Top Young Historians: 4 – Gil Troy

Top Young Historians

Gil Troy, 44

After reconsideration this historian & profile have been removed from the Top Young Historian list.

History Buzz: November 28, 2005

November 28, 2005

INCARCERATED:
SPOTTED:
AWARDED:
REVIEWED:
INTERVIEWED:
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin with NPR
SELLING BIG (NYT):
APPOINTED:
LAUNCH:
MAIN SELECTION:
  • Thomas Fleming’s Washington’s Secret War, The Hidden History of Valley Forge: the Book of the Month Club and the History Book Club.
DEPARTED:

Top Young Historians: 3 – Lillian Guerra

Lillian Guerra, 34

Top Young Historians: Index

Basic Facts

Teaching Position: Assistant Professor, Yale University
Areas of Research: Latin American & Caribbean History, History of Cuba and Puerto Rico
Education: Ph.D. 2000, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Latin American Studies
Major Publications: Popular Expression and National Identity in Puerto Rico (University of Florida Press, 1998) and The Myth of José Martí : Conflicting Nationalisms in Early Twentieth Century Cuba (University of North Carolina Press, 2005). Lillian  Guerra JPG Guerra has also published two books of Spanish-language poetry on themes of displacement and Latino identity: Revelaciones exóticas (UNEAC, the Union of Artists and Writers of Cuba, 2004); Cuentos y Fragmentos de Aquí y Allá : Poemas with Claudia Aburto Guzmán, (Quito, Ecuador: Editorial El Conejo, 2002).
Awards: Best Dissertation Prize, New England Council of Latin American Studies (NECLAS), 2000-2001. Woodrow Wilson Fdn.-Andrew W. Mellon Career Enhancement Fellowship (2004-05) rescinded
Additional Info: Guerra was the curator of Manuel López Oliva: Cuba and the Theatre of Desire at Bates College Museum of Art (August 22 to October 5, 2003), and co-coordinator and curator, Ars Poética, with Arelys Hernández Plasencia, Galeriá Ruben Martínez Villena, Plaza de Armas, Havana, Cuba (May 25-June 18, 2004).

Personal Anecdote

The most challenging part of graduate study was the process of writing the dissertation and for me, it was definitely, monastic. (Living in Wisconsin where the winters don’t require one to find excuses to stay home and work certainly helped! ) I recall feeling as if no-one in the world had any idea of what I had discovered in Cuban archives and feeling that the ghosts of Cuba’s past were my only intellectual company. In fact, I would go as far as to say that I became something of a believer in the intervention of spirits while researching my dissertation in Cuba as well as writing it: some of the historical figures whose concerns seemed far from the ones that I was actually researching just simply would not go away or leave me alone! They kept emerging in the documents, appearing in sources that I picked up, always by “coincidence” and in the end, I surrendered to doing work on topics that would otherwise have remained at the margins of my study-topics like cigar makers’ strikes, state terror tactics during an early republican regime or the life of a black civil rights activist (named Evaristo Estenoz) about whom specialists believed we already knew “everything.” In the end, I realized that what all these historical figures who kept pursuing me had in common was the experience of having been unjustly killed or morally discredited in popular memory and published accounts. I came to develop a personal relationship with the men and women whose hopes, dreams and failings filled the pages that no-one else cared to read and they became three-dimensional people every time I sat down to write. I came to believe that writing history is about recreating a universe of experience and emotion that is otherwise lost to us. That’s where my passion for history comes from-from the conviction that it matters, both to those who lived it and are long dead, as well as to those who take up their legacies.

I spent four years teaching Latin American and Caribbean history at what many people might consider “a historically white college” in Maine, Bates College. While I loved teaching Bates students for their high degree of enthusiasm and motivation, I found myself facing all-“white” classes most of the time and having to confront the myth of Latin American “exoticism” on a daily basis. I often felt that I was retracing steps in the development of my own political consciousness much too often, being drained of intellectual energies that in a different, more diverse setting, would have gone toward greater creativity, inside the classroom and out. At Yale, all of my undergraduate courses are packed with Latino, Latin American and Caribbean students and the difference is palpable: regardless of whether or not they are history majors or even humanities students, they contribute a passion for knowledge to the “community culture” of the class that is born of the need for self-discovery, self-knowledge and explanations to the myriad questions that they have confronted all of their lives. They refuse to take any moment for granted since most of them, even those from the Caribbean itself, have had few, if any, opportunities to learn about their own history as migrants or their society’s history—even in their home countries. There is a great excitement to the atmosphere in the classroom at times, and all of the students benefit from it. I have never felt that those students with little or no connection to Latin America experienced alienation; on the contrary, they identify with the history all the more because they see, literally, how relevant it is to their classmates. If there is something that I love about being here, it is feeling that my work is “needed” by many students in this personal way. It is the greatest reward.

With regard to writing my second book, here’s all I have to say about its publication: “YAHOOO!!!” Yes, I was brought up in a small farming town in Kansas by Cubans from the countryside, so I am not ashamed about expressing such raw relief and enthusiasm. While writing the dissertation was exciting, re-writing it several times was, well, less exciting, to say the least. I am pleased, in many ways, because as a Cuban, I know the work seeks to deal with some of our greatest myths—about unity, utopia and our many failed struggles to achieve them. I hope that it serves to explain what these things mean and why, as a people and a culture, they have been a part of our identity for so long. José Martí, the nationalist intellectual whose process of mythification forms the core of the book, has been a central part of my life for almost a decade now, so it is good to finally put him to rest! I am also free now to work on what is proving to be the greatest challenge, the Cuban Revolution of 1959, and I am loving it.

Quotes

By Lillian Guerra

  • “As a historian, I knew that I would never find a single answer. As a Cuban (at least by desire, if not by birth), I felt I knew the origin of the question, Would the Republic and Cuba’s twentieth-century history have been different if Martí had lived? To me, the question derived from a profound sense, highly promoted in the works of Martí, that Cubans should always be united. Yet, today as yesterday, it seemed to me that we never were. Cubans in the 1895 War had not fought Spain just as Cubans in the Republic had not fought each other for the same, unified vision of nation. Rather, they had fought, sometimes in alliance across race and class, sometimes divided by race and class, for multiple visions of nation. The coexistence of conflicting, multiple images of Martí in the Republic typified the emergence and struggle among Cubans for multiple images of nation.” — Lillian Guerra in The Myth of José Martí
  • About Lillian Guerra

  • “Based on an impressive array of archival and printed sources, this superb study uncovers with subtlety and deep understanding how José Martí’s image and discourse of social unity came to embody conflicting visions of the Cuban nation shortly after his death in 1895-visions that still divide Cubans today.” — Aline Helg, author of Our Rightful Share: The Afro-Cuban Struggle for Equality, 1886-1912
  • “One of the best professors I’ve ever had. An incredible mind, a wonderful teaching style, and a deep commitment to her field. I had her at Bates but she’s since moved on to Yale. I was so sad to hear it, though she always seemed destined for bigger things.” — Anonymous former student
  • // Posted on Saturday, November 19, 2005 at 11:46 PM | Comments (1) |

    Top Young Historians: 2 – Daniel Lord Smail

    Daniel Lord Smail, 44

    Top Young Historians: Index

    Basic Facts

    Teaching Position: Professor of History, Harvard University (as of January 2006), Professor of History at Fordham University (until December 2005), he has also served as co-director of Fordham’s Center for Medieval Studies and director of graduate studies for the Department of History.
    Area of Research: Medieval History
    Education: Ph.D. 1994, University of Michigan
    Major Publications: Imaginary Cartographies: Possession and Identity in Late Medieval Marseille (Cornell University Press, 1999); The Consumption of Justice: Emotions, Publicity and Legal Culture in Marseille, 1264-1423 (Cornell University Press, 2003); co-editor of Fama: The Politics of Talk and Reputation in Medieval Europe (Cornell University Press, 2003). Daniel Smail  JPG Smail is currently writing Outlines for a Deep History of Humankind which will seek to anchor global history in natural history, and a monograph expanding on how medieval courts’ citation of “public rumor and repute” helped establish social norms for personal and group behavior.
    Awards: Smail’s The Consumption of Justice: Emotions, Publicity and Legal Culture in Marseille, 1264-1423, was the recent co-winner of the Hurst Prize of the Law and Society Association. Imaginary Cartographies was awarded the Social Science History Association’s President’s Book Award in 1999 and the American History Association’s Herbert Baxter Adams Prize in 2001.

    Personal Anecdote

    When graduate students don’t get jobs they invariably assume it’s their fault. Dissertation not sufficiently innovative; the teaching just above average; maybe “horrors” I’m just not smart enough. Their advisers can tell them the job market is just a crap-shoot, but it’s not easy to believe this, and all too tempting just to blame oneself. So when I try to persuade disappointed graduate students that it really is a crap-shoot I often tell the story of how I just barely survived the job search myself. Having done my dissertation research in 1990-91, I was reasonably far along in 1992-93, so I decided to test the market, as it were, with five or ten applications. These translated into one AHA interview, in the Pit, during which I am sure I convinced the committee I was the last person it would ever want to hire. Disappointed but not discouraged, I worked hard on other projects to avoid finishing my dissertation so that I could remain a student for a little longer. The following year (1993-94) was better; the dozens of letters I sent out turned into eight AHA interviews-and I could tell I was moving up in the world because most of them were in interview suites. But these eight interviews turned into exactly zero campus invitations. Was it me? Did they have other priorities? My advisers tried to persuade me to believe the latter, and I did my best to keep the faith.

    I finished my dissertation in the summer of 1994, found an adjunct position, and soldiered ahead, applying for practically anything that moved: medieval, European, theoretical, you name it. Dozens more letters went out. By December, I was facing some rather grim news: the eight interviews in 1994 shrank to five in 1995, even though I actually had a dissertation in hand this time around. I was adjuncting at a school that had a position in my field, and doing a pretty good job, but even they didn’t want to interview me. Sighting down the slope, I could see myself with just a couple of interviews the following year… and then the dreaded nothing. Well, I thought, if nothing works out in 1995 then I’ll have one last shot before moving on. My wife had a decent job and I was sure I could find something interesting outside of academia.

    Four of the five interviews at the 1995 AHA in Chicago led nowhere. The fifth, almost to my surprise, garnered a campus interview. I worked feverishly on syllabuses. I drafted and redrafted a job talk. I wondered what I’d wear. The interview was actually rather enjoyable, but I wasn’t all that surprised when days passed without the phone ringing. Somehow, I learned that I was their second candidate. Weeks went by. Of course, everything turned out fine in the end, because the top candidate (who has gone on to have a marvelous career, incidentally) had three job offers-something I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams, and the university was content to make do with second best. Lots of things had conspired against me, not the least of which was a rather muddled dissertation (though I defend myself by saying that the sources were unusual and awfully difficult to use) on a subject that, at the time, was many removes away from the hot topics of the day. But without this rather lucky chance I am fairly certain I would have ended up doing something outside of academia, like many others with similar capabilities but less luck.

    The moral of the tale, I think, is that search committees can never hope to get it exactly right, and no one should expect them to. Departments have their own priorities, and are as subject to the winds of fashion as any consumer. Serendipidity and blind luck play a large role. And scholars do mature after graduate school in ways that no search committee could ever be expected to divine. None of this will ease the pain of not getting through the clumsy, misshapen portal through which every academic has to pass, but knowing that it is a crap-shoot may help someone get on with life if he or she doesn’t have the sort of luck that I had.

    Quotes

    About Daniel Lord Smail

  • “The Consumption of Justice breaks new ground. At once a meticulously researched institutional history and a close reading of voluminous court records, Daniel Lord Smail’s book offers to rewrite the late medieval history of law, urban culture, and the symbiotic relationship between the two. In Smail’s deft hands, law is rendered the potent tool of its consumers, and legal records become our window onto contemporaries’ understanding of themselves and their community.” — Martha C. Howell, Columbia University, author of The Marriage Exchange
  • Harvard, you are lucky! Very funny and intelligent, and he actually makes you learn something. He’s fair, and a great professor. Also is great to talk to about any topic. — Anonymous former student
  • Posted on Saturday, November 12, 2005 at 11:34 PM |

    Top Young Historians: 1 – Timothy Snyder

    Timothy Snyder, 36

    Top Young Historians: Index

    Basic Facts

    Teaching Position: Professor of History, Yale University (Fall 2006)
    Area of Research: East European history
    Education: Ph.D., University of Oxford, 1997
    Major Publications: Sketches from a Secret War: A Polish Artist’s Mission to Liberate Soviet Ukraine (Yale University Press, 2005); The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999 (Yale University Press, 2003); and Nationalism, Marxism, and Modern Central Europe: A Biography of Kazimierz Kelles-Krauz (Harvard University Press, 1998); Co-editor of Wall Around the West: State Power and Immigration Controls in Europe and North America (Rowman and Littlefield, 2001). Timothy  Snyder JPG Snyder has one book currently in progress; Brotherlands: A Family History of the Slavic, German, and Jewish Nations.
    Awards: Nationalism, Marxism, and Modern Central Europe was awarded the Oskar Halecki Prize for Outstanding Work of Polish or East European History from the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences. The Reconstruction of Nations won the American Historical Association’s 2003 George Louis Beer Prize. Postdoctoral fellowships include; The American Council of Learned Societies, Harvard University; IREX fellow at the Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw; and The Olin Institute for Strategic Studies, Harvard University.

    Personal Anecdote

    “The Stolen Dissertation” (C) Timothy Snyder, 2005

    Someone (I know who) stole all of my dissertation research in New Haven, Connecticut, in May 1993.

    I had been living for months in Poland, visiting libraries and archives, accumulating files on a Macintosh laptop that I carried with me everyhere in a black leather backpack. My digs in Warsaw were in a skanky dormitory which boasted more standing than running water, and had rusty locks on the doors. Every night I slept with my backpack by my head, lest someone should break in to steal the computer.

    My brother Phil was graduating from Yale that spring, so I flew back for the ceremony, bringing with me all the possessions that mattered: the computer, my backup disks, and a Banana Republic weekend jacket, all in the black backpack. As I was helping to move Phil’s things to the family van, I noticed that my backpack had disappeared from his room. Feeling safe with family in my own country, I had let down my guard! Phil and I ran off in the two most likely directions, on the New Haven streets that he knew pretty well, looking for someone carrying a black backpack. My youngest brother Mike called the police.

    When the police came, they asked my mother whether she wanted to prosecute the thief or recover the backpack. She chose the latter. The police officer then drove my mother to a pawn shop. Though scarcely twenty minutes had passed since the theft, my computer was there on a shelf. “Oh,” said my mother to the proprietor, “how much do you want for that computer?” He said he had paid $50 for it. Then she asked, “You wouldn’t happen to have a backpack, would you?” The proprietor produced mine from under the counter, saying that someone who owed him $20 had given it to him as payment. Then my mother looked him up and down. “Nice coat,” said she. He said she could have it for another $20. My mother redeemed my scholarly future (and my Banana Republic weekend jacket) for ninety bucks in a pawn shop.

    When I came back from running around New Haven, breathless and upset, I found my mother and the police officer standing outside Phil’s room, the officer holding the computer. “Can you identify this?” he asked. I told him that the hard disk drive was named “nosic,” a Polish verb for carry. This seemed to suffice. By then my family and I were ready to leave, really ready to leave. We piled into my parents’ big Chevrolet van. When the side door had slammed shut, my father began to wonder aloud about the arrangement between the police and the pawn shops. We had something to think about.

    What does this teach us about young historians — besides that they should back up their data in separate places and never keep all of the copies in one backpack that might be stolen and sold for quick money to buy crack? As I was running around New Haven that day, there were two sounds in my head. One was that of my feet pounding the pavement. The other was that of an inner voice, already reconciling me with reality. It said: “that research took three years to do; but I bet I could redo it in two years.” If I had lost the research for good, I probably would have started again — but then the dissertation would have been different, based on another review of the sources, written by an older and altered person. Many other changes in life would no doubt have followed that one.

    Much hung on that absurd moment. Yet how easy it is to make a coherent narrative of my academic career without it! Brown, Oxford, eastern Europe, Yale, scholarships, books, awards — what need for the detail of a transaction in a New Haven pawn shop to tell the story? That tawdry event makes the official story possible, then the official story returns the favor by excluding the tawdry event.

    The recovery of my research was one those turning points, free of intentions and grandeur, easily forgotten later, invisible to everyone but those closest to the events, and visible then only if those present are ready to be surprised. (My mother, the heroine of this story, actually filmed the thief on a video camera, but did not realize this at the time, since in her mind she was filming Phil’s graduation day.) It is a great pleasure and necessity, I think, that in our work we get close enough to the sources to see such things, that we learn to catch and release these little contingencies. They are out of the reach of our teachers, our theories, and our hypotheses — but they are there, in our sources, and in our work, when the work is done well, when the story is told right.

    Quotes

    Quotes by Timothy Snyder

  • Sketches from a Secret War JPG “The Polish painter composed himself in his cell. It was September 1953, and thus far Henryk Józewski was pleased with his performance in communist prison. After thirteen years underground, resisting Hitler’s and Stalin’s occupations of his country, Józewski had been arrested by the security forces of communist Poland that March. — Timothy Snyder in “Sketches from a Secret War: A Polish Artist’s Mission to Liberate Soviet Ukraine”
  • Quotes About Timothy Snyder

  • “Strikingly new, original, and readable. This book will no doubt force everyone in the field to rethink Ukrainian, Polish, and Soviet history during the interwar period.” — Hiroaki Kuromiya, Indiana University reviewing “Sketches from a Secret War: A Polish Artist’s Mission to Liberate Soviet Ukraine”
  • “Another thrilling and erudite book on the intricate history of East European borderlands by Timothy Snyder, a master of the genre.” — Jan Gross, Princeton University reviewing “Sketches from a Secret War: A Polish Artist’s Mission to Liberate Soviet Ukraine”
  • “Timothy Snyder draws on his immense knowledge of Europe’s borderlands to describe in fascinating detail the shifting alliances and antagonisms—nationalist, ethnic, religious, cultural, ideological—among their 20th century peoples, as reflected in the extraordinary career of Henryk Jozewski, Polish artist, spy, military and political leader in promotingcooperation between Poles and Ukrainians.” — Samuel P. Huntington, Harvard University reviewing “Sketches from a Secret War: A Polish Artist’s Mission to Liberate Soviet Ukraine”
  • “[A] compelling book. . . . It is hard not to see this eminently 20th-century story as a biography for a new century. . . . Józewkis’s . . . views are described and analyzed by Snyder with a deft and persuasive blend of empathy and historical detachment.” — Mark Mazower, Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History reviewing “Sketches from a Secret War: A Polish Artist’s Mission to Liberate Soviet Ukraine”
  • “In this extraordinary volume, Tim Snyder (an American historian with his own simultaneous passions for border regions and confusing bits of history) has found out a few other stories worth telling as well.” — Anne Applebaum, The Spectator reviewing “Sketches from a Secret War: A Polish Artist’s Mission to Liberate Soviet Ukraine”
  • “A work of profound scholarship and considerable importance.” — Timothy Garton Ash, St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford on The Reconstruction of Nations
  • Timothy Snyder’s style is a welcome reminder that history writing can be—indeed, ought to be—a literary pursuit.” — Charles King, Times Literary Supplement on The Reconstruction of Nations
  • “In my honest opinion, Hist283 had but one weakness: it was too short. The professor is incredible, the material never fails to engage, and the history itself includes so many troubled times that it prompts great discussion sections. I have little to say about the faults of this course, but the strengths would take pages to illustrate. One of the best courses at Yale.”…
    “This class was terrific, maybe the best class I’ve taken at Yale.”…
    “East Central Europe” was a phenomenal class. Prof. Snyder is a dynamic, energetic, and truly inspiring lecturer.”…
    “This is quite simply the best history course I have taken at Yale. It was interesting, well-balanced, and extremely well-taught.”…
    “Professor Snyder is the best lecturer I have heard at Yale. He does not grandstand, nor does he read his lectures. They are delivered simply and clearly, but the intellectual rigor with which he teaches is phenomenal.” — Anonymous Students
  • // <![CDATA[// Posted on Saturday, November 5, 2005 at 5:40 PM | Comments (6) |

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