AHA Member Spotlight: Dennis J. Dunn
Dennis J. Dunn is a Regents and University Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Texas State University. He lives in San Marcos, Texas, and has been a member since 2013.
Alma maters: BACL, John Carroll University, 1966; MA, John Carroll University, 1967; PhD, Kent State University, 1970
Fields of interest: Catholic Church, Russia, eastern Europe, American-Soviet relations, religio-political values of Orthodox Christianity, Western Christianity, Islam
Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today?
I was always interested in history and religion, particularly American, medieval, and modern European history. The Cold War led me to study American-Russian relations, and my interest in religion led me to focus my research on the Catholic Church in Soviet Russia and Communist eastern Europe. Dr. Michael Pap of John Carroll Univeristy, Dr. Bohdan Bociurkiw of Carleton Univeristy, and Dr. Alfred Levin of Kent State University introduced me to critical archives, important contacts, and valuable networks in Europe and the USSR.
What do you like the most about where you live and work?
Central Texas is a little piece of heaven. Its rich Anglo-Hispanic culture, great restaurants, pleasant climate, and progressive politics make it a very delightful place to work and live. I am particularly pleased with the libraries of the University of Texas at Austin and Texas State University in San Marcos and the creative minds of my colleagues at Texas State.
What projects are you currently working on?
I am writing historical fiction books in a series called the Posse Mystery Series. The first book is The Russian Riddle: Stalin’s Deadly Date with Destiny (2021); book 2 is Red Missiles in Cuba: The Hunt for Peace (forthcoming). The books allow me to indulge my passion for history and my wish that good, in the end, conquers evil. I am also an avid painter, thanks to my wife who is a master artist.
Have your interests evolved since graduation? If so, how?
My interests have changed over time. At first, I focused on the history of the Catholic Church in the Soviet Union and East Europe during World War II. In doing that research, I became interested in FDR’s ambassadors to the Soviet Union because the Roosevelt-Litvinov Agreement stipulated that Americans serving the embassy would be free to practice religion in atheist Russia. After 9/11, I studied the political values of Orthodoxy, Western Christianity, and Islam to understand the impact of religion on political values. Finally, I turned my attention to writing historical fiction for fun.
What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve ever found at the archives or while doing research?
In doing research on the Catholic Church in the Vatican Archives, I was fascinsted by the personal, detailed reports by eyewitnesses of the impact of collectivization on Catholic and other religious communities in Ukraine and north Caucasus. The documents described cannibalism, mass starvation, and eating cadavers.
Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?
I recommend Jon Meacham’s American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom, and Russell Kirk’s The Roots of American Order. I follow Ellen D. Tillman on Goodreads and enjoyed her book, Dollar Diplomacy by Force.
What do you value most about the history discipline?
I value the history discipline’s broad perspective of the evolving human condition and its unwavering commitment to fact and truth based upon solid and evidence-based research. When I read a peer-reviewed history book, I know that I can trust the research and facts and can judge for myself the interpretation and analysis.
Why is membership in the AHA important to you?
Membership in the AHA is important to me for a number of reasons. I like the AHA’s professional commitment to recording humanity’s journey over time and its openness to looking at facts from a variety of interpretive and scholarly viewpoints. I also favor its membership diversity and its inclusivity.
Do you have a favorite AHA annual meeting anecdote you would like to share?
I think it was at the AHA that Oliver Radkey was scheduled to debate Soviet historians on the Bolshevik Revolution. The Soviets never showed up, and Radkey delivered a tour de force analysis of Soviet undermining of Russia’s road to democracy.
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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