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How to Apply for a Leopold Fellowship


The 2018-19 Leopold Fellows have been selected. PLease look for the Call for Applications for 2019-20 in early 2018.

The Leopold Fellows undergraduate program honors Professor Richard Leopold, a long-time member of the NU Department of History, by providing a small group of able undergraduate students with an opportunity to engage in genuine historical research. Leopold Fellows will work on current faculty research projects, learning how to interpret archival and documentary materials. Successful candidates should demonstrate an interest in learning how to interpret complex primary data. Working under the guidance of a member of the Department of History, the Leopold Fellow will learn how scholars develop arguments out of diverse research materials.  

Each Leopold Fellow receives financial support as a Research Assistant (at $11 per hour for a possible average of 8-10 hours a week). The program should not be confused with Work-Study. The program may also fund travel or other expenses incurred by the Leopold Fellows. Students may apply to be Leopold Fellows for two or three quarters, which can include the summer. The program culminates in a presentation of the Leopold Fellows’ research at the end of Spring Quarter. They also fill out a survey for the Center at the end of the fellowship period.

Application process: A Call for Applications for the next academic year is usually publicized in February/March with a list of available faculty projects. Interested undergraduates should look at the faculty projects listed for the next year and if interested apply. Undergrads from all schools of NU can apply for a Fellowship.  History faculty may nominate students to apply or interested students may apply in response to a specific faculty project. In either case, applicants are asked to provide the following information:

Please send questions or applications to Asst. Director Elzbieta Foeller-Pituch via e-mail at The deadline for completed applications is usually early April. Receipt of applications will be acknowledged by e-mail. Faculty may wish to interview you in the next few weeks. Announcement of successful candidates will occur by mid-May.

2018-2019 Faculty research projects (Leopold Fellows already selected)

Henry BINFORD—Small Business in Poor Urban Communities

The work to be done arises from my ongoing research on nineteenth-century “slum” communities and bridges into work that I will undertake in the future.  The student researcher will use statistical, library, and archival resources to study the lives of immigrant and African American small business persons in poor areas of Chicago and/or Cincinnati in the mid-nineteenth century.  The student will begin by doing some basic reading about these communities, in both secondary works and in the manuscript I am writing.  Then, using materials I have already gathered, together with information from the Northwestern and other area libraries, the student will undertake a study of one or perhaps two wards in the cities mentioned above.  He or she will create collective biographical databases (prosopographies) containing basic census information from 1840 through 1860 about all of the immigrant and African American individuals who own real estate and are engaged in some form of low-level entrepreneurial work (storekeepers, saloonkeepers, coal dealers, boarding house keepers, laundry owners, etc.).  The student will then look for these individuals in other kinds of records — tax lists, property deeds, directories, political and legal records -- expanding the collective biography to allow an examination of careers.  The researcher may need to spend a few days in Cincinnati to access records only available at the Cincinnati Historical Society and the Hamilton County Courthouse.  The overall goal will be to trace the lives of these individuals backward and forward in time, asking how they acquired property and how their situations changed, and comparing people of different backgrounds, men and women, residents of different places.  I will help the student to use this information to address larger questions: What role did small stakeholders from minority backgrounds play in the larger political and social life of their cities? To what extent did property give them leverage, either formal or informal?  How did they make use of the ward-based political systems then dominant in these cities?  How did they engage with the powerful business and political leaders of the civic elites?  To what extent did these obscure entrepreneurs shape the physical and social development of the city?  The student will conclude the work by writing a report on his/her findings. 

I will work closely with the student at all stages of this process (full year).

Haydon CHERRY— Đào Duy Anh: Vietnamese Journalist

My project is a study of the life of Đào Duy Anh, arguably the most important Vietnamese scholar and intellectual of the twentieth century.  Anh was also a prolific journalist.  In the 1920s and 1930s, he wrote a regular column titled “Tư Tưởng Mới” or  “New Thought” in the newspaper Tiếng Dân (The Voice of the People)  which introduced modern economic, scientific, and social scientific ideas to readers in central Vietnam.

This fellowship is for the whole academic year and entails researching Anh’s articles for Tiếng Dân.  The ability to read Vietnamese is essential.

Deborah COHEN—American Journalists, Europe and Asia

My book is about a set of American journalists who reported overseas in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.  The focus is John Gunther and his first wife Frances, but the book is also about their circle of friends, including James Vincent Sheean, HR Knickerbocker, Dorothy Thompson, Rebecca West and William Shirer. 

I am looking for a Leopold Fellow for the entire academic year and summer (if possible), and the research will likely involve both archival and printed primary materials.  Background in history courses and also journalism would be ideal.

Caitlin FITZ—Emiliano Mundrucu’s America: How a Black Brazilian Revolutionary Shaped the Early U.S. Battle against Jim Crow

I am researching an important but little-studied figure in the United States’ early civil rights movement: Emiliano Mundrucu, a black man who was born in Brazil in 1791 (when the Haitian Revolution began) and who died in Boston 72 years later, just months after having organized a massive public celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation alongside such figures as Frederick Douglass.  In between, he helped lead a failed republican revolution in Brazil; he fought for independence in the aspiring antislavery republic of Colombia; and he helped to radicalize U.S. abolitionists.  The Fellow will study Mundrucu’s life as an activist, businessman, and father in antebellum Boston, including his trailblazing “civil rights” lawsuit against a steamboat captain who denied him and his family equal accommodations on a Nantucket steamboat.  Backed by some of the nation’s most prominent attorneys (including Senator Daniel Webster), Mundrucu won before a packed audience in the court of common pleas but lost on appeal in the state supreme court, receiving nationwide attention.  His extraordinary life illuminates inter-American influences on U.S. abolitionism and equal rights activism.

This fellowship is for summer and fall, with possible extension into winter and/or spring.  Summer research will involve at least two weeks of English-language archival research in Boston, focusing on letters, petitions, newspapers, and other sources.  The terms of the fellowship are flexible, and students who happen to be living in the Boston area this summer might opt to make this opportunity a longer-term summer position.  Students who don’t live in Boston but are willing to travel there for two weeks are also strongly encouraged to apply. 

Paul GILLINGHAM--Spies & Censorship in Mexico: the Mexican Intelligence Digital Archives (MIDAS) Project

The archives of Mexico’s two intelligence agencies were opened as a central part of democratization in the early 2000s, and their declassified material became central to the work of journalists and historians investigating the seventy years of the single party state. The government is now shutting down those archives as part of an authoritarian revival. Northwestern and the Center for Research Libraries are forming an open-access, crowd-souced digital archive to counteract this censorship. A team of researchers is gathering ten of thousands of intelligence reports from those who have used the archive in the past, analysing them and classifying them according to their contents. Reading these documents to make those classification decisions is a path to meeting characters including would-be James Bonds, alcoholic journalists, dodgy cantina owners, pro-democracy demonstrators, drug dealers, crusading priests and conspiring ex-presidents. As such it affords Leopold Fellows the opportunity to learn about the intimate workings of intelligence agencies and to pursue their choice from a range of themes, including the social and cultural, while helping to build an archive of marked scholarly, public and political significance. The Fellow would also be welcome to pursue more advanced projects under my supervision.

The bulk of the work will be analysis of documents from the 1940s through the 1980s to collect metadata: names, dates, places and thematic content. It will also call for collecting and reviewing relevant scholarship. As such it requires advanced research skills and fluent Spanish. The timing is flexible, but there is a preference for a summer start and work for the maximum number of quarters to which a candidate can commit.

Ajay K. MEHROTRA—The VAT Laggard: A Comparative History of U.S. Resistance to the Value-added Tax

This project seeks to explore how and why the United States has historically rejected national consumption taxes.  Because nearly all developed countries, and many in the developing world, have a national consumption tax in the form of a value-added tax (VAT), this project focuses on the more specific question: why no VAT in the United States?  To address this overall research question, this project explores three key historical periods: (1) the 1920s, when tax theorists in the United States and Germany first began to formulate and propose crude forms of value-added taxes; (2) the 1940s, when the United States once again seriously considered but rejected national consumption taxes aimed at raising revenue for World War II; and (3) during the 1970s and ‘80s, when American lawmakers supported a U.S. VAT, but eventually withdrew their support or were ousted from political office, at a time when other industrialized democracies began experimenting with a VAT.  By focusing on these three key historical periods from a comparative perspective, this project seeks to study how and why the U.S. has failed to adopt national consumption taxes, like the VAT.

I am looking for a LP for the 2018 summer and into the academic year, perhaps for the full year. An interest in legal and economic history is preferred.  The LP will help summarize existing secondary sources and help identify, review, and analyze primary source data.

Susan J. PEARSON--Registering Birth: Populations and Personhood in the United States of America

Do you know when you were born? Most of us do know exactly the date of our birth and we use our birth certificates to prove our age and national citizenship for access to all kinds of rights and privileges: to attend school, work, vote, hold political office, drive, marry, get a passport, and more. But this is a surprisingly recent state of affairs. It was not until the middle of the twentieth century that babies born in the United States were reliably registered at birth. In this, the United States lagged far behind other industrialized, Western nations. My research project traces how and why birth registration and birth certificates became both universal and compulsory throughout the United States. 

I would like to employ a Leopold Fellow to conduct magazine and newspaper research using digitized primary source collections available through Northwestern's library. The Fellow will help identify significant events, legal reforms, and persons involved in the history of birth registration. Flexible quarters.

Michael SHERRY—Go Directly to Jail: The Punitive Turn in American Life

The Leopold Fellow would assist Professor Sherry with final revisions, fact checking, and proofing for his book manuscript, Go Directly to Jail: The Punitive Turn in American Life.   Good writing, proofreading, and information skills will be valuable.  Most of the work would come in fall and winter quarters, with the possibility of starting in summer 2018.

Carl SMITH—The Great Chicago Fire

This book is a history of the cataclysmic fire of October 8-10, 1871, a landmark urban disaster.  It encompasses not only the fire itself, but also the city’s rise in the years preceding the event, its recovery after, and the way the fire has been remembered and commemorated.  It tries to put the city’s rise, destruction, and recovery in their broader historical contexts.  

I am looking for a Leopold Fellow to assist me in the summer and fall quarters of 2018.  The research will involve finding specific historical information in primary and secondary sources and examining newspapers, periodicals, and other publications from the time.  Some of this material is online, but research will also involve examining sources (print and manuscript, photographs and prints) in various Chicago-area repositories, very likely including the Chicago History Museum, the Chicago Public Library, and the Newberry Library.  No languages besides English required, though a reading knowledge of German might prove helpful.

Scott SOWERBY—States of Exclusion: Religious Diversity and Military Power in Early Modern Europe

My new book takes up the question of how European armies managed religious diversity within their own ranks in the period from the Reformation to the Age of Revolutions.  The book’s focus will largely be on the divisions between Protestants and Catholics, looking at how Protestants were integrated into or excluded from majority-Catholic armies (especially in France and Austria) and how Catholics were integrated into or excluded from majority-Protestant armies (especially in Britain, the Netherlands, and Prussia).  We will look at religious minorities who crossed state lines in order to fight alongside their co-religionists in other nations.  We will also look at soldiers who crossed confessional lines to fight for a ruler who did not share their religious beliefs.  We will examine the political controversies that arose as politicians and pamphleteers debated whether minority groups should be permitted to bear arms in defense of the state.  Sources to be examined will include the letter books, muster rolls, and judicial records produced by military bureaucracies.  We will also look at popular reactions to military policies as they were expressed in newspapers, pamphlets, and unpublished letters and diaries.  

I am looking for a fellow to work with me for all or part of the 2018-19 academic year.  Knowledge of Danish, Dutch, German, or Swedish, while not required, would be a great asset. 

Lauren STOKES—Bisexual History

I am planning to write a short book about the history of bisexuality geared towards a general audience. The narrative will start in 19th century Germany and will probably end somewhere closer to the contemporary United States. I am interested in questions like: How did bisexuality emerge as a specific identity? Why is bisexuality so often invisible in larger narratives of LGBTQ communities? How have ideas about bisexuality as a “temporary” or even “false” identity shaped the development of queer politics? In short, I’m hoping to write the kind of book that you could give a friend who had just come out as bisexual in order to (1) reassure them that their identity is real and has been real for a long time and to (2) explain the historical roots of some of the different reactions they may be experiencing.

Ideally, the Leopold Fellow will have some experience with gender/sexuality studies and an interest in queer history and/or activism. They will conduct research and write reports on English-language LGBTQ periodicals held at Northwestern and the Gerber-Hart library (in Rogers Park). A research trip to the Kinsey Institute in Bloomington, IN would be possible but not required; the fellow should be available for 2-3 quarters.


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