Historical Research Internships Blog

Introducing the KU Department of History’s Historical Research Internship.

Why the History of History?

October 30, 2019 by Jonathan Hagel

The project to document this history of KU's History Department begins with this photograph.

James A. Malin
James A. Malin, long-time professor of history at KU, in front of his house on University Street, Lawrence, Kansas. Malin designed the house himself.

The project to document the history of KU’s Department of History began with this picture.

This picture, and a few others like it, adorn the bookshelves in the department’s old seminar room (which, incidentally, is in the middle of the English Department–a story for another time.) Wedged between hundreds of plainly-bound master’s theses and doctoral dissertations, these photos have been staring out at young history students for quite a long time.

They stared at me too for a long time before they really caught my attention. A few years ago, I found myself in an especially heated discussion about the nature of historical knowledge–the class isn’t called The Historian’s Craft for nothing. Hoping to cinch my point, I reached over to pull a particularly ponderous black-clad tome off the shelves, and this photo of Professor Malin came with it.

As I stared at the photo for a brief second, one of my students asked “Who is that guy?”

“Yeah, and who is that guy?” asked another, pointing to a different picture. A few others joined in, pointing to other photos, speculating about their age or origin.

When I was was forced to admit that I didn’t know, they all delighted in the opportunity to turn on me a question that I had repeatedly posed to them: “How would we go about finding out?”

I started the Historical Research Internship program, in a sense, to answer that very question. In the weeks and months (and maybe, years) that follow, I hope to enlist the help of some of those self-same students in finding out.