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History Department
John Paul Jones Crypt and Bust

Department Happenings

AY 2023
  • We are pleased to announce that that we hired three very talented tenure-track assistant professors who will join us this summer and provide some relief from our challenging staffing shortage of recent years. Three tenure-track hires in one year is the most that we’ve had in a single year since 2007.

  • The department’s first encounter with generative AI (ChatGPT, among others) this past spring occurred in this larger context of concern about our students. LCDR Sam Pulliam's early analysis suggested that a considerable number of essays in her classes were tainted by some form of unauthorized outside influence or assistance. They then presented their findings to the Associate Provost for Academic Affairs and the officer-in-charge of the Brigade Honor System. This helped set in motion an official Academy effort to develop best-practice recommendations to mnimize the chances that students use generative AI in humanities and social science courses.

  • The implementation of the largest set of changes to the History Major in forty years continued this year as History Majors in the Class of 2024 took one of the inaugural five (5) sections of HH300: Research in History, the new required 2/C seminar. These sections were taught by Associate Professor Wayne Hsieh, Professor Brian VanDeMark, Professor Sharika Crawford, and Professor Tom McCarthy

  • Our two Class of 2023 Trident Scholars, Midshipman 1/C Landon Clouse and Midshipman 1/C Jen Sun, completed the research papers for their projects and were honored at the Academy’s annual Trident Scholar dinner on 29 April 2023.  Landon’s paper is entitled "Emergence of the Orbital Age: American Human Spaceflight Following the Columbia Disaster" and Jen’s is entitled “Tracing Learning through Historical Reports Using Digital Methods: The U.S. Navy Fleet Problems.”  Midn Clouse and Sun were the History Department’s first Trident Scholars in nearly a quarter century.

  • The Forum on Integrated Naval History and Seapower Studies (FINHSS) held the inaugural McMullen Workshop on Teaching Naval History and Seapower. This biennial workshop aims to enhance the pedagogy, content, and approaches to how we teach the naval past here at the Academy and across American higher education. The workshop hosted over eighty participants from academia, military professional education, publishing, think tanks, non-profits, and independent scholars. The workshop was a resounding success, and we look forward to hosting the next one in 2024.

  • This year the department worked with the Class of 1957 to effectively double the life of their class gift (which had before enabled the department to invite Distinguished Visiting Professors to teach at USNA). This effort transformed it to support two-year appointments of a Class of 1957 Postdoctoral Fellow in American Naval Heritage. These young scholars will launch their careers with us and in due course become the world’s leading naval historians.

  • In April, Professor Sharika Crawford was appointed the School of Humanities and Social Science’s inaugural Speedwell Professor for International Studies, and EdTech Angela (“Angel”) Allen was awarded the Navy Civilian Service Achievement Medal for a truly above and beyond year.
AY 2022
  • AY 2022 saw the start of the implementation of the first significant changes to the History Major in forty years. We began with the new 3/C seminar, The Historian’s Craft (HH200), required of all history majors.

  • Dr. Pingchao Zhu from the University of Idaho served as our Dr. Leo A. Shifrin Distinguished Visiting Professor in Military History. She offered three (3) extraordinarily well-received upper-level courses that all drew on her expertise as a historian of the modern Chinese military.

  • Professor Sharika Crawford won the Class of 1951 Civilian Faculty Award for Excellence in Research, joining previous History Department winners Miles Yu (2009), Richard P. Abels (2003), Thomas E. Brennan (2001), and Craig L. Symonds (1998).

  • Associate Professor Lee Pennington was awarded the Civilian Service Achievement Medal by the Superintendent for his above-and-beyond work as the department’s Senior Academic Advisor during the COVID crisis. This is the first CSA Medal awarded at the Naval Academy.

  • Dr. Abigail G. Mullen, an assistant professor in George Mason’s History Department and Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, will join the department as an assistant professor specializing in naval history, while also bringing the Academy and department her nationally-recognized skills as a digital historian.

  • Prior to the start of the fall semester in August, Professor Robert W. Love decided to retire after forty-six years in the department. In March, Professor Tom Sanders retired after thirty-two years. We wish both Bob and Tom well in retirement!

  • Dr. Roger Bailey completed the first year of his two-year appointment as a Class of 1957 Postdoctoral Fellow in Naval Heritage. Meanwhile, Dr. Tyler Pitrof completed his successful two-year tenure as a Class of 1957 Postdoctoral Fellow in Naval Heritage and accepted a position as a historian with the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC).

  • Two 2/C History Majors, Jen Sun and Landon Clouse, were chosen as Class of 2023 Trident Scholars, the first History Majors selected since the Class of 1999, and just the eighth and ninth History Majors in the nearly sixty-year history of the Trident program. MIDN Sun is working with Associate Professor Marcus Jones and MIDN Clouse is working with Professor Brian VanDeMark. Six of our first seven History Major Trident Scholars worked with Professor Bob Love. Professor Brannon Wheeler and Associate Professor Hayden Bellenoit deserve special thanks for working with Trident program director Professor Maria Schroeder and with Midshipmen Sun and Clouse and their faculty advisors to revive History Major participation in the program.

  • In October, Associate Professors Sharika Crawford and Rick Ruth were promoted to the esteemed academic rank of full Professors! Commander BJ Armstrong, USN, was similarly promoted to Associate Professor. It was a pleasure to see them, surrounded by loved ones and colleagues, be honored in Memorial Hall for their stellar accomplishments! (Associate Professor Matthew Dziennik was also honored at the same event since the previous year's ceremony was cancelled as a precaution against the COVID-19 outbreak.)

  • Professor Brannon Wheeler published his book, Animal Sacrifice and the Origins of Islam, with Cambridge University Press. He also published two articles, “Quran as Scripture in Classical Muslim Scholarship” in Religions, and “Ritual Hunting and Wild Sacrifices: The Pagan Origins of the Pre-Islamic Abraham Cult” in Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam.
Animal Sacrifice and the Origins of Islam

  • Professor Rick Ruth published his book, Brief History of Thailand: Monarchy, War and Resilience with Tuttle, and “Ham and Mothers: C-Ration Revelry and Revulsion in the Vietnam War,” in the Journal of Military History.

Brief History of Thailand Monarchy, War and Resilience

  • CAPT John Freymann and CDR BJ Armstrong published their book, Developing the Naval Mind, with the Naval Institute Press.

Developing the Naval Mind

  • The History Department had a successful external review this past year. Committee chair Associate Professor Don Wallace and the External Review Committee did a great job with the self-study report and preparations, and we hosted a four-person visiting committee (Nikki Taylor, Howard; Doug Anthony, Franklin & Marshall; Lorien Foote, Texas A & M; Donna Alvah, St. Lawrence). The visiting committee lauded our teaching, support for teaching, the new changes to the History Major, and the integrated three-year, three course assessment methodology for the new History Major that will provide longitudinal data on our majors. They encouraged us to keep moving in the direction that we are going on faculty development.

  • Under the energetic leadership of Associate Professor Thomas Burgess, the Engagement and Historical Communications Committee created Naval Academy History Productions and produced and publicly distributed twenty-four (24) podcast episodes as part of four (4) podcast series (History’s Top Three, Scholars by the Sea, Tell Me Another, and Blue & Gold).
    • MIDN 2/C Nels Waaraniemi and MIDN 3/C Peter Shaner deserve special recognition for their work leading midshipmen teams that crafted podcasts for the Blue & Gold series, which included several that focused on interviewing alumni and retired faculty.
    • The creative and technical support from LT Terence Viernes was particularly valued. He added a Naval Academy History Productions page to the department’s website and assumed responsibility for and extended the department’s social media presence.
    • The committee’s other major accomplishment this year was the revival of the department’s newsletter, The Yardarm, as an e-newsletter directed toward history major alumni. This project was well-managed by LT Mac Anderson, who reached out to the alumni association and secured contact information for more than 2,000 of our alumni and then produced a very well-received 19-page spring newsletter that extended the bounds of our Sampson Hall history community to wherever our alumni find themselves.

  • Principal Associate CDR BJ Armstrong and Managing Associate LCDR Chris Costello got FINHSS off to an excellent start. Under the auspices of FINHSS, the History Department partnered with the Stockdale Center and launched the First Bell Lectures series with five (5) lunchtime talks in Nimitz Library by Dr. Ed Marolda, former director of the Naval Historical Center, Dr. Bruce Jones from the Brookings Institution, Dr. Thomas Sheppard from the U.S. Marine Corps Command & General Staff College, Dr. Tyler Pitrof, our Class of 1957 Postdoctoral Fellow, and Dr. Sebastian Bruns, the McCain-Fulbright Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Political Science Department. FINHSS also organized two (2) Third Deck Workshops, a virtual works-in-progress colloquium for naval historians to provide constructive feedback on one another’s work in draft. The group discussed work by Major Tim Heck and Dr. Corbin Williamson. In March, FINHSS hosted Rear Admiral James Goldrick, RAN (Ret.), for a Seapower Scuttlebutt “fireside chat”-style discussion.

  • Thanks to Associate Professor Virginia Lunsford and CDR Stan Fisher’s leadership, the support of Ensign Kevin Clymer, and the great folks in the USNA Multimedia Support Center (MSC) over six hundred people attended the department’s first joint online and in-person conference, a new attendance record for the world’s largest academic gathering of naval and maritime historians. Admiral James Stavridis, USN (Ret.), and Dr. Kathleen Broome Williams spoke to participants.

  • Professor Bill McBride and our AY 2022 Bancroft Committee secured and then hosted Dr. Elizabeth A. Fenn for our 42nd George Bancroft Memorial Lecture on 28 October 2021. Dr. Fenn is the Walter S. and Lucienne Driskill chair in Western American History at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her second book, Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People, won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 2015. Her well-received talk, “Sacagawea’s Capture and the History of the Early West,” prompted an extended question-and-answer period with interested midshipmen and faculty.

  • Major Ben Brewster, USMC, with a big assist from History major MIDN 1/C Kelly Alksninis, took up this challenge in the spring semester. With a core group of interested midshipmen, they created a new History extra-curricular activity, the Sampson & Preble Society (SAPS). The society serves as an umbrella organization that provides interested midshipmen history-related activities in its own right and also directs midshipmen to other history activities on the Yard: the Wargaming ECA, the midshipmen-produced podcasts with Naval Academy History Productions, and the Monument Mids who work with the museum, among others. Phi Alpha Theta, which had been the centerpiece of the History ECA in the past, is one of these opportunities and communities. 
AY 2021
  • Congratulations to Assistant Professor Matthew Dziennik! He was promoted to Associate Professor in his fourth year at USNA. His experience teaching as a postdoctoral fellow and his extraordinary hard work researching and writing made this early promotion successful.  
  • Associate Professor Sharika Crawford published her first book, The Last Turtlemen of the Caribbean (University of North Carolina Press) at the end of October. The Association of Caribbean Historians ranked it second of forty-two submissions for the 2021 Elsa Goveia Prize.

Book cover - The Last Turtlemen

  • Professor Mary DeCredico published her second scholarly monograph (and third book), Confederate Citadel: Richmond and Its People at War (University of Kentucky Press). Reviewer Stephen Davis, Ph.D, hails Dr. DeCredico as a "skillful researcher and talented narrator" whose book is a worthy addition to any Civil War collection.

Book cover - Confederate Citadel


AY 2020
  • Congratulations to CDR BJ Armstrong for being named the 2019 Clements Award for Excellence in Teaching. The Dean's citation reads, in part, "A member of the History Department, CDR BJ Armstrong is a PMP who has been teaching at USNA since the 2017 academic year. He teaches a variety of history courses, including American Naval HistoryHistory of Air Power, and The Navy in the Wars of the Early Republic.  An outstanding officer and professor, CDR Armstrong focuses on creating an active, discussion based learning environment through a pedagogy that incorporates digital technologies, engagement with primary sources, and critical reasoning skills to help midshipmen learn to deal with complexity and contingency and develop excellent communicators ready to tackle hard questions. CDR Armstrong’s active engagement with his colleagues in the department on topics of pedagogy and teaching methods, and encouragement of scholarship from both civilian and military members of the department, have continued greatly to reinforce the strengths of the Department of History." Again, Bravo Zulu, CDR Armstrong!

  • Professor Bill McBride reported that he has signed a contract, after a vigorous peer review process, with the Cambridge University Press for his next book project entitled "War, Science and Technology: A History." Congrats! This book will be a part of Cambridge University Press' New Approaches to the History of Science and Medicine. It is expected to come out in the winter of 2020.
AY 2019
  • Professor Tom McCarthy has just published a new monograph entitled "Developing the Whole Person: A Practitioner's Tale of Counseling, College, and the American Promise," [Peter Lang Inc, Oct 29, 2018]. Based on his father's life and legacy, Professor McCarthy explores the achievement and difficulty of postwar counseling psychologists and academic administration in American higher education. Congratulations!

  • Congratulations to Associate Professor Brian VanDeMark for his new book, "Road to Disaster: A New History of America's Descent into Vietnam [Custom House, September 2018]. Reviewer Robert Dallek considers it "The most thoughtful and judicious one-volume history of the war." Bravo Zulu! 

  • Assistant Professor Amanda Scott has signed a book contract with the Cornell University Press for her manuscript "The Basque Seroras: Local Religion, Gender, and Power in Northern Iberia." Congratulations!

  • Congrats to Dr. Joseph Slaughter for receiving the Communal Studies Association 2018 Donald F. Durnbaugh Starting Scholar Award for his paper "Harmony in Business: Communal Capitalism in the Early Republic" which will be published by the peer reviewed Communal Studies journal.

AY 2018
  • LCDR Joseph Slaughter is now "Dr. Slaughter." He received his PhD in early U.S. history from the University of Maryland at College Park in December 2017. Congrats to Joe! 

  • Lt. David Stira is the recipient of 2017 USNA Apgar Award for Teaching Excellence. The Dean's citation reads in part:
    "This award, established in 1996, is intended to recognize and encourage relatively junior individual faculty members at the Naval Academy who have had a demonstrable impact on their students and/or who have made a significant contribution to the art of teaching and counseling students...LT David Stira is an ideal military faculty member whose mentorship in and out of classroom is simply unparalleled.  In just two academic years, he built his own curriculum for HH216, The West in the Modern World, and created from scratch an upper-level elective course: HH386D, Cold War Confrontations.  The honest and open environment that LT Stira cultivates in his classroom makes it no wonder that his courses are always in high demand.  His course evaluations consistently reflect that midshipmen not only respond to LT Stira’s engaging and relevant material, but also they appreciate his high academic standards.  His innovative teaching methods have been adopted by other faculty members, military and civilian alike.  LT Stira’s infectious enthusiasm for mentorship extends outside the classroom as the officer representative and head coach of the Navy Ultimate Frisbee team, a role to which he has dedicated over 1000 hours of his free time.  All in all, LT Stira is a vibrant, relatable instructor who students see not simply as someone behind a lectern, but a mentor and ideal naval officer."
    Congrats, Lt. Stira! 

  • Associate Professor Hayden Bellenoit's new book "The Formation of the Colonial State in India: Scribes, Paper, and Taxes" has just been published by Routledge [March 2017], Congrats! (ISBN: 978-0415704472)

AY 2017
  • Hearty Congrats to Associate Professor Wayne Hsieh whose weighty volume, co-authored with Williamson Murray, has just been published by Princeton University Press [September 2016]. "A Savage War: A Military History of the Civil War" (ISBN: 978-0691169408) has received rave early reviews. Well done, Assoc Prof. Hsieh!

  • Congratulations to our Associate Chair Chris Rentfrow who was officially promoted to the rank of captain on July 1, 2016. Well done, Captain Rentfrow!

  • In mid-June, the department said thanks and goodbye to Capt. C.C. Felker who stepped down as the department chair and retired from the Navy. Associate Professor Richard Ruth succeeded Capt. Felker as the new department chair.

AY 2016
  • The department held a book party on Nov. 4, 2015 for five colleagues who published books recently. Congrats to, left to right,  Professor Nancy Ellenberger, CDR. Chris Rentfrow, Grant Walker, Associate Professors Donald Wallace and Lee Pennington, on their superb research accomplishment. 
    book authors

  • Professor Miles Maochun Yu has co-edited, with Lowell Dittmer, and published the book,  Routledge Handbook of Chinese Security [Routledge, June 2015] (ISBN: 978-0415855433). It's an anthology by 22 world-class experts on the history, strategic perspectives, specific mechanisms, and organizations of various aspects of China's military, geopolitical, traditional and non-traditional security. Congrats!

  • Hearty congrats to Dr. Mark Hagerott of the History Department on being selected as the next chancellor of the North Dakota University System. starting July 1, 2015. With 11 universities and colleges under his watch, Mark is once again taking on a big responsibility, as he has done throughout his naval career around the world and during his many years of teaching at the Naval Academy. 

  • LT John Kadz has been selected as the 2015 recipient of the prestigious Apgar Award for Excellence in Teaching. This award is intended to recognize and encourage relatively junior individual faculty members at the Naval Academy who have had a demonstrable impact on their students and/or who have made a significant contribution to the art of teaching and counseling students.  The award is presented to a junior military faculty member in odd years and to a junior civilian faculty member in even years. Congrats, LT. Kadz!

  • Associate Professor Sharika Crawford has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Colombia (2015). She will be affiliated with the History Department at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota. Congratulations!

  • Congrats to Associate Professor Lee Pennington for the publication of his book, Casualties of History: Wounded Japanese Servicemen and the Second World War (Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University), (Cornell University Press, April 2015) (ISBN: 978-0801452574).
AY 2015
AY 2013
  • Congrats to Professor Thomas Sanders for a new publication: Thomas Sanders and Daniel R. Brower, The World in the Twentieth Century [7th edition] (Pearson Pub., August 2013)

  • Two USNA History professors' books have been chosen by Choice magazine as 2013's Outstanding Academic Titles.  Aaron O'Connell, Underdogs: The Making of the Modern Marine Corps [Harvard University Press, 2013] CAPT Jeffrey Macris [USNA] and Saul Kelly, ed. Imperial Crossroads: The Great Powers and the Persian Gulf [Naval Institute Press, 2012]

  • Congratulations to Professor Brannon Wheeler who is the co-editor of a recent book, East By Mid-East: Studies in Cultural, Historical and Strategic Connectivities [ Brannon Wheeler and Anchi Hoh ed, Equinox Publication, 2013]. He also just published an entry on "Abu Zayd al-Dabusi" for The Encyclopaedia of Islam--Three edited by Kate Fleet, Gudrun Kramer, Denis Matringer, John Nawas and Everret Rowson, [Brill, 2014]

  • Professor Brannon Wheeler was recently interviewed online on Quran manuscripts, For details please view the Brannon Wheeler Qur'an Manuscript page.

  • Professor Richard Abels has a few new publications:
    • “’The crimes by which Wulfbald ruined himself with his lord’: The Limits of State Action in Late Anglo-Saxon England.” Reading Medieval Studies 40 (2014; Special issue: Law’s Dominion in the Middle Ages: Essays for Paul Hyams. Ed. David Postles). Pp. 42-53.
    • “Cultural Representations of Warfare in the High Middle Ages: The Morgan Picture Bible.” Pp. 13-35 in Crusading and Warfare in the Middle Ages: Realities and Representations. Essays in Honour of John France.” Ed. Simon John and Nicholas Morton. Ashgate Publishing, 2014.
    • "The Costs and Consequences of Anglo-Saxon Civil Defence, 878-1066. In John Baker, Stuart Brookes, and Andrew Reynolds (eds), Landscapes of Defence in Early Medieval Europe. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2013, pp. 195-222 (ISBN: 978-2503529561)

  • Professor Mary DeCredico named Honorary Graduate of Class of 2013 (
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