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Recent Faculty Publications

Foundations of Modernity: Human Agency and the Imperial State

Isa Blumi investigates how a number of modern empires transform over the long 19th century (1789-1914) as a consequence of their struggle for ascendancy in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East in his latest book, Foundations of Modernity: Human Agency and the Imperial State. Published by Routledge in July 2011, Foundations of Modernity moves the study of the modern empire towards a comparative, trans-regional analysis of events along the Ottoman frontiers: Western Balkans, the Persian Gulf and Yemen. This inter-disciplinary approach of studying events at different ends of the Ottoman Empire challenges previous emphasis on Europe as the only source of change and highlights the progression of modern imperial states.

The book introduces an entirely new analytical approach to the study of modern state power and the social consequences to the interaction between long-ignored "historical agents" like pirates, smugglers, refugees, and the rural poor. In this respect, the roots of the most fundamental institutions and bureaucratic practices associated with the modern state prove to be the by-products of certain kinds of productive exchange long categorized in negative terms in post-colonial and mainstream scholarship. Such a challenge to conventional methods of historical and social scientific analysis is reinforced by the novel use of the work of Louis Althusser, Talal Asad, William Connolly and Frederick Cooper, whose challenges to scholarly conventions will prove helpful in changing how we understand the origins of our modern world and thus talk about Modernity. This book offers a methodological and historiographic intervention meant to challenge conventional studies of the modern era.

Jews and Booze: Becoming American in the Age of Prohibition

Marni Davis examines American Jews' long and complicated relationship to alcohol during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the years of the national prohibition movement's rise and fall, within Jews and Booze: Becoming American in the Age of Prohibition. At the turn of the century, American Jews and prohibitionists viewed one another with growing suspicion. Jews believed that all Americans had the right to sell and consume alcohol, while prohibitionists insisted that alcohol commerce and consumption posed a threat to the nation’s morality and security. The two groups possessed incompatible visions of what it meant to be a productive and patriotic American—and in 1920, when the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution made alcohol commerce illegal, Jews discovered that anti-Semitic sentiments had mixed with anti-alcohol ideology, threatening their reputation and their standing in American society.

Bringing to bear an extensive range of archival materials, Davis offers a novel perspective on a previously unstudied area of American Jewish economic activity—the making and selling of liquor, wine, and beer—and reveals that alcohol commerce played a crucial role in Jewish immigrant acculturation and the growth of Jewish communities in the United States. But prohibition’s triumph cast a pall on American Jews’ history in the alcohol trade, forcing them to revise, clarify, and defend their communal and civic identities, both to their fellow Americans and to themselves. Published January, 2012 by New York University Press. To hear Dr. Davis' interview on NPR's Morning Edition, visit

Qatar, A Modern History

Allen Fromherz published Qatar, A Modern History, by I.B. Tauris in October 2011. Qatar plays a crucial part in the Middle East today. With the second greatest natural gas resources in the region, Qatar's economic clout is considerable. At the same time the Qatar story is replete with paradoxes: the state hosts the Al-Jazeera media network, an influential expression of Arab nationalism and anti-Americanism, while also hosting the principal US naval base in the region. Its leaders, like Saudi Arabia's, adhere to the Wahhabi form of Sunni Islam, yet Qatar eyes its Saudi neighbours with suspicion. It is a fervent champion of the Palestinian cause, yet welcomes the Israeli Foreign Minister to present the Jewish state's case in its capital, Doha. With this groundbreaking modern history, Allen Fromherz presents a full portrait which analyses these paradoxes and Qatar's growing regional influence within a broader historical context.

Drawing on original sources in Arabic, English and French, as well as his own fieldwork in the Middle East, Fromherz offers a multi-faceted picture of the political, cultural, religious, social and economic make-up of modern Qatar, its significance within the GCC states and the wider region. This book is also scheduled for publication by Georgetown University Press in April 2012.

Peasants, Political Police, and the Early Soviet State

Hugh Hudson's newest book, Peasants, Political Police, and the Early Soviet State, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in December 2011. This book combines social and institutional histories of Russia, focusing on the secret police and their evolving relationship with the peasantry in the period leading up to collectivization. Based on an analysis of Cheka/OGPU reports, the book argues that the police did not initially respond to peasant resistance to Bolshevik demands simply with the gun - rather, they listened to peasant voices. The police argued that compromise was possible, and that the peasants could be convinced to work within the Bolshevik construct of state and society. As time went on, however, local police agents increasingly saw themselves engaged in a war with the peasantry over control of grain and domination of local organs of power. As the focus shifted from objective economic factors to the putative influence of the kulaks, the only solution became to break the peasantry.

Dr. Hudson's first book The First Demidovs and The Development of the Russian Iron Industry in the XVIII Century was also published fall 2011 in Russian as Pervye Demidovy i razvitie chernoi metallurgii Rossii v XVIII veka.

Conversion and the Politics of Religion in Early Modern Germany

Jared Poley co-edited Conversion and the Politics of Religion in Early Modern Germany with David M. Luebke, Daniel C. Ryan and David Warren Sabean. Published by Berghahn Books in May 2012, this edited volume is part of the Spektrum: Publications of the German Studies Association series and offers insights into the historicity of the very conception of "conversion." The Protestant and Catholic Reformations thrust the nature of conversion into the center of debate and politicking over religion as authorities and subjects imbued religious confession with novel meanings during the early modern era. One widely accepted modern notion of the phenomenon simply expresses denominational change. Yet this concept had no bearing at the outset of the Reformation. Instead, a variety of processes, such as the consolidation of territories along confessional lines, attempts to ensure civic concord, and diplomatic quarrels helped to usher in new ideas about the nature of religious boundaries and, therefore, conversion. However conceptualized, religious change— conversion—had deep social and political implications for early modern German states and societies.

The Year of the Lash: Free People of Color in Cuba and the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World

Michele Reid-Vazquez reveals the untold story of the strategies of negotia­tion used by free blacks in the aftermath of the "The Year of the Lash" — a wave of repression in Cuba that had great implications for the Atlantic World in the next two decades. At dawn on June 29, 1844, a firing squad in Havana executed ten accused ringleaders of the Conspiracy of La Escalera, an alleged plot to abolish slavery and colonial rule in Cuba. The condemned men represented prominent members of Cuba’s free community of African descent, including the acclaimed poet Plácido (Gabriel de la Concepción Valdés). In an effort to foster a white majority and curtail black rebellion, Spanish colonial authorities also banished, imprisoned, and exiled hundreds of free blacks, dismantled the militia of color, and accelerated white immigration projects.

Scholars have debated the existence of the Conspiracy of La Escalera for over a century, yet little is known about how those targeted by the violence responded. Drawing on archival material from Cuba, Mexico, Spain, and the United States, Published in November 2011 by The University of Georgia Press, The Year of the Lash: Free People of Color in Cuba and the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World provides a critical window into under­standing how free people of color challenged colonial policies of terror and pursued justice on their own terms using formal and extralegal methods. Whether rooted in Cuba or cast into the Atlantic World, free men and women of African descent stretched and broke colonial expectations of their codes of conduct locally and in exile. Their actions underscored how black agency, albeit fragmented, worked to destabilize repression’s impact.