Winner First Place, Colonial Society of Pennsylvania Article Prize, 2003.
Awards: Carté Engel is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
2010 Dale W. Brown Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, awarded by the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies;
ACLS Charles A. Ryskamp Fellowship, 2009-2010 Competition Year;
SHEAR Research Fellowship at the Library Company of Philadelphia-Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 2010;
American Philosophical Society, Franklin Research Grant, 2009;
Pew Young Scholars in American Religion, Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture, 2007-2009;
McNeil Center for Early American Studies, Barra Postdoctoral Fellow, 2004-2005;
First Place, Colonial Society of Pennsylvania Article Prize, 2003;
Yale University, Center for Religion in American Life Dissertation Fellow, 2002-2003;
Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) Research Fellow, 2001;
Program in Early American Economy and Society-Library Company of Philadelphia Dissertation Fellow, 2000-2001;
DAAD Sprachkursstipendium, Goethe Institute, Iserlohn, Germany, 1999.
Additional Info:
Formerly Assistant Professor at Rutgers University, Camden Campus, 2003-2004.


When I talk about my first project, Religion and Profit: Moravians in Early America, I am often asked if I’m a Moravian. For me this moment always crystallizes the challenges of using a case study to prove a broader point. Despite the denomination’s pivotal importance to the rise of evangelicalism in the eighteenth century, its relatively small size today has meant that most people assume only an insider would choose to devote so much time to its history. I’m not a Moravian; I came to the study Bethlehem, Pennsylvania’s early history as a graduate student interested in the social history of religion in the diverse middle colonies, in how religion interwove with and was shaped by the market economy, in transatlantic religious community. To look at these big issues in the close way I wanted to, I needed examine a single cohesive community, and the Moravians fit the bill.

My first trip to the Moravian Church Archives in Bethlehem came in 1996, when I started working my dissertation proposal. The archivist at the time, Rev. Vernon Nelson, was cautiously welcoming. He inquired if I spoke German. I didn’t. He steered me towards some account books which had been kept in English, and he probably expected I’d never be back. A few weeks later I defended my dissertation proposal. One of the committee members asked if I spoke German, and I glibly responded that I would learn it. That glibness evaporated when I had to get down to work, however. I relocated to Germany and, when I came back, I got a little apartment in Bethlehem, just in time to take the old German Script course offered annually by the Moravian Archives. Then I became a fixture in the archives, working at what seemed to me to be a snail’s pace through a mountain of eighteenth-century documents.

At first this seemed profoundly isolating. I was hundreds of miles from my grad program, and I knew no one well. But here I found the unexpected benefits of doing a close study. The archives supported its own particular community. A grandmotherly office manager. Two Moravian ministers with children older than me. A septuagenarian philanthropist with boundless passion for the maps of eighteenth-century Bethlehem. A former Catholic priest who fled the Nazis in his native Germany. In a fit of silliness, I dyed my hair red to see if anyone would comment. No. As soon as I let them, however, I was taken in by this warm, caring, and intellectually lively community of folks whose love for Bethlehem’s past was a graduate student’s dream. Life improved again when another woman started a major research project, and she brought boundless good humor to the mix.

Any historian who’s encountered the Moravians knows that they kept unparalleled records, filled with the tiny details a social historian loves, yet always with an eye to the wider world. You can ask nearly any question of these sources, big or small, and find some version of an answer. Just as important for me, however, was the help I received from their modern custodians. They never appeared to tire of my tiny finds. They let me spread enormous account books across long rows of tables, and then leave them there for weeks. They spent hours tracking down random bits of evidence I might want to see. They helped me sort out cramped and difficult handwriting. They brought me along for lunch at the local diner, which, since I’m disinclined to spend more than a nanosecond in the kitchen, kept me from giving all my money to the local convenience store. Most important, they were deeply supportive of scholarship. They never attempted to influence how I or any other visitor interpreted the materials in the archives. Much has changed at the Moravian archives since I did the bulk of my research – new leadership and exciting new projects-but the Moravian historical community’s most important gift to scholars has not changed. It continues to be a place that supports intellectual exploration of all kinds.

I’m now working on a very different project, a study of how the American Revolution changed the idea and the practice of international Protestantism. It requires work in more than a dozen different archives, using a wide variety of sources. While I came to this project in much the same way as I did my work on the Moravians, and I find this set of questions about religion and politics as compelling as I did the last set about religion and the economy, I will miss the chance to get to know a single community so closely.


By Katherine Carté Engel

  • The relationship between religion and economic life is one of the thorniest and most intractable topics people have found to argue about. It has provoked some of the most enduring historical scholarship of the modern era and simultaneously fueled some of the noblest jeremiads. At the crux of the dilemma is an elusive problem. Religion and the selflessness of true faith (particularly though by no means exclusively in a Christian context) appear to be in eternal conflict with the process of material accumulation that drives a market economy. And yet, though the conflict between religious faith and economic life seems inevitable, numerous exceptions leap to mind, where devout souls prospered, or wealth seemed to further religious ends. …. In daily life, the moments where religion was brought to bear on the economy were small, subtle, and frequent. Should a merchant take advantage of an ignorant buyer, or would the application of his business savvy violate his faith? Should a church’s trustees use an innovative and complicated means of finance, such as a corporate structure? Should a missionary sell goods to prospective converts, potentially mingling commerce with the message he or she tried to convey? These were the nitty-gritty questions about the morality of economic life faced by religiously minded early Americans, and when they arose the idea of a grand historical conflict between religion and the market offered little clarity. Religion and Profit: Moravians in Early America JPGThe Moravians’ experience points to the fundamental problem created by examining the question of religion and economic life in isolation from the rest of life, be it politics, immigration, race, gender, war, or (literally) the price of tea in China. When mundane transactions are the terrain under examination, the scholars’ lens is focused in very tightly. Yet such an approach also places the story on a much wider stage, for those transactions were part of an economy and political system that circled the Atlantic, encompassing four continents and many peoples. Bethlehem declined, but the insidious rise of acquisitiveness within the hearts of its residents was not to blame. For the Moravians, the pivot point came from another quarter entirely. The community’s ties to a church hierarchy in Germany connected it to events and developments in far distant quarters. The Unity’s circum-Atlantic presence created opportunities for it, such as the Commercial Society, that drew on the Caribbean and South American plantation economies. Likewise, the multiple pressures of the Seven Years’ War, financial and, closer to Bethlehem, racial, sharply curtailed the Moravians’ religious choices. The result was ineluctable: a renegotiation of the role of religion in Bethlehem’s economy. The individualized economic ethic that characterized Bethlehem’s religious life in the last quarter of the eighteenth century was fully Moravian, but it was fundamentally different from what came before. — Katherine Carté Engel in “Religion and Profit: Moravians in Early America”

About Katherine Carté Engel

  • “The argument Engel makes is sophisticated, detailed and original…..She draws on an impressive range of primary and secondary sources and organizes the argument in a compelling way, in clear prose. In terms of the quality and originality of scholarship, this volume clearly stands [out].” — Dale W. Brown Book Prize in Anabaptist and Pietist Studies Award Committee
  • The book award judges selected Religion and Profit from a pool of 28 books nominated for the award this year. One judge notes that Engel’s book is “engaging and well-written at the same time that it is well-researched and makes excellent use of primary sources,” and that it “links the focus group (Moravians in Bethlehem, Pa., in the eighteenth century) with broader scholarship, challenging major historical/sociological assumptions about the relationship between religious belief and economics.” Another says that “the argument Engel makes is sophisticated, detailed and original….She draws on an impressive range of primary and secondary sources and organizes the argument in a compelling way, in clear prose. In terms of the quality and originality of scholarship, this volume clearly stands [out].” — “Katherine Carté Engel receives 2010 Brown Book Award”
  • This well-researched and carefully organized study traces the history of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, from its founding in 1741 as an outpost of the international Moravian movement through the tumultuous events of the Seven Years’ and Revolutionary Wars into the much altered circumstances of the early-nineteenth century. Its focus is the interconnection of religious and economic spheres that made the Moravians’ New-World experience so unusual in its own time and so intriguing for later historians. …. With her extensive use of German as well as English sources, her close attention to local events and world developments, the book is a noteworthy example of Atlantic history at its best. — Mark A. Noll, Catholic Historical Review
  • There is a lot going on in Katherine Carté Engel’s Religion and Profit. At its center, the book explores the intersections of religious ideals and economic activity over the course of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania’s journey from a communal to an individual economy. Along the way, Engel discusses the relationship between this Moravian community and the Indian missions it was founded to support, the critical role played by the Moravian Brethren’s transatlantic trade ties, and the impact of the Seven Years War; she also takes on earlier analyses of religion and economics-specifically Perry Miller’s declension model. This makes for a wide-ranging and fascinating book. — Elizabeth W. Sommer, Journal of American History
  • Engel has successfully marshaled complex sources for an excellent, textured, and nuanced tale awash in the tides of war, racial tension, and internal religious differences to examine the dynamic interplay of religion and profit among Moravians in the Atlantic world. — Jeff Bach, Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

Top Young Historians: 118 – Thomas A. Guglielmo, 41

Thomas A. Guglielmo, 41


Teaching Position: Associate Professor & Director of Graduate Studies, American Studies Department, George Washington University
Area of Research: Race and ethnic studies, immigration, and twentieth-century U.S. social, cultural, and political history.
Education: PhD, University of Michigan, 2000
Major Publications: Guglielmo is the author of White On Arrival: Italians, Race, Color, and Power in Chicago, 1890-1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003);
Thomas A. Guglielmo JPG He is presently at work on a second book, forthcoming with Oxford University Press and tentatively entitled Race War: World War II and the Crisis of American Democracy. Guglielmo is also the author of numerous scholarly journal articles, book chapters and reviews including among others:
“Fighting for Caucasian Rights: Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and the Transnational Struggle for Civil Rights in World War II Texas,” Journal of American History 92 (March 2006): 1212-1237;
“Encountering the Color Line in the Everyday: Italians in Interwar Chicago,” Journal of American Ethnic History 23 (Summer 2004): 45-77;
“Rethinking U.S. Whiteness Historiography,” in Whiteout: The Continuing Significance of Racism, ed. Ashley Doane and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva (New York: Routledge, 2003), 49-61;
“‘No Color Barrier’: Italians, Race, and Power in the United States,” in Are Italians White?: How Race Is Made in America, ed. Jennifer Guglielmo and Salvatore Salerno (New York: Routledge, 2003), 29-43;
“The Changing Meaning of Difference: Race, Color, and Ethnicity in America, 1930-1964,” (co-authored with Earl Lewis) in Race and Ethnicity in America: A Concise History, ed. Ronald H. Bayor (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), 167-192.
“Toward Essentialism, Toward Difference: Gino Speranza and Conceptions of Race and Italian-American Racial Identity, 1900-1925,” Mid-America 81 (Summer 1999): 169-213.
Awards: Guglielmo is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
Frederick Jackson Turner Award, Organization of American Historians, 2004;
Allan Nevins Dissertation Prize, Society of American Historians, 2001;
Horace H. Rackham Distinguished Dissertation Award, University of Michigan, 2001;
Evans Prize (best dissertation of the year in history), University of Michigan, 2000;
Massaro Prize in History (best essay of the year), Italian Americana, 2000;
Distinction, Ph.D. Exam, Department of History, University of Michigan, 1998;
Fellowship, Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, Harvard University, 2008-2009;
Fellowship, Institute for Historical Studies, University of Texas at Austin, 2008-2009 (declined);
Fellowship, 2008 Festival of Ideas, Aspen Institute, Aspen, Colorado, July 2008;
Fellowship, Research Institute for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, Stanford University, 2005-2006;
Associate Fellowship, Michigan Society of Fellows, University of Michigan, 2000-2001;
Mellon Dissertation Fellowship, University of Michigan, 1999-2000;
Mellon Candidacy Fellowship, University of Michigan, 1998-1999;
Regents Fellowship, University of Michigan, 1996-1998.
Additional Info:
Formerly Assistant Professor, Department of American Studies, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, 2002-2005; Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 2001-2002.


Christmas Day, 1988. I was a nineteen-year-old sophomore in college. My sister, Jennifer—a history major at UW-Madison at the time (now a professor at Smith College) and the very best sibling anyone could ask for—had for several years been finding me all manner of cool reading material: a Barbara Kingsolver novel, a Mary Crow Dog memoir, an Alice Walker essay collection. This holiday she gave me a new book about the civil rights movement, Taylor Branch’s Parting the Waters. It’d go on to win the Pulitzer Prize, among other big awards, but none of this I knew at the time. What I did know, what any reasonable person could see as I labored to unwrap the thing, was its formidable, thousand-plus-page size. For someone who, up to this point, had an on-again-off-again relationship with reading, the book scared the hell out of me.

Still, it must have been a slow winter break—few friends home from college or little good football on TV—because I would soon part those thousand-plus pages, discovering something profound in the process: I was engrossed. I devoured the book in a few days and then reread bits and pieces of it for weeks and months afterward. I returned to college that spring term and enrolled in my first U.S. history class and, soon, declared myself a history major. I read everything I could get my hands on about King and the movement. I even composed a related rap song, which my don’t-completely-humiliate-yourself instinct prevents me from sharing. Consider yourself fortunate. Really.

Of course, it’d take a longer essay to explain why my sister thought to buy me Branch’s book in the first place and why it—and other work on the black freedom struggle—spoke to me in such a profound way. But, when thinking about my journey to becoming an historian, that wonderful holiday gift from twenty-plus years ago proved huge (in every sense of the word).


By Thomas A. Guglielmo

  • The “new,” subtler forms of racism that social scientists and a few historians have seen as emerging in the 1960s and beyond as a response, in part, to civil rights movement successes had earlier roots. When Americans were fighting the Nazis and their racist regime, when scientific racism was on the defensive, and when civil rights activists tirelessly pressed both points, some whites and others formulated different, less essentialist defenses for race-based discrimination. Like those of the Red Cross and military leaders, these defenses were racist in one sense, by helping maintain a deeply unequal racial order, without appearing racist in another, by avoiding talk of races as fundamentally and immutably distinct. This point serves as a reminder that as wartime civil rights activism grew, the defenders of a white-supremacist status quo also mobilized—and innovated. — in “‘Red Cross, Double Cross’: Race and America’s World War II-Era Blood Donor Service,” Journal of American History 97 (June 2010): 66
  • White On Arrival: Italians, Race, Color, and Power in Chicago, 1890-1945 JPG Immigrating to the United States, Italians, like all others arriving on America’s shores, were made to fill out a standardized immigration form. In the box for race, they faced several choices: Italian, Southern Italian, Mediterranean, or Silician. On the line requesting information on color, they wrote simply “”white.”” This identification had profound implications for Italians, as Thomas A. Guglielmo demonstrates in this prize- winning book. While many suffered from racial prejudice and discrimination, they were nonetheless viewed as white on arrival in the corridors of American power–from judges to journalists, from organized labor to politicians, from race scientists to realtors. Taking the mass Italian immigration of the late 19th century as his starting point, Guglielmo focuses on how perceptions of Italians’ race and color were shaped in one of America’s great centers of immigration and labor, Chicago. His account skillfully weaves the major events of Chicago immigrant history–the Chicago Color Riot of 1919, the rise of Italian organized crime, the rise of fascism, and the Italian-Ethiopian War of 1935-36–into the story of how Italians approached, learned, and lived race. By tracking their evolving position in the city’s racial hierarchy, Guglielmo reveals the impact of racial classification–both formal and social–on immigrants’ abilities to acquire homes and jobs, start families, and gain opportunities in America. Carefully drawing the distinction between race and color, Guglielmo argues that whiteness proved Italians’ most valuable asset for making it in America. Even so, Italians were reluctant to identify themselves explicitly as white until World War II. By separating examples of discrimination against Italians from the economic and social advantages they accrued from their acceptance as whites, Guglielmo counters the claims of many ethnic Americans that hard work alone enabled their extraordinary success, especially when compared to non-white groups whose upward mobility languished. A compelling story, White on Arrival contains profound implications for our understanding of race and ethnic acculturation in the United States, as well as of the rich and nuanced relationship between immigration and urban history. — About “White on Arrival: Italians, Race, Color, and Power in Chicago, 1890-1945″

About Thomas A. Guglielmo

  • “An important advance in our understanding of the racial dynamics involving early twentieth-century immigrants. A major contribution that deserves to exercise a major influence on the discussion of race in the US.” — American Historical Review
  • “White on Arrival gets here right on time. As we increasingly require histories that speak to the ways race has been made both in the U.S. and beyond its borders, Guglielmo provides a meticulous local study aware of the international flows of migrants and ideas. As we urgently need mature historical accounts providing the historical context for debates over affirmative action and reparations, he carefully and compellingly shows how Italian Americans both felt the brutalities of race and benefitted from the privileges of whiteness.” — David Roediger, University of Illinois
  • “How did the ‘New Immigrants’ of the early twentieth century become the ‘White Ethnics’ of the postwar era? In this exhaustively researched study of one immigrant group’s encounter with race, Tom Guglielmo provides an unusual perspective on the everyday bases of racial identity, thinking, and behavior. He roots his discussion in the everyday lives of Italian immigrants and their neighbors and in the process illuminates the complex process by which Italians became ‘Americans’ in the racially-charged atmosphere of early twentieth century Chicago’s politics, labor relations, popular culture, and residential life. An outstanding social history, White on Arrival also speaks to cultural and intellectual historians concerned with the idea of race and its implications for the cultural lives of common Americans.” — James R. Barrett, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • “Every time I think the ‘whiteness studies’ paradigm has crashed and burned, another careful innovative, illuminating study comes along to prove me wrong. Thomas Guglielmo’s White on Arrival is just such a study. It is a deeply researched, richly textured treatment of both sides of a complicated equation: the ways in which it mattered that ‘Italianness’ was conceived in biologized, ‘racial’ terms, and the ways in which it mattered (and continues to matter) that Italian immigrants and their American-born children nonetheless shared a safe haven of legal whiteness with a number of other ‘white’ groups on the scene.” — Matthew Frye Jacobson, Yale University
  • “In this original, provocative, and theoretically sophisticated study, Thomas Guglielmo offers us the first substantive, in-depth examination of Italian immigrants, racial categorization, and racial identity in early 20th century America. Grounding his arguments and findings in extensive primary research, he successfully refutes many of the premises and conclusions advanced by the ‘whiteness school,’ providing an alternative and often compelling narrative and methodology for exploring the history of immigration and race.” — Eric Arnesen, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • “During the 1990s, a variety of studies adopted the notion of south, central, and eastern European immigrants as ‘in-between people,’ who were neither fully black nor white, during their early encounter with industrial America. While such studies illuminated racial formation as a historical process, Professor Guglielmo convincingly argues that such studies often oversimplified the phenomenon. Based upon a broad range of archival sources and oral interviews with Italians in Chicago, Professor Guglielmo carefully documents the white skin privileges that Italians enjoyed from the outset of their sojourn on American soil.” — Joe W. Trotter, Carnegie Mellon University
  • “Great teacher! Class was interesting and material was very organized.”…
    “He is one of the nicest professors I have ever had. Incredibly approachable and eager to help students.”…
    “Great lecturer- so organized- one of the few classes I’ve taken where the time just seems to pass and I’ve learned a lot!” — Anonymous Former Students

Top Young Historians: 117 – Premilla Nadasen, 43

Premilla Nadasen, 43


Teaching Position: Associate Professor, History Department, Queens College, CUNY Graduate Center Doctoral Faculty
Area of Research: African-American history, social movements, poverty and social policy, history of welfare, domestic service work.
Education: Ph.D. in U.S. History, Columbia University, Dissertation: “The Welfare Rights Movement, 1960-1975,” 1999 (nominated for the Bancroft Award)
Major Publications: Nadasen is the author of Welfare Warriors: The Welfare Rights Movement in the United States (New York: Routledge, 2005), won the 2005 John Hope Franklin Publication Prize awarded by the American Studies Association for best book in American studies.;
The Welfare Rights Movement: An Introduction
(forthcoming, Routledge 2011);
Welfare in the United States: A History with Documents, co-authored with Jennifer Mittelstadt and Marisa Chappell (Routledge 2009);
Pamilla Nadasen JPG She is curently working on Domestic Workers Unite!: Household Workers’ Organizations in the Post-War U.S. ;
The Real Nanny Diaries: Narratives of Domestic Workers.
Nadasen is also the author of numerous scholarly journal articles, book chapters and reviews including among others:

“Expanding the Boundaries of the Women’s Movement: Black Feminism and the Struggle for Welfare Rights,” (Feminist Studies) won the 2002 Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Article Prize; Reprinted in Women, Culture, and Society, ed. Barbara Balliet (Rutgers University Press, 2004, 2007);
and No Permanent Waves: Recasting Histories of U.S. Feminism ed. by Nancy Hewitt (Rutgers University Press, 2010).
“African American Domestic Workers and Politics of Citizenship” (forthcoming Journal of Policy History); Valuing Domestic Work, New Feminist Solutions Pamphlet, with Tiffany Williams, published by the Barnard Center for Research on Women, Fall 2010;
“Tell Dem Slavery Done”: Domestic Workers United and Transnational Feminism, Scholar and Feminist Online (Barnard Center for Research on Women on-line journal) Spring 2010;
“Domestic Workers Take It To The Streets” Ms. Magazine, Fall 2009: 38-40. (Reprinted in Utne Reader, March-April 2010, “Meet the New Nanny”)
“International Feminism and Reproductive Labor” in Workers, the Nation-State and Beyond: Essays in Labor History Across the Americas (Oxford University Press, 2010);
“‘Mothers at Work’: The Welfare Rights Movement and Welfare Reform in the 1960s” in The Legal Tender of Gender: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Welfare Law, State Policies and the Regulation of Women’s Poverty, ed. Shelley Gavigan and Dorothy E. Chunn, (Hart Publishing, 2010);
“Power, Intimacy, and Contestation: Dorothy Bolden and Domestic Worker Organizing in Atlanta in the 1960s” in Intimate Labors, ed. Eileen Boris and Rhacel Parrenas (Stanford University Press, 2010)
“Is it Time to Jump Ship? Historians Rethink the Waves Metaphor” Kathleen Laughlin, Julie Gallagher, Dorothy Sue Cobble, Eileen Boris, Premilla Nadasen, Stephanie Gilmore, and Leandra Zarnow Feminist Formations, (vol 22, no. 1) (Summer 2010): 76-135;
“Sista’ Friends and Other Allies: Domestic Workers United” in New Social Movements in the African Diaspora: Challenging Global Apartheid, ed. Leith Mullings (Palgrave MacMillan 2009); “‘We Do Whatever Becomes Necessary: Johnnie Tillmon, Welfare Rights, and Black Power” in Want to Start a Revolution?: Women in the Black Revolt, ed. Jeanne Theoharis, Dayo Gore, and Komozi Woodard (NYU Press, 2009); “Domestic Workers Organize!” with Eileen Boris in Working USA: The Journal of Labor and Society (December 2008); “‘Welfare’s A Green Problem’: Cross-Race Coalitions in the Welfare Rights Movement” in Feminist Coalitions, ed. Stephanie Gilmore (University of Illinois Press, 2008); “From Widow to ‘Welfare Queen’: Welfare and the Politics of Race” Black Women, Gender, and Families, Vol. 1 (2) (2007).
Awards: Nadasen is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
Faculty Fellow, Center for Place, Culture and Politics, CUNY Graduate Center, 2010-2011;
PSC-CUNY Research Award, 2006-2010;
CUNY Diversity Projects Development Grant for “Maids and Madams: A Campus-Community Project on Domestic Service Work and Immigration” at Brooklyn College from the University Affirmative Action Committee, Spring 2007;
American Studies Association’s John Hope Franklin Prize for best book in American studies for Welfare Warriors: The Welfare Rights Movement in the United States (Routledge 2005), 2005;
Berkshire Conference of Women’s Historians Award for best article in 2002 for “Expanding the Boundaries of the Women’s Movement” Feminist Studies (Summer 2002), 2002;
Fellowship to participate in Seminar on Human Security at the CUNY Graduate Center, Fall ’01- Spring ’02; CUNY Faculty Fellowship Publications Program, Spring 2002;
Queens College Presidential Research Award, Spring 2001;
PSC-CUNY Research Grants, 2006-2007, 1998-2001;
Aspen Institute Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, Jan. – Oct. 1997;
Charles Gaius Bolin Fellow in History, Williams College, Williamstown, MA, 1995-1996;
Lyndon B. Johnson Foundation Research Grant, April 1995;
Columbia University Presidential Fellowship, 1991 – 1995;
Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project, Summer Fellowship Stanford University, Stanford, CA, Summer 1991;
Hofstadter – Haynes Fellowship, Department of History, Columbia University, 1990 – 1991.
Additional Info:
Formerly Visiting Associate Professor, Endowed Chair in Women’s Studies, Brooklyn College. Nadasden is A longtime community activist and scholar. Nadasen has written for Feminist Studies, Ms. Magazine, the Women’s Review of Books, Race and Reason, and the Progressive Media Project, and has given numerous public talks about African-American women’s history and welfare policy.
Nadasen has been a contributing Writer, for Progressive Media Project, which distributes opinion editorials to McClatchy-Tribune newspapers across the country. Her articles have appeared in several newspapers, including the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, The Pueblo-Chieftan, The Sacramento Bee, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Watertown Daily Times, The Orlando Sentinal, La Prensa San Diego, Arizona Daily Star.


My commitment to telling poor black women’s stories came to me through activism. I vividly remember my first protest. I was at the Federal Building in downtown Detroit opposing U.S. foreign policy in South Africa. It was 1985 and I was 17 years old. The demonstration had all the key elements: colorful banners, repetitive chanting, fiery speeches, and passersby who either honked in support or jeered in disgust. My feelings vacillated between anxiety and excitement. I was born in South Africa. Although I came to the U.S. at a young age, when I returned periodically to visit family I experienced first-hand the reality of apartheid laws. As a teenager, the brutality of the apartheid regime that I read and heard about in combination with the burgeoning grass roots movement to dismantle it ignited my commitment to social justice. By participating in that protest I came to see the world in a new way-one that recognized how ordinary people contribute to social change.

When I went to the University of Michigan that fall, I joined the student anti-apartheid organization. As we-a diverse group of young women and men-immersed ourselves in political campaigns we talked and thought more deeply about patterns of racism not just in South Africa, but on the college campus and in our communities. One project we initiated was the Black Women’s Oral History Project where we interviewed long-time residents of Ann Arbor. It was from these rather remarkable women-whose names never appeared in my classroom textbooks-that I first learned about the welfare rights movement. I had taken several history and sociology courses about activism and the civil rights movement and was befuddled by the lack of discussion about these poor women on welfare who struggled for dignity and economic justice. In the 1960s, the women in Ann Arbor had collectively mobilized, along with thousands of women across the country, to protect their rights and fight for a better life for their children. I was deeply impressed by their fortitude and their wisdom. These early encounters fostered in me a commitment to pursue scholarly studies about the activism of poor women of color-a commitment that shapes my work even today as I research and write about domestic worker organizing.

Writing about the welfare rights movement taught me many things about scholarship and history. It taught me that intellectualism and theories of social change originate not only with the philosophers and those who sit in the offices of Ivy League institutions. The poor black women who led the welfare rights movement lived and understood racism and class oppression in a complex way. From these experiences, they theorized about gender and how it is informed by racial stereotypes and the welfare system. And they formulated a distinctive politics of empowerment that spoke to their particular location as poor black women. They have a lot to teach us about how power operates, methods of social change, and the meaning of feminism.

Studying this movement has also taught me that historical memory is deeply contested terrain. What we choose to remember-or not-is a reflection of our own values and beliefs. The marginalization of the welfare rights movement in historical scholarship is perhaps indicative of the way in which poor black women are marginalized in the political discourse today. So, for me, Welfare Warriors aimed to complicate the dominant narrative of the 1960s, but also to resurrect the muted voices of the period.


By Premilla Nadasen

  • Welfare Warriors: The Welfare Rights Movement in the United StatesBy the 1960s the welfare system was dominated by myths and stereotypes. Perceptions about black women’s sexuality and notions of the black family and the black work ethic justified cutbacks in assistance and provided  grounds for work requirements. Ideology shaped public policy and, in this case, bolstered popular support for more punitive and repressive policies. Countering some of the stereotypes of AFDC, women in the welfare rights movement demanded that their work as mothers be recognized and insisted that single motherhood was not a social pathology. They sought to increase their monthly benefits through pressure tactics, and to make a moral claim for assistance as mothers. Their analysis demonstrates how gender is mediated by race and class and the way in which race, gender, and class all shape the welfare system. — Premilla Nadasen in “Welfare Warriors”About Premilla NadasenReviews for Welfare Warriors: The Welfare Rights Movement in the United States


  • Nadasen has written the definitive history of the welfare rights movement that, for a brief moment, turned welfare into a program that helped rather than punished poor women. Carefully researched and fully documented, Welfare Warriors reveals the largely untold story of how poor and working class women came together to fight for a decent life. By exploring the working class black feminism that emerged, Nadasen’s account also broadens and deepens our understanding of feminism. –-Mimi Abramovitz, Professor of Social Policy at Hunter School of Social Work and the City University of New York Graduate Center and author of “Regulating the Lives of Women and Under Attack and Fight”
  • Armed with their own brand of feminism in the 1960s and 70s, Premilla Nadasen’s Welfare Warriors fought militantly and relentlessly against racism, sexism and dehumanizing poverty. They fought their battles in the halls of Congress, the streets of urban communities, and inside the progressive movement itself. Even when they were not victorious, these black women activists were never victims, but rather powerful, complex and committed agents for change. This compelling and compassionate study, meticulously researched and passionately argued, is a must-read for anyone interested in social change politics, feminism or the black freedom movement. –- Barbara Ransby, Professor of African American Studies, University of Illinois at Chicago and author of Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement.

Reviews for Welfare in the United States: A History with DocumentsWelfare in the United States A History with Documents, 1935–1996 JPG

  • “With wide ranging perspectives, nearly century-long coverage, and choice documents, this short but powerful collection shows why welfare remains one of the most contentious issues in public policy. Three cheers for Nadasen, Mittelstadt, and Chappell for this stimulating- and provocative – introduction that highlights the significance of race and gender in women’s lives.” -— Eileen Boris, author of “The New Women’s Labor History”
  • “The story of contemporary welfare policy in the United States is complicated and deeply troubled by poisonous conflicts over race, class and gender. Here, however, we have a telling of the story that is admirably clear and concise, and enlivened by the inclusion of the documents that mark and illuminate the turning points in the story. This will be an excellent teaching resource.” — Frances Fox Piven, author of “Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America”
  • “Dr. Nadasen, is one of the most influencial professors I have ever had the pleasure of being instructed by. Her knowledge of the History, Politics and social constructs are impecable. Her guidance in developing my MA Thesis was immensely useful in defining and enhancing the focus of my research project. She is certainly a mentor…”
    “African American history has become my favorite class this semester. Would recommend taking this class with Prof. Nadasen.”…
    “Outstanding teacher. Materials were relevant to all lectures. Allowed students to explore the subject of Slavery and was totally engaging.”…
    “You should take Prof. Nadasen because she’s so knowledgeable in history that it would absolutely rock your world.” — Anonymous Students

    More Information

  • Premilla Nadasen, First Women’s Studies Endowed Chair at Brooklyn College, To Be Honored on May 16

Top Young Historians: 116 – David Engerman, 44

David C. Engerman, 44


Teaching Position: Professor of History, Brandeis University
Research Associate, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University, 2001-.
Area of Research: Russia in American life, including politics, culture, and foreign policy.
Education: Ph.D. University of California-Berkeley, 1998
Major Publications: Engerman is the author of Know Your Enemy: The Rise and Fall of America’s Soviet Experts. Oxford University Press, 2009. Modernization from the Other Shore: American Intellectuals and the Romance of Russian Development. Harvard University Press, 2003. Stuart L. Bernath Book Prize, Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations; Akira Iriye International History Book Award; One of best six books of the year in Eurasian Studies, Foreign Affairs; Choice Outstanding Academic Title.
David Engerman JPG Engerman is the co-editor and contributor of Staging Growth: Modernization, Development, and the Global Cold War. University of Massachusetts Press, 2003, and The God That Failed: Six Studies of Communism. Columbia University Press, 2001. (Wrote foreword).
Engerman is also the author of numerous scholarly journal articles, book chapters and reviews including among others:
“The Price of Success: Economic Development, Sovietology, and the Costs of Interdisciplinarity,” History of Political Economy 42 (forthcoming 2010); “Social Science in the Cold War,” Isis 101:2 (June 2010), 393-400; “Ideology and the Origins of the Cold War, 1917-1962,” for Cambridge History of the Cold War. Ed. Melvyn P. Leffler and Odd Arne Westad. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010; “The Cold War,” for Companion to Russian and Soviet History. Ed. Abbott Gleason. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009; “Towards a Global History of Modernization,” Diplomatic History 33:3 (June 2009), 375-385; co-author with Corinna Unger. (Also co-editor of Forum in which this article appears.); “American Knowledge and Global Power,” Diplomatic History 31:4 (September 2007), 599-622; “How Harvard Ruled Russia,” Kritika 7:3 (Summer 2006), 689-702; “John Dewey and the Soviet Union: When Pragmatism Meets Revolution,” Modern Intellectual History 3:1 (April 2006), 33-63; “The Ironies of the Iron Curtain: The Cold War and the Development of Russian Studies in the United States,” Cahiers du Monde russe 45:3/4 (July/December 2004), 465-496, reprinted in The Humanities and the Dynamics of Inclusion, 1945-1985. Ed. David Hollinger. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006; “The Romance of Economic Development and New Histories of the Cold War,” Diplomatic History 28:1 (January 2004), 23-54; “Rethinking Cold War Universities,” Journal of Cold War Studies 5:3 (Summer 2003), 80-95. “Modernization from the Other Shore: American Observers and the Costs of Soviet Economic Development,” American Historical Review 105:2 (April 2000), 383-416, reprinted in Not Worthy: Walter Duranty’s Pulitzer Prize. Ed. L. Luciuk. Toronto: Kashtan Press, 2004, translated and reprinted in 200 let rossiisko- amerikanskikh otnoshenii: nauka i obrazovanie. Ed. A.O. Chubar’ian and Blair Ruble. Moscow: OLMA, 2007, slated for reprint in Collective Degradation, ed. John Stauffer (Yale UP, in process)

Awards: Engerman is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
Frederick Burkhardt Fellowship, American Council of Learned Societies (2010);
National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (2006);
Named Stuart L. Bernath Lecturer, Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (2005);
Outstanding Academic Title for 2004, Choice Magazine (2005);
Akira Iriye International History Book Award (2004);
Scholarly Fellowship, Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History, (2004);
Research Grant, Rockefeller Archive Center (2004);
Scholarly Fellowship, Gilder-Lehrman Institute for American History (2004);
Short-Term Research Scholarship, Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies (2004);
Stuart Bernath Book Prize, Soviety for Historians of American Foreign Relations (2004);
Radcliffe Institute Fellowship (2003 – 2004);
Visiting Scholar, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (declined) (2003 – 2004);
Charles Warren Center Fellowship, Harvard University (2000 – 2001);
Research Associate, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University (2000 – 2007);
Olin Postdoctoral Fellowship (declined) (1999 – 2001);
Dissertation Write-Up Fellowship, Mellon Foundation (1997 – 1998);
John L. Simpson Fellowship in Comparative Studies, Institute for International Studies (1997 – 1998);
Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor, Berkeley Graduate Division (1997);
Winant Fellow, Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library (1995);
Packard Fellow, Herbert Hoover Presidential Library (1994).
Additional Info:
Formerly: Visiting Scholar, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University, 2007-2008; Chair, Graduate Program in History, Brandeis University, 2001-2003, 2009-10; Chair, International and Global Studies Program, Brandeis University, 2005-2007; Assistant Professor of History, Brandeis University, 1999-2005; Fellow, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, 2003-2004; Fellow, Charles Warren Center for the Study of American History, Harvard University, 2000-2001; Lecturer in History, University of California-Berkeley, 1998-1999.


A bonus for historians studying the twentieth century is the chance to meet your historical subjects. I was lucky enough to meet George F. Kennan, a man who featured in both of my books.

I met Kennan as he approached his 97th birthday in winter 2001. I had been thinking a lot about him for the previous five years, ever since I had run across a 1932 memorandum by Kennan while reading through State Department microfilms in a desolate corner of the Berkeley library. Kennan’s memo must have arrived at State Department headquarters on a bad day for filing clerks. His astute analysis of the Soviets’ all-out push for industrialization was misfiled among travelers’ reports, an error that explained why this remarkable document had never been cited in the large scholarly output on Kennan.

Kennan’s memo contained a striking phrase: “the romance of economic development,” which, he had written, inspired Soviet youth “to ignore all other questions in favor of economic progress.” In language revealing as much about the writer as his subject, Kennan praised that romance for saving Soviet youth from the “curses of egotism, romanticism, daydreaming, introspection and perplexity” that befell their western counterparts. I loved Kennan’s elegant prose, and also the way his description fit western observers, not just Soviet youth. Some American observers explained away a famine by saying the USSR was “starving itself great”; others were so compelled by Soviet industrialization that they trotted out the old canard about breaking eggs to make an omelet.

As I began revising my dissertation into a book a few years later, I wrote Kennan, attaching a copy of his 1932 memo and asking if he remembered anything about the sources for his ideas. A speedy reply from his secretary implied that Kennan was unavailable to assist other scholars’ work while he had so many pressing projects of his own. The following year, I resent my inquiry through a colleague of Kennan’s who had offered to act as intermediary. Kennan’s urgent letter (and two phone messages) came just as quickly as his earlier rebuff. He wrote me that he had no recollection of the document (then nearly 70 years old), and then requested whatever contextual material I could provide. I worked up the nerve to ask if I might deliver the documents in person – and a week later I rang the doorbell at his stately but slightly run-down Princeton home. His physical frailty limited our time to an hour, but his intellectual acuity was very much present as we spoke about his training in Russian history and his experiences in the USSR. Kennan recounted the lessons he learned at the University of Berlin in 1929-31; his professors stressed study of the Realien of geography, national character, and national interests rather than epiphenomena like governments and ideologies. This helped me understand Kennan’s views of the USSR and of the world, and why he was, in his words, “an expatriate in his own time.” The conversation deepened my fascination with Kennan, a familiar enough infatuation among diplomatic historians. I overcame my awe just long enough to ask his wife to photograph us in our conversation.

I would have a chance to meet some of my other historical subjects, especially as I wrote about Kennan’s heirs, Soviet experts of the Cold War. These interviews were all fascinating. I learned about their scholarly inspirations, their political investigations, and their experiences visiting a country so different and distant from their own. I even learned about a number of romances and the scandals that often ensued – but none matched the opportunity to learn about the “romance of economic development” from the man who coined the phrase.


By David Engerman

  • The history of Soviet Studies offers contradictory lessons about the relationship between national security and intellectual life. The field was an intellectual success when government funds flowed because it attracted an Know Your Enemy: The Rise and Fall of America's Soviet Experts   JPG especially wide range of scholars and because its founders conceived of their aims very broadly. Scholars-cum- consultants innocently but fervently believed that the various parts of their job fit together seamlessly. They worked with government officials at the same time that they produced their own scholarship and trained their academic progeny. Seams strained and innocence ended in the 1960s, leading some later scholars to denigrate the field solely on the basis of its ties to government. Amid the dual crises of the late 1960s, pioneers … hoped to reinvigorate Soviet Studies by returning to interdisciplinary and applied research that had driven top-notch work in the field’s first decade. Yet the successes of Soviet Studies came thanks to unrepeatable historical circumstances: the intellectual mobilization during World War II, the postwar university boom, and the emergence of new sources of funding. These broad forces permitted Soviet Studies to serve both Mars and Minerva, or at least to try. There [is] no way … to go back to the future. There was no way, after the divisions of the 1960s, to recapture the innocence of the postwar years, the notion that government agencies could only support, not distort, intellectual life. Coming from the small and isolated policy-oriented sector of Soviet Studies, secretaries [Robert] Gates and [Condoleezza] Rice celebrated themselves in claiming that new [government] initiatives incorporated the lessons of Soviet Studies. But new enemies, in new times, require new solutions. — David Engerman in “Know Your Enemy: The Rise and Fall of America’s Soviet Experts”
  • The specter of Soviet Communism haunting [the twentieth] century was as much a blueprint for rapid industrialization as an ideology of proletarian revolution, national liberation, or totalitarian control. At the same time, the Soviet specter often bore little resemblance to actually existing circumstances in the Soviet Union itself. In spite of the tremendous costs, including a catastrophic famine in 1932-1933, domestic and foreign commentators widely praised Soviet efforts at economic modernization, especially in the early years of the Five-Year Plans (1928-1937). What American diplomat George F. Kennan termed the “romance of economic development” captivated a wide range of foreign observers of all political persuasions. These interwar observers valued the fruits of rapid industrialization above its costs-even when these costs included not only repression and privation but also starvation. — David Engerman in “Modernization from the Other Shore: American Observers and the Costs of Soviet Economic Development,” AHR (2000).

About David Engerman

  • “The extraordinary range and depth of Engerman’s research and the narrative arc knitting this book together from start to finish make Know Your Enemy a consummate work of scholarship and historical imagination. Engerman’s critical assessment of all the diverse components within academic ‘Sovietology’ shatters one cliche after another. Soviet Studies never fashioned a single Cold War vision of the USSR and never served simply as an ideological arm of U.S. foreign policy-even when scholars were most closely linked with diplomatic and military operatives.” — Howard Brick, University of Michigan
  • “Those in and out of the field of Soviet Studies will find genuine revelations in Know Your Enemy . Engerman combines thorough research with a firm footing in the sociology of knowledge of the post-World War II world in this remarkable story of the U.S.’s most successful area studies enterprise. The author sensibly and dispassionately navigates the reader through the maelstrom of conflicts and controversies that beset the field and is practitioners from the Second World War until the fall of the Soviet Union.” — Norman M. Naimark, Stanford University
  • “Looking at both people and institutions, David Engerman has written the most complete and informative account of the rise and fall of Russian/Soviet studies. Sovietology arose out of world war and Cold War, but Engerman demonstrates that rather than simply ideologically driven, this scholarly field contained a variety of voices that contested with one another to influence colleagues, the government, and the public. The fate of the field, however, was intimately tied to the global conflict with America’s adversary, and when Soviet socialism collapsed, Sovietology disappeared along with it. Yet the contours of understanding a distant and little known rival continue to influence new generations still perplexed by that part of the world.” — Ronald Grigor Suny, author of The Soviet Experiment
  • “In his excellent history of Cold War Sovietology, which is solidly grounded in interviews and more than 100 archival collections, David Engerman has fashioned an important institutional and intellectual history of its academic dimensions. This clearly argued, fair-minded, and very illuminating volume reveals more interesting individuals and a more complicated story (as archives always do) than the oft repeated commonplaces about this history have revealed.”–Thomas Bender, author of A Nation Among Nations: America’s Place in World History
  • “[D]eeply researched new book.” — Evan R. Goldstein, The Chronicle Review
  • “[E]ngrossing.” — Wall Street Journal
  • “[F]ascinating history.” — Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs
  • “Deeply researched, well-written, this is an important chronicle that explains much about how government and academia still interact, and it should be read not just by Russophiles, but by anyone interested in new academic initiatives to focus on ‘Islamic Studies.’” — Paul E. Richardson, Russian Life
  • “Engerman is very passionate and energetic in the classroom, and very respectful of student ideas. His lesson plans are always innovative and intriguing, as well.”…
    “he’s so creative with his use of materials, like using music, video, photos in his lectures to get a deeper understanding of a time period than one can get from books alone. he looks at history as a set of paradoxes, very interesting way to think about it” – — Anonymous Students

Posted on Sunday, November 28, 2010 at 8:46 PM

Top Young Historians 115 – Brian DeLay, 38

Brian DeLay, 38

Basic Facts

Teaching Position: Associate Professor, University of California, Berkeley, 2010-Present
Area of Research: US and the World; 19th-century Americas; transnational history; US-Mexico Borderlands; native peoples; the international arms trade
Education: Ph.D., Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, March, 2004
Major Publications: DeLay is the author of War of a Thousand Deserts: Indian Raids and the U.S.-Mexican War. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008 [paperback, 2009]. Brian Delay JPGDelay is the co-author with James West Davidson, William E. Gienapp, Christine Leigh Heyrman, Mark H. Lytle, and Michael B. Stoff, Experience History: Interpreting America’s Past [Formerly Nation of Nations: A Narrative History of the American Republic], McGraw-Hill (2010). Concise Edition: US/A History (2009).
DeLay is also the author of numerous scholarly journal articles, book chapters and reviews including among others: “Independent Indians and the U.S.-Mexican War,” American Historical Review 112 (Feb., 2007), 35-68; “The Wider World of the Handsome Man: Southern Plains Indians Invade Mexico, 1830-1846,” Journal of the Early Republic 27 (March, 2007), 83-113.
Delay is currently working on the following projects: “Shoot the State: The Arms Trade and the Re-creation of the Americas, 1750-1900,” Book-length study in early development; “Blood Talk: The Structure of Violence in Borderland New Mexico,” chapter in revision for Edward Countryman and Juliana Barr, eds., Contested Spaces of Early America, edited collection in progress;
“Comanches in the Cast: Remembering Mexico’s ‘Eminently National War,’” essay accepted for Charles Faulhaber, ed., The Bancroft Library at 150: A Sesquicentennial Symposium, edited collection in progress;
“Barbarians and Dearer Enemies: Frontier Wars and Federalist Uprisings in Northern Mexico, 1837-1840,” chapter accepted by Erick D. Langer, ed., for “Indians, the State, and the Frontier in Nineteenth-Century Latin America,” edited collection in progress;
“Opportunity Costs: Comanches between Texas and Mexico, 1836-1846,” chapter accepted by Andrew Frank and Glen Crothers for edited collection on North American borderlands, in progress.
Awards: DeLay is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
Bryce Wood Book Award for the outstanding book on Latin America in the social sciences and humanities published in English, Latin American Studies Association, 2010;
W. Turrentine Jackson (biennial) Award for best first book on any aspect of the history of the American West, Western History Association, 2009;
Robert M. Utley Award for best book published on the military history of the frontier and western North America, Western History Association, 2009;
Southwest Book Award, sponsored by the Border Regional Library Association, 2009;
James Broussard Best 1st book prize, Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, 2008;
Norris and Carol Hundley Best Book Award, Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association, 2008;
The Sons of the Republic of Texas Summerfield G. Roberts Best Book Award, 2008;
Finalist, Francis Parkman Prize from the Society of American Historians, 2008;
Finalist for the Clements Prize for the Best Nonfiction Book on Southwestern Americana, 2008;
Honorable Mention, Texas State Historical Association’s Kate Broocks Bates Award for Historical Research, 2008;
Finalist for the PROSE Award in the U.S. History and Biography/Autobiography category, sponsored by the Association of American Publishers, 2008;
Appointed an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer, 2008-2011;
Bolton-Cutter Award for best borderlands article, Western History Association, 2008;
Robert F. Heizer Prize for the best article in the field of ethnohistory, 2008;
CLAH Article Prize, Conference on Latin American History, 2008;
Stuart Bernath Article Prize, Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, 2008;
Phi Alpha Theta/Westerners International Prize for Best Dissertation, 2005;
Harold K. Gross Prize from Harvard University for the dissertation “demonstrating the greatest promise of a distinguished career in historical research,” 2004;
University of Colorado Residence Life Academic Teaching Award, 2005.
Additional Info:
Formerly Assistant Professor of History, University of California, Berkeley, Fall 2009 – Spring 2010; Assistant Professor of History, University of Colorado, Boulder, Fall 2004 – Spring 2009.
DeLay’s articles have appeared in The American Historical Review, The Journal of American History, The Journal of the Early Republic, Diplomatic History, New Mexico Historical Review, Southwestern Historical Quarterly, and The Chronicle Review.

Personal Anecdote

I would’ve been more cooperative if I’d realized that the guy in the front of the bus had a gun. But bemused cluelessness had served me fairly well during other hairy moments in Mexico City, so when a skinny, nervous teenager strode up and told me to take off my seatbelt I just sat there. “No hablo español” I muttered, hoping he’d leave me alone. He shook his head and kept going, working his way up the aisle and talking quickly to each passenger in turn. Clicking noises followed his progress like a chorus. Everyone else on the still-speeding Mexico City-Puebla bus took off their seatbelts. Weird. Don’t look interested, I told myself. Maybe it’s some sort of perverse anti-safety campaign? Then I noticed that the burly guy in the front of the bus was waving something small and black in the air. He shouted incomprehensibly, but everyone else must have understood because all at once they bent down and buried their faces in their hands. Okay, bad sign. The teenager began making his way back down the aisle, holding something (a bag?). I kept staring at my book, determined to stay in clueless character. He paused for a moment when he reached my seat and then hit me across the face, sending my glasses skittering across the floorboards. “Take your [colorful Spanish adjective] seatbelt off and cover your eyes, you stupid [colorful Spanish noun].” Oh, I thought. That’s what’s happening.

In retrospect getting robbed that day was a pretty tame brush with danger, especially compared to some of my friends’ stories. Whenever I’ve recounted it, it’s always come out as (light) dark comedy. But the truth is that those guys scared the hell out of me and most everyone else on the bus. I vividly remember the sound of my heart beating in my ears; the older lady across from me whose hands shook as she removed her earrings, and the relief, tears, and outrage on board once the thieves jumped off.

That experience, along with a handful of other frightening but ultimately harmless situations on this and later research trips, left me with a valuable gift: a little taste of fear, helplessness, and vulnerability. I’d come to Mexico to study interethnic violence in the north of the country in the decades before the U.S.-Mexican War. Sometimes this violence unfolded in matched battles between groups of fighters. More often it involved armed, mounted men launching surprise attacks on isolated groups of families. Thousands of children, women, and men died in these attacks, and thousands more lost their daughters and sons, their parents, their siblings and neighbors, and some or all of their meager possessions. The grief, terror, desperation, and heartbreak these thousands of people experienced, what did I know about that? Virtually nothing. But that seemed just slightly better than absolutely nothing. I don’t know if my own miniscule brushes with danger helped me write about these people with more sensitivity, empathy, or nuance. But they definitely made me want to.


By Brian DeLay

  • In miniature, the story goes like this. In the early 1830s, for a variety of reasons, Comanches, Kiowas, Apaches, Navajos, and others abandoned imperfect but workable peace agreements they had maintained with northern War of a Thousand Deserts Indian Raids and the U.S.-Mexican War  JPGMexicans since the late eighteenth century. Men from these Indian communities began attacking Mexican ranches and towns, killing and capturing the people they found there and stealing or destroying the Mexicans’ animals and property. When able, Mexicans responded by doing the same to their indigenous enemies. The conflicts intensified through the 1830s and 1840s, until much of the northern third of Mexico had been transformed into a vast theater of hatred, terror, and staggering loss for independent Indians and Mexicans alike. By the eve of the U.S. invasion these varied conflicts spanned all or parts of ten states. They had claimed thousands of Mexican and Indian lives, made tens of thousands more painful and often wretched, ruined northern Mexico’s economy, stalled its demographic growth, and depopulated much of its countryside. The consequences were far-reaching. I argue that the bloody interethnic violence that preceded and continued throughout the U.S.-Mexican War influenced the course and outcome of that war and, by extension, helped precipitate its manifold long-term consequences for all the continent’s peoples — Brian Delay in “War of a Thousand Deserts Indian Raids and the U.S.-Mexican War”
  • KERA radio interview on War of a Thousand Deserts, Dec. 1, 2008 mp3

About Brian DeLay

  • “Action-packed and densely argued.” — Larry McMurtry, New York Review of Books
  • “Brian DeLay is one of the most articulate and original authors writing in the Western Americana field today.” — Howard R. Lamar, author of The New Encyclopedia of the American West
  • “With a good sense of drama and narrative, DeLay tells the story of how the interactions and preconceptions of Mexicans, Americans, and independent Indian tribes shaped the borderland region in ways none of the parties expected. This book will force many readers to rethink their basic assumptions about Indians as nineteenth- century political actors. This is not just the most significant work on the U.S.-Mexico War to appear in a generation, but a study with wide-ranging implications for the history of North America. Brian DeLay shows how enlightening transnational history can be when done well.” — Amy S. Greenberg, The Pennsylvania State University
  • “In supple prose, DeLay analyzes the interactions in the years leading up to the war among three ‘nations’—the struggling new Mexican republic, the confident and opportunistic (but also relatively new) U.S., and the older, highly dynamic peoples of indigenous America—as well as among the compellingly depicted individuals and groups that composed them.” — Margaret Chowning, University of California at Berkeley
  • “DeLay’s War of a Thousand Deserts begins with a long-neglected question: what role did Indian Nations of the Southern Plains—Comanches, Kiowas, Apaches—play in the era of the U.S.-Mexican War? His answers sweep across the borderlands in stories of violence, trauma, and the devastating cultural effects of endemic warfare on indigenous and Mexican peoples alike. A tireless researcher and gifted writer has given us a necessary, if profoundly disturbing, look at the history of our American West.” — James F. Brooks, author of Captives & Cousins: Slavery, Kinship, and Community in the Southwest Borderlands
  • “Brian DeLay’s compelling and well-documented narrative of a little-known subject—Indian raids into northern Mexico—offers new insights on the impact of those attacks on the affected countries and peoples.” — Pedro Santoni, author of Mexicans at Arms: Puro Federalists and the Politics of War, 1845-1848
  • “In War of a Thousand Deserts, Brian DeLay tells the fascinating—and long-forgotten—story of the savage, interethnic conflict between independent tribes, Mexicans, Texans and norteamericanos. . . . [DeLay] is an imaginative and resourceful researcher. . . . Drawing on contemporary accounts by Mexicans and Texans, DeLay provides a sophisticated, speculative, and controversial account of the motivations of Indians.” — Glenn Altschuler, Tulsa World
  • “[A] masterful exercise in the reading of a broad range of primary sources to which historians have previously paid scant attention. DeLay tells a fascinating story that will reshape how historians understand and explain the coming of the U.S.-Mexican War and its aftermath.” — Jesús F. de la Teja, Great Plains Quarterly
  • “Brian DeLay offers an important reassessment of not only the U.S.-Mexican war but also the history of American expansion more broadly. . . . DeLay’s War of a Thousand Deserts beautifully narrates the under-told tale of how Native Americans powerfully determined the history of U.S. expansion into Mexico.” — Ned Blackhawk, The Journal of Military History
  • Over all, [War of a Thousand Deserts] provides a most satisfying, interesting narrative without sacrificing critical assessment or theoretical considerations.” — F. Arturo Rosales, Montana the Magazine of Western History
  • “Meticulously researched, the book shows that the impact of Native American activities in the region was stronger and had more lasting consequences than did the activities of Spaniards, Mexicans, or Americans.” — J. A. Stuntz, Choice
  • “This insightful and gracefully writen study casts fresh light on an important and much studied era in southwestern borderland history.” — Bruce Dinges
  • “In this provocative and amitious book, DeLay situates southern plains peoples at the very center of the geopolitical transformation of North America in the mid-nineteenth century. . . . Offering dates, locations, and demographic data on participants and victims that he culled from Mexican sources, [War of a Thousand Deserts] is a variable treasure trove for future scholars.” — Amanda Taylor-Montoya, Common-Place
  • “This remarkable work fills an important gap in American historiography. . . . This brilliant work will certainly please the scholarly reader. . . . DeLay’s superb scholarship has culminated in a nuanced yet lucid narrative that will doubtless become a required reference for U.S., Mexico, Native American, and Borderlands scholars for a long time.” — Joaquin Rivaya-Martinez, Southwestern History Quarterly
  • “The author . . . has discovered a significant but overlooked phenomenon in front of and behind the U.S. Mexican War. . . . This is a superb contribution to the history of America’s expansionist era.” — DLW, Roundup Magazine
  • “This innovative political history presents a compelling interpretative framework for the U.S.-Mexican War of 1846-1848.” — Cynthia Radding, American Historical Review

Posted on Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 10:04 AM

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