Elizabeth Drummond received her Ph.D. in modern European history at Georgetown University. Her research focuses on the history of Germany and Poland in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, in particular the construction of national identity and nationalist mobilization in the German-Poland borderlands in the decades before World War I. More broadly, her teaching and research aim to situate European history in a global context, with a focus on modern Central Europe, nationalism, imperialism, dynamics of global exploration and exchange, and the intersections of nation/race, gender, class, and religion.
My approach to teaching is based on my understanding of history as both a content-area and a discipline and on my broader understanding of the nature of a liberal education. I see my teaching as part of a tradition that seeks to educate not just the Western Civ student, the history major, or the future lawyer, but to help the individual student develop into a rational and ethical global citizen, who engages in rigorous and independent critical thinking about the world and who strives to realize her own historical agency. As a history teacher, I try to model to my students not only an enthusiastic interest in history but also the complexities of historical analysis. By unmasking the processes by which historians make sense of and give meaning to the past, I help students understand history not as a collection of facts but as a means of thinking about and understanding their own and other cultures, past and present. In modeling the work of the historian, I try both to challenge and to mentor students as they develop their own scholarly abilities – challenging them through the class assignments (both more traditional assignments that focus on close reading and the development of historical arguments in writing as well as more innovative assignments, in particular around the field of public history), mentoring them as they work to develop their critical thinking and analytical skills, and encouraging them to develop the sense of curiosity that marks the life of the mind.
Most students come to college understanding history as a collection of names, dates and events to be found in a book. They do not fully appreciate that history is more than the mere study of the past, the memorization of facts. As such, I strive to impart to my students an understanding of history as the process of developing reasoned arguments about the past through which we improve our understanding of people’s thoughts, actions and experiences. In doing so, I emphasize the richness, complexity, and contingency of the historical past. Students in my classes examine questions of continuity and change over time, of causality, of similarities and differences across time and space, of cross-cultural and cross-civilizational encounter and exchange, and of ideological, structural and cultural factors that informed how people experienced the world around them. In practicing the craft of history, students learn how to think and develop skills that will serve them far beyond the study of history – how to find and use a variety of sources, how to read texts analytically and critically, and how to develop and present, in both writing and speech, well-developed arguments supported by evidence.