Our Classes Need More Religion

Good graduate-level survey courses discuss how history should be taught at the undergraduate level. In one such recent conversation, the topic turned to the matter of religion’s role in the first half of the undergraduate American history survey usually covering from around 1500 to either the end of the Civil War or Reconstruction. The instructor posed the question: could one construct an entire survey of this period using religion as a primary focal lens?

Even as a historian of religion, I squirmed. It sounded repellant; what student not already interested in the subject would want to sit through fifteen weeks of overtly religious history? Who would want to force a room full of uninterested students to talk about religion for three months? Only a scholar hopelessly obsessed with their own research would foist such a burden on a 100-level class.

Yet my initial revulsion abated as I thought more on the idea. I allowed myself to consider how the lens of religion might impact a student…

A Handful of Candy Corn and an Encounter with Fairies

Fall not only brings forth crisper air and changing leaves, it also brings one of the most controversial holidays: Halloween. Many love it and many hate it, but most think of spiced apple cider, overly sweet candy corn, haunted houses, dressing up in ornate, albeit sometimes scary, costumes, parties, and all-around shenanigans when Halloween approaches in the 21st century. What most do not know is that this night mixing fun and fear actually began as a sacred, religious event, lasting from sundown on October 31st and throughout the day on November 1st.[1] The celebrations on October 31st, or what we traditionally call Halloween today, originated as the ancient Celtic fire festival celebrating the end of harvest, the beginning of the dark half of the year, the time to honor the dead, a time to thank the gods, and a time of great feasting: Samhain.[2] While there are many stories of trickery, tom-foolery, and yes even terror surrounding Samhain, at its heart it was a sacred festival ho…

The Daily Evergay, Part I

Despite the expansion of lesbian and gay history during the past decades there are many places where the history of lesbian and gay people remains unwritten. Following nights of rioting on Christopher Street in New York City in June of 1969, gays and lesbians across the United States spoke more openly, and organized more actively, than had their counterparts in the 1950s. The Stonewall Riots, as those nights were later remembered, did not reach all corners of the United States, but they did extend to Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. By exploring sources from the long-running, daily student-newspaper The Evergreen this post and its counter-part will shed light on the history of lesbian and gay student activism at WSU. Part I examines the formation of the student organization Gay Awareness and its uneven work in uniting minority groups on campus. Part II will follow the response to the organization as seen in the The Evergreen.

As I discuss below, the early 1970s, and…

Comanches All Around

This edition of History Spaghetti comes from Ryan Booth, a Ph.D. student in history. Here, Ryan reviews two recent works that demonstrate the significant impact of Native Americans in the history of the American Southwest. The first, Pekka Hämäläinen’s The Comanche Empire (2008), challenges us to re-consider our conceptions of Indian political, economic, and military power in the Southwest by seeing the Comanches as an imperial power. Just like the Spanish and American empires in the Southwest, between 1700 and 1850 the Comanche empire “imposed their will upon neighboring polities, harnessed the economic potential of other societies for their own use, and persuaded their rivals to adopt and accept their customs and norms” (pg.4). Hämäläinen, Rhodes Professor of American History at Oxford University, avoids the “cameo-appearance” narrative of American history, where Indians only show up for a moment before disappearing, by centering Indians in our understanding of the eighteenth- and n…

Half-Baked Alaskan History

by Karl Krotke-Crandall

Alaska’s history is a quagmire. Working alongside burgeoning historians of the Pacific Northwest, I am often left pondering why Alaskan history exists in the historical journals of the region. Americanists routinely submit their works to publications such as Pacific Northwest Quarterly on topics which merely scratch the surface of the history of our northernmost state. 2017 marks the sesquicentennial of the sale of Alaska to the United States from Imperial Russia in 1867. Such a significant milestone presents an opportunity to visit the question of who is writing the history of the forty-ninth state.

As historians, we divide our interests between nations, both past and present, to offer works that neatly fit into well-defined fields. The profession also gives us defined time frames in which to place our studies- as modernists, early modernist, or perhaps as ancient historians. This concept allows students to specialize themselves into a field in which they may…

Images of the Holocaust

Melanie Reimann

After the end of World War I, there was a rise of nationalist sentiments in Germany. Furthered by the idea that the Treaty of Versailles was cruel and unfair toward the German people and nation, nationalism grew in Germany. Hitler and the German national-socialist party (Nazi Party) took advantage of the rise in nationalism throughout the years of the Weimar Republic. During those years, anti-Semitism also rose in Germany. Jews were blamed by many Germans for the defeat of German forces toward the end of World War I, and many Germans believed that the government of the Weimar Republic consisted mainly of Jews.

Hitler and his national-socialist party came to power in 1933 after winning increasingly large portions of the vote in previous elections. Hitler became the German Chancellor and was able to proclaim his party the only legal party in Germany, thus reducing the possibility of opposition. Already early on, Hitler used this new-won power to institute racism and ant…