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OAH Distinguished Lectureship program 40 years 1981-2021
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VMI Photo by - H. Lockwood McLaughlin

23 Historians Appointed to the OAH Distinguished Lectureship Program

We are excited to announce this year's additions to the OAH Distinguished Lectureship Program. 23 scholars were recently appointed by OAH President Philip J. Deloria. These accomplished historians command expertise on U. S. history topics including: slavery, women’s rights; sports and recreation; old age; gender; elections; civil rights; crime and violence; public history and memory; environmental history; LGBTQ+; legal history; intellectual history; early national history; Latino/a history; and African American history, among other U. S. history topics. 

Meet them!

OAH Distinguished Lecturers can be scheduled virtually or in-person to headline special events and to bring context to today's most pertinent and perplexing issues.

Your program is wonderful. It is of great help for small institutions like mine in particular. You have a good range of topics and the fees seem affordable. Thank you for making these lectures possible.

Patrick Hotle, Department of History - Culver-Stockton College

Featured Lecturer

Portrait of lecturer

Robert Douglas Johnston

Robert D. Johnston is professor of History and director of the Teaching of History program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His book The Radical Middle Class: Populist Democracy and the Question of Capitalism in Progressive Era Portland, Oregon received the President’s Book Award from the Social Science History Association. Currently he is working on a history of controversies over vaccination in American history from the early 18th century to the present, under contract with Oxford University Press. His numerous interventions in the politics of historiography include the essay on 1877-1917 in Eric Foner and Lisa McGirr, eds., American History Now (2011)....
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Featured Lecture

Controversies over Vaccination throughout American History

Mainstream opinion, whether from public health officials or op-ed writers, has a simple response to controversies over vaccination. Those who favor vaccines are enlightened. Those who express skepticism are deluded and dangerous. Yet conflicts over immunization in American history are much more complex--and interesting--than this simplistic narrative would suggest. For one thing, such conflicts actually pre-date both the nation and vaccination, going back to vicious and nearly deadly struggles over inoculation during in Puritan Boston. Moreover, recent historians have compellingly argued that vaccine dissenters have, not infrequently, offered perspectives on medicine and politics that have actually expanded liberty and democracy. I seek to extend this basic insight. I do not question that portions of the historical anti-vaccination movement have been radically anti-science as well as anti-civil libertarian (think Dr. Strangelove and bodily fluids). Yet vaccine dissidents’ commitments to bodily autonomy, and to a broad conception of populism, have also informed democratic struggles--from resistance to slavery to immigrants’ rights, from Progressive Era fights against monopoly to feminist movements to expand women’s control over their own bodies. Historians often do their best taking seriously even the most marginalized or seemingly benighted voices. We should not allow presentist lenses, or a facile spirit of condemnation, to miss the complexity of the fascinating range of past debates over vaccination in American history.

"Dissenters against the vaccination mainstream have for centuries consistently brought intelligent, informed, and urgently important ideas to the public square. Americans have been justly proud of our tradition of conquering disease. We should arguably be just as proud of our vigorous tradition of medical dissent."