Department of History College of Arts and Sciences
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Focus Areas

African-American and Southern History
Global History
Modern European History
Women, Gender, and Family History

Focus area in Southern history

The Department of History at the University of Memphis has a distinguished tradition of training graduate students who specialize in the history of the American South. Our location in one of the region’s most important cities, which itself constitutes the northern anchor of the Mississippi Delta, helps make Southern history a natural strength for our faculty, students, and their research. Our expertise in this area is enhanced by the plethora of primary-source materials available in the area, which include the extensive holdings of the university’s McWherter Library, particularly its Mississippi Valley Collection; more than 2,000 interviews conducted by our department’s Oral History Office; the Memphis and Shelby County libraries; the West Tennessee Historical Society Papers; along with several other state archival collections within driving distance of Memphis. The popularity of this focus area has long been reflected in continued high enrollments for such undergraduate courses as the Old South, the New South, the Civil War and Reconstruction, and Tennessee History, as well as more narrowly focused upper-division and graduate classes regularly offered by our faculty. Hundreds of academic publications and mainstream media references over the years testify to the accomplishments of the scholars who teach this expansive field in our department, along with the dozens of students who have been trained by them.

This focus area in our department is especially strong in terms of our faculty’s research into the oft-neglected western regions of the American South, since historians have too often considered the Atlantic seaboard states to be the acme of “southernness.” Our faculty members are among the vanguard of an emerging trend that acknowledges the importance of the Old Southwest (areas like the Delta, as well as states and cities near the Mississippi River) in the construction and maintenance of distinctive regional identities. Our department emphasizes the crucial role that these western borderlands played in Southern history, from the slave plantations and share-cropped farms of the Delta during the nineteenth century (Drs Charles Crawford, James Fickle, Beverly Bond, Arwin Smallwood, and Scott Marler) to the tragic institutionalization of Jim Crow and the heroic achievements of the Deep South-based civil rights movement during the twentieth (Drs Crawford, Fickle, Bond, Marler, and Aram Goudsouzian).

We are pleased that this focus area overlaps with and buttresses other strengths of our department — most notably, in African American history, but also in oral history, critical race studies, and gender, women, and family history. Moreover, in recent years, the department has intensified its efforts to integrate students’ understandings of local and regional histories with developments on the national and global levels. Ongoing work by Dr. Smallwood on Native Americans in the colonial-era South and by Dr. Marler on merchants in nineteenth-century New Orleans exemplify this trend toward situating the region in the wider context of Atlantic World history. This aspect of the department’s focus area in Southern history is further enhanced by our ability to interact with University of Memphis scholars from other disciplines (such as philosophy, anthropology, political science, and English) engaged in related studies.

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Last Updated: 6/7/13