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Joshua Sanborn, associate professor of history, will speak on “The Perfect Storm of Modernity: Social Apocalypse in Eastern Europe during World War I” 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 8, in Kirby Hall of Civil Rights room 104.

He will deliver the speech as one of two recipients of Lafayette’s 2004-05 Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Faculty Lecture Awards, given in recognition of excellence in teaching and scholarship. The other recipient, Michelle Geoffrion-Vinci, associate professor of Spanish, spoke Feb. 3 on “Theobroma Cacao (Food of the Gods): The Impact and Allure of Chocolate in Western Civilization.”

In his lecture, Sanborn will share his research on a book project, “Life in the Killing Zone: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Ecosystem of War in Russia, 1914-1918,” which he has conducted with the assistance of Lafayette students through the College’s EXCEL Scholars program. He will extend the research this summer and next school year during a sabbatical in Russia supported by the College and a recent grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

An article based on the research, “Unsettling the Empire: Violent Migrations and Social Disaster in Russia during World War I,” is scheduled for publication in Journal of Modern History.

Sanborn notes that in 1931, Winston Churchill wrote an account of the clash between Europe’s great land empires on the eastern front of World War I that he entitled The Unknown War.

“That part of the war remains largely unknown today, despite continued interest in the trenches of the western front,” says Sanborn, author of Drafting the Russian Nation, a groundbreaking book on modern Russian and military-social history. “The focus on the western front is unfortunate, because it means that historians have largely missed the genesis of much of what would define the dark 20th century in Europe. Recent research has revealed that the eastern front saw numerous atrocities, the formation of prisoner camps on an enormous scale that exploited convict labor, ethnic cleansing, and a final descent into the apocalypse of civil war, pestilence, and famine.

“The eastern front of the Great War blazed the troubling trail of 20th century warfare, in which civilian casualties would significantly outnumber military ones and in which war would lead to social disintegration, political extremism, economic collapse, and moral degeneration. This talk will not only outline the trauma of the war years but will also attempt to explain why ‘social apocalypse’ of this sort was born in this region at this time, why this convergence of forces proved repeatable elsewhere around the world in the rest of the century, and why the events being discussed fell into such deep historical obscurity.”

Student participants in the research project have included Sarah Glacel ’01 and Stephanie Stawicki ’04, graduates with majors in both international affairs and Russian and East European studies; Maria Azimova ’06 (Tashkent, Uzbekistan), who is pursuing a B.S. degree in chemical engineering and an A.B. with a major in mathematics; and other students.

Glacel completed a senior honors thesis under Sanborn’s guidance on the Russian environmental movement and spent two years in Russia on a Fulbright grant, where she studied the efforts of a Russian nongovernmental organization to protect the environmental health of Lake Baikal in eastern Siberia, the world’s oldest existing freshwater lake and the deepest continental body of water.

“I consider Professor Sanborn to be the leading person in my academic life,” says Glacel, now a senior analyst for Transecur, an international information security company. “He encouraged me and helped me to understand my own professional and personal interests.”

As a student, Stawicki traveled abroad with Sanborn as part of a Lafayette interim session course, Russia and Poland: Past and Present, and conducted independent research under his guidance on the Soviet threat and influence in South Africa during the Apartheid era, which she presented at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research.

She was “delighted” to have Sanborn as her thesis adviser because he was “encouraging, honest, and truly enthusiastic about my ideas,” she says. “It’s great to know that a professor is excited about a project I’ve created.”

Sanborn, who is fluent in Russian, previously received funding for research on the book project from the American Council of Learned Societies and Princeton’s Davis Center for Historical Studies. He began his work in summer 2001, when he traveled to Moscow to do archival research. In addition to hundreds of pages of notes, the trip eventually resulted in a collection of hundreds of pages of photocopied documents, including reports of general strategies of civilian administration undertaken by military officials, cases of military-civilian conflict, excerpts of soldier letters from military censor files, and first-person accounts of debriefed prisoners of war.

He will return to Russia this summer to enhance his previous archival work and conduct research on epidemic disease during the period, its impact upon social life and military operations, and the techniques used by medical personnel to deal with it. He will work with documents in the Russian State Military History Archive and the State Archive of the Russian Federation. He plans to complete his book manuscript by May 2006.

Sanborn also is working with EXCEL Scholar Lori Weaver’06 (White Haven, Pa.), a double major in history and government & law, on a book he is co-authoring on gender and social change in modern Europe.

In Lafayette’s EXCEL Scholars program, students conduct research with faculty while earning a stipend. The program has helped to make Lafayette a national leader in undergraduate research. Many of the more than 160 students who participate each year share their work through articles in academic journals and/or conference presentations.

A prior student mentored by Sanborn, Shannon Tyburczy ’01 (Nazareth, Pa.), who majored in both history and Russian and East European studies, went on to receive a James Madison Fellowship to pursue a master’s degree in teaching with an emphasis on American constitutional history. The James Madison Fellowship is the leading award for secondary teachers undertaking the study of the Constitution.

Sanborn’s skill and enthusiasm in the classroom helped her decide that she, too, wanted to teach.

“Professor Sanborn really served as a great model for me,” she says. “I got excited when I saw his enthusiasm for a topic and I try to do the same for my students. Professor Sanborn challenges his students; I try to do the same.”

Sanborn says that his research influences his interactions with students in the classroom and those working on senior honors theses and independent studies.

He is part of a team of four students and three professors working in a Community of Scholars project to create the most comprehensive and searchable database about the characteristics of empires and colonies throughout the course of history. Community of Scholars is a Lafayette program established by a $200,000 grant from the Andrew M. Mellon Foundation, providing even more opportunities for students to participate in research projects led by faculty in the humanities and social sciences.

In addition to those supporting his current research project, Sanborn has received fellowships from the Social Science Research Council, the Council for Advanced Studies in Peace and International Cooperation Fellowship, and the Mellon Foundation.

He has published numerous articles and reviews in academic journals, as well as in edited volumes in his field, and has given presentations at numerous conferences. He is an article referee for several academic journals.

He holds a master’s in history and Ph.D. in Russian history, both from the University of Chicago. In his senior honors thesis as an undergraduate at Stanford University, he examined the 1905 Portsmouth Peace Treaty that ended the Russo-Japanese War and won President Theodore Roosevelt a Nobel Peace Prize for brokering the process.

Sanborn is a member of the American Historical Association, American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, and the Peace History Society.

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