Laura McEnaney is a professor of history at Whittier College, where she has taught since 1996. She teaches U.S. history, specializing in the post-1945 era, and her teaching interests include World War II and its aftermath, women and gender, twentieth-century social movements, and war tourism and memory. She is the author of Civil Defense Begins at Home: Militarization Meets Everyday Life in the Fifties (2000), and she has published numerous scholarly articles in journals and edited collections. Her new book, Postwar: Waging Peace in Chicago (2018), explores the social and urban history of America's demobilization from World War II and the whole notion of "postwar" in the twentieth century. Her first article from that project, "Nightmares on Elm Street: Demobilizing in Chicago, 1945–1953," published in the Journal of American History (March 2006), won the OAH Binkley-Stephenson Award. McEnaney has received a grant from National Endowment for the Humanities, a fellowship from Brown University's George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation, and an Arnold L. and Lois S. Graves Award in the Humanities from the American Council of Learned Societies. McEnaney received Whittier College's Harry W. Nerhood Teaching Excellence Award in 2007 and its Presidential Award for Outstanding Advising of First-Year Students in 2017. She is currently working on Project 13, a professional development program to support faculty who teach the U.S. survey course.
This talk will examine peace as its own historical process. It will focus on how working-class people transitioned from war to peace after World War II, but it will look at a variety of postwar eras in American history to interrogate what we mean when we think about "postwar." War’s totality deserves our careful scrutiny—whatever our subfield—for war reaches deeply into civil society, scrambling some things and strengthening others, long after the fighting stops. Historical reflection on the years following a war can illuminate what people thought they were fighting for, what they gained and lost, and what they expected in return for the sacrifice. For these and other reasons, we should dissect our postwar epochs as carefully as we have our wars.