MIT Reports to the President 1997-98


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.


1997 was a banner year for MIT historians. In the Fall of 1997, three members of the History Faculty published major books. Associate Professor Anne McCants' Civic Charity in a Golden Age: Orphan Care in Early Modern Amsterdam [University of Illinois Press] uses extensive quantitative data on nutrition and food prices to discuss the important role of charitable institutions in the new capitalist economy of the Netherlands in the seventeenth century. Arthur J. Conner Professor Harriet Ritvo's The Platypus and the Mermaid and Other Figments of the Classifying Imagination [Harvard University Press] examines popular and scientific taxonomies of animals, monsters, and legendary creatures to reveal how nineteenth-century English people conceived of the natural and social world; Associate Professor Elizabeth Wood's The Baba [grandmother] and the Comrade: Gender and Politics in Revolutionary Russia [Indiana University Press] analyzes the ambivalent role of women during the early years of the Russian Revolution. She has also nearly completed a second manuscript, "Performing Justice: Agitation Trials in Revolutionary Russia", which has been reviewed with great enthusiasm. Together with three books published in early 1997 by William R. Kenan Jr., Professor Pauline Maier, Associate Professor Ted Lendon, and Assistant Professor Heather Cox Richardson, this makes six books published by the History Faculty in one year, five of them by women.

Professor Ritvo also published "Mad Cow Mysteries" in the American Scholar, discussing the contemporary English debate on contaminated beef. Professor Peter C. Perdue presented a paper, "Culture, History, and Chinese Military Strategy", at a conference on Chinese military history at Cambridge University, England. Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Science, Professor Philip S. Khoury, published "The Paradoxical in Arab Nationalism: Interwar Syria Revisited" in James Jankowski and Israel Gershoni, eds., Rethinking Nationalism in the Arab Middle East [Columbia University Press].


Professors McCants and Wood were both promoted to Associate Professor with tenure, effective July 1. Since they have contributed so much to the History Faculty and the Institute by their research, teaching, and service, we welcome their permanent appointments with great enthusiasm. The fields in which they specialize: early modern European and Russian history, will benefit greatly from having a permanent presence in our Faculty. Both Professor McCants and Professor Wood have also been active participants in the development of Women's Studies at MIT. Professor Richardson was promoted to Associate Professor without tenure, effective July 1.

Assistant Professor Jeffrey Ravel began his first year of teaching. The subjects he taught included "Erasmus to E-Mail: Technologies of the Word, 1450-2000", and "The Age of Reason", and he completed his manuscript, "The Contested Parterre", on the political role of the theater in eighteenth-century France.

Jinhua Emma Teng was hired as Assistant Professor of Chinese Literature in the department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, but she will also teach two courses for the History faculty, one on Asian-American history and one on women in Asian America. She completed her dissertation at Harvard on "Travel Writing and Colonial Collecting: Chinese Travel Accounts of Taiwan from the Seventeenth through Nineteenth Centuries".

Professor Maier continues as the Affirmative Action officer. The department continues to search for target of opportunity appointments in all fields, but particularly in African and African-American history.


Professor Bruce Mazlish and Professors Maier, Perdue, Richardson, Ritvo, Wood, and Associate Professor Christian Appy 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 John W. Dower and Dean Khoury advised advanced graduate students at Harvard in Japanese and Middle Eastern history, respectively.

Enrollments in history courses were 370 in Fall, 1997 and 333 in Spring, 1998. One student majored and [9] students minored in history. The most popular subjects included: 21H104J Riots, Strikes, Conspiracies in American History [31], the ever popular 21H301 Ancient World: Greece (61), and 21H302 Ancient World: Rome (63), 21H231J American Urban History [28] 21H433 The Age of Reason (30), 21H467 Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society [25], 21H502 Revolution in China [23], and 21H536 Family, State, Economy in East Asian History [30].

Professor McCants and Dean Khoury led freshman advisor seminars on "History of Cosmology" and "Conflict and Peace in the Contemporary Middle East", respectively. Professors McCants, Perdue, Ritvo, Ravel, Khoury supervised UROP projects.

Lindsay Androski wrote a senior thesis in History on "A Singular Case: Boston and the Growth of Restrictionism in the Early Twentieth Century".


Professor Maier received the Killian Faculty Achievement Award, because of her outstanding achievements in professional scholarship, teaching, and Institute service. The announcement at the spring Faculty meeting was a total surprise to her, but a very gratifying one. Her recent book, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence, won widespread professional and popular acclaim; her teaching about early American history has always drawn superb evaluations from students; and she has directed and served on many important committees at the Institute, especially the committee that designed the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences curriculum.

Monisha Merchant won the Truman Fellowship, a nationally competitive award that provides for support for students interested in careers in public service.


Professor McCants directed the Truman fellowship committee and served on the IAP Policy committee, the CUP subcommittee for Freshman Housing, Phi Beta Kappa Selection committee and as Housemaster at Green Hall. Professor Ritvo chaired the Search committee for Director of the MIT Museum, served on the Committee on Animal Care and Use, and Committee on the Freshman Program. Professor Khoury chaired the Search Committee for Director of the Knight Science Journalism Fellowship Program.

Professor Mazlish chaired the Toynbee Prize Award Ceremony for Albert Hirschman at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He also convened an ongoing seminar on global history which brings together faculty from the Boston area. Professor Bruce's book The Uncertain Sciences, Yale 1998: not out yet. Article I JIH on Global and World History in Winter 98.


Professor McCants directed the Kenan Sahin lecture series, which presented talks on European history this year: Laurie Kahn-Leavitt, a filmmaker from Blueberry Hill Productions, spoke on "The Making of `A Midwife's Tale'"; Sarah Maza, Professor of History at Northwestern University, on "Languages of Class in the French Revolution: The Problem of the Missing Bourgeoisie"; Deirdre McCloskey, Professor of Economics and History at University of Iowa, on "The Vices of Social Engineering"; Paul Slack, Principal at Linacre College, University of Oxford, on "Reactions to Plague in Early Modern Europe: The Dilemmas of Public Health"; and Carl Strikwerda, Associate Professor of History and Chair, European Studies, University of Kansas, on "From 19th to 21st Centuries: The Great War and the Re-Making of Modern History". Professor Mazlish again jointly ran the History and Literature Workshop series, and Dean Khoury directed the Bustani Seminar of Middle Eastern Studies.

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

Peter C. Perdue

MIT Reports to the President 1997-98