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UMass Sesquicentennial

University of Massachusetts Amherst

History Department

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Contact us:

History Dept., Herter Hall
University of Massachusetts
161 Presidents Drive
Amherst, MA 01003-9312

Tel. 413.545.1330
Fax. 413.545.6137


History Institute

Since 1994, the UMass Amherst History Department has hosted events, workshops and in-service trainings for K-12 teachers in Western Massachusetts. The Department's signature offering is "The History Institute". A joint endeavor with the Collaborative for Educational Services in Northampton, Massachusetts, The History Institute is an annual series of workshops organized around a central theme. At each workshop, a faculty member presents on a specific historical topic. Following the talk, teachers and scholars work together to develop strategies for applying the content to the classroom.

Inspired by the History Department's new blog, Past@Present, this year's History Institute addresses contemporary events in historical perspective. This four-session institute will feature lectures by UMass Amherst History faculty Professors Mary Wilson, Audrey Altstadt, Chris Appy and David Glassberg. By looking closely at Central Asia, the Middle East, the idea of American exceptionalism and the modern environmental movement, teachers will gain essential perspective on stories in the news today.

All sessions are free and will take at the Collaborative for Educational Services (97 Hawley St, Northampton, MA). $100 stipends and 12 PPDs are available to registered participants who complete all four sessions and an additional writing assignment. More information and registration details available on the website and flyer.


December 12, 2013: Professor Mary Wilson, "Syria: The Middle of the Middle East"
Public Lecture: 4:30-5:30pm; Teacher Workshop: 5:30-7:00pm
In this session, we will explore the region we call the “Middle East” and the conceptual changes that have defined what this region may include. Since the term was first used in Britain and the United States, we will then consider what those who named the region had in mind and how definitions have changed over time. This will take us into the realms of global strategy, geography, religions, and peoples of the area. In whatever way the Middle East may be defined geographically, Syria lies at its center. Therefore we will then shift our gaze to Syria and how the above categories--global strategy, geography, religions and peoples--have played out in the civil war since 2011.

January 23, 2014: Professor Audrey Altstadt, "Energy and Human Rights in the Caspian Basin"
Public Lecture: 4:30-5:30pm; Teacher Workshop: 5:30-7:00pm
The oil and gas-producing states around the Caspian Sea -- Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran-- have poor human rights records but the US and EU need their energy resources. For the US, as frequent champion of human rights and democratic rule, this dichotomy presents a philosophical and political dilemma. This presentation will examine energy and human rights in the region and view up close a few cases illustrating Western preference for energy security over human rights.


March 27, 2014: Professor Chris Appy, "Who We Are: The Vietnam War and the End of 'American Exceptionalism'"

Public Lecture: 4:30-5:30pm; Teacher Workshop: 5:30-7:00pm
“American exceptionalism” was a core tenet of national identity since the 17th century. Promoters of the creed have insisted that the U.S. was unrivaled not only in its resources, wealth, and military might, but in its values and institutions, its rights and opportunities. And unlike other powerful nations, the U.S. was said to act always as a force for good in the world. This talk explores how the Vietnam War posed fundamental challenges to the faith in American exceptionalism. We will also examine post-Vietnam efforts to revive it. See university press for the event.



May 8, 2014: Professor David Glassberg, "Learning from American Environmental History"

Public Lecture: 4:30-5:30pm; Teacher Workshop: 5:30-7:00pm
Studying environmental history offers middle and high school students insights into the ways that past generations of Americans imagined and shaped the land, as well as helps students to understand the roots of the current environmental crises that they are inheriting. The workshop will explore various topics in American Environmental History as represented by documents, prints and photographs, and motion pictures available on-line through the Library of Congress and other repositories.


This year's institute is supported by a Teaching American History grant from the U.S. Department of Education and by the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Program at the Collaborative for Educational Services.


The workshops have filled to capacity and registration is now closed. All are welcome to attend the lectures. The lecture portion of each evening is free and open to the public, and no registration is necessary.

For more information, contact:

Suzanne Judson-Whitehouse, Assistant Director, Collaborative for Educational Services Emerging America Program:, 413.586.4900 x162

Jessica Johnson, UMass History Department Outreach Director:, 413.545.6760