History department professors publish four books

Geneseo's history department was proud to announce that four faculty members - associate professors Catherine Adams, Joseph Cope, Kathleen Mapes and professor Helena Waddy - are slated to publish books this year.

Tze-Ki Hon, chair of the department, said that in a discipline with only 13 active professors, the production of publications by four individuals in one year is "a spectacular achievement."

Hon said that the history department will typically produce one to two books per year, noting that producing four speaks to the "intensity of the department's commitment to scholarship." He added that he is excited that the authors span multiple generations; their tenures at the college range from three to 20 years.

Hon said that the breadth and range of topics explored by the new books demonstrates the "vibrancy" of the department. The books delve into topics ranging from pre-colonial America, Nazi Germany, 17th century Ireland and 20th century rural America.

Each of the authors said that their respective books attempt to fill a gap in currently available academic scholarship.

Mapes's book Sweet Tyranny: Migrant Labor, Industrial Labor and Imperial Politics analyzes the relationships between farmers, migrant workers and the Midwestern sugar beet industry of the early 20th century. The book also examines how lobbying efforts of the sugar beet industry influenced American immigration policy, foreign relations and trade policy. Most existing scholarship tends "to treat labor and rural and industrial history as three separate subjects," Mapes said, adding that her book works to show how these issues are intertwined.

Waddy said that her book, Oberammergau in the Nazi Era: The Fate of a Catholic Village in Hitler's Germany, presents a "uniquely detailed" study into the activities of Oberammergau, a German village famous for the Passion play it has hosted every 10 years since 1634. Waddy said it investigates "the complex relationship" between the Catholic village and Nazism, as well as between the village's Passion play and the 20th century climate of Western anti-Semitism.

Adams, the co-author of Love of Freedom: Black Women in Colonial and Revolutionary New England, said most scholarship in her field looks at the experience of blacks in the South during the Antebellum period. Her work is the first in-depth examination into Northern black women's experiences from 1638 through the 1780s. She said she hopes that her book will "bring the formerly faceless women" of this era into "the next generation of African-American history textbooks."

Cope's book, England and the 1641 Irish Rebellion, studies the experiences of survivors from the 1641 sectarian conflict between Protestants and Catholics in Ireland. Cope said that most current scholarship focuses on either Ireland or England exclusively and that his work responds by exploring "the interconnected roles" of both countries in the struggle.

Geneseo professors must play a delicate balancing act - devoting their time and energy to academic research while also teaching a full course load. Waddy said that the research and construction of her book required two semester-long sabbaticals and one full-year sabbatical.

According to Hon, devoting time to research and teaching simultaneously can be a "painful experience," but that those in the history department have "struck a perfect balance" and often excel at both.

Mapes noted that because Geneseo is a "teaching intensive institution," a faculty member's teaching responsibilities usually take precedence over his or her research, though the two can often be connected so that research becomes a source of material for classroom instruction.

Waddy said she teaches from personal experience and frequently draws upon her research in the classroom. While writing the conclusion of her book, she asked her students to consider how one should judge the actions of the Oberammergau villagers under Nazism. Waddy said she sought to involve her students "in the moral question of what can you expect from people in very different circumstances."

Adams, whose next project aims to investigate "the material culture of domestic life," said she will incorporate her present research into a class slated to be offered next semester which will investigate "the history of the material culture of the kitchen."

Adams, Cope and Mapes all said that their particular books stemmed from dissertations that they wrote in the mid-1990s. Waddy said that her book had been a 20-year undertaking that began when she saw the Oberammergau Passion play in 1990.

Even after a book is submitted to a publisher, it must undergo a lengthy process of editing and peer revision. Adams said that her book underwent four years of revisions before finally reaching publication.

Hon said that several other history department professors are completing books and that the department is engaged in "ongoing scholarship."