2021-2022 Seminar Schedule

Spring Semester 2022


“The Scottsboro Trials of the 1930s and the Trial of the Men Accused of Emmett Till’s Murder in the mid-1950s.”

February 4, 2022

Paul Clemens, Professor of History, Rutgers University

Our seminar will deal with two famous court cases that helped alert the nation to how local law reinforced racial injustice before the era of student sit-ins and voting rights struggles in the 1960s. The Scottsboro trials in Alabama during the 1930s Great Depression of nine African American accused of raping two white women was an attempt at a legal lynching. While the Supreme Court would twice step in and provide a new definition of what the 14th Amendment protection of a fair trial meant in America, the lives of the defendants were brutally affected. We will then look at the story of Emmett Till’s murder in 1955, shortly before the Montgomery, Alabama Bus Boycott. The Mississippi murder led to a “not guilty” verdict by an all-white jury In Mississippi of those accused of the murder. The murder and the acquittals inspired a national protest, led by Till’s mother, that was a foundational moment in strengthening the resolve of civil rights workers for racial justice. We will also consider how recent scholarship has deepened our understanding of both trials and the people involved. If you would like to read about the trials before the seminar, see https://famous-trials.com/ (a marvelous teaching resources, if you do not know it already).


“Broken Pots and Broken Bones: Understanding the Ancient World”

February 18, 2022

Adam Di Battista, New York University 

Without written histories, how do scholars understand cultures that existed thousands of years in the past? While many ancient societies lack a formal historical record, most cultures left behind artifacts, texts, and even entire settlements. Using case studies from the Mediterranean and Near East (ca. 3500-500 BCE), we will examine large-scale patterns in the ancient world, such as ancient colonialism and international trade. However, archaeology also offers an intimate view into the private lives of individuals, including the foods they ate, the tools and daily objects they used, and the art they created. This seminar will examine how archaeologists and other scholars of the ancient world interpret the past at both inter-cultural and individual scales.


“Fashion and Design in Europe”

March 4, 2022

Jennifer Jones, Associate Professor, Department of History, Rutgers University

This seminar will focus on a series of “moments” in European history when aesthetic styles of clothing became a flashpoint for cultural change. In order to understand the values at stake in the aesthetic choices European men and women made in different areas, this class will focus on the tension between older style and the adoption of newer styles, and the ways in which fashion reflects historical trends.


"Centering Black Women in American History."

 March 11, 2022

Kali Gross, Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor of History, Rutgers University

This workshop will explore unknown aspects of Black women’s history and identify key themes that structure Black women’s experiences in the United States.



“Bolshevik Russia: Ground Zero of Nazi Germany’s War of Annihilation”

March 25, 2022

Jochen Hellbeck, Distinguished Professor of History, Rutgers University

The seminar will examine the Second World War with a focus on developments at the Eastern Front. The last two decades have seen growing historical interest in Germany’s war against the Soviet Union and the German occupation regime in Eastern Europe. Much of this scholarship still remains disconnected from other strands of WW II historiography, though, most notably the history of the Holocaust. The seminar will attempt to illuminate and synthesize these disparate perspectives. 


“Revisiting the Gilded Age: the Making of Modern America. 1865-1920”

April 8, 2022

Jackson Lears, Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

We will explore how politics and economics intertwined with changes in cultural values to create the foundations of the modern United States.  Major themes will include:  the long shadow of the Civil War, the rising significance of race, the triumph of monopoly capital, and the emergence of empire as a way of life.


“The Netherlands: Progenitor of the Modern Age”

April 29, 2022

Michael Adas, Professor Emeritus, Department of History, Rutgers University

Though often neglected or marginalized in history texts and teaching, the tiny Netherlands (often referred to as Holland, the most prominent of its provinces) was perhaps the greatest single progenitor of globalization in the early modern era. From city planning (think Amsterdam and New York), global exploration, and the slave trade to religious reformation, artistic expression, fundamental changes in waging war, and the international obsession with coffee, the Netherlands was a central and enduring factor. Using slides, a thoroughly entertaining historical novel, and wide-ranging discussion, we will explore the golden age of one of the most transformative cultures all of human history.


Inventing America: Thomas Edison and the History of Technology and Industry

May 16, 2022

Paul Israel, Research Professor, And Director and General Editor, Thomas Edison Papers Project, Rutgers University

The Thomas A. Edison Papers at Rutgers is documenting the career of the famous inventor and of his many technological innovations. These are not only of national and international importance, but they also have special significance for the history of New Jersey, where Edison lived and worked from 1870 until his death in 1931.  Edison helped to invent industrial research at his laboratories in Newark, Menlo Park, and West Orange. And the inventions developed in his laboratories laid the foundation for three major industries—electric light and power, sound recording, and motion pictures—and  contributed to many others, including telecommunications, electric batteries, electric automobiles, mining, cement and office technologies. This seminar will examine Edison's historical significance and introduce participants to ways of incorporating the resources of the Edison Papers and the history of technology and industry into the teaching of history and social science. The seminar will be held at Edison's last laboratory in West Orange, N.J., which is part of the Thomas Edison National Historical Park.