History Department

Welcome! The Department of History provides students with a thorough grounding in the past, seen from both social scientific and humanistic perspectives, and in the nature of history and historical analysis. The study of history prepares students to pursue careers in fields as diverse as law, education, religion, journalism and media, business and government.

Undergraduates choose one of three concentrations (US, European, or World history), and an honors program and combined B.A./M.A. program are also available to qualified students. In addition, the Department participates in several interdepartmental programs, including Africana Studies, Asian Studies, Interdisciplinary Studies (with a concentration in Documentary Studies), Social Studies, Women's Studies, Judaic Studies, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, and Russian and East European Studies.

On a graduate level, the Department of History offers a Doctor of Philosophy degree, a Master of Arts degree in History, a Master of Arts degree in History with a concentration in Public History, a Master of Arts degree in History with a concentration in History & Media, and a Certificate of Advanced Study (C.A.S.) in Public History. The M.A. in History may also be combined with the M.S. in Information Science. In addition, the department participates in several interdepartmental programs, such as Social Studies (which the department administers) and Liberal Studies.  


Initiatives for Women Award Winners

Congratulations to History doctoral students Shannon Missick-Wood (photo left) and Tina Peabody who both earned UAlbany Initiatives for Women (IFW) awards. Missick-Wood is investigating the ways government policies created urban food deserts, or places where access to nutritious foods was limited. Peabody’s work examines the history of garbage collection and disposal in New York City between 1890 and 1900 with a specific focus on the ways changing disposal methods shaped social and racial hierarchies and impacted the city's relationship with outlying regions. Both Missick-Wood and Peabody workshopped their proposals in History 500, taught by Professor Sheila Curran Bernard.


Patricia Stocking Brown Research Award Winners

Congratulations to History Major Brittany Frederick and Public History M.A. student Justin Holzer for winning the 2015 Patricia Stocking Brown Research Award for Feminist Social Justice Research from the University at Albany’s University Libraries M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections & Archives.


The History Department is pleased to report that two of its recent Ph.D. graduates are recipients of the 2015 College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Dissertation Award.

 They are: Camelia Lenart for her dissertation, "The European Response to Martha Graham's Tours during the 1950s and 1960s" and Anette Lippold for her dissertation "Christian Marriage Counseling in Weimar and Nazi Germany." Both dissertations were directed by Professor Dan S. White and this is the first time in the department’s history where a faculty mentor has had two dissertations win the prize in the same year. Here they are at the Graduate Student Organization’s end of the year celebration. Congratulations to all.


2015 History Department Undergraduate Research Symposium

On Saturday, May 2, 2015 fourteen students participated in the first-ever Undergraduate Research Symposium. (Twelve are pictured here).

And they did the history department proud.

They placed their work in the context of other scholarship in the field of history.

They presented compelling presentations that were well-organized and thoughtful.

They schooled the audience on a broad range of topics--from leaders from Joseph Mobutu to Sir Alan Cunningham to General Pershing, understanding women’s anti-suffrage campaigns to Polish immigrants’ religious institutions, insects that powered the colonial economy to prison riots.

Special congratulations to Brad Galka, class of 2015, who was awarded the top researcher award; Marven Corrielus, for the early excellence in historical research; Dylan Iadanza, for best international history, and Gail Bensen, who was awarded the Reedy Prize for best history writing in the 2014-2015 school year.


David Ostergren Wins 2015 Presidential Award for Undergraduate Research

Using primary sources in Spanish, Nahuatl (the Aztec language), and English translations, Ostergren's award-winning research takes a critical look at the changes in native social structures in sixteenth-century Mexico that came about in the wake of the conquest by the Spanish.  Focusing on the semi-independent native region of Tlaxcala, Ostergren analyzes the social disruption caused by the cultivation of a rare dyestuff, cochineal, by native commoners.  Before the conquest, the traffic in the dye was strictly controlled by the native nobility.  With the conquest, the nobles lost their monopoly over the trade.  Commoners were able to amass significant wealth in the trade and with their new-found wealth began to challenge the authority of the native lords.


Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society - Chi Delta Chapter and Professor Dan S. White welcomed new members.

On Friday April 17th Professor Richard Hamm gave a talk "How and Why I Became a Historian and What It Might Mean to You".


Veeder Wins Graduate Fellowship

Congratulations to UAlbany History graduate student Stacy Veeder for earning an Auschwitz Jewish Center Fellowship, which will fund a month of study in Poland and Slovakia where she will take courses in Jewish history, collective memory, and genocide studies at the Auschwitz State Museum.


2014 Winter Commencement

The 2014 Winter Commencement Ceremony was held on December 7th. Pictured here are Alice Malavasic, Professor Dan S. White, and Ileana Camelia Lenart, two of the three students that were awarded a PhD degree in History.


Professor David Hochfelder

Professor David Hochfelder recently appeared on WNYT, News Channel 13, to discuss his "98 Acres in Albany" project, which digitally reconstructs the 98 Acre neighborhood that was demolished to build the Empire State Plaza in 1962. Click here to see the interview: 98 Acres in Albany.


Professor Kendra Smith-Howard

Professor Smith-Howard was featured in a recent episode of NPR's BackStory, a nationally syndicated radio show produced by renowned U.S. historians Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, and Brian Balogh. Professor Smith-Howard interprets John F. Kennedy's 1962 Address to the National Conference on Milk and Nutrition about public fears that U.S. milk supplies were contaminated with radiation. Listen to the episode: "Health Nuts: A History of Nutritional Advice."


Professor Dave Hochfelder--Recently awarded the

Presidential Initiatives Fund for Research and Scholarship

“98 Acres in Albany” will chronicle the biggest story in the history of Albany since its founding by the Dutch—the State’s 1962 appropriation of 98 acres in the city center for construction of a futuristic state capitol complex. The making of the Empire State Plaza demolished about 1,200 buildings and displaced about 8,000 people, making it one of the nation’s largest urban renewal projects in proportion to a city’s population. The Empire State Plaza remains controversial decades later—blamed for Albany’s problems or credited for the city’s turnaround. Nobody is neutral and everybody has a tale—but the broader story of the Plaza’s conception and construction has been only partly told.

We will tell this story through two main products: a website and companion book. Our major product will be a website that will digitally reconstruct and repopulate the entire 98-acre take area. The overall goal of the website is to document the area as completely and accurately as we can on the eve of the 1962 demolition. This website will rely on about 1,500 to 2,000 photographs held by the Albany Institute of History and Art (AIHA), the New York State Archives (NYSA), and the Times Union morgue. We are able to repopulate the neighborhood using city directories and archival sources held by NYSA and the Albany County Hall of Records, as well as extensive oral history interviews with former residents.

The second major product of this project will be a companion book, published through the Excelsior imprint of SUNY Press. The volume will be a collection of photo-essays that will narrate and contextualize the experiences of displaced residents and business owners. We are posting drafts of these photo-essays at http://98acresinalbany.wordpress.com/ and our public outreach work is at these social media sites:





Associate Prof. Sheila Curran Bernard talks with

Selma’s Archive Producer

Interview with Kenn Rabin, a UAlbany alum, appears in the February2015 issue of The American Historian, a publication of the Organization of American Historians.







Associate Professor Carl Bon Tempo has won the 2014-2015 Dean's Award for Outstanding Achievement in Teaching from the College of Arts and Sciences.

Professor Bon Tempo joins other teaching prize winners in the department: Jeannine Chandler, Richard Fogarty, Susan Gauss, Richard F. Hamm, Patrick Nold, Laura Wittern-Keller, and Gerry Zahavi.



Prof. Christopher Pastore Publishes a Book

Between Land and Sea: The Atlantic Coast and the Transformation of New England (Harvard University Press, October 2014), an environmental history of this watery corner of the Atlantic world, beginning with the first European settlement in 1636 and ending with the dissolution of the Blackstone Canal Company in 1849.

History Department Upcoming Events

Summer Courses beginning May 26th. Many courses offered online. Register Today!!





  • The First Letter from New Spain: The Lost Petition of Cortés and His Company, June 20, 1519

    John Schwaller and Helen Nader
    University of Texas Press, 2014

    The founding of la Villa Rica de la Veracruz (the rich town of the True Cross) is prominently mentioned in histories of the conquest of Mexico, but scant primary documentation of the provocative act exists. During a research session at the Spanish archives, when John Schwaller discovered an early-sixteenth-century letter from Veracruz signed by the members of Cortés’s company, he knew he had found a trove of historical details. Providing an accessible, accurate translation of this pivotal correspondence, along with in-depth examinations of its context and significance, The First Letter from New Spain gives all readers access to the first document written from the mainland of North America by any European, and the only surviving original document from the first months of the conquest.

    The timing of Cortés’s Good Friday landing, immediately before the initial assault on the Aztec Empire, enhances the significance of this work. Though the expedition was conducted under the authority of Diego Velázquez, governor of Cuba, the letter reflects an attempt to break ties with Velázquez and form a strategic alliance with Carlos V, the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain. Brimming with details about the events surrounding Veracruz’s inception and accompanied by mini-biographies of 318 signers of the document—socially competitive men who risked charges of treason by renouncing Velázquez—The First Letter from New Spain gives evidence of entrepreneurship and other overlooked traits that fueled the conquest.


  • Between Land and Sea: The Atlantic Coast and the Transformation of New England

    Christopher L. Pastore
    Harvard University Press, 2014

    One of the largest estuaries on the North Atlantic coast, Narragansett Bay served as a gateway for colonial expansion in the seventeenth century and the birthplace of American industrialization in the late eighteenth. Christopher Pastore presents an environmental history of this watery corner of the Atlantic world, beginning with the first European settlement in 1636 and ending with the dissolution of the Blackstone Canal Company in 1849. Between Land and Sea traces how the Bay’s complex ecology shaped the contours of European habitation, trade, and resource use, and how littoral settlers in turn reconfigured the physical and cultural boundaries between humans and nature.

    Narragansett Bay emerges in Pastore’s account as much more than a geological formation. Rather, he reimagines the nexus of land and sea as a brackish borderland shaped by the tension between what English settlers saw as improvable land and the perpetual forces of the North Atlantic Ocean. By draining swamps, damming rivers, and digging canals, settlers transformed a marshy coastal margin into a clearly defined edge. The resultant “coastline” proved less resilient, less able to absorb the blows of human initiative and natural variation than the soggy fractal of water and earth it replaced.

    Today, as sea levels rise and superstorms batter coasts with increasing ferocity, Between Land and Sea calls on the environmentally-minded to make a space in their notions of progress for impermanence and uncertainty in the natural world.

  • Byzantium and the Turks in the Thirteenth Century

    Dimitri Korobeinikov
    Oxford University Press, 2014

    At the beginning of the thirteenth century Byzantium was still one of the most influential states in the eastern Mediterranean, possessing two-thirds of the Balkans and almost half of Asia Minor. After the capture of Constantinople in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade, the most prominent and successful of the Greek rump states was the Empire of Nicaea, which managed to re-capture the city in 1261 and restore Byzantium. The Nicaean Empire, like Byzantium of the Komnenoi and Angeloi of the twelfth century, went on to gain dominant influence over the Seljukid Sultanate of Rum in the 1250s. However, the decline of the Seljuk power, the continuing migration of Turks from the east, and what effectively amounted to a lack of Mongol interest in western Anatolia, allowed the creation of powerful Turkish nomadic confederations in the frontier regions facing Byzantium. By 1304, the nomadic Turks had broken Byzantium's eastern defences; the Empire lost its Asian territories forever, and Constantinople became the most eastern outpost of Byzantium. At the beginning of the fourteenth century the Empire was a tiny, second-ranking Balkan state, whose lands were often disputed between the Bulgarians, the Serbs, and the Franks.

    Using Greek, Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman sources, Byzantium and the Turks in the Thirteenth Century presents a new interpretation of the Nicaean Empire and highlights the evidence for its wealth and power. It explains the importance of the relations between the Byzantines and the Seljuks and the Mongols, revealing how the Byzantines adapted to the new and complex situation that emerged in the second half of the thirteenth century. Finally, it turns to the Empire's Anatolian frontiers and the emergence of the Turkish confederations, the biggest challenge that the Byzantines faced in the thirteenth century.

  • Pure and Modern Milk: An Environmental History since 1900

    Kendra Smith-Howard
    Oxford University Press, 2013

    Americans have never been more concerned about their food's purity. The organic trade association claims that three-quarters of all consumers buy organic foods each year, spending billions of dollars.

    "Dairy farm families, health officials, and food manufacturers have simultaneously stoked human desires for an all-natural product and intervened to ensure milk's safety and profitability," writes Kendra Smith-Howard. In Pure and Modern Milk, she tells the history of a nearly universal consumer product, and sheds light on America's food industry. Today, she notes, milk reaches supermarkets in an entirely different state than it had at its creation. Cows march into milking parlors, where tubes are attached to their teats, and the product of their lactation is mechanically pumped into tanks. Enormous, expensive machines pasteurize it, fortify it with vitamins, remove fat, and store it at government-regulated temperatures. It reaches consumers in a host of forms: as fluid milk, butter, ice cream, and in apparently non-dairy foods such as whey solids or milk proteins. Smith-Howard examines the cultural, political, and social context, discussing the attempts to reform the production and distribution of this once-perilous product in the Progressive Era, the history of butter between the world wars, dairy waste at mid-century, and the postwar landscape of mass production. She asks how milk could be conceptualized as a "natural" product, even as it has been incorporated into Cheez Whiz and wood glue. And she shows how consumer's changing expectations have had repercussions back down the chain, affecting farmers, cows, and rural landscapes.

    A groundbreaking, interdisciplinary history, this book reveals the complexity and challenges of humanity's dependence on other species.

  • Gordian Knot: Apartheid and the Unmaking of the Liberal World Order

    Ryan M. Irwin
    Oxford University Press, 2012

    Writing more than one hundred years ago, African American scholar W.E.B. Du Bois speculated that the great dilemma of the twentieth century would be the problem of "the color line." Nowhere was the dilemma of racial discrimination more entrenched-and more complex-than South Africa.

    Gordian Knot examines South Africa's freedom struggle in the years surrounding African decolonization, using the global apartheid debate to explore the way new nation-states changed the international community during the mid-twentieth century. At the highpoint of decolonization, South Africa's problems shaped a transnational conversation about nationhood. Arguments about racial justice, which crested as Europe relinquished imperial control of Africa and the Caribbean, elided a deeper contest over the meaning of sovereignty, territoriality, and development.

    Based on research in African, American, and European archives, Gordian Knot advances a bold new interpretation about African decolonization's relationship to American power. In so doing, it promises to shed light on U.S. foreign relations with the Third World and recast understandings of the fate of liberal internationalism after World War II.