Publication Date

March 3, 2016

Perspectives Section

Member Spotlight, Perspectives Daily

Thematic

Labor

AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, AHA Todayfeatures a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.

Young PhotoJames A. Young is a professor of history emeritus at Edinboro University and an adjunct instructor of history at Montgomery County Community College. He lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and has been a member since 1968.

Alma mater/s: BA, Ohio University, 1963; MA, University of Toledo, 1966; PhD, Case Western Reserve University, 1971

Fields of interest: US labor history, literary history, European left, international relations

When did you first develop an interest in history?
In childhood, with Henrik Van Loon’s The Story of Mankind.

What projects are you currently working on?
Wrapping up for 2016 publication (working title) Workin’ for the General: Electrical Workers Fight for Workplace Democracy at GE, 1937–1975 (Monthly Review Press); history of the PA Social Services Union/SEIU local 668 from c. 1970; Life and Work in the Chocolate World: A History of Hershey; a popular (and brief) history of Social Security and Medicare; various (chiefly European) biographical sketches for the World War I Document Archives online.

Have your interests evolved since graduation? If so, how?
I began professional life in history as a conventional historian of European international relations with a dissertation on “Anglo-Italian Relations and the Great War,” but had already found the Italian Left to be most interesting. After some years I found myself immersed in academic union activities at Edinboro University and began teaching in Penn State’s Union Leadership Academy, and I then began to lean towards US labor/left history but also kept a foot in Europe with studies of the Italian Left, Auden, A. Huxley, and others.

Is there an article, book, movie, blog, etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?
Mine? “The Cold War Comes to Erie: Repression and Resistance, 1946–1955” in Fear Itself, ed. N. Schultz (Purdue, 1999).

Others? D. E. Bender & J. K. Lipman, eds., Making the Empire Work: Labor and United States Imperialism (NYU Press, 2015).

What do you value most about the history profession?
I value the breadth and depth of its reach, its resonance in contemporary life, and its quiet moments.

Why have you continued to be a member of the AHA?
The AHA sustains the best of the profession’s traditions and integrity while remaining sufficiently flexible to accommodate changes in the profession’s understanding of the past and the present.

Do you have a favorite AHA annual meeting anecdote you would like to share?
My first annual meeting included Eugene Genovese’s passionate denunciation of the New Left and of Staughton Lynn in particular, a performance which I had the pleasure to revisit many years later (separately) with both historians, who cleared much of the confusion that had troubled my young liberal mind in 1968. More importantly, that meeting also produced the women’s caucus, attended by my staid senior professor and advisor, Marion Siney, who introduced me to the presence of a robust gender discrimination in the profession of that day.

Other than history, what are you passionate about?
Democracy.

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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