Two College professors secure Guggenheims

by Khalil Ayvar | 4/26/02 5:00am

For the fifth time in College history, not one but two Dartmouth faculty -- economics Professor Douglas Irwin and history Professor Bruce Nelson -- have been awarded prestigious fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation.

The foundation awards fellowships on the basis of notable achievement in the past and exceptional promise for future accomplishment. This year, 184 fellowships were awarded from a pool of 2,800 applications. The average award given to each recipient is $37,000.

Since the first fellowships were awarded in 1925, 32 Dartmouth faculty have won the award. In 1985, Dartmouth was surprised with three in one year. Last year the College also had two of the highly prestigious fellowships awarded to its faculty and one the year before that.

Nelson will be writing a book with the working topic, "Making 'Race' and 'Nation' in Ireland and the Irish Diaspora."

Douglas specializes in the history of U.S. trade policy, and also plans to use the Guggenheim award to further his goal of offering the first comprehensive examination of the subject since 1930.

Douglas' goals for his fellowship are anything but humble: noting that the 1930 text is "still used as a valuable resource, even now." Douglas hopes his own will be used for next 50 years as well.

In updating the previous text, Douglas will include not only information on trade events since the '30s but also improved interpretations and analyses of U.S. trade policy history using information gathered in the years since the classic text was written.

Douglas will be staying at Dartmouth throughout the project, even for the two or three terms he will be taking off from teaching courses. The Baker/Berry Library, he said, "is really great for the resources I need."

He estimated the ambitious project would take him about five years, even with the year or so the Guggenheim award allows him to take off.

Economics department colleague Nancy Marion characterized Douglas as an "excellent economist. He's written some wonderful books that are impressive to professional economists, and easily readable to lay people." She said his new book will have a broad audience, and that she is sure he will do an excellent job.

Nelson's book will investigate the way the Irish thought about themselves as a race and nation in the early 20th century, focusing primarily on the key years between the Easter Rising in 1916 and the formation of the Irish free state in 1922.

He explained how the Irish viewed themselves as a "race," and said the book will also include their relationship with other races. He described the early 20th century Irish as "a white European people, but also a colonized people, so they had an affinity with people in India and Africa," and other colonized peoples.

Yet at the same time as the Irish were fighting against British colonization, Nelson continued, they still saw themselves as privileged white Europeans.

Nelson said that even then as now, race is a "hot subject," and one of the things his book might illustrate is that "races exist in people's heads, in the eye of the beholder. ... Races change."

Nelson mentioned his interest in social justice today, in both America and the rest of the world, in addition to race and racial justice.

"One thing attractive to me and probably the Guggenheim committee is that usually scholars are trained as historians in a national context, such as Russian history, Spanish history, or American history. But lately there has been a trend of moving outside of national box, in the last couple of decades." Nelson claimed that the book will be a multinational, trans-Atlantic account.

He couldn't predict when the book will be finished, but he intends on researching in New York and Boston, and spending the fall in Ireland.

History department chair Mary Kelley, glowingly described Nelson as an "extraordinary professor. We in the department are absolutely delighted. The scholarship was well deserved."

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