Find out more about the Institute for Historical Study and its members by reading our quarterly newsletter. Follow the links to current and past editions. Each issue includes a president’s message, study group reports, and member news, along with the special features listed below for recent issues. (WIP indicates a report on a Work-in-Progress meeting, now called a Monthly Program; book reviews are of books by Institute members only.)

Spring 2021

“Another Role for Historians” by Maria Sakovich and Dot Brovarney
Annual Meeting:  presentations by Stephen Barton, Laure Latham and Walt Stevenson
Opinion Corner
    “When Your Historical Subject Is a Racist” by Kevin Knauss
Monthly Programs
    “Lost Department Stores of San Francisco” by Anne Evers Hirz
    “Digging for Online Gold from Alaska (or Anywhere)” by Steven Levi
Book Review
    “The Story of Our Butterflies” by Leslie Friedman, reviewed by Peter Stinky
Special longer piece:
    “Remembering a Second Home in Swabia” by David Rosen

Fall 2020
“Pandemic and the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1768-1771)” by Oliver B. Pollak
Monthly Programs
    “Exploring the Links between Tourism and War” by Bert Gordon
    “Blacks in Marin from the Spaniards to the Great Migration” by Marilyn Geary, reviewed by Jody Offer
Public Program: “Harlem of the West: The Fillmore Jazz Era and Redevelopment” by Elizabeth Pepin Silva, reviewed by Louis Trager
Book Review: Leonard Woolf: Bloomsbury Socialist By Fred Leventhal and Peter Stansky, reviewed by Leslie Friedman
Special – 1918 Recalled: “Whatever Happened to Great-Uncle Jay?” by Jim Gasperini

Summer 2020
“The Perils of Predatory Journals” by Carol Sicherman
Monthly Program: “Bio-Bibliography—Readings and Film about Word War I that Moved Me” by Oliver Pollak
Pandemic Times (“stories in the general area of ‘living during a historic moment'”) by Joanne Lafler, Oliver Pollak, Leslie Friedman, Margaret Simmons, Peter Mellini, Bonnie Portnoy, and Pamela Peirce 

Spring 2020
“History Re-imaged” by Richard Robbins
Annual Meeting:  presentations by Pam Peirce, Kevin Knaus and Tim Welsh
Monthly Program: “Wild Women Suffragists and Their Reputation as Sex Radicals” by Joe Miller
“Remembering Georgia Wright” by Joanne Lafler, Jody Offer, Bonda Lewis, Bert Gordon, Peter Mellini, David Chadwick and Maria Sakovich
In Memoriam: Carroll Winslow Brentano
Book Review: Gold Rush Bishop: William Ingraham Kip, First Episcopal Bishop of California and His Family by Mary Judith Robinson, reviewed by Leslie Friedman

Winter 2020
“Tracing the Truth, Part III: – Planning Your Visit to an Archive or Library” by Taryn Edwards
Monthly Program:
“The Impact of Religion on Sex from the Hittites to Augustine” (Dan Kohanski)
In Memoriam: Georgia Wright
Special Event: “Historical Treasures of Sacramento Revealed”

Fall 2019
“Urban Legend or Not: The Questionable Circumstances Surrounding the Death of a President in 1920s-era San Francisco – Part 2” by Monika Trobits
Monthly Programs:
“Fire in the Mind” (Jim Gasperini)
Potluck and Program: video “Three English Cathedrals: Norwich, Lincoln, Wells” (Georgia Wright)
“Reminiscing about a Forty-year Journey to Recover the Debates on the Woman Question in France, 1400-1920” (Karen Offen)
Book Reviews:
The Dancer’s Garden by Leslie Friedman (Peter Stansky)
Scholars Without Walls: A History of the Minnesota Independent Scholars’ Forum 1983-2018 by Lucy Brusic, Evelyn Klein, and Mike Woolsey (Oliver Pollak)

Summer 2019
“Urban Legend or Not: The Questionable Circumstances Surrounding the Death of a President in 1920s-era San Francisco” by Monika Trobits
Monthly Programs:
“Pioneers to the Present: The Jews of Richmond and Contra Costa County” (Oliver Pollak)
“Jenny in the World” (Bonda Lewis)
In Memoriam: Harry C. Meserve
Book Review: The Woman Question in France, 1400-1870 and Debating the Woman Question in the French Third Republic, 1870-1920 by Karen Offen (Lyn Reese)

Spring 2019
“Tracing the Truth: Adventures in Historical Research Online and In-Person” by Taryn Edwards (part 2)
Monthly Programs:
“Introducing Big History” (Ross Maxwell)
“Waves of Beans” (Monika Trobits)
“The Oratory of Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr.”    (Chris Webber)
Book Review: Overtaken by the Night: One Russian’s Journey through Peace, War, Revolution, and Terror by Richard G. Robbins Jr.

Winter 2019
“Tracing the Truth: Adventures in Historical Research Online and In-Person” by Taryn Edwards
Monthly Program: “Beloved Freedom: Secret on the Capitol Dome” (Katya Miller)
World History Group: The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire by Kyle Harper
In Memoriam: Autumn Stanley
In Memoriam: Ellen Huppert
Book Review: The Sweet Life: Cherry Stories from Butler Ranch, compiled and edited by Dot Brovarney

Fall 2018
David Rosen, U.S. Coast Guard Historian
“A May Walk in Rome: How Spending Two Weeks at the American Academy Made Me Consider Rewriting My Novel” (Stephanie McCoy)
Play Readers: King Charles III by Mike Bartlett
Public Event: “Storms, Droughts, Floods: Two Classic Documentary Films”
Book Review: Sea and Sky: Community Art in Seward, Mural Capital of Alaska by Jacquelin Pels

Summer 2018
Essay: “Timepieces Hidden in Plain Sight” by Steve Sodokoff
WIP: “Leonard Woolf: Bloomsbury Socialist” by Peter Stansky
Program: “Niles, California: Our First Official ‘Monthly Program”
Program: “Conversation with History Publishers Jackie Pels and Malcolm Margolin”
Public Event: “The Making of An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846– 1873” (Benjamin Madley)
Medieval Studies: “Ivory Vikings: the Mystery of the Most Famous Chessmen in the World and the Woman Who Made Them” by Nancy Marie Brown
Play Readers: “Cressida,” by Nicholas Wright and “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” by August Wilson
In Memoriam: Kathleen Casey

Spring 2018
Essay: “Driving with Dictators” by Oliver B. Pollak
WIP: “Political Correctness in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603)” (Charles Sullivan)
WIP: “The Filibusterers and Freebooters of California” (Neil Dukas)
WIP: “From Vigilance in Early San Francisco to the 1859 Duel” (Monica Trobits)
Panel Discussions: “The Future of the Past in the Digital Age, 1.0 and 2.0”
Play Readers: “Longitude” by Arnold Wesker

Winter 2018
Essay: “Still Enduring Vietnam” by Leslie Friedman
Russian Revolution Centennial: Report on Public Program
WIP: Churchill and Contemporary British Historians: Effacing History to Support Politics (Richard Raack)
Play Readers: Hugh Whitmore’s Breaking the Code
Medieval Studies: Ellen Huppert on Genghis Khan
Minigrant Reports: Cathy Robbins, Margaretta Mitchell

Fall 2017
Essay: “Closet Archaeology: History under the Floorboards” by Carol Sicherman
WIP: The Unveiling of Andrew Smith Hallidie (Taryn Edwards)
Play Readers: Laurence Housman, Collaborators, and John Hodge, Victoria Regina
Medieval Studies: Lyn Reese on Jerusalem, 1000–1400
In Memoriam: Linda Larson Boston, Kevin Starr

Summer 2017
Essay: “Just When You Thought You’d Finished Your Research” by Ellen Huppert
Book Review: Edward Upward: Art and Life by Peter Stansky
“In Memoriam: Jules Becker” by Peter Mellini and John Rusk
Medieval Studies: John Rusk on Mayan civilization

Spring 2017
Essay: “English Novelist Presages Donald Trump 150 Years Ago” by Jody Offer (George Eliot, Felix Holt, the Radical)
Annual Meeting Program: “Challenges on Writing the Biographies of Lesser Known People”
Program: “Tom Mooney Revidivus—23 Years in California and International History, 1916 – 1939”
WIP: The Swiss-Italian Connection: Linking West Marin Dairy Ranchers to Their Alpine Roots (Marilyn Geary)
Play Readers: Howard Benton’s Drawing the Line

Winter 2017
Minigrant Report by Neal Dukas (Hawaiian military history)
Public Program: “Where Do Archives Come From?”
“Back to the Gold Country” by Maria Sakovich with contributions by Patti Starr Page, Ron Forsell and Marilyn Geary
Play Readers: Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Jefferson’s Garden
“Remembering State Historian Kevin Starr” by Linda Larson Boston
Book Review: Separate But Equal: Individual and Community since the Enlightenment by Richard Herr

Fall 2016
Essay: “Recommending a Book to Institute Members” by Ellen Huppert (Danielle Allen, Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality)
Reports on day trip to San Francisco Presidio and weekend trip to Amador County
Writers: Charles Sullivan, “Making History: Reconstructing the Elizabethan Quest for the ‘Northwest Passage’”; Carol Sicherman, article about a collection of postcards sent to Matylda Schiff Sicherman in the years just before, during, and after World War I.
Play Readers: Ernest Hemingway’s The Fifth Column;  Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars

Summer 2016
Essay: “Serendipity, Cyberspace, and the Tactility of Documents” by Carol Sicherman
WIP: When Governments Control History (Richard Raack)
WIP: Russian Choral Music in 1920s and 1930s San Francisco: An Example of Cultural Sharing (Maria Sakovich)
WIP: Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in an International Context (Richard Herr)

Spring 2016
Essay: “Slander Sells” by Judith Offer
Annual Meeting talks: Charles Sullivan, Phyllis Grilikhes-Maxwell, David Hirzel, Lori Hart Beninger
Book Review: Building the Golden Gate Bridge: A Workers’ Oral History by Harvey Schwartz

Winter 2016
Essay: “The Making of a Geek” by Cathy Robbins
WIP: Jenny Again: Bringing Her Home and Loosing Her on the World (Bonda Lewis)
Book Review: Santa Zanni by Steven Levi

Fall 2015
Essay:  “Learning History Through the Soles of My Feet” by Joanne Lafler
WIP: A New Theory about the Location of the Sonoma Mission Cemetery (Peter Meyerhof)
WIP: Ghost Ship: The Manila Galleon San Felipe of 1576 (Edward Von der Porten)
WIP: “Art Capital of the West”: Real and Imagined Art Museums and Galleries in Berkeley (Ann Harlow)

Summer 2015
Essay: “The Independent Historian and the Question of ‘Academic’ Rigor” by Neil Bernard Dukas
WIP: Crime in San Francisco (Paul Drexler)
WIP: How the International Women’s Organizations and their Allied Affiliates “Entered” the War, 1914-15 (Karen Offen)
Minigrant Report: The Film Fire Ruin Renewal (Margaretta K. Mitchell)

Spring 2015
Essay: “Parachuting into the 21st Century” by Louis Trager
Annual Meeting talks: Sue Mote, Margaret Simmons, Liz Vasile, Edward Von der Porten
WIP: Who Could “Read” Sculpture on French Gothic Portals? (Georgia Wright)
WIP: Writing African History as an Outsider Invited Inside (Carol Sicherman)

Winter 2015
Essay: “Reflections on Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-first Century” by Ellen Huppert

Fall 2014
Essay: “A Singular Adventure in Paris” by Georgia Wright
WIP: The She-Novelist in Venice: The Life and Death of Constance Fenimore Woolson (Stephanie McCoy)
WIP: Vladimir Dzhunkovsky’s Memory Palace: The Strange Case of his Memoir and Archive (Richard Robbins)
WIP: Torrid Splendor: Finding Calabria (Cathy Robbins)

Summer 2014
Essay: “Ephemeral Research” by Robert Chandler
WIP: The Huppert Family from Poland to California by Way of Austria, Czechoslovakia, England, France, and Cuba (Ellen Huppert)
Report on visit to World War I art exhibition at St. Mary’s College

Spring 2014
Interview with Member Jeanne Farr McDonnell
Annual Meeting Report
WIP: Dragon of the Waldorf: Arthur J. Goldsmith, the Mid-century Interventionists, and the Civil War of the American Elites (Louis Trager)
WIP: From the Anschluss to May 1939: More Background on How the War Came (It wasn’t as you likely have read it.) (Richard Raack)
Report on visit to California Historical Society Juana Briones exhibition
Report on visit to History Museum of Los Gatos
Book Review: Robert Chandler, San Francisco Lithographer: African American Artist Grafton Tyler Brown

2004  2005  2006  2007  2008  2009  2010

2011 2012  2013

1979-1983  (more to come)

Upcoming Events

Thursday, July 22,  7:00 pm, Public Program, via Zoom.

Member Stephen E. Barton will introduce his new book, J. Stitt Wilson: Socialist, Christian, Mayor of Berkeley.

Steven Barton

Faced with the dramatic extremes of wealth and poverty that characterized Gilded Age America, Wilson (1868-1942) gave up a promising career in the ministry to advocate for “applied Christianity”—a democratic and socialist economy based on caring and cooperation that would embody Jesus’s message of love. His varied efforts included socialist evangelism in the Midwest, California and Great Britain; building an alliance between the Socialist Party and the labor movement in his campaigns for governor, mayor and Congress, and supporting Upton Sinclair’s End Poverty in California campaign within the Democratic Party. He and his family became an integral part of “Bohemian Berkeley,” and although his sons all died young, his daughters became socialists, feminists and stars of stage and screen.

This will be an online event on Zoom; the link will be sent to those who register here. The event is cosponsored by the Berkeley Historical Study.


Sunday, August 8, 1:30 pm, Writers Group via Zoom. Pam Peirce will present.


Sunday, August 15,  2:00 pm, Monthly Program, via Zoom.
Christopher Webber will present

George Templeton Strong, the Civil War Sanitary Commission, and the Women's Movement

A Wall Street lawyer's Civil War project to help preserve the Union inadvertently ended up empowering women and paving the way to health-care reform. When the war began, attorney George Templeton Strong worked with friends to create a "Sanitary Commission" that would provide the Union army with medical support. From small towns to big cities, women came together to knit socks, collect blankets, and put up jelly to contribute through the Commission. Through their work, they gained confidence and political savvy that would prove invaluable to the nascent movement for women's rights, and also motivation to improve health care after the war. Strong was a Columbia University graduate and trustee, and a lay leader of the historic Trinity Church, Wall Street. He told much of the Commission's story in a thoughtful diary so candid and fiery that he insisted it must remain sealed for 50 years after his death.

Christopher Webber

Institute member Christopher L. Webber is a priest of the Episcopal Church who has served parishes in Long Island, New York; Connecticut; and Tokyo, Japan. He is a graduate of the Princeton University School of Public and International Affairs and the General Theological Seminary with an honorary doctorate from the latter. He is the author of over thirty books, ranging from the first-ever sequels to Beowulf to a biography of James W.C. Pennington, an early 19th-century black escaped slave and abolitionist. Chris moved to San Francisco in 2003.