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FSU alumnus Dr. Bryan Banks was in Tallahassee in late February for the 50th Annual Consortium on the Revolutionary Era Conference and took time to speak with us about his time at FSU and his career since graduating.  Dr. Banks received both his Master’s (2011 with Dr. Rafe Blaufarb) and Ph.D. (2014 with Dr. Darrin McMahon) in History at Florida State University.  Dr. Banks chose Florida State as the result of a meeting he had with Dr. Blaufarb at a café in Paris while on an undergraduate exchange program at the University of Versailles.  Based on Dr. Blaufarb’s reputation, as well as Dr. McMahon’s, and the resources available through the Institute on Napoleon and the French Revolution at FSU, Dr. Banks felt this was the right place to pursue his graduate studies.

            While working on his doctorate degree at the University of Iowa, Paul Renfro was captivated by the story of two young girls who went missing and the language around their disappearance. People saying, “this shouldn’t happen here,” and notions of racial and regional innocence sparked his interest. Stranger Danger discusses the phenomenon of missing children and its resonance beginning in the late seventies and early eighties.

In an interview discussing his new book, The Virtues of Economy: Governance, Power, and Piety in Late Medieval Rome (Cornell University Press, 2019), James Palmer explained the long road to its publication. Palmer, currently an assistant professor in the History Department at FSU spent the better part of the 2010s researching and writing the book. James Palmer was also emphatic about the importance of history for our society today. The study of history will equip students “to live critically in the world that they are in.”

His Journey

Dr. Palmer began college as a forestry major but realized quickly that this field did not suit him. While reconsidering his major, he spoke with many professors, including Chris Celenza, who taught Renaissance Italy. Palmer stated that Professor Celenza “took me under his wing,” and inspired him to follow in his footsteps to Italy. Palmer recollects that when he decided eventually to go into history, nobody in his family was surprised but he himself.

The Process

Adjusting to remote learning or working from home can be a hard transition. If you are used to working in the library, a coffee shop, or an office, finding yourself at home brings new distractions. With COVID-19 causing FSU to go remote at least through the Summer B session, it is important to figure out ways to boost productivity and maintain focus. Video games, TV, pets and family members are just some of the new distractions, students may face as they try to accomplish their scholarly goals and complete assignments. Luckily there are resources that can be accessed via computer or phone that can help tune out distractions and focus on tasks at hand.

Although FSU’s classes have transitioned to online instruction methods, there are still plenty of ways for history majors and other students in history classes to get their history fix—whether it be for scholarly research or personal interest. Engaging with history remotely is possible with a wealth of resources provided by FSU libraries and other instructional and cultural institutions nationwide.

John Cable was traveling with a band in Athens, Georgia. The bass player, majoring in Social Science Education, brought numerous books to their room. Dr. Cable grabbed one and began reading. This is how his love for history started.

After getting married, he returned to school. He chose History over his initial major in Music Performance. Dr. Cable was drawn to the history of Civil Rights. In college, he studied with a professor specializing in the African Diaspora. From there he completed his undergrad and MA degree at FSU. Dr. Cable was sure about the topic of his dissertation: A grand, overarching re-framing of American Civil Rights history as a story of colonization and decolonization of the United States.

FSU hosted the Consortium on the Revolutionary Era (CRE) February 27th-29th, celebrating the golden anniversary of the history conference. The 50th anniversary began with a reception held at the DoubleTree Tallahassee, where scholars of the Revolutionary era came to meet from across the globe. Friends and colleagues reunited, and emerging scholars had the opportunity to meet other historians in their field. The night culminated with an engaging talk by LSU Shreveport’s Alexander Mikaberidze as well as a series of speakers who represented FSU.

With over 200 copies of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, it is easy to fall down the rabbit hole at FSU’s Special Collections. History graduate student Lauren Owens did exactly that, curating an original exhibit highlighting just a fraction of the beautifully illustrated children’s books held in the archive. Owens says the exhibit is timely. February 28th, 2020 marked the 200th anniversary of John Tenniel’s birth—the illustrator behind some of the most iconic and recognizable Alice imagery. The anniversary inspired Owens to build her project around Tenniel’s Alice and enabled her to work with collections related to a story she has personal love for.

            Another day, another coronavirus update, another twitter hashtag, another meme. As the disease continues to spread from its outbreak in Wuhan, China, to more countries, the fear and panic leads to more and more comparisons to historical pandemics, specifically the Black Death. While the effects of the coronavirus are all around us, it is dangerous to portray the disease in the same light as the Black Death.

The History Department will host the annual James P. Jones Lecture at 5 PM on March 5th in the Rendina Room of the FSU Alumni Center. Our speaker is Professor Kathryn Olivarius of Stanford University. Her lecture, "Necropolis: Disease, Power, and Capitalism in the Cotton Kingdom," is based on her current book project. Professor Olivarius argues that in places like Louisiana and Florida, where illnesses like yellow fever were common and terrifying, immunity became desperately important but impossible to document scientifically. For white men, proving their immunity became the gateway to power in the plantation societies of the Deep South, and it formed an integral part of their ideas about race, capitalism, and the role of government. We hope anyone interested in the history of the South, the history of slavery, or the history of science will join us for the event.