"I had the Best Childhood": Growing up in Ohio Orphanages in the 20th Century

In the course of the twentieth century hundreds of thousands of American children spent part of their childhood in orphanages or children’s homes across the country. Modern understandings of life in such institutions are typically negative, associating orphanage life with the hardships encountered by fictional characters such as Oliver Twist and Orphan Annie. Surely, growing up outside the family was associated with trauma for many children, but the reality of orphanage life was often more complex. Based on 200 oral history interviews, this talk explores the experiences of more than 200 individuals who grew up in Ohio orphanages between 1920 and 1995. How do these former orphanage children recall their childhood? What is it like to come of age in an institution? Surprisingly, many of these individuals had very fond memories of their early lives, sometimes claiming that their childhoods had been close to ideal. Why did they think so? And what can we learn from their experiences that might influence present-day child welfare policies?

A Beautiful Nightmare

In a distinctly autobiographical manner, Lee Adcock uses Guy Debord's technique of detournement to understand how the "steroid era" in baseball has interrupted a distinctly American narrative of identity and kinship. Of detournement, Debord (1981) writes, "Any elements, no matter where they are taken from, can serve in making new combinations...when two objects are brought together, no matter how far apart their original contexts may be, a relationship is always formed" (p. 9).

A Dialogue about Democracy and Diversity

Our nation, our university, and our department have faced recent as well as historic challenges in incorporating people of color as fully enfranchised members of these respective communities. Join us for meaningful dialogue as we consider how faculty, students, staff, and administrators might work together to promote a more democratic, inclusive, and just society. 
Presented by the Ohio State Univeristy History Faculty of Color Caucus in May 2012. Moderated by Kevin Boyle, Humanities Distinguished Professor of History.

A Network Framework of Cultural History

The emergent processes driving cultural history are a product of complex interactions among large numbers of individuals, determined by difficult-to-quantify historical conditions. The tools of network and complexity theory were used to visualize a macroscopic perspective on cultural history. This presentation is based on a paper that appeared in Science magazine in August 2014, and an animation Charting Culture on the Nature video channel. According to Altmetric, the paper ranks among the top 1% of all papers ever published in Science, while the video has ca. 1 million views so far. Free access to the paper and video:

A Socialist Feminist Revolution in the Early People’s Republic of China

Presented on Friday, Sept. 28, by Prof. Wang Zheng, University of Michigan. Prof. Zheng presented the hidden history of the socialist state feminists who maneuvered behind the scenes in the Chinese Communist Party to promote women’s liberation. Her research focuses on the tenacious struggles of these CCP women who joined the revolution in the early 1920s and 1930s and became part of the state power holders after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

America's Infrastructure Challenge (a History Talk podcast)

A highway bridge collapses in Minnesota, lead poisons the water of Flint, Michigan, and Americans are reminded of the fragile state of our basic infrastructure—the roads, pipes, power lines, and waterways that make modern life possible. On this episode of History Talk, panelists Steven Conn, Bernadette Hanlon, and Clay Howard discuss the history of public investment in American infrastructure, how it has reached such a perilous state, and what it can tell us about  changing conceptions of the common good.

America's Post-Election Political Landscape (a History Talk podcast)

In this episode of History Talk, hosts Jessica Blissit and Brenna Miller interview three experts on American politics—Kimberly Hamlin, Marc Horger, and Paula Baker—in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. Together, they reflect on the nature of political campaigns, the role of race, class, and gender in American politics, and what has caused and what can be done about the growing cultural and political divide occurring across the country.

American Ways. An Overview of Four Centuries of Consistent National Behavior.

Presented by Steve Millett, Ph.D. The American people have displayed consistent patterns of behavior for more than 400 years. They have placed great value on individual merits, rights, and interests. The driving force of most Americans has been the sustained optimism of the “American Dream,” the ideal that the future will be better than the past in material and emotional terms. Americans have showed a remarkable ability to combine lofty ideals with self-interests. In addition, they have also emphasized the importance of strong communities, especially when communities defend and support individuals. They have always placed a particular emphasis on processes, and they have had to learn to accommodate each other and resolve their conflicts without resorting to violence. The U.S. Constitution is the ultimate process, and it has failed only once: the Civil War. Looking toward the future, the success of American optimism and the management of fear rests upon the pursuit of opportunities as presented in five likely scenarios to 2050.