AHA Member Spotlight: Siegfried H. Sutterlin
Siegfried H. Sutterlin is a former senior Fulbright scholar in Europe and retired historian, having been professionally associated with seven colleges/universities/community colleges. He lives in Ottumwa, Iowa, and has been an AHA member since 1983.
Alma maters: BA (social sciences), Washington State University, 1964; MA (history), Washington State University, 1968; PhD (history), University of Minnesota, 1974
Fields of Interest: 20th-century diplomatic and comparative economic history, Europe and the US
Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today?
I enrolled at Washington State University and worked my way through a BA degree in social sciences after changing majors several times. I enrolled in graduate school with a history major after having been intrigued by the field of history through a very tough professor who scared his students so much that in one class of some 35 or so only about 8 were left after the drop date. I took four of his courses. After having sampled as an undergrad philosophy, psychology, lots of literature, history became ever more intriguing. This was abetted by my personal obsession of comparing Europe with the US right from the start of my arrival as a 15-year-old immigrant in 1957. This personal preoccupation and actual life-long passion to compare the good and bad of both continents was then compounded during my professional life by teaching various European and US history courses. That dismantled vast myths and misunderstandings which prevail too much on both continents, especially in the popular mind.
For three years, 1965-68 at Wash. State U and then again 1968-74 at the U of Minnesota, I was a graduate TA as well as a counseling assistant screening and awarding student financial aid. Worried about the emerging student debt I reduced loan requests often by 30 percent of many students and reduced their debt load while saving both universities and the taxpayer a lot of money. No students of thousands dropped out due to finances.
What do you like the most about where you live and work?
Small-town ambiance with little traffic and convenient services.
What projects are you currently working on?
Continue to write occasional newspaper columns. Also collected in three notebooks observations and aphorisms about the US for possible publication.
Have your interests evolved since graduation? If so, how?
My interests have strengthened and intensified over decades. They focus on the need to have a 20-year-long economic miracle to translate the vast resources of America into a much higher living standard and much higher quality of life. This would serve ALL Americans. This perspective evolved through a lifetime of research and study to compare our living standard with the ones of resource and crowded economies of Europe such as Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Scandinavia, etc., which have done a lot with few resources while we allowed massive wealth accumulation by bureaucracies. Many trips and having been a senior Fulbright scholar in Europe verified this evolving perspective.
What is the most fascinating thing you’ve ever found at archives and while doing research?
While doing research in primary congressional and White House documents I became shocked at the crude language and the frequent “expletive deleted” inserts. It may have anticipated what is now going on in DC.
Is there an article, book, movie, blog, etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?
There are vast numbers of books one could recommend, ranging from H. H. Hoppe’s turgid Democracy: The God That Failed to Kurt Andersen’s Fantasyland to Daniel Immerwahr’s How to Hide an Empire to Jill Lepore’s These Truths to James Bradley’s China Mirage to Aldrich and Cormac’s Black Door to James Whitman’s Hitler’s American Model, etc. All of these books offer insights and background information to understand the current politics of DC.
What do you value most about the history discipline?
It offers wisdom not found in other fields. The best history is written by older historians thus hinting that it has never produced a childhood genius as music and math have done now and then.
Why is membership in the AHA important to you?
It provides and disseminates information while reflecting the changing character of historiography.
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, Perspectives Daily features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.
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