New Fields for Old: The Revitalization of Political, Diplomatic and Military History and its Implications for Research in Libraries and Archives

June 10-12, 2019

Facilitators: Ronald Bobroff (Professor of History, Oglethorpe University), Anatol Shmelev (Robert Conquest Curator for Russia and Eurasia, Hoover Institution), Annabella Irvine (Research Specialist, Slavic Reference Service, University of Illinois)

By the end of the twentieth century, fields of investigation that once stood at the root of the historical profession – political, diplomatic and military history – had come to be considered old-fashioned and their practitioners, who once formed the core of any history department, gave way to social, cultural, gender historians, almost to the point of extinction. Lately, however, these “old-fashioned” approaches have been reinvigorated by a new generation of scholars applying cutting-edge methodology from new fields and other disciplines to these traditional subjects of investigation, especially in Russian, East European and Eurasian area studies.

Diplomatic history, transformed into transnational history, no longer examines what one minister said to another, but looks also at popular attitudes toward foreign cultures, grass-roots citizen diplomacy and the international role of NGOs. Subaltern studies have given us new ways of looking at the political history of empires. Cultural and gender history, as applied to the military, have provided new insights into the role of such concepts as masculinity and honor in times of peace and war.

Libraries and archives are also changing: digitization is making access to some materials easier than ever, while undigitized materials appear to drop from many students’ agendas (“if it’s not on the Web, it doesn’t exist”). The promise of universal digitization is still often stymied by the rigidity of the library’s online catalog format. Researchers have difficulty teasing the information they need from catalogs and finding aids structured and compiled according to standards set by librarians and archivists. We will discuss how the developing professional language of archivists, including acronyms like EAD and MPLP, affects the researcher, as well as how best to structure a research visit to get the most out of any repository, both at your home institution and in the target countries.

In June 2019, the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center (REEEC) and the Slavic Reference Service (SRS) of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will be hosting a Sponsored Summer Workshop for Researchers interested in new investigations of old fields and how to get the most out of libraries and archives.

We encourage early career scholars and graduate students, especially those just formulating the research agendas or with limited archival research experience to apply to join us for this Workshop, made possible by funding from the Department of State’s Program for the Study of Eastern Europe and the Independent States of the Former Soviet Union (Title VIII).

At the workshop, researchers will have an opportunity to share work in progress, build networks, pinpoint potential partners for collaboration in the region, and gain knowledge of available resources (libraries, archives, and digital collections).