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History | Research

Faculty and graduate students in the Department of History conduct path-breaking research in a wide variety of fields on a diverse range of topics. Faculty members have published books with prestigious university presses, and their articles have appeared in the principal scholarly journals in the fields of American, European, Asian, and World History.

Sue Peabody in library
Sue Peabody conducts research in the historical archives on the island of Réunion.

Faculty research specialties in U.S. history include: urban environmental history; 1960s urban policy; the social and cultural history of the American West; American borderlands; U.S. foreign relations; Native American sovereignty; 20th-century U.S. religious history; women, gender and colonialism; and immigration and labor. Our European historians are conducting research on slavery in the early modern Atlantic world; 19th-century French intellectual history; war memory in the 20th century; Russian and East European social and cultural history; the British Empire; and early modern European social, cultural, and religious history. Our world historians are working on such subjects as Afro-Caribbean encounters; Japan during the Second World War; Islamic civilization; ethnicity, religion, and nationalism in modern China; and British imperialism in Southwest Asia.

The department maintains a particularly strong research focus in the history of the American West and the Pacific Northwest, religious history, world history, public history, and the history of empire. Faculty have recently published books on opium policy in Southeast Asia, food culture in the Caribbean, American evangelism in the interwar period, religious tolerance in Netherlands during the Reformation, cross-dressing and sexuality in the American West, and urban sustainability in Seattle.

At present, a number of faculty are completing new books for publication. Here are a few highlights:

  • Jeff Sanders is completing a book on the history of children and environment in the postwar WW II US West.
  • Sue Peabody’s forthcoming book, Madeleine’s Children: Family, Freedom, Secrets and Lies in France’s Indian Ocean Colonies, is a biography of a girl sold into slavery in India around 1750, transported to France as a servant, then to the plantation island of Réunion. When her son, Furcy, grew up, he sued for his freedom before France’s supreme court, on the grounds of Free Soil, and sought reparations for the many years he was unjustly held in slavery.
  • Matthew Avery Sutton is currently writing a book tentatively entitled FDR’s Army of Faith: Religion and Espionage in World War II (Basic Books, 2019), which examines the secret roles that American missionaries and religious activists played in espionage and covert operations during the war.
  • Lawrence Hatter’s forthcoming book is a transnational history of the U.S.-Canadian border between 1783 and 1820, which explores the intersection of citizenship, nationhood, and American Empire.
  • Peter Boag is working on a book concerning children who killed their parents in the rural American West during the agrarian depression of the 1890s.
  • Jesse Spohnholz’s current research project explores the experiences of religious refugees during Europe’s Age of Religious Wars. His work helps with understanding the creation of national and religious identities in Europe and sheds light on how some European are reacting to the arrival of refugees today. For more information, visit Religious Exiles.

Research project showcases rare WWII footage

While searching military archives for photographs and documents about the 161st Infantry regiment, graduate students Laura Briere and Jared Chastain, along with their faculty adviser, historian Orlan Svingen, stumbled upon an old film reel containing never-before-publicly viewed footage of the unit’s fierce, island-by-island march across the Pacific.

Read more about their work and the project results on the CAS Story Hub >>

Washington State University