Department News



Book tells of 'extraordinary woman' from 1800s  

Professor Susan Ouellette of the College's history faculty has written a book, due for release in June 2017. The title is “An Extraordinary Ordinary Woman: The Journal of Phebe Orvis, 1820-1830.”  Here are some descriptors from the website of publisher SUNY Press: “A rare nineteenth-century journal of an everyday woman richly infused with the minutiae of antebellum daily life and work … In 1820, Phebe Orvis began a journal that she faithfully kept for a decade. Richly detailed, her diary captures not only the everyday life of an ordinary woman in early nineteenth-century Vermont and New York, but also the unusual happenings of her family, neighborhood, and beyond. The journal entries trace Orvis’s transition from single life to marriage and motherhood, including her time at the Middlebury Female Seminary and her observations about the changing social and economic environment of the period. A Quaker, Orvis also recorded the details of the waxing passion of the Second Great Awakening in the people around her, as well as the conflict the fervor caused within her own family.…. Unraveling intricate threads from a young woman’s nineteenth-century diary, Ouellette deftly weaves them into a picture of life in northern Vermont and New York during the Early Republic.”



Edward Pfeifer (1920-2016):  Reminiscences of a Colleague

George Dameron, Professor of History (January 30, 2016)

            It is with sadness that I acknowledge the passing of Edward Pfeifer, Emeritus Professor of History (and American Studies).  I express my deepest condolences to his family, especially to Joan and to their sons and daughters.  Unfortunately, because I am currently living abroad for a few weeks doing research in Italy, I will be unable to attend his funeral and to express to the family my and Deborah's deepest sympathy.

            Ed's was a life well lived.  I know that this is a cliché about Ed, but it was certainly true for me:  when I first met him, I thought that I had just passed Abraham Lincoln in the hallway of Sullivan Hall.  As I got to know him in my first few years as an assistant professor at Saint Michael's College, I realized that his demeanor and personality resembled that of Lincoln as well, as I had imagined it.  He certainly embodied integrity, humility (especially), thoughtfulness, and devotion to the college and above all, to his family and his faith.  Some of my earliest contacts with Ed were the daily klatches with tar-infused, caffeine-packed coffee in Norb Kuntz's office in Sullivan Hall with George Olgyay and Frank Nicosia, among others.  No one was more welcoming of this new Humanities professor on those occasions than Ed and Norb and Frank.  After his retirement in 1986 and his move to Marshfield in 1991, I always enjoyed the periodic (but all too infrequent) visits with Ed and Joan in that very beautiful part of Vermont.  In the early 1990s the Department of History honored Ed by naming the senior thesis award for him.

            With Ed's passing, Saint Michael's College has lost a significant link with its history before the middle of the last century.  As a faculty member and a dean, he seemed always to exemplify the highest academic standards, and the significant advances made by the college in terms of its academic reputation before his retirement in 1986 are due in a major way to his efforts and commitment to the institution.  American Studies began with Ed.  Born just five years before my own father, the two of them represent some of the last members of that World War II generation who confronted both the Depression and Fascism.  They helped give those of us born in the 1950s a better world than the one into which they were born in the 1920s.  I know that I can speak for the entire History Department—for those who knew him and those who do not—that we both mourn his passing, but we also honor a life well lived.

George Dameron (Professor of History)

Florence, Italy

January 30, 2016

George Dameron, Professor of History, has published an essay on recent research regarding the cause of the fourteenth century plague:  “Identificazione di un killer: recenti scoperte scientifiche e storiche sulla natura della Pesta Nera,” trans. Elsa Filosa.  In Boccaccio 1313-2013, eds. Francesco Ciabattoni, Kristina Olson, and Elsa Filosa, 57-70 (Ravenna:  Longo Editore, 2015).  At the American Historical Association meeting in Atlanta on January 7, 2016, he served as chair and commentator on the panel, ""Bringing the State Back In:  New Perspectives to Italian Renaissance Governance."

Jennifer Purcell, Associate Professor of History, presented the paper, "Grandma's lost her teeth!  Origins of the British sitcom on BBC radio, 1925-1939," at the Northeastern Conference on British Studies in Ottawa, which met on October 16 and 17.

George Dameron was honored along with other past presidents of the New England Historical Association on the 50th anniversary celebration of the founding of NEHA at the fall meeting of the organization at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, Connecticut on October 23 and 24.  Dr. Dameron was Vice President of NEHA in 2005-2006 and President in 2006-2007.

Jennifer Purcell has published "'Behind the blessed shelter of the microphone': managing celebrity and career on the early BBC--Mabel Constanduros, 1925-1957," Women's History Review 24 (3) June 2015. DOI:10.1080/09612025.2014.964068. The article first appeared online on November 11, 2014. 

The Department of History is delighted to welcome Dr. Rowena He, Assistant Professor of History, as a new member of its faculty. She will be teaching courses on the history of East Asia, with a focus on contemporary and modern China. Among her many publications is Tiananmen Exiles:  Voices of the Struggle for Democracy in China (New York:  Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), named one of the Top Five China Books of 2014 by the Asia Society's China File.  Recently, this fall Dr. He has been invited to lecture on several campuses, including Brandeis, NYU Law School, and Yale University.

An essay by George Dameron, "Church and Orthodoxy," has just been published in Dante in Context, edited by Lino Pertile and Zygmunt Baranski (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2015). 

The 2014-2015 Norbert A. Kuntz Memorial lecturer was Dr. Charles F. Briggs, Lecturer, Department of History, The University of Vermont.  The title of his talk was "Thinking Globally About the Hundred Years War." 

George Dameron has learned that his peer-reviewed article, "Medieval Florence,"  is forthcoming in the online Oxford Bibliographies in Medieval Studies, ed. Paul E. Szarmach (New York:  Oxford University Press).  His essay, "Angels, monsters, and hybridity in the Divine Comedy of Dante: ancient and Greek cultural legacies and Dante's critique of the Church," has appeared in Dante and the Greeks, edited by Jan M. Ziolkowski, Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Humanities Series (Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University Press, 2014), 247-264.  His essay, “Church and Commune in Thirteenth Century Pistoia:  Grain and the Struggle for Political Legitimacy in Medieval Tuscany,” has just been published in The Late Medieval and Renaissance City-State and Beyond: Essays in Honour of M. E. Bratchel, edited by C. I. Hamilton and Anita Virga, in The South African Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, vols. 22/23 (2012-2013), 23-38.  Another of his essays, "The Church as Lord," recently appeared in The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Christianity, edited by John H. Arnold (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

Kathryn R. Dungy, Associate Professor of History, has published The Conceptualization of Race in Colonial Puerto Rico, 1800-1850 (New York:  Peter Lang, 2015).  The book is volume 47 of the series, Black Studies and Critical Thinking.