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  • Statement of Solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives

    The Department of History stands in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives and the communities who are confronting racism in its many forms. As historians and humanists, we embrace our important role in developing a complex understanding of white supremacy that has long menaced the United States and the world. We can help foster deeper understandings of race, not as a scientifically valid category, but as a type of social classification, refined and remade time and again, that supports systemic racism. Police brutality, epitomized most recently by the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Tony McDade and countless others, has ignited the current rebellion against racial oppression. Through our teaching and public engagement, we affirm our role in working with students and the wider community to understand police participation in the history of racial violence. As part of the current resistance movement, statues and monuments to Confederate officeholders, to Klansmen, and to white settlers and imperialists who engineered mass theft of Native land, have been targeted for removal, as have been the Confederate battle flag. Here, again, as historians we embrace our role in discussing how such symbols can bolster racial segregation, and in fostering a broader discussion about historical memory. The role the Department of History can play in shaping dialog on these two issues is not unique. Leaders in the Movement for Black Lives have identified and named many more systems of racial oppression in education, health, housing, job opportunities, and in the prison system. Our courses span a range of topics that explore the historical development of race from Middle Ages to the late twentieth century in the U.S., Caribbean, Latin America, Africa and the Diaspora, Asia, and Europe. These many courses support a rigorous exploration of racism and how it became institutionalized, seeking to understand those who have benefited from it, those who have been subjugated by it, and the ongoing multi-faceted struggle against it.

    Our University community, our neighbors, and our nation, seek answers about the present moment and how to shape it. The Department of History declares its commitment to helping find those answers in light of the many histories that have brought us all to this point. The Department will continue its efforts to diversify the curriculum, student body, and faculty, recognizing the progress we have made on these fronts is not yet sufficient. With a more diverse Department and curriculum we can further our engagement with the complex issues surrounding racism and bigotry in our local community and national politics. We will help foster a reckoning with the past that explains and teaches that Black Lives Matter

  • Arva Moore Parks

    Parks Headshot

    The department sadly announces the passing of Arva Moore Parks. Faculty member Dr. Robin Bachin offered these reflections on her contributions to our community:

     "Arva Moore Parks was an extraordinarily generous scholar. She personally collected documents, photos, maps, plans, and other ephemera related to Miami’s history and invited researchers to her home to make use of them (her research collection is now part of Special Collections at the University of Miami Libraries ). She was always eager to offer guidance to scholars, share materials, and engage in discussion about a wide variety of aspects of Miami’s history. She was an educator through and through, and made herself available to speak to students at all levels, from kindergarten through grad school. She was a walking encyclopedia of Miami’s history, but also a thoughtful and critical examiner of it. In 2010, she and longtime friend and fellow historian Dr. Dorothy Jenkins Fields (founder of the Black Archives, History and Research Foundation) were the subjects of a documentary film, Parallel Lives, that looked at their history growing up in Jim Crow Miami and the differences in experiences wrought by segregation. Arva fought for equity on a variety of fronts, from her role in fighting to preserve historic sites in Overtown and Brownsville to her mentorship of women candidates in local, state and national politics. She was a towering figure in Miami’s civic life, and her tenacity, leadership, and magnanimity will be deeply missed."

  • Alumni Blog

    November 21, 2019

    Erica Heinsen-Roach, Ph.D '12

    EHR Book ImageNot too long ago, I reread one of my favorite sources: the letters that seventeenth-century Dutch consuls wrote to the States General in The Hague. Stationed in North Africa and always deprived of funds, they often complained about their deplorable situation and, sometimes with sarcasm, urged the States General to do better. These documents were part of a wealth of sources I found in archives in the Netherlands during my graduate studies at the Department of History at the University of Miami. The program allowed us, a small group of graduate students, to do archival research after the first year of the program. The generosity and timing were crucial. The consular letters in addition to a variety of records from other archives and libraries in different countries laid the foundation for what was to become my dissertation. Back in Miami, intensive seminars and independent readings followed - often euphemistically termed by my advisor Mary Lindemann and her partners in crime as “torture” (which incidentally they made up for by treating us on delicious and fun lunches!). The devotion, care, and constructive criticism of the faculty were critical in helping us to master our fields, interpret sources, and, simply put, write history.  

    Fast forward a number of years, and I am happy to announce that my monograph, Consuls and Captives. Dutch-North African Diplomacy in the Early Modern Mediterranean, has just been released by the University of Rochester Press. It argues that the problem of captivity and slavery in the western Mediterranean helped create a new diplomatic order different from what we traditionally understand to be diplomacy. For example, no exchange of resident ambassadors took place. Instead, Dutch consuls became state representatives and – together with Jewish mediators - maintained relations with the Maghrib. They ransomed slaves, partook in lavish gift-giving practices to facilitate negotiations, and in doing so adjusted to the norms and practices of the western Mediterranean. I find the problem of captivity fascinating as it helped me to explain the limits of European expansion and to redefine diplomatic practices as a process of negotiation rather than a European-imposed project. My next project, therefore, revisits captivity in the Mediterranean. It analyzes the nascent language of human rights in Mediterranean captivity by examining how captivity challenged and redefined the liberties, privileges, and obligations of captured citizens. In treating captives as citizens, the project seeks to demonstrate that the discourse on political and individual freedom can be located not only in the Enlightened discourses of philosophes on the continent, but also in the experiences of captives in the early modern Mediterranean. Another project with Miami roots in the making!

    October 21, 2019

    UM Graduate Alumna Amelia Hintzen

    Hintzen Photo

    I currently work as a Foreign Service Officer for the U.S. Department of State. I recently arrived at my first overseas posting in Quito, Ecuador, and next I’ll move to Asuncion,Paraguay in 2021. I am a Political Officer, which means I am responsible for reporting to Washington on the country I am posted in, and communicating our government’s policies to foreign nations. Although thus far I’ve focused on Latin America, after my time in Paraguay I will likely move to another region of the world and learn a new language.  Being a Foreign Service Officer requires signing up for world-wide availability, and while many Officers do develop a regional focus, we are generalists who can serve anywhere. The Foreign Service does not have any specific entry requirements. Applicants need to pass a series of tests, and information can be found here While language ability can help at certain points in the process, it is not required and the Department of State provides paid language training to Officers who need to learn a new language. Prior to entering the Foreign Service, I worked in the Civil Service at the Department of State as a Presidential Management Fellow (PMF) in an office focused on combating Boko Haram in West Africa. The PMF program was designed to recruit applicants with advanced degrees, and information can be found here  

    The skills I developed as a specialist in Caribbean history have undoubtedly made me a much better foreign policy practitioner. After specializing on one topic for many years while finishing my dissertation, moving to a position in which I am required to learn about a new place every two to three years was an adjustment. However, many of the skills I developed during my doctoral studies have helped me a great deal in my new career in international affairs.  I knew that my ability to read quickly and write clearly would help me in the State Department, but some of the skills that have been useful surprised me. First and foremost, my ability to communicate why a narrow issue or a small place matters has proved invaluable. As a doctoral student at the University of Miami, my professors constantly pushed me to think about why my research topic mattered to scholars studying other areas. These same skills are important when reporting to busy officials in Washington who are covering an entire region, or the whole world. In addition, my ability to receive feedback on my writing and improve it has also been invaluable. Written products at the State Department go through many different editors to ensure coordinated policy, and I after my graduate studies I am well accustomed to receiving edits from different readers and creating a cogent final product. Finally, I think the most important skill I brought from my former career is curiosity. Just like when I was starting my dissertation research, I am excited to get to learn about the history and culture of a new place. Now instead of closely researching a country’s history, my focus is on creating impactful policies informed by my knowledge of history.  

    (The opinions expressed in this piece are mine alone and do not reflect the position of the Department of State.) 

  • Grad Student Blog

    November 4, 2019

    Anna Bennett, Ph.D. Candidate in History: 

    Bennett Venice Photo

     For most people fortunate enough to visit the floating city, Venice, Italy is a romantic vacation destination, a beautiful and unique preservation of premodern life. But for me, Venice is a place for work and study. With support from the UM Department of History, over the past three years I’ve been able to travel to Venice to examine witchcraft and anti-magic trials in the records of the Venetian Inquisition, today kept in the Archivio di Stato di Venezia, the city’s state-run archive set in a grand former Augustinian monastery in the San Polo district. Thanks to a grant from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation’s Venetian Research Program, this past summer I was able to return to the Venetian state archives to finish up my dissertation research.

    As a whole, my dissertation analyzes the material culture of magic and the spiritual realm in early modern Venice, focusing on the period from the late sixteenth century, when witchcraft trials vastly expand in the archival records (reflecting the European witch craze more broadly), until the mid-eighteenth century, when anti-magic cases begin to decline significantly in the historical records. It’s a rather large chunk of time that I am referring to throughout my dissertation as the long seventeenth century. Most all studies of witchcraft and magic in Venice end at 1650, so broadening and shifting the chronology later is very important to my dissertation project, as I am arguing that popular beliefs about the spiritual realm, encapsulated in magic practices and their prosecution by the Venetian Inquisition, remained a vital part of popular culture and daily life in Venice for at least a century after most scholars have ended their discussions of the subject.

    This final foray in the archives allowed me to accomplish two important tasks: using Geertzian “thick description” to really dig deeply into these anti-magic cases and record details of the particular kinds of objects, spaces, measurements, and other elements of material culture that accused practitioners of magic were described as using in their popular rituals, and exploring later Inquisition trials, those that occurred between 1750 and 1794—the year of the tribunal’s dissolution in Venice—to investigate why anti-magic cases began to decline around the middle of the eighteenth century. This process involves close reading of the court documents, which are written in a mixture of Latin, premodern Italian, and Venetian dialect, paying special attention to the aspects of material life that are described within testimony. The array of objects used in the course of Venetian magic is truly fascinating: explicitly sacred items like communion wafers, holy oil, bones, and rosary beads mingled with ordinary household goods like beans, wax, herbs, and needles as powerful tools of magic. Occasionally I got really lucky—the tribunal sometimes seized offending objects as evidence and included them in the trial record to demonstrate the accused magic practitioner’s guilt—and opened a case file to find actual objects: things like consecrated communion wafers, a playing card, a tiny, yellow silk pouch that once contained a magical powder. But even when the material things associated with the practice of magic didn’t end up in the documents, trials from the long seventeenth century often contain detailed descriptions of this material culture of magic, demonstrating to me the tangible—and frankly commonplace—role that magic played in daily life.

    The lack of these rich details in later records proved just as important to my research, however. I was very puzzled at first to find a rather sudden decline in the number of trials focused on witchcraft and other kinds of popular magic beginning around the year 1730; by 1750 anti-magic cases were almost non-existent among the Inquisition’s proceedings. This raised several questions: Were people practicing magic less often? In the Age of Enlightenment(s), were popular beliefs about the power of the spiritual realm rapidly declining, as conventional historical narratives have often suggested? My research this past summer has given me the evidence to conclude that this is not the case. As I studied the final boxes of eighteenth-century Inquisition records this summer, I found a notable absence: women! While the majority of anti-magic cases prosecuted during the long seventeenth century involved women, either as accused witches, as denouncers, or as witnesses, women rarely appear in any of these roles in trials conducted after 1750. I do not believe that this means women suddenly stopped practicing magic, or witnessing it, around the mid-century mark. Instead, I argue that female voices were being steadily removed from the Inquisitional discourse on acceptable uses of the spiritual realm within daily life. These findings will help me make some important conclusions about how Venetian magic, and social and institutional attitudes toward it, changed (or didn’t) over the course of the long seventeenth century.

    My time in Venice this summer allowed me to round out my dissertation research in really helpful ways, and like in all my research trips over the past three years, living in Venice was just as much a learning experience as studying in the archives. My commute to and from the archives each day involved a long walk and the occasional canal crossing via traghetto—a stripped down gondola that will help ferry people across major points along the Grand Canal for just two euro. I went for a run each morning out to the public gardens, a route that took me through the Piazza San Marco and past the Doge’s Palace. I also joined a local running group and ran with locals every Thursday evening, and joined them in a 10k race called the Quasi Night Run that wound its way through the labyrinthine city streets at dusk on a Friday in mid-June. As summer weather set in, I quickly learned to apply insect repellent before heading off to the archives in order to keep away the monster-sized mosquitos that haunt the archive’s courtyard (and more often than not, the reading room) during the long, humid Venetian summer. Living and studying in Venice is a truly immersive experience, and one that I feel fortunate to have had several times over the past three years. While I’m finished with my dissertation research, I’m looking forward to returning to Venice next May—this time to present some of my findings on the role that human hair played in Venetian witchcraft trials at a conference on “Hairy Things in Medieval and Early Modern Europe.”