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Dr. John Gram Joins Committee at Western Historical Association

In early November, I attended the annual meeting of the Western Historical Association (WHA) – an organization of academics and non-academics drawn together by their love of the history of the American West.  It’s by far my favorite conference to attend.  Since my own research has focused on the Southwest and Native American history – both parts of the larger history of the American West – I’ve served on panels or presented papers at the conference in the past.

Dr. Tim Bowman (WTAMU) with Dr. John Gram (MSU)

This year, however, I went to the WHA conference as a member of the Contingent Faculty Committee.  “Contingent Faculty” are members of university faculty who do not have tenure or tenure-track positions – anyone from part-time adjuncts to full-time instructors.  Today, contingent faculty make up more than 50 percent of all university faculty.  The WHA and other professional history organizations are trying to figure out how to support this portion of the profession which is only likely to grow in the future.  How can contingent faculty – who have little to no institutional support for research or travel at most institutions – maintain an active research agenda, in order to remain competitive for the shrinking number of tenure-track jobs? How do they travel to conferences to learn about new research being done in their fields, present their own research, and simply create and/or maintain professional connections? (Note: I was only able to attend the conference because the CHPA here at MSU does provide travel funds). How can professional organizations like the WHA help remove the stigma that can come from being “contingent faculty,” helping universities and their tenure-track/tenured faculty value and invest in this portion of the university faculty who will continue to bear the brunt of teaching responsibilities into the foreseeable future? These were just some of the things we discussed at the meeting.

Overall, I think it was a productive initial meeting for the committee, and I’m proud to be part of an organization trying to lead the way in addressing these significant issues that will affect the future of higher education in the United States.

Dr. John Gram

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Dr. Andrew Lewis: September 1943 to October 2017

Dr. Andrew Lewis, a long-time member of the Missouri State History Department, died on October 24th.  Dr. Lewis specialized in medieval France and taught medieval, Roman, European and world history for over thirty years.  At the time of his death, Dr. Lewis was Professor Emeritus.

Dr. Andrew Lewis (1943-2017)

Dr. Lewis’s colleagues recognized him as a meticulous and path-breaking scholar.  His quintessential work, Royal Succession in Capetian France: Studies on Familial Order and the State (Harvard University Press, 1981), reshaped our current understanding of the Capetian monarchy by demonstrating that the Capetian royal family must be studied as a powerful noble family.  Previous studies had treated Capetian history as purely political history, with an eye toward the growth of French royal power and creation of a centralized territorial state.  By reinterpreting Capetian policies within the context of family, noble lineage, and dynastic possessions, his work showed that the primary political goal of the Capetians, from the 10th into the 14th century, had been to enhance familial power and resources, using the same strategies as other contemporary noble families; the creation of a cohesive French kingdom was due more to accident or chance than to policies aimed at national unification.

For this work, Dr. Lewis was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship and the John Nicholas Brown Prize for the best first book in any area of medieval studies.  Historian Thomas Bisson noted in his review that Royal Succession in Capetian France was one of “the ablest studies of French kingship every published.”  The influence of Dr. Lewis’s work led to a special session at the Annual Symposium of the International Medieval Society in Paris in 2008.

Throughout his career, Dr. Lewis published articles on the Capetian royal family and English and French royal possessions in France in journals such as the American Historical Review, the English Historical Review, Traditio, Mediaeval Studies, and the Bibliothèque de l’école des chartes.  These articles were frequently accompanied by editions of previously unpublished charters (some had been unknown to editors of the inventories and collections of French and English royal acts published in the early to mid-20th century; others had been previously published but lacked a critical edition).  More recently, Dr. Lewis published a full edition and translation of the chronicle and historical notes written by the French monk Bernard Itier (Oxford University Press, 2012).

Dr. Lewis found great pleasure in the success of his students.  He was known for his meticulous standards and uncompromising commitment to intellectual achievement and critical engagement. An “old school” scholar/teacher, Dr. Lewis valued and fostered intellectual curiosity shaped by a rigorous commitment to the standards of evidence and professionalism.  He genuinely enjoyed his students and brought to the classroom a sly sense humor.  He put off retirement because, as he told the Department Head, he still loved teaching. In his final conversation with a close colleague, he spoke joyously of a student they had in common who had just published his book with a prestigious publisher.

The History Department sends its condolences to Dr. Lewis’s family, friends and students.  His love of history and learning made us more curious and more exacting.  His sly sense of humor left many of us shaking our heads, smiling and thinking, “oh my.”

Dr. Jessica Elliott

Dr. Kathleen Kennedy



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Professor Julia Troche Consults for Assassin’s Creed: Origins Media Team

In my career as an Egyptologist and ancient historian more generally, I often am confronted by challenging questions. So, it is nice when an easy question arises for which the answer is clear—such as, “Would you want to be flown out to Los Angeles so we can interview you as part of the media campaign being developed by Uproxx for the new Assassin’s Creed: Origins video game?” The answer to this question is yes—always a resounding “yes.”

An ibis mummy getting CT-scanned at RI Hospital, May 2015. Photo by Frank Mullin/Brown University.

Uproxx describes itself as a “news and culture platform for the digital generation.” It is a website I was familiar with before receiving the aforementioned call. It’s primary audience is male millennials, but it covers hot topics in the news, entertainment, and gaming that all audiences can appreciate. As a once-gamer myself it was exciting to be a part of Assassin’s Creed and Uproxx’s project.

Assassin’s Creed: Origins is a video game developed by Ubisoft and is the tenth iteration of the Assassin’s Creed series—a series I personally once played regularly. This version of the game takes place in Ptolemaic Egypt (to learn more about this keep an eye out for my HST 344 class “Ancient Civilizations” which will be taught next Fall, if you aren’t lucky enough to already be enrolled in my class on Ancient Egypt next term).

The series narrative follows the fictional fight between the Templar Order (or their forerunners the Order of the Ancients) and the Brotherhood of Assassins, but places this fictional war in real historical moments. Both groups are fighting for peace, but the Assassins believe peace can be achieved through liberty and free will, while the Order of the Ancients believe that strong rule and order is the only way to ensure peace.

I hope this reminds my History 103 class of a topic we have talked about recently and many students wrote essays on—this tension between how to rule and questions surrounding the inherent selfishness versus goodness of people is truly a centuries old debate. Confucianism, we discussed, argued for soft leadership through moral guidance, while Legalism sought order through rigid rules, regulations, and a robust reward and punishment system. This isn’t too dissimilar from the Hobbes/Locke debate and there are dozens of other examples in history of this playing out.

These four videos were developed as part of the media campaign for the new game. They are meant to be fun, engaging videos that speak to the ‘historical’ aspects of the game and are not meant to be academic products. For my part I was interviewed over the course of a day on various topics, but was not involved in the final editing or framing of the videos—that was all done by an incredible team working for Uproxx.

Dr. Julia Troche

You can find the videos on the Uproxx gaming page, or by following these links. They are accompanied by short articles written by Uproxx in which Missouri State is given a shout out (go Bears!):

On the Afterlife


On Emojis


On Tomb robbery


On World Leaders and Power




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Derek Van Hise: Emperor of Maps

Derek Van Hise: Emperor of Maps

It seems that everyone is trying to become a YouTube star these days. Indeed, for many young people YouTube is increasingly coming to replace television as their primary method of consuming visual media. The attraction is quite understandable. Today you can find channels covering every conceivable topic, from the reviews of latest video-games to in-depth makeup tutorials. YouTube has also become a resource for those interested in history. The video hosting site contains a wealth of
documentaries as well as channels in which historians, both professional and amateur, share their thoughts and insights on a wide range of subjects. One such channel is that of ‘Emperor Tigerstar’ aka Derek Van Hise, a BsEd student here at Missouri State University’s department of history.

Derek van Hise received a plaque from YouTube after his channel surpassed 100,000. subscribers

Hail to Emperor Tigerstar

Mr. Van Hise has long been fascinated in maps. “I’ve always found maps help put a lot of things into perspective” he stated. “The idea of seeing ‘who owns what’ in the world is neat to look at and I’ve found it interesting since I got an atlas for my sixth birthday.” Thus, in 2009, began creating animated historical maps and uploading them to his YouTube channel. Mr. Van Hise noted that he initially began making maps “out of boredom” but continued making them when he discovered that his work had a following. Today he has over a hundred animated maps on his channel, covering everything from the European colonization of the Americas to the Turkish war of independence. Moreover, as his catalog as grown so too have his following, jumping to over 100,000 subscribers – an achievement that has been official recognized by YouTube itself.

Making it Big on YouTube

The success of ‘Emperor Tigerstar’ has been somewhat of a surprise to Mr. Van Hise.  “I never thought it’d become a job for me and it’s always rewarding when a fun hobby is loved by others and pays the bills at the same time.” So what advice does Mr. Van Hise have for aspiring YouTubers?  “There is always an audience for your niche.” However, he also notes that “patience is well-needed and well worth it.” This leaves only one question: Why ‘Emperor Tigerstar’? Well, according to Mr. Van Hise, Tigerstar was a character from a fantasy novel series he loved in middle school. However, “Emperor was just to make it different, plus Emperor sounds very history-ish.”

To visit Mr. Van Hise’s channel click the link below:


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Pelin Helvacı: A Turkish Scholar in Springfield

Hi! I’m Pelin Helvacı, a graduate student at Galatasaray University Political Science Department and Turkish history instructor at Istanbul Technical University, in Istanbul, Turkey. I am currently conducting research towards my PhD, which focuses on the Turkish journalist and a politician, Cihad Baban (1911-1984). As a journalist and a newspaper owner in 1940s, Baban was a member of the small group of the elite who played a crucial role in Turkey’s affairs between the 1940s and 1980s. The objective of my work is to highlight the interplay between Turkish political history and Cihad Baban’s political biography with the changing understanding of democracy in Turkey.

Pelin Helvacı at MSU

The American Press and the Ottoman Revolution

While engaging in research in Turkey, I came across with Dr. Djene Bajalan’s work of Kurdish notables, who gave a detailed background of notable Kurdish families in late nineteenth century in his various articles and book chapters. Late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were important periods for Ottoman history due to the Westernization attempts which paved the way for constitutionalism and opening of the parliament. Benefiting from Dr. Bajalan’s studies, I came to question how the Ottoman Revolution of 1908, taken up by ‘Young Turks’, was perceived in foreign newspapers, more specifically in American press.

Researching in Springfield

The best way to pursue primary and secondary sources of this remarkable era is university libraries and I was fortunate enough to see that Missouri State University Duane G. Meyer Library has access to these newspapers and rich secondary sources. When Dr. Bajalan kindly accepted to supervise this project, my Missouri State experience started right away with an official invitation from Dean Matthews. From June to September 2017, I had the chance to experience Missouri State’s unique environment. In addition to do research in the library regularly, I enjoyed the inclusive and lively academic environment in History Department. I also had an opportunity to make use other university facilities and experience the wonderful campus. Thanks to the department head Prof. Kathleen Kennedy, I presented part of my work in her historiography class and experienced teaching in English, which was a challenging task for me.

Making my Missouri Statement

Last, but not least, Missouri State University’s motto “Make Your Missouri Statement” which focuses on ‘to go after your dreams’ inspired me to reassess my future academic goals. Now my future plans include  pursuing post-doc and  contributing to the diversity in Turkish and Middle Eastern studies in the US. This short period helped me to develop critical thinking, to improve my research and writing skills and to gain a comparative perspective. Also, Springfield provided the best opportunities in a small town charm with a big city vibe, which make it convenient for both studying and having fun. I will not forget the delicious Hertz Donuts and Black Sheep hamburger that helped me gain a few pounds!

Ms.  Pelin Helvacı

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