Chinese History Students Meet With Taiwan Ambassador

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On April 11, students in Prof. Justin Jacobs’s modern Chinese history course (HIST 251) were treated to an exclusive audience with Ambassador Shen Lyu-shun of the Republic of China (Taiwan). Ambassador Shen and his attentive staff hosted approximately twenty AU students at the historic Twin Oaks estate in Woodley Park. The event began with an informative tour of the 26-room English Georgian Renaissance-style mansion, which was originally constructed in 1888 and once served as the summer residence of the founder of the National Geographic Society. Ambassador Shen personally granted access to rare works of art and explained their historical significance. After the tour, Prof. Jacobs and his students were served coffee, tea, and pastries while seated for a roundtable discussion of Chinese politics and history. Ambassador Shen was exceedingly generous with his time, spending nearly an hour and a half patiently answering questions about Taiwan’s place in world politics today and the legacies of modern Chinese history. This lively discussion touched upon the cultural identities of Taiwan and mainland China, simplified and traditional characters, Taiwan’s outsized economic footprint in the global economy, the legacy of Japanese rule in Taiwan, and the fate of antiquities in the National Palace Museum.

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Reflecting on the event afterwards, Kaitlin Winterroll, a senior in political science, said that “It was especially interesting to listen to how the ambassador answered questions so candidly without much hesitation. It was an amazing experience and I thoroughly enjoyed the excursion.” John Tuttle, a junior in the School of Public Affairs, said that “events like the one today are the reason I wanted to study in DC.  There is nowhere else in the country I would’ve been able to have a similar experience.”

The History Department at AU would like to thank Ambassador Shen and his staff for providing such a wonderful educational opportunity to our students, and Prof. Jacobs looks forward to taking future students in his modern Chinese history course to Twin Oaks.

Elke Stockreiter Discusses New Book on Zanzibar

In her new book, Islamic Law, Gender and Social Change in Post-Abolition Zanzibar (Cambridge University Press, 2015), Elke Stockreiter analyzes the transformation of Zanzibar’s Islamic judiciary under British colonial rule from 1890 to 1963. In particular, she explores the ways in which socially marginalized groups—women and former slaves, for example—managed to engage Islamic courts to pursue their own diverse interests and agendas. Prof. Stockreiter’s work at AU has already been the subject of one feature article. Now, in this video interview, fellow AU History Dept. professor Justin Jacobs speaks with Stockreiter about some of the more comparative and thematic aspects of her research.

Lisa Leff’s Archive Thief Stealing the Spotlight

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AU History Professor Lisa Leff’s new book, The Archive Thief: The Man Who Salvaged French Jewish History in the Wake of the Holocaust (Oxford, 2015), is receiving widespread critical and popular acclaim. In it, Leff tells the fascinating and complex story of Zosa Szajkowski (Shy-KOV-ski), a Jewish refugee from Poland—and later France—who alternately collected and stole valuable documents concerning Jewish history from institutions and archives throughout Europe. Leff’s sensitive grasp of the moral and political dilemmas confronting a man like Szajkowski has been enthusiastically profiled in the New York Times, Washington PostJewish Daily Forward, and American Jewish World. (An informative and accessible AU article also explores the main themes of the book.) In addition to print media, Leff has also discussed the writing of her book in online podcasts (Vox Tablet), radio interviews (NPR), and even a popular blog (Wonders and Marvels). She has also “dreamcasted” possible actors who could play Szajkowski in a feature film (spoiler alert: it’s Joaquin Phoenix!).


Now, in this short video interview, fellow AU History professor Justin Jacobs sits down with Prof. Leff to discuss some of the larger historical issues raised by The Archive Thief. In particular, they talk about those aspects of Szajkowski’s career that evoke similar themes in the history of modern archaeology in China and the Middle East, the subject of Jacobs’s current research.


Student Historical Society Events


The following events are organized and sponsored by the Student Historical Society (SHS) at AU. For more information about the Student Historical Society, send an email to or check us out on Facebook.

First General Meeting: To learn more about our club and the many events we have planned for the semester, please join us on Tuesday, September 15 at 8PM. Location: TBD.

Research Tutorial: Join the Student Historical Society in a research tutorial led by Librarian Olivia Ivey to learn more about the research tools offered through the AU library. The event will be held Tuesday, October 6, at 8PM in the Training and Events Room on the first floor of the Library.

History Trivia Night: Join the Student Historical Society for a night of trivia, food, and prizes, where teams of up to five students may compete for the title of history trivia champions.

Additional Events Include: Movie Night: Suffragette, Game Night: History Board Games, and a group tour of Ford’s Theatre.