Department of History
The Department of History is a community of scholars committed to studying the past in all its diversity. Our award-winning faculty excels in teaching, research, and engagement. Our students are deeply involved in historical study in and out of the classroom, and our alumni use their historical studies in a wide variety of careers. Our undergraduate program offers a fascinating, flexible major that permits study of the broadest possible range of human experience, while our graduate programs support advanced study at both the M.A. and Ph.D. levels. Aspiring and current teachers advance their careers through our educator licensure program in history and social sciences.
Statement on the History of Racist Violence in the United States
The NIU History Department endorses the American Historical Association’s June 2020 statement urging a reckoning with the United States' deplorable record of violence against African Americans, a record that stretches back centuries. The killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers stands within this sordid national tradition of racist violence. It is past time for Americans to confront our nation's past, using insights from history to inform our actions as we work to create a more just society.
- Professor Rosemary Feurer co-authored an opinion piece in the Chicago Tribune titled “Chicago Played a Big Role in Mother Jones’ Life. Why No Statue for Her?” and another in the Chicago Sun-Times titled “A Statue for Mother Jones Would Remind Chicago that Workers Built This City.”
- Professor Stanley Arnold was interviewed by Rockford NBC affiliate WREX for stories about voter registration and about the protests against police violence against African Americans.
- Professor Beatrix Hoffman wrote an opinion piece for Newsweek about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on health insurance in the United States. She was also interviewed by Slate about the impact of previous epidemics on Progressive-era debates about collective health security benefits.
The History Department commemorates the life of George Spencer, who passed away on Jan. 19, 2021. After earning his Ph.D. from the University of California in 1967, Spencer spent his entire career at NIU before retiring in 2004. As a specialist in Indian history, he taught a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate courses on Asia, the United States, and global topics. Spencer also served as the History department chair for nine years. Taylor Atkins, remembers that "George was a warm and supportive colleague who made new colleagues feel welcome, took interest in their work and was eager to help. He was a storehouse of historical and institutional knowledge and unfailingly dedicated to the growth and strength of the NIU History department. He and his wife, Professor Emerita Elaine Spencer, were voracious travelers who brought their experiences into their classrooms." By teaching regularly for the Lifelong Learning Institute, Spencer continued to light up NIU classrooms with his first-person knowledge of the world even after his retirement. He will be missed by many. Read more about his decades-long commitment to NIU and his support for the History department.
- Professor Emma Kuby’s book Political Survivors: The Resistance, the Cold War, and the Fight Against Concentration Camps After 1945 has won the 2020 George Louis Beer Prize from the American Historical Association for the best work on European international history since 1895. The book was also awarded the 2020 David H. Pinkney Prize from the Society for French Historical Studies; and the 2020 European Studies Book Award from the Council for European Studies.
- Recent History Ph.D. Heeyoung Choi has been awarded the 2020 Deborah Wong Research and Publication Award from the Society for Ethnomusicology.
- Professor Valerie Garver was awarded a Mercator Fellowship to spend a semester at the University of Heidelberg, where she will share her expertise in early medieval material culture with the research group on medieval material text cultures. Her edited volume, A Cultural History of Work: the Medieval Age (800-1450) (Bloomsbury Press), which includes her own piece on "Work, Skill, and Technology," is part of the multivolume work which won the 2020 Prose Award for multivolume reference in the humanities.
- Professor Beatrix Hoffman has received the 2020 Wilma Stricklin Award. The award recognizes exemplary leadership/service resulting in a more favorable campus climate for women.
- History Ph.D. candidate LeNie Adolphson has been awarded the Judy and John McCarter Family Fellowship from Chicago PBS station WTTW. She will be assisting in the production of a documentary about journalist and Civil Rights movement leader Ida B. Wells.