MIT Reports to the President 1998-99


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

Professor John Dower published Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II, to great acclaim from popular and scholarly reviewers. The book examines the diverse experiences of the Japanese people as they rebuilt their society under American occupation, including the black market and prostitution, the role of the emperor, movements for democratization , war crimes trials, and economic recovery. This intensive study of the turbulent interplay of conqueror and conquered uncovers the sources of the issues that confront Japan today.

Professor Bruce Mazlish published The Uncertain Sciences, a study of the social sciences, with Yale University Press. Associate Professor Anne McCants delivered a lecture on "The Credit Markets of Widows and Wives in Eighteenth-Century Amsterdam" at the Twelfth International Economic History Congress in Madrid. Professor Peter C. Perdue published "The Shape of the World: Asian Continents and the Scraggy Isthmus of Europe", in the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, and "Boundaries, Maps, and Movement: Chinese, Russian, and Mongolian Empires in Early Modern Central Eurasia", in the International History Review. Assistant Professor Jeffrey Ravel published his book The Contested Parterre: Public Theater and French Political Culture, 1680—1791 [Cornell University Press], and worked on a computerized database of information on play performance and publication in eighteenth-century France. Arthur J. Conner Professor Harriet Ritvo delivered the plenary lecture at the Darwin's Millenium conference, entitled "Hybrids, Mongrels, and the Construction of Difference" and gave radio talks on mad cow disease and the history of dog shows. She published "The Roast Beef of Old England" in an edited volume on Mad Cows and Modernity.

Professor Ravel was promoted to untenured Associate Professor on the basis of high evaluations for his manuscript on eighteenth-century French theatre and his important role in teaching early modern European history. The department continues to search for target of opportunity appointments in all fields, but particularly in African and African-American history.

Professors Pauline Maier, Mazlish, Perdue, and Ritvo along with Associate Professors Heather Cox 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, supervising general exams, or conducting tutorials. Professor Dower and Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Science Professor Philip S. Khoury advised advanced graduate students at Harvard in Japanese and Middle Eastern history, respectively. Professor Ravel served on the Curriculum Committee of the M.A. program in Comparative Media Studies.

Professors McCants and Ritvo, responding to the Institute's need for greater concentration on writing, developed a new subject, "Writing the History of Modern Europe" [21H.315] to introduce students to the techniques of historical writing and research. Assistant Professor Lora Wildenthal began teaching "The World Since 1492" [21H.912], a HASS-D subject that ranges widely over the history of the globe in the early modern era.

Enrollments in history courses were 331 in Fall, 1998. They soared to a new peak of 495 in Spring, 1999. The most popular subjects included: 21H.131 U.S in the Nuclear Age [32], 21H.132 The Vietnam War (42), 21H.153J Race and Gender in Asian America [26], the ever popular 21H.301 Ancient World: Greece (61), and 21H.302 Ancient World: Rome (65), and 21H.416J Medieval Economic History in Comparative Perspective [33].

Tara Andrews completed a senior thesis entitled "Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust in Greece and Bulgaria."

Three faculty members Professor Ravel, Professor Emeritus Arthur Kaledin and Professor Khoury led freshman advisor seminars on "Bad Plays", "14 American Artists", and "Conflict and Peace in the Contemporary Middle East." Professors McCants, Perdue, Ravel, Richardson, Ritvo, Wildenthal, and Wood supervised UROP projects.

Professor Maier delivered the Killian Lecture at MIT, entitled "High Crimes and Misdemeanors: Reflections on the Bonds between Past and Present". She analyzed impeachment proceedings from the early days of the Constitution to the present day and the role of historians who participate in political debates. She gave four other endowed lectures and many other talks on the subject of her newly published book, American Scripture.

Professor Maier served on the Faculty Policy Committee. Professor McCants directed the Truman Scholarship committee, chaired the Phi Beta Kappa Selection committee, served as Housemaster at Green Hall, and put in many hours as a member of the Residence Redesign Steering Committee. She also served on the Board of Trustees of the Technology Children's Center and acted as Faculty Facilitator for the MIT Leadershape program. Professor Ritvo served on the Committee on Animal Care and Use.

Professor Mazlish chaired the Toynbee Prize Award Committee. He also convened an ongoing seminar on global history, which brings together faculty from the Boston area. Dean Khoury was elected President of the Middle Eastern Studies Association, and delivered the Presidential address, "Lessons from the Eastern Shores" at the MESA annual meeting in Chicago. He was also elected a Trustee of the American University of Beirut and the World Peace Foundation.

Professor Ravel organized the Kenan Sahin lecture series, which presented talks in the spring by Professors Ken Pomeranz and R. Bin Wong on Chinese economic and comparative history, and by Professor Roger Chartier on dramatic literature in early modern Europe. Professors Dena Goodman and Margaret Jacob presented talks on "Epistolary Matters: Gender, Writing, and Material Culture in 18th-Century France"; and "Science Studies After Social Reconstruction: The Turn Towards the Comparative and the Global." He also began a working group for members of the History Faculty to discuss each others' work in progress. Professor Mazlish again jointly ran the History and Literature Workshop series, and Dean Khoury directed the Bustani Seminar of Middle Eastern Studies. Professor Ritvo becomes Head of the History Faculty on July 1, 1999.

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

Peter C. Perdue

MIT Reports to the President 1998-99