Two more faculty members will join Yale’s most popular undergraduate department, which means a total of at least four new junior history professors are bound for New Haven next year.
The hires culminate a year of searches, but the department also saw two people decline its offers and faces other faculty turnover.
The new arrivals will be Timothy Snyder, a Harvard University postdoctoral fellow who will be a professor of modern East European history, and Brian Cowan of the University of Sussex, England, who will teach 17th- and 18th-century British history.
The two professors replace Lee Blackwood, an assistant professor of East European history who was embroiled in a reappointment controversy last year, and senior British historian Linda Colley, who currently is in England. History Director of Undergraduate Studies Paul Freedman said Colley has officially left Yale.
In all, the History Department conducted a whopping eight searches this year, and the tally now stands at four acceptances, two rejections and a postponement, with one effort still ongoing.
The department faces departures in addition to arrivals — historian of Japan James Crowley and Sterling Professor David Brian Davis, who focuses on 18th-century American history, are retiring, and Blackwood and Renaissance historian Thomas Arnold are leaving.
History Department chair Jon Butler said he thinks the four new junior hires, which include Mridu Rai in South Asian history and Seth Fein in United States foreign affairs, add more depth to the department.
“They all work in interesting and intriguing ideas that we haven’t necessarily explored before,” Butler said.
On the negative side for the Yale department, Princeton University’s Sheldon Garon turned down a senior offer in the field of Japanese history.
The search for a historian of Japan will resume in the fall.
“We want to make a good appointment, and you don’t do that by rushing,” Butler said.
Columbia University postdoctoral fellow Karl Appuhn, who specializes in the history of Renaissance Italy, also rejected a Yale offer, deciding instead to accept an offer from the University of Oregon.
“If you go to Yale or you go to one of these other places like Princeton or Harvard where tenure is very difficult if not impossible to get, you are taking a risk,” Appuhn said. “At most universities, tenure for junior faculty is a realistic possibility.”
History DUS Paul Freedman said part of the difficulty with refusals is the time that is invested in each offer.
“It means we have to look again and it’s a lot of work again,” Freedman said.
Another search for either a junior or senior professor in modern Russian history continues, while one in the field of U.S. Civil War-era history currently is on hold.
“I don’t want to say that the candidates weren’t good,” Butler said. “[But] we weren’t prepared to make an appointment.”
With the large number of searches, and more on the horizon, the two new members of the department will immediately add to the University’s academic offerings.
Snyder will teach a lecture class on the history of Eastern Europe since 1385 in addition to junior seminars on the role of the intelligentsia in Eastern Europe and on ethnic cleansing in the region from 1918-1999.
Cowan will teach junior seminars on the British Enlightenment and the relationship between English media and politics after 1660. He also will teach a lecture class on the British government and aristocracy from 1660 to 1860.
He also does work on the role of coffeehouses in 17th- and 18th-century England, which were not just places to meet friends.
“They are also places where a lot of things we think of as institutions were developed,” Freedman said, listing such concepts as stock exchanges and insurance companies.