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Adam Franklin-Lyons
Other faculty members who teach history courses:
Seth Harter (see Asian Studies)
Kate Ratcliff (see American Studies)
Felicity Ratté (see Art History )

The study of history involves engaging original sources—everything from great works of political writing to bills of sale to court records to archaeological remains—in the context of their own time and developing methods for turning those sources into stories for use in the context of our time. This involves the industrious collection of material and information from the primary sources as well as some intuitive sense for the weaving of those disparate shards into a coherent whole. Finally, the work of a historian involves turning these fragments of information, along with reflections on or responses to the work of other historians, into an argument or a narrative that is supposed to serve our understanding of the present, the future and, ultimately, ourselves.

My own work is on the history of food shortage, famine and poverty, focusing on late-medieval Spain and the Mediterranean. My current research projects are the development of the theoretical frameworks used to study pre-modern famine and an ongoing survey of the time-line, severity, causes and responses to famines in the western Mediterranean after the Black Death. Lastly, I also work intermittently on agricultural practices in Muslim Spain.

A wide variety of other topics also appeal to me in both teaching and research, some of which appear in the possible course and tutorial offerings. I am extremely interested in all aspects of the history of agriculture, including questions of contemporary sustainability, the history of agricultural technology and debates surrounding development and poverty in the “global south.” Before becoming a historian, I spent time working as a chef and a brewer and continue to enjoy both reading about the history of fermentation as well as fermenting many things myself, from apples to turnips. Having also worked in music, philosophy and theology, I also continue to be interested in the history of the Christian Church—its music and liturgy in particular.

Students studying history at Marlboro are encouraged to study broadly, to acquire language skills appropriate to their interests, to explore theoretical approaches that can deepen their comprehension of the past and the present, and to develop research skills and bibliographical competence. Students of history also need strong skills in both reading and writing. History is an information-rich discipline and requires large amounts of critical reading. Given this emphasis, combined with Marlboro’s emphasis on written work, all courses in history carry substantial reading lists, often based on primary source texts, and require the regular written assignments.

Areas of Interest for Plan-Level Work:

Adam Franklin-Lyons

  • Medieval Spain
  • History of food
  • The Mediterranean world
  • European history

Dana Howell

  • Folklore & popular culture
  • Eurasian (former USSR) studies
  • Cultural history/historical anthropology
  • Aristocracy

Starting Points (Basic and Introductory Courses)

Any of these courses serve as good prerequisites to the intermediate and advanced material and provide the necessary foundations for Plan work. At least one, if not more, of these courses will be offered every year, and it would be difficult to do a Plan in history without having taken at least one of these three courses. (See also: Asian studies, American studies, classics, and cultural history, many of which can count for history introductory courses)

This course serves as a broad introduction to the Medieval European world. There are two major goals of the course. First, students should become acquainted with the changes and narratives of medieval history as well as its significance to modern history. Second, as an introduction to the historical discipline, this course offers students the opportunity to learn the methods of historical research: how to use primary sources as well as historiography to formulate historical narratives and arguments. The course will look at the medieval world through a variety of lenses, including political, religious, economic and social history as well as looking at the art, music and literature of the time. Prerequisite: None     Introductory | Credits: 4

This course will provide an introduction of the study of history focused on Europe from the end of the medieval period till the beginning of the modern era. Prior to spring break, we will cover major elements in the development of European nations and peoples including religious changes, imperial expansion, economic systems and cultural identity. After having covered the basic timeline, in the remaining weeks students will be allowed to choose and present on several areas that will be covered in greater depth. Options might include but are not limited to: early navigation, the Reformation, enlightenment philosophy, the 17th-century crisis, sex and gender, the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution or others. Prerequisite: None     Introductory | Credits: 4

Recommended for anyone who needs to use the library. The entire course will be spent learning search and organization techniques for research data ranging from books and articles to primary sources or statistical material. Prerequisite: None     Introductory | Credits: 2

Pursuing Interests (Intermediate and Thematic Courses)

These courses will be offered on a rotating basis and may only appear every few years. Each course offers a deeper survey of the scholarly debates surrounding a given topic and further research methods specific to that area. They include topics such as famine, local history, agriculture and others. See the complete course list in history under the “thematic” courses for full descriptions of all recently taught intermediate courses.

This course will cover ideas of taste and choices of cuisine as they affected events and cultural change over the last millennium as well as the tools historians have used to study the history of food. European and American history will be the focus, but we will also explore a selection of other global cuisines. Different societies and historical eras all had their own styles and preferences and these brought about trade links, conquests, global reorganizations and shifts in both aesthetic and material culture. We will also ask what the study of “high” culture food can tell us about the cultural life of both the past and our own society. Some cooking will be involved. Prerequisite: None     Introductory | Credits: 4

In this course, we will survey a number of famines and food shortages from ancient Rome to modern Africa, looking at the changing nature of famines throughout history as well as some persistent similarities. The course will investigate the human and natural causes of famine, the experience of starvation and economic displacement and the attempts by governments and individuals to avoid and ameliorate shocks to the food supply. Particular attention will be paid to economic and social theories of famine and how they affect historical interpretation and modern food aid. Previous coursework in history, economics or political science is helpful but not required. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor     Intermediate | Credits: 4

By focusing on the historical archives and primary source material available here in Windham County, students will be able to do genuine historical research based in the archives of our local townships. Throughout the semester, we will look at the history of Vermont, Marlboro, Brattleboro and the college itself through a variety of lenses including natural history, archeology, photography and archival work. We will discuss persistent questions addressed through local and micro-history as well as focus on the more advanced techniques useful in all areas of historical research. The long Thursday afternoon timeslot will be used to visit to several historical societies and museums. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor     Intermediate | Credits: 4

This class is an interdisciplinary investigation of time, place and memory. Part anthropological fieldwork, historical research, detective sleuthing and performance art, this wide-ranging course will explore how we remember history—our own and that of those who came before us—but also why certain histories become cultural memories and others the stuff of neglected attic trunks. Joining Carol, Kate and Brenda in teaching the class will be Obie award-winning performance artist Ain Gordon.     Intermediate | Credits: 4

Viewed alternately as an idyllic time of cultural cooperation—such as in the poetry and art of Andalusia—or as the foundation of the eternal conflicts between the Abrahamic religious sects—from the Crusades to the Inquisition—medieval religious relations between Jews, Christians and Muslims have been a point of broad contention among medievalists for decades. Through a variety of primary and secondary sources we will investigate the changing social conditions that helped to create religious interactions ranging from cooperation to violence. Topics will include the Crusades, Spanish Convivencia, sermon writing, literary production and legal culture, among others. These medieval antecedents all resonate clearly in the modern world and often provide the historical/mythic backdrop to contemporary debates on continuing modern conflicts from Israel/Palestine to Afghanistan. While the focus of the course will be the complexities of medieval religious relationships, the end of the course will spend time looking directly at how the medieval past gets used in the framing of modern political rhetoric. Prerequisite: Introductory course in history, religion or equivalent     Multi-Level | Credits: 4

Courses for Juniors and Seniors on Plan in History

Not a history of the many cultures that have existed around the Mediterranean—Roman, European, Arab, Turkish—but rather a course about the sea itself, we will look at what and why scholars have written with fascination and even love about the “Middle Sea.” Modern historiography has often sought to portray the multitude of nations and peoples who have populated the Mediterranean since ancient Rome as inextricably linked, through geography, environment, economy and even in anthropological descriptions of culture. The discourse of interconnectedness in turn influenced thinkers and writers studying everything from Japan to the 17th-century Atlantic. In this course we will survey the idea of Mediterranean unity and examine the many tools historians have used to dissect the life of the sea and the lives of its peoples. Prerequisite: None Introductory | Credits: 4

Intended to further advanced work towards a Plan in history or medieval studies, students in this course will build on the background acquired in Introduction to Medieval Studies and expand their knowledge of the techniques used to study the European past during the middle ages. We will cover in greater detail techniques including manuscript work, paleography, diplomatics and archeology. Students will spend part of the semester preparing a research project in their area of interest, which will then be presented and discussed as part of the introductory course. An additional weekly one-hour meeting to be scheduled. Some knowledge of Latin would be helpful, but is not required. Prerequisite: Introduction to Medieval Studies or permission of instructor     Multi-Level | Credits: 4

A group tutorial to help students prepare a research plan and address historiographic questions related to their Plan topic. Especially focused on early-modern and modern history and could include work on Europe, the Middle East or other areas as well.     Advanced | Credits: 4

A writing and discussion seminar for seniors in History. May be repeated for credit.     Advanced |
Credits: 4

Good Foundation for Plan

Students preparing for a Plan in history are recommended to include the following coursework and skills:

  • An ability to engage with the primary source material on which history is based and the capacity to interpret what those sources mean and how they fit together into a broader narrative of the past—this is the basic skill taught in the European History survey introductory courses.
  • Language proficiency appropriate to area of study—this is fundamental for using primary sources in virtually all areas of historical study.
  • Introductory courses in two or more of the following areas: Asian studies, American studies, cultural history or history
  • Theoretical training appropriate to the specific area of study (may include anthropology, political science, sociology, economics, folklore, historiography, literary theory or others in consultation with the faculty).
  • Research skills, including library training, bibliographical competence and facility with organization and citation of compiled data.

Courses designed explicitly for juniors or seniors focusing on a Plan in history include Wine Dark Sea, Advanced Medieval Studies, Plan Seminar in History and Senior Plan Writing Seminar. These will all involve some one-on-one work focused on the individual students’ Plan focus. See also Asian studies, American studies and cultural history.

Sample Tutorial Topics

  • Medieval History (Economic History, Social History, Gender, Theology, Church History, Liturgy/Music.
  • Other Topics in European History (Especially Agriculture, Food Supply, Trade Systems, Environmental History)
  • Natural Disasters (Famine, Epidemics, Social Unrest)
  • Historiography
  • Jewish, Christian, Muslim Relations