The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.
Page  170

DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY

With the postwar expansion of undergraduate and graduate enrollments, the History Department's increased responsibilities required a much larger staff. Its members of faculty rank increased from 16 in 1940-41 to 61 in 1973-76. In the same period the number of teaching fellows increased from five to thirty. This change in numbers demanded several interesting changes in the scope and character of the department.

In 1940-41 the department consisted almost entirely of specialists in European (ancient, medieval, and modern) and American history. The growth over the next 35 years was not evenly distributed. The staff teaching west and central European history (including Britain and the British Empire) increased from 11 in 1940-41 to 18 in 1973-76, while the number of department members teaching United States history (colonial to the present) went up from three to nineteen. The most striking growth, however, came in the history of non-Western areas (Europe east of the Oder, Asia, and Africa). In 1940-41 there was only one person teaching such history; by 1975-76 the number so employed increased to 19.

The movement towards a wide geographic scope in the department's offerings began in 1945 with the appointment of Prince Andrei Lobanov-Rostovsky, a Russian emigre, as professor of Russian history. For many years Lobanov-Rostovsky alone taught the history of both Russia and the borderlands of eastern Europe. Today this responsibility is shared by five members of the department, including specialists in the history of medieval and modern Russia, Poland and the Balkans. Even more remarkable has been the growth in the history of Asia, an area almost totally neglected by the department before the appointment of John Hall, a Japanese specialist, in 1948 and Albert Feuerwerker, a Chinese specialist, in 1959. By 1975-76 the six specialists in East Asian history made the department a major center for such studies in the United States. Comparable developments on a somewhat more restricted scale occurred in the study of South Asia and the Middle East (from 1956) and in Southeast Asia (from 1964) and Africa (from 1970). A major responsibility for teaching the history Page  171of the ancient and medieval Near East had been assumed by the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Literature from 1945. In all other non-Western areas, the burden has been borne primarily by the History Department.

The development of non-Western studies in the History Department has been closely associated with the development of the University's centers for area studies, coordinating related studies in different departments and acting as conduits for the transmittal of federal and foundation funds to newly developing fields. The first such unit, the Center for Japanese Studies, was founded in 1947. It was soon followed by equivalent organizations for Chinese, South and Southeast Asian, Russian and East European, Middle East and North African Studies, and more recently by the Center for Afro-American and African Studies. In more traditional areas the utility of this form of organization has led to the creation of the interdepartmental Program in American Culture and the Center for Western European Studies. Members of the History Department have played an active part in the affairs of all the area centers and (as of 1975) had been conspicuous in leadership roles in the Japanese, Chinese, and South Asian centers.

With this geographical expansion went a wider experimentation in historical methodologies. When Professor Sylvia Thrupp joined the department in 1961, she brought with her from Chicago the journal, Comparative Studies in Society and History, which has been published here ever since. (It is now edited by historian Raymond Grew of this department and anthropologist Eric Wolf of New York.) The journal and the interests of several department members made the department a leading center in the development of the comparative approach to history. With outside support, a master's program in comparative studies became a regular feature of the department's offerings. The 1960s and 1970s also saw an increased self-conscious concern by many in the department with new methodologies useful for their own research and the training of graduate students.

The growth of the teaching staff in the decades after 1940 was accompanied by significant changes in its pattern of recruitment. In 1940, the History Department, like almost all equivalent departments of the day, consisted virtually Page  172entirely of white males of Protestant upbringing and northwest European ancestry. By 1960 expansion had been accompanied by the addition of persons of Catholic and Jewish upbringing and of south and east European antecedents, but the department was still entirely Caucasian and male. This limitation was to change very rapidly in succeeding years. Although women had served as visiting professors before, the first woman regularly appointed was the distinguished medievalist, Sylvia Thrupp, who was named Alice Freeman Palmer Professor of History in 1961. Other female appointments followed, slowly at first but with increasing frequency after 1970 so that by 1975-76 there were six women on the teaching staff. In the same years, appointments of Africans, Afro-Americans and Asians further enhanced the cultural diversity of the department.

Before the Second World War, the only funds the department had to support graduate study were a limited number of teaching fellowships and a few awards made by the Rackham Graduate School. After the war, these were greatly enhanced by federal veterans' grants and (from 1958) by grants under the National Defense Education Act for both area studies and open fellowships. The Woodrow Wilson Foundation supported a number of first-year graduate students in the 1950s and 1960s while a few fortunate students received major grants from the Danforth Foundation; substantial grants were also received from the Carnegie Corporation for the Japanese Center and from the Ford Foundation for both area studies and open fellowships. From the late 1960s substantial federal, state, and foundation funding became available through the Rackham School specifically for the support of minority students who for the first time became a numerically significant element in the department's graduate program. After 1970, NDEA and Ford Foundation programs supporting open fellowships were terminated and allocations from the Rackham Graduate School were reduced for all but minority programs. These constraints contributed to the decline in graduate student enrollment in the 1970s.

Undergraduate teaching, however, remained the preponderant activity of the department. Allowing for annual fluctuations, the general trend of enrollments was upwards until about 1970 after which a significant decline set in. European and British history which had been extremely popular fields of study from the First World War through the Second suffered Page  173noticeably from this shift of student interest; even the new field of Russian history which was of increasing popularity in the 1960s shared the common experience after 1970. Asian, African, and Latin-American history had never been as popular as European but were gradually attracting more students (particularly when the Vietnam War caused a temporary keen student interest in East and Southeast Asian affairs); this increase tended to level off after 1970. Thus, a very substantial and increasing part of student enrollment throughout the period was concentrated in United States history. In 1969, a beginning was made in ethnic history with the introduction of courses in Afro-American history.

The opening of the Undergraduate Library in 1958 and the development of paperback publishing considerably altered the pattern of assigned reading in most undergraduate history courses. In the 1940s larger courses relied heavily on one or two textbooks. By the 1960s, instructors had become less dependent on textbooks and much more frequently assigned reading in a variety of paperbacks and in book chapters and articles readily available at the Undergraduate Library.

The administration of the department also changed profoundly in these years. In the 1930s and 1940s the department was directed by a chairman serving an indefinite term. This system appeared to work well in the smaller community of those days, but the larger and more complex department of the postwar years placed enormous pressures on the chairman and seemed to require a wider sharing of responsibilities. In the late 1940s an elected executive committee was established to advise the chairman. By the 1960s the executive committee in turn had to delegate to ad hoc committees some of the responsibility for advising on appointments, tenure, and promotion. An elected curriculum committee with student representation was also established in 1970. In 1953 the department adopted a five-year chairmanship. In 1969, this was changed to a two-year rotating chairmanship but, after seven chairman in ten years, the department adopted a three-year term in 1978-79.

The department's home for many decades, old Haven Hall, burned in 1950. After making do for two years in temporary quarters in the basement of the Rackham Building and in Page  174South Quadrangle, the department was rehoused in 1952 on the third floor of the new Haven Hall. By the mid-1970s the department occupied the third and fourth floors of Haven Hall and fourteen offices in the new Modern Languages Building.