The History Department is pleased to welcome Dr. Heather Vrana, formerly of Southern Connecticut State University, as an assistant professor beginning in Fall 2017.  Dr. Vrana received her Ph.D from Indiana University in 2013 and is the author of This City Belongs to You: A History of Student Activism in Guatemala, 1944-1996 (University of California Press, 2017), Anti-Colonial Texts from Central American Student Movements, 1929-1983 (Edinburgh University Press, 2017), and numerous articles and reviews. She is a member of the Tepoztlán Collective and co-director of Revisiting the Guatemalan Revolution, an edited volume and multi-media digital history and memory project. She continues to collaborate with youth social justice movements in Guatemala.
Her new research, The Idea of Disability and the Making of Modern Central America, is a history of disability across the twentieth century, from the expansion of the asylum system at the turn of the century to the reframing of disability as a human rights concern in the 1980s. Tracking these changes reveals how a range of governmental and civil bodies understood the disabled body as a touchstone for modernization. This history is adjacent to, but largely neglected within, the analytical frames of the histories of medicine, public health, science, and human rights. It is imperative to understand the disability histories of Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador because of their distinct histories of race; shared history of dictatorship, neocolonialism, and revolution; and divergent histories of civil war and post-war politics.
In general, Dr. Vrana’s research interests include student and social movements, Central America, social class, race, disability and history of medicine, nationalisms, youth politics and culture, and popular culture. Dr. Vrana learned Spanish in a Northern Virginia high school from a Puerto Rican nationalist and three children of refugees from internal conflicts in Central America and Peru. These language lessons came with a political education.

Dr. Lily Guerra (pictured here as a youngster) provides a compelling answer to this question in the most recent edition of the American Historical Association’s Perspectives.  Dr. Guerra responds to an earlier article by AHA President Mary Beth Norton entitled “Why Are You a Historian?”  After a meeting with UF’s chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the history honor society, Dr. Guerra was inspired to write about her own experiences growing up in Kansas as the child of Cuban expatriates and how that influenced her decision to practice history.

You can read Dr. Guerra’s article in its entirety by clicking here. 

We are thrilled to share the news that UF History’s Jack Davis has won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for History for his book The Gulf: The History of an American Sea.  In announcing the award, the Pulitzer called this book: “An important environmental history of the Gulf of Mexico that brings crucial attention to Earth’s 10th-largest body of water, one of the planet’s most diverse and productive marine ecosystems.”  The Gulf has received much praise, as it has been appeared on the front page of the New York Times Book Review and won the 2017 Kirkus Prize.

A warm congrats are in order, and we look forward to Jack’s next book, which will be a look at the American Bald Eagle.

Interested in writing a senior thesis? Applying for money to do research this summer?

Come to one of the information sessions this week! 

On Wednesday, March 15 and Thursday, March 16 and 4PM Dr. Sheryl Kroen will hold information sessions on the History Honors Program in the history conference room(downstairs in Keene-Flint–across the hall from the main office). ​If you cannot make either of these times, but are interested in applying for the honors program, please contact either Dr. Kroen come to her office hours: Tuesday 3:45-4:45; Thursday, 1-3, or email to make an appointment (

 Applications will be due on March 24th, although if space remains, applications will be considered after that date on a rolling basis. For details of the application process see: 

 We are extending the deadline for applications for research fellowships for students pursing the thesis: Daniel Koleos Research Award and Ann Reagan Undergraduate Research Award. These applications will be due next Wednesday, March 23. For details see:


The Department of History is proud to announce the Gary and Eleanor G. Simons Lecture for 2017, which will feature Dr. Alexander Hill of the University of Calgary. Dr. Hill’s talk, “Stalin’s Red Army at War, 1939-1945” will take place at 5:30 pm in G186 McCarty Hall on the campus of the University of Florida. This lecture is free and open to the public.
The Soviet road to victory over Nazi Germany on the Eastern Front was a rocky one. The Red Army was in many ways poorly prepared to meet the Axis invasion in June 1941 despite years of preparation for war. It would take in to 1944 for the Red Army to liberate pre-1939 Soviet territory – much of which had been lost in just a matter of weeks. The Red Army was undoubtedly a far more effective force by 1945 than it had been in 1941, but still took mind boggling losses during the closing stages of the war. How and why the Red Army went from the disasters of 1941 to being increasingly successful on the battlefield as the war progressed, and yet still at such cost, is the theme of this lecture.
Alexander Hill is an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of Calgary. His research is concerned primarily with Soviet military, naval and strategic history from c. 1928-1945. He has recently published The Red Army and the Second World War with Cambridge University Press (2017), that examines the development of the Red Army from the late 1920s through to the end of the Second World War in Europe. He has also written on the nature and military effectiveness of the Soviet partisan movement in north-west Russia, 1941-1944, on the development of Soviet naval power in the Arctic up to the first months of the Great Patriotic War, and the significance of Allied Lend-Lease aid for the Soviet war effort during 1941-1942.

History Professor Jack Davis will publish his long awaited book, The Gulf: The Making of An American Sea in March 2017 with W.W. Norton.  The official launch will be on March 12, 2017 at the Oxford Exchange in Tampa.  Here is a brief description of what will prove to be another excellent book in the UF History Department’s long tradition of publishing excellence:

When painter Winslow Homer first sailed into the Gulf of Mexico, he was struck by its “special kind of providence.” Indeed, the Gulf presented itself as America’s sea―bound by geography, culture, and tradition to the national experience―and yet, there has never been a comprehensive history of the Gulf until now. And so, in this rich and original work that explores the Gulf through our human connection with the sea, environmental historian Jack E. Davis finally places this exceptional region into the American mythos in a sweeping history that extends from the Pleistocene age to the twenty-first century.

Significant beyond tragic oil spills and hurricanes, the Gulf has historically been one of the world’s most bounteous marine environments, supporting human life for millennia. Davis starts from the premise that nature lies at the center of human existence, and takes readers on a compelling and, at times, wrenching journey from the Florida Keys to the Texas Rio Grande, along marshy shorelines and majestic estuarine bays, profoundly beautiful and life-giving, though fated to exploitation by esurient oil men and real-estate developers.

Rich in vivid, previously untold stories, The Gulf tells the larger narrative of the American Sea―from the sportfish that brought the earliest tourists to Gulf shores to Hollywood’s engagement with the first offshore oil wells―as it inspired and empowered, sometimes to its own detriment, the ethnically diverse groups of a growing nation. Davis’ pageant of historical characters is vast, including: the presidents who directed western expansion toward its shores, the New England fishers who introduced their own distinct skills to the region, and the industries and big agriculture that sent their contamination downstream into the estuarine wonderland. Nor does Davis neglect the colorfully idiosyncratic individuals: the Tabasco king who devoted his life to wildlife conservation, the Texas shrimper who gave hers to clean water and public health, as well as the New York architect who hooked the “big one” that set the sportfishing world on fire.

Ultimately, Davis reminds us that amidst the ruin, beauty awaits its return, as the Gulf is, and has always been, an ongoing story. Sensitive to the imminent effects of climate change, and to the difficult task of rectifying grievous assaults of recent centuries, The Gulf suggests how a penetrating examination of a single region’s history can inform the country’s path ahead.

A new speaker series will feature new and cutting-edge work of historians working on questions relating to ‘multicultural Europe’ in earlier historic moments.  The History Department is a co-sponsor of this program,  which ties into departmental interests in comparative empires, intercommunal relations, transnationalism, and globalization.  Stay tuned for announcements regarding these events!

The History Department congratulates our new colleague, Dr. Nancy Rose Hunt, on the publication of her book entitled, A Nervous State: Violence, Remedies, and Reverie in Colonial Congo with Duke University Press.  This book draws out the anxiety and resilience of the people of post-colonial Belgian Congo, using medicine as a way to join these seemingly contradictory versions of the “state.”
For more on A Nervous State, please see the press page here.

The History Department congratulates Dr. Nina Caputo on her new graphic history, published with Oxford University Press, entitled Debating Truth: The Barcelona Disputation of 1263.  This creative blend of art, primary sources, and historical commentary offers a unique perspective on the debate between a Dominican Friar  and the Jewish scholar Nahmanides over the Messiah as it concerned Christianity and Judaism.   The arguments took place in front of a gallery of judges in Barcelona, and Debating Truth offers a fascinating insight into the relationship between these two religions in Medieval Spain.
You can find out more about this book via its Oxford University Press page.

The History Department congratulates Elizabeth Dale on the publication of her new book, Robert Nixon and Police Torture in Chicago, 1871-1971.  We’ve all heard of Richard Wright’s famous novel from 1940, Native Son; Dr. Dale’s book uses the actual case that inspired Wright’s work as a window into the failure of the criminal justice system to deal with accusations that Chicago police officers used torture as a method of extracting confessions.
For more on this book, see the official press page here.