MIT Reports to the President 1999–2000


The mission of the History Faculty is to promote advanced research and undergraduate teaching in a broad range of fields, including American, Ancient, East Asian, European, Latin American, Middle Eastern, and Russian history. The Faculty includes joint appointments in Urban Studies and in Science, Technology, and Society, and it participates in the joint Ph.D. program in the History and Social Study of Science and Technology.

Professor John Dower’s Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II continued to garner enthusiastic praise from popular and scholarly reviewers. In addition it received a number of prestigious literary awards, including the National Book Award for Non-fiction, the Pulitzer Prize in General Non-fiction, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in History, and the Bancroft Prize for "distinguished works in American history and diplomacy." Professor Pauline Maier’s "The Origins and Influence of Early American Local Self-Government: Democracy in America Reconsidered," was published in an edited volume on Dilemmas of Scale in America’s Federal Democracy. Associate Professor Anne McCants’ paper on "The Not-So-Merry Widows of Amsterdam, 1740—1782" appeared in the Journal of Family History. Assistant Professor Meg Jacobs’ paper "‘Democracy’s Third Estate:’ New Deal Politics and the Construction of a ‘Consuming Public’" was published in International Labor and Working Class History. Professor Bruce Mazlish published "Invisible Ties: From Patronage to Networks" in Theory, Culture and Society. Professor Harriet Ritvo’s essay, "Science as Literature, Science as Text," appeared in the Journal of Victorian Culture.

Professor Mazlish gave the keynote address at the Conference on Paradigms in World History: Global Studies and World History. Professor Peter Perdue spoke on "Frontier Administration in Eighteenth-Century China: Empire and Nation in Comparative Perspective" at the Sabanci University Center for Political Economy in Istanbul. Associate Professor Jeffrey Ravel presented a paper on "Gender, Enlightenment, and Revolution in Two Eighteenth-Century Biographies" at the Society for French Historical Studies, and continued work on two electronic databases of French theater in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Professor Ritvo spoke on "Environmental Reporting in Victorian Periodicals" at the University of Leeds. Professor Jacobs gave a paper on "Consumerism and Economic Policymaking in the Twentieth-Century U.S." at Churchill College, Cambridge. Professor Maier served as lecturer and consultant for the PBS series "A Biography of America." Professor McCants presented a paper on "The Transmission of Assets and Family Networks" at the European Social Science History Conference, and Associate Professor Heather Cox Richardson presented a paper on "The 1871—1873 Tax Crisis and the Denigration of African-American Labor" at the conference of the Southern Historical Association. Professor Philip S. Khoury, Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences delivered the commencement address "Leadership in the New Technological Age" at the American University of Beirut.

Assistant Professor Lora Wildenthal was promoted to untenured Associate Professor on the basis of high evaluations for her manuscript German Women for Empire (forthcoming from Duke University Press) and of her strong contributions to the curriculum in modern European history. Joshua Sosin was appointed Assistant Professor in the field of ancient history. He received his doctorate in Classical Studies from Duke University for a dissertation on "Perpetual Endowments in the Hellenistic World: A Case-Study in Economic Rationalism." Professor Jacobs spent 1999—2000 as the Newcomen Postdoctoral Fellow in Business History at the Harvard Business School.

Professors Maier, Mazlish, Perdue, and Ritvo, along with Associate Professors Richardson and Elizabeth Wood participated in the joint Ph.D. program in the History and Social Study of Science and Technology by teaching graduate seminars, setting general examinations, and supervising dissertations. Professors Dower, Ritvo, and Khoury advised Harvard graduate students in Japanese, British, and Middle Eastern history respectively. Professor Ravel served on the Curriculum Committee of the new graduate program in Comparative Media Studies.

History enrollments totaled 292 in the fall semester and 455 in the spring. Daniel Collarini completed a thesis on "The Effect of the MIT Non-violent Student Protest Movement on MIT Educational and Research Policies, 1967—1970" and Jaie Pizzetti completed one on "Heart of the Commonwealth: The Men of the Fifteenth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and the Civil War, 1861—1864." Professor Richardson advised both theses. Nine seniors graduated with minors in History. Three new subjects were offered: 21H.117, Race, Robbers, Rodeos: America from 1865—1900 (Richardson); 21H.916, The History of Human Rights (Wildenthal); and 21H.920, Contemporary Global History (Mazlish).

Three faculty members led freshman advisor seminars: Professor Khoury on "Conflict and Peace in the Contemporary Middle East," Professor McCants on "A Brief History of Cosmology," and Professor Ritvo (in collaboration with MIT Museum Director Jane Pickering) on "How to Build Your Own Museum." Professors McCants, Ravel, Ritvo, and Richardson supervised UROP projects.

Professor Maier served as the Chair of the Edgerton Faculty Achievement Award Selection Committee and as a member of the Faculty Policy Committee. Professor Richardson was a member of the HASS Overview Committee. Professors Wood, McCants, and Wildenthal participated in the Women’s Studies Program. Professor Wildenthal directed the Truman Scholarship Committee. Professor McCants served as president of MIT’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter. Two historians were housemasters: Professor McCants of Green Hall, and Associate Professor William Watson of Baker House.

The Sahin Lecture Series for 1999—2000 included the following presentations: Laurel Ulrich on "’The First, Second, and Last Scenes of Mortality’: Decoding an Eighteenth-Century Embroidery" and Janet Browne on "Scientific Celebrity: Charles Darwin in Caricature." Professor Mazlish again jointly organized the monthly meetings of the History and Literature Workshop, and Dean Khoury directed the Bustani Seminar on Middle Eastern Studies.

More information about the History Faculty can be found on the World Wide Web at

Harriet Ritvo

MIT Reports to the President 1999–2000