The History Department has a wealth of expertise in the history of the family. We have particular strengths in the areas of historical demography, law and social policy, and the history of the eugenics movement. Historical research on family history often complements work in related fields, such as gender and sexuality.
Maria Bucur has written on the history of eugenics and gender roles in modern Europe. She recently published Eugenics and Modernization in Interwar Romania (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002) and “Between the Mother of the Wounded and the Virgin of Jiu: Romanian Women and the Gender of Heroism during the Great War,” Journal of Women’s History (Summer 2000). Her teaching interests focus on Eastern Europe, and in her D330: Eastern Europe under Communism she focuses in part on the transformation of family relations under communism.
Ellen Dwyer’s field of specialization is the history of psychiatry and neurology in the United States. She is especially interested in the burden of chronic illnesses for those who suffer them and their families. Her current research focuses on the responses of individuals, families, and military doctors to World War II African-American soldiers who developed or were labeled as having psychiatric problems. Every fall she teaches an interdisciplinary course, The Mad and the Bad, which explores the medico-legal situations of those caught up in both the mental health and criminal justice systems.
Wendy Gamber situates her research at the intersection of gender and labor history. Her book, Houses and Homes: Boardinghouses in Nineteenth-Century America, focuses on the meaning of women’s household labor, paid and unpaid, in nineteenth-century America. Her undergraduate courses include History of the American Home and Gender and Sexuality in American History, both of which devote significant attention to the history of the family. She teaches graduate courses on the nineteenth-century United States and women’s and gender history.
Michael Grossberg’s teaching and research focus on the intersection of law and the family in the United States. He has written books and articles on the history of American family law. Grossberg is currently working on a study of child protection in the United States that will assess issues such as child labor, juvenile justice, school reform, disabilities, and child abuse from the 1870s to the present. He has also been involved in a number of public policy research projects involving family law such as an initiative to devise guidelines for genetic testing in child custody cases. Recent courses include Children and Childhood in Modern America (J400); Children and the Law in Modern America (Law 766).
Carl Ipsen studies the history of public policies designed to affect the family. In Dictating Demography: The Problem of Population in Fascist Italy (Cambridge, 1996) he examined the population policy and demographic theory of fascist Italy. His new book, Italy in the Age of Pinocchio: Children and Danger in the Liberal Era (Palgrave, 2006), explores the issues of abandonment, emigration, child labor, juvenile delinquency, and street children in Italy before World War I. He has offered graduate courses on social policy and children in modern Europe.
David Ransel’s current research examines the family relations of an eighteenth-century provincial Russian merchant. He has also conducted more than 60 interviews with two generations of workers in the suburbs of Moscow, which focus on their attachment to basic institutions such as the family, workplace, party, church, community, and state. Both projects raise issues about citizenship, loyalties, personal and social identities. He has also written on infant abandonment, care of children, and reproduction in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Russia.
Kirsten Sword focuses on the relationship between marriage and other forms of household dependence, including slavery and servitude, in colonial North America. Her current research on divorce and “runaway wives” documents the process by which ordinary people developed new ideas about justice within households.