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Department of History
Our Research Strengths

We are a vibrant department with several areas of research strength.  

U.S. History

Many of our faculty focus on the chronological, topical, and methodological history of the United States of America. Methodologically, we specialize in ethnohistory, oral and textual history, material culture, social and cultural history, and public history. We engage in research from the 18th to the 21st centuries.

Our faculty research strengths include histories of

  • Native Americans and indigenous populations
  • African Americans
  • slavery and the American Civil War
  • urban and suburban America
  • 20th-century American politics
  • the American South
  • American labor
  • American religion
  • gender and women’s movements
  • aviation and aerospace
  • technology

 

 

European History

Our European historians’ interests span the continent, including England and the British Isles, France, Italy, Central Europe, Eastern Europe, and Russia/the Soviet Union. Our expertise stretches from the 10th to the 20th century. We have particular strengths in the history of political culture, the state and state formation, ideologies of race and racism, material cultures (including historic preservation), cities and spaces, the history of science and technology, travel and mobility, and European encounters and engagements with the rest of the world.

We host a European studies seminar series in which both faculty and graduate students present their research. Europeanists also share interests with colleagues in other research areas.

 

Public History

Public historians use their historical training to engage with diverse audiences in collaborative settings. The pursuit of these goals extend to the earliest days of the historical profession as scholars worked with government and private agencies to create public access to historic sites, archival collections, and informed conversations. Today, public historians are active professionals in museums, historic sites, archives, government agencies, non-profit organizations, local governments, and more. Opportunities for academically trained public historians are vast.

Our graduates go on to become successful grant writers, cultural resource managers, community documentation project managers, and developers of advanced digital humanities tools. Our strong relationships with organizations such as the National Park Service and museums across the region provide students with hands-on experience in the classroom as well as potential career placement upon graduation.

Our program has interdisciplinary partnerships, exposing students to a broad range of collaborative learning experiences. We connect students to our university’s expansive research expertise and activities. We offer courses on oral history, digital history, museum studies, cultural resource management, and historic preservation, as well as broader courses on material culture, historic landscapes, and memory.

 

Southern History

The history of the American South has been a primary focus of teaching and research at Auburn since the history department’s founding. We are especially well suited to support students working on topics in rights, race, and inequalities and in public history. In addition to providing a complete chronological range in Southern history, faculty research is united by a strong interest in the histories of everyday southerners: Creek hunters, frontier traders, slaves seeking freedom, Civil War soldiers and World War II veterans, worshipers, manufacturers, civil rights advocates, and union workers, among others. The holdings of our university library and archives, as well as central proximity to the region's chief historic sites and archival repositories, enhance our research opportunities for students.

 

Race, Rights, and Inequalities 

The history of race, rights, and inequalities is one of the most actively discussed topics within the United States and world today, and we have many faculty members whose work provides urgently needed historical context for these conversations.

One core strength of the department is African American and international Black history. Auburn faculty have written and published on diverse subjects in this field, including the participation of enslaved persons in the legal culture of the antebellum South, African American spaces of celebration and power within the Jim Crow South, the civil rights movement, Black social and political movements in the post-industrial Midwest, and the emerging field of the Black Pacific. 

Other Auburn historians consider the history of race in 20th-century Europe, labor history, and the history of feminism and women’s rights. We bring scholars who focus on a wide range of inequalities and questions of rights into conversation with one another, encouraging dynamic explorations of these issues.

Faculty working within the race, rights, and inequalities area often participate in media interviews, publishing op-eds and blog posts, creating and maintaining digital history projects, and collaborating with local communities. 

 

History of Technology

The history of technology is the study of past interactions between humans and technology broadly defined, where technology includes artifacts (machines and tools) and systems (e.g., factories and transportation or information networks), but also processes (manipulation of the physical world) and phenomena that seem to function in technological ways (e.g., bureaucracies). Historians of technology look at technology’s relations with politics, economics, labor, health, business, the environment, public policy, science, and the arts. Some of the big questions historians of technology grapple with include:

  • What impact do technologies have on everyday human life?
  • Why do some technologies succeed, and others fail?
  • What is the interplay between governance and technology?
  • What is the relationship between technology and social, economic, and political power?

Auburn has one of the largest concentrations of faculty specializing in the history of technology in the country. Faculty members have garnered international recognition for their work on the social and cultural history of technology, with specialties in transportation (automobiles, aviation, aerospace), governance, gender, immigration, food, agriculture, medicine, popular culture, military, public history, globalization, the ancient world, and the environment.

 

History of Mobility and Travel

In popular culture as well as academic studies, people of the past are often represented as immobile: grounded in static places and fixed groups. The relatively recent "mobilities turn" corrects that impression by showing to what extent the movement of people, objects, and ideas have shaped human history. By addressing "routes over roots," mobility-focused scholarship reveals that the world of the past was a world in motion. Our students have the opportunity to consider mobility from multiple social and cultural perspectives, as well as to develop skills in the history of technology, oral history, and digital mapping.

Whether looking at movement through the lens of migration, tourism, pilgrimage, exploration, or transportation, Auburn historians examine:

  • how and why people and objects moved
  • who had and did not have access to the technologies and cultures of travel
  • how displacement transformed and defined groups of people
  • how people overcame or did not overcome barriers to movement
  • how journeys created meaning for those who participated in and observed them

 

Women, Gender and Sexuality

Our faculty explore both the ways gender roles and ideas have shaped history and the lived experiences of women in diverse historical times and places. Scholars in this area use gender as a primary lens of analysis as they seek to deepen understandings of both men and women’s actions and beliefs in the past.

Areas of faculty research include:

  • the role of gender ideals in class formation in 18th- and 19th-century Britain
  • women’s engagement in politics in the 20th century
  • the ways in which gender shaped technological development and adoption of technologies in the 20th century