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If there is one thing every history major should do before he or she graduates, it is study abroad.  After studying abroad in England last semester, I am convinced that in addition to being enriching, fun, cultural opportunities that can be used to enhance one’s résumé, study abroad experiences offer several unique takeaways for history majors in particular:

1) Here’s the obvious reason: If one is studying in a non-English-speaking country, study abroad is a prime opportunity to brush up on the language skills that are sometimes necessary for reading primary sources.  After all, there is no better way to learn a foreign language than to be immersed in it!

2) Sometimes studying abroad means being exposed to a different educational style.  When I studied abroad in England, instead of having lectures and exams, I was required to write between one and two essays each week and verbally debate the arguments presented in those essays with a tutor.  Participating in such a unique and writing-intensive educational system where I was required to articulate original ideas instead of simply memorizing facts to regurgitate on a multiple-choice exam honed both my critical thinking and my writing skills, both of which are essential for history majors to master.

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Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts by Sam Wineburg (image from amazon.com)

3) Finally, history majors should study abroad because it involves living in a new and foreign culture.  It requires being willing to put aside one’s own culture to learn how to efficiently function in another.  It requires being aware of cultural differences and learning how to either work through or live with them.  It requires a desire to understand the mindset of the people among whom one is living.  In short, as Messiah College history major Cassy Baddorf pointed out in a recent blog post, studying abroad is a practice in empathy, both for culture and for other people.  In the words of novelist L.P. Hartley and historian David Lowenthal: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there”; if one learns this discipline in real life, it will become easier to put these principles into practice when studying history.  According to Sam Wineburg, when we practice this kind of empathy, we become better historians: “For the narcissist sees the world – both the past and the present – in his own image.  Mature historical knowing teaches us to do the opposite: to go beyond our own image, to go beyond our brief life, and to go beyond the fleeting moment in human history into which we have been born.  History educates (‘lead outward’ in the Latin) in the deepest sense.”

Go and study abroad – it will be a transformative experience!

Kathryn Kaslow is a junior history major with a concentration in public history.  She is a research assistant, student diplomat for the History Department, History Club officer, and a contributor for History on the Bridge.

Blitz Blog

Towards the end of the spring semester, students at Messiah discover how talented they are at:

  • Walloping each other with duct tape weapons.
  • Avoiding spontaneous bear attacks (really, there was a random bear walking around campus the other day).
  • Juggling academics, extracurricular activities, relationships, and sleep.

I have discovered that I am talented at two of these things – and only then because I like pretending I’m Braveheart and because I always keep some honey and salmon on me in case of emergencies. I still need to work on the whole juggling part, so this is going to be a blitz blog.

Here are 3 things that have been floating around my head lately:

  1. The Golden Ass

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Also known as Metamorphoses Apuleius’ The Golden Ass is the only surviving Roman novel we have in its entirety. I read this 1900 year old text for my Roman History class, and it was pretty darn bawdy and bizarre (at times I felt like I was reading Game of Thrones). However, once I got the point of this novel I was thoroughly impressed. Fable, satire, and entertainment: The Golden Ass is a strong critique of Roman materialism. Writing a 6 page source analysis of this text made me think about the powerful influence Platonic thought had not only on Rome itself, but also on the most influential religion of the late Roman Empire: Christianity.

  1. NEW STAR WARS TRAILER AHHHHHHHHSOFREAKINGPUMPED!

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JJ, you done good.

When I put on my historian glasses, one of the first things I notice about this trailer is the way JJ Abrams masterfully employs the medium of time. The crashed X-Wing and the downed Star Destroyer, Luke’s famous monologue from Return of the Jedi, the clip of the grizzled Han Solo and his trusty fury friend: all of these things evoke memories from a powerful past. And not just the past of the Star Wars universe either; Abrams’ references to the older films allow the fans who have grown up watching them to reconnect with a nostalgic part of their own, personal past. It’s a crazy (and beautiful) thing to see grown men cry when they watch this trailer. The past is important peeps.

When I saw BB8 (a working robot used for the new Star Wars films) on stage during the Star Wars celebration, it made me wonder about the role these films will play in human history. We live in an age of booming technological advances. It’s highly likely that the people who will begin colonizing our own solar system have already been born. If one day we inhabit the stars or utilize highly sophisticated, space-faring technology, will people look back at these films and say, “Look! This is when we first started dreaming; this is what helped make all this a reality”?  Perhaps one day our progeny will look at the opening line of A New Hope (“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away”) and for the first time be able to take that message literally. Whoa.

  1. Stuart stupidity

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 Charles, Charles, Charles – you’re so misunderstood.

Tudor Stuart England has been a fun and informative course. We’re just now getting to the 17the century transition from the Tudor to the Stuart dynasty, and things are kicking off! Traditionally, historians have accused the Stuarts (kings James and Charles) of being incompetent oafs who plunged England into a state of political crisis. This morning I just finished a paper which defends Stuart competency and looks at some of the dysfunctional social structures (an empowered and agitated Parliament, fierce anti-Catholic religious paranoia, and a severely kinked Great Chain of Being, to name a few) they inherited from their Tudor predecessors. Never before have I felt so social sciency. Yet, after doing my analysis, social forces do seem to have a large part to play in the English Civil War. What happened to the good old humanist historian in me?

Consider yourselves blitzed, folks. Have a lovely, and more organized day.

James Mueller is a sophomore history major with a minor in French Language. He is a Student Fellow for Messiah’s Center for the Public Humanities, Member of the Digital Harrisburg team, level 34 Dark Elf Sorcerer, and contributor for History on the Bridge. 

Over the course of the past year, there’s been a lot of talk at Messiah and in the local community about Digital Harrisburg. Maybe you know a lot about the project and are sick of hearing your friends talk about it, maybe you’ve never heard of it, or maybe have heard of it but stop listening when someone brings it up. Well, now’s the time to learn about the project. I’m bringing you into the meeting room. Let’s get started. It’s Wednesday, 8 am, the Digital Harrisburg Team is already hard at work surrounded by coffee and tea.

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The meeting starts as they all do: updates. The team has been hard at work, they haven’t stopped working hard since the very beginning. Starting with Dr. Pettegrew’s Digital History class last year, the Digital Harrisburg Initiative hit the ground running through data entry from the 1900 Harrisburg Census and creating an online exhibit about Harrisburg’s City Beautiful Movement. From here, the DH team was created and began work on finishing the 1900 Census project, adding other cities, other census years, and information from outside sources, such as tax assessments and church records. Working with faculty and student at other universities and in other disciplines, we were able to create the digital map of 1900 Harrisburg. Through this searchable map, you can click on any house in Harrisburg and find the census information pertaining to the 1900 residents.

Going around the table at 8 am, the team discusses what they have worked on in the past week. James has been editing the collected data to make our database look clean and query more efficiently. David has been adding in property values for the Harrisburg homes found in tax assessment paperwork. Dr. Pettegrew has been working on our latest conference proposal. I have been working on the 1910 Harrisburg Census database. After updates, we begin what I lovingly refer to as “the brain-trust segment.” In this time, we problem solve any issues that have developed since we met last week and we discuss the future of the project. Looking into the future for Digital Harrisburg, we move into 1910, and over the summer 1920. Within the next few years, we will have a complete database of 1880-1940 and we will continue to add information as it becomes available, including more church records, property values, etc. The possibilities are endless and the future looks bright for Digital Harrisburg.

On Tuesday, April 21st, Jonathan Fuller will present his senior thesis on American Christian Zionism. Spread the word and come to Frey 110 at 4:00 PM!

Fuller Honors Poster

HISTORY BOOK

Interviews are always fun.
Said no college student ever. There’s only one thing you can do with an interview: get through it quickly. And if possible, avoid the infamous “how would your friends describe you?” question. There will be no way of knowing how you did until they contact you later on.
This past week I was interviewed to study abroad at Gordon in Orvieto, a program which offers the amazing opportunity to study in a historically rich environment: Orvieto, Italy. As a history major, my desire to take part in this felt obvious to me. My interviewers, however, were one step ahead. They wanted to know about my career, how it related to the Orvieto program, and more specifically, how it related to my history major.
My goal is to go to law school and ultimately explore areas of family and international law. Many people find this odd. At least, it is difficult for them to find the correlation between family and international law and the history classes that I take at Messiah. So if you want to be a lawyer, why are you reading a book on the Protestant Reformation? What does Native American history have to do with international law?
This was something I definitely struggled with at the beginning of freshman year. When I first became a history major, the only two things I could say for history was that I liked it and that I thought it was important. I had no idea if this meant I should major in it, or what my major really meant for the rest of my life. People at every turn were insisting I major in something more “practical”; something that would be able to “stand on its own” in the job market without the help of a law degree; something that actually correlated with law in the first place.
Well, I don’t want to take up too much space discussing how practically the discipline of history is actually extremely suited for future law students. (Fortunately for me after almost two years of reading, writing, and heavy analysis in the history department, I’ve come to realize the practicality and the importance of the skills I’ve picked up.) What I want to do is try and broaden this idea of a “practical major.” People like to have everything in boxes. If you study nutrition, you become a nutritionist. If you study athletic training, you become an athletic trainer. If you study nursing, you become a nurse. And nothing is wrong with this! But under this mindset, people hear that you’re a history student, and outside of “history teacher” their minds can’t comprehend how that kind of major will be valuable to you. It is not “practical” to them.
I guess it is obvious that I do find the value in a history major. Why would I read about the Protestant Reformation? Because it teaches me about religions, war, oppression, interpersonal conflict, and the founding of my very own faith. Because as an attorney in international law, I may be interacting with people of every religion, people who are at war, who have been oppressed. Why would I study Native American life? Because I will be encountering people in isolated, marginalized groups, who have unique cultures, who are misunderstood by the majority.
I could go on and on. (And this is all assuming that I’m actually going to pass the dreaded LSAT and get into law school!) I began with interviews, and I will end with interviews: interviews are no fun, but they get you thinking. I honestly believe that the study of history could be “practical” and could benefit any major at Messiah. Why? Because nearly every profession interacts with or is mindful of people. Isn’t that why we’re all at this private Christian school getting ready for the rest of our lives – so that we can benefit humanity in some way? The way I see it, if there is humanity in Orvieto, Italy (which I’m pretty positive there is), then I’d say it ties in perfectly with my history major and consequently ties in perfectly with my hopeful future profession. Whether it’s the 1534 or 2015, people are people. In the end, the discipline of history is really all about us.

Emily La Bianca is a sophomore history major with a minor in politics. She currently acts as work study to the history department as well as this semester’s editor in chief for History on the Bridge.

The Department of History, History Club, and the Oakes Museum of Natural History are teaming up once again on Service Day (April 16) for historical restoration work at the Asper Burial Ground in northern York County. I am hoping this is our final season out there, and that we have enough information to complete our work on the cemetery.

Sign up here.

To read about our previous research and service work at the cemetery, see this post.

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The official description of our planned work this year: 

This project is a joint session of Messiah College History Club and the Oakes Museum of Natural History. The directors and contact people are Dr. David Pettegrew (Dept of History), Ken Mark (Director, Oakes Museum of Natural History), and history club officers Katy Kaslow, Megan Ekstrom, and Kyle Polinka. We will be working to record and restore an 18th-19th century historic cemetery known as the Asper Burial Grounds or the "Little Bermudian Cemetery", which was a community established originally by members of Ephrata Cloister. Work will occur in the cemetery from 8:30 AM-2:30 PM.

Following a brief overview of the preservation project, participants will spend the day recording the stones, removing ground hog debris, and filling out paperwork to register the site with the state of Pennsylvania. Activities will include the following:

1. We will excavate mounded earth from groundhog disturbance

2. We will record the minimum number of gravestones and photograph the gravestones

3. We will work to complete a Pennsylvania Bureau of Historic Preservation Cemetery Survey Form to register the site with the state

4. We will conduct coring tests within the cemetery in areas we suspect have buried tombstones, and will uncover buried headstones and footstones

5. We will weed the cemetery with gardening tools

6. We will sketch the tombstones and make squeezes of the headstones

Hope to see you there! For more information, contact Katy Kaslow of the History Club.

Bind Your Heart

During one of the first weeks this semester I walked through the administrative Old Main building on campus, and noticed a slogan on a display for Messiah’s study abroad programs. Bind your heart to a foreign land, it said. Well, what they don’t tell you ahead of time is how it feels to leave your heart in that foreign land, I thought. For me, that ‘foreign land’ hasn’t just been physical locations, but the study of history as well. Let me explain.

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I, for one, could not be happier that Messiah College places such a priority on helping students have the chance to study abroad during college, especially since I’ve dreamed of travel since I was young. My dreams came true during the Fall 2014 semester, during which I lived and studied in Orvieto, Italy, and explored major European capitals. Since I’ve returned to Messiah’s campus, the first few months have involved intense levels of readjustment: I’ll be honest, although I dearly love my friends and the opportunities on campus, sometimes I have missed my European adventuring and independence with incredible intensity. Never have I regretted studying abroad, but had no idea before it happened how much I would change because of the process.

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How does this merit attention on a history blog, one might ask? Through pondering this concept within the context of traveling, I realized that it is much the same for the study of history. Under the tutelage of Messiah’s incredible history professors (and no, I’m not just saying that because I should: I truly believe it) I have poured my heart into studying the lives of people who have lived before me. These people made mistakes, struggled, and triumphed in similar ways that I have, and their lives now matter to me. I believe I speak for my fellow students when I say that I have learned empathy through taking interest in these historical figures (yes, as many of you know, I have a particular fondness for Joan of Arc thanks to Dr. Huffman). It is incredibly obvious that we will never have the chance to meet these long-deceased individuals in our lifetimes, and yet often a byproduct of intense scholarly research is a genuine interest and care.
Although it might seem less emotionally risky to open a book rather than travel across the world, I believe that studying history (particularly the peoples’ stories that comprise it) has equal potential for influence. I know that my awareness and appreciation of the modern world has deepened because of my historical studies, and I have “met” people that I am better for knowing. So although I probably won’t spend four months abroad again in the near future, I know that every time I open a new book or delve into an unknown subject matter, I am opening myself up to change and growth. Right now my heart is bound to places old and new, familiar and waiting to be explored, modern and long past, and I cannot wait to add to that list. Will you?

Cassy Baddorf is a junior History major with a minor in Classical, Medieval, and Renaissance Studies. She has served as a History Department Ambassador, Executive Secretary on the Student Government Association’s President’s Cabinet, and is an avid member of the History Club on campus.

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