Panel Discussion: Walter Nugent and the Broadening of U.S. History

Solicited by the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (SHGAPE) and the Western History Association (WHA) Endorsed by SHGAPE and the Western History Association

Saturday, April 1, 2023, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Type: Roundtable Discussion

Tags: Gilded Age & Progressive Era; Immigration and Internal Migration; West


This panel reflects upon and commemorates the myriad accomplishments and broad influence of Walter Nugent (1935-2021). In a career that spanned a half-century, Professor Nugent was a central figure in the effort to integrate social history into the regular practice of US history. He exerted a large and enduring presence as well as in the effort to re-imagine within a transnational context areas of US history hitherto regarded as exceptional or provincial, for example populism and western history. The panelists, all of whom worked with Nugent in different capacities, will touch upon the many dimensions of his wide-ranging work.

Session Participants

Chair: Nancy C. Unger, Santa Clara University
Nancy C. Unger is Professor of History at Santa Clara University, where she has won awards for teaching, scholarship, and service. She is the author of the prize-winning biographies Fighting Bob La Follette: The Righteous Reformer and Belle La Follette: Progressive Era Reformer. She co-edited A Companion to the Gilded Age and Progressive Era and is also the author of Beyond Nature’s Housekeepers: American Women in Environmental History (a California Book Award finalist). She is President of the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, 2021-2023, and author of dozens of journal articles and essays. For eight years she served as book review editor for the Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.

Unger’s op-eds applying the lessons of the past to the present have appeared in dozens of publications and websites, including The Washington Post, CNN, and TIME. Her radio and podcast appearances include Public Radio International and National Public Radio. She has worked as a consultant and provided on-screen commentary for PBS, and has been featured on four hour-long programs on C-SPAN.

Panelist: William Francis Deverell, University of Southern California

Panelist: Donna R. Gabaccia
Donna Gabaccia is Professor Emerita of History at the University of Toronto and past Director of the Immigration History Research Centre at University of Minnesota.  She has written and edited many books and articles on Italian migrations around the world--notably Italy's Many Diasporas (1999) and From Sicily to Elizabeth Street (1984), on immigrant women, gender, class, labor, and foodways in the United States, including We Are What We Eat (1998), and on interdisciplinarity and periodization in Migration Studies. She is currently the general editor of a two-volume Cambridge History of Global Migrations (forthcoming). She is a former president of the Social Science History Association and the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.  Her book Foreign Relations: A Global History of American Immigration won the Theodore Saloutos Prize of the Immigration and Ethnic History Society. Her book  Gender and International Migration (2015, co-authored with Katharine Donato) won an Honorable Mention from the Znaniecki and Thomas Book Award of the American Sociological Association.

Panelist: Alan H. Lessoff, Illinois State University
Alan Lessoff is University Professor of History at Illinois State University, where he specializes in US and comparative urban history, as well as the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. From 2004 to 2014, he edited the Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era and in 2020 returned to the journal as online editor. He is the author, co-author, or editor of six books, most recently Where Texas Meets the Sea: Corpus Christi and Its History (2015). A two-time Fulbright fellow, he has held visiting positions at the universities of Kassel, Bielefeld, and Mainz in Germany and Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. Among his current projects, he spent summer 2021 as a guest researcher at the Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands, engaged with a transnational and comparative project on port cities and the urban heritage of the oil industry. His first essay connected to this work, cowritten with Carola Hein of the TU-Delft, will appear soon as “The Original North American Petroleumscape: Oil-and-Gas Empire, Petrochemical Nation,” in Professor Hein’s edited book, Oil Spaces: Exploring the Global Petroleumscape (Routledge, 2022).

Panelist: James H. Madison, Indiana University

Panelist: Charles Postel, San Francisco State University