Histories of the Present Senior Thesis Projects

Professor Nara Milanich

Nara Milanich joined the faculty of Barnard in 2004. Her scholarly interests include modern Latin America, Chile, and the comparative histories of family, gender, childhood, reproduction, law, and social inequality.

Professor Lisa Tiersten

Lisa Tiersten joined the Barnard faculty in 1993. Her research and teaching interests include modern European cultural history, the cultural history of capitalism, modern France, feminist theory, gender history, and comparative colonialisms.


Offered as an option for senior thesis writers in the History major for the 2020-2021 academic year, the Histories of the Present (HoP) track trained students to bring historical analysis to bear on our understanding of the present. Students dove deeply into the historical origins and development of a contemporary issue and experiment with different genres for communicating historical claims.

Knowledge of historical origins and analogies can help us to understand the present as well as predict—and shape—the future. How has the history of redlining contributed to racial inequality in the contemporary United States? Is Donald Trump a latter-day Mussolini? How have the recent protests in Chile grown out of the authoritarian dictatorship that ended three decades ago, and do these mobilizations reiterate, or depart from, older forms of protest? Is coronavirus the new Spanish flu—or the Black Death?

Students chose a contemporary issue, topic, or phenomenon of interest, researched the history of the issue, and then drew on the historical knowledge that they had gleaned to analyze the issue in a brief piece of persuasive writing directed at a general audience. They also shared their findings at a Histories of the Present panel event.

This page celebrates our Barnard 2021 History graduates’ senior theses! Congratulations to all! To read more about our students’ projects, please see this article: Barnard College History Department Celebrates the 2021 Public History Projects Produced in the Newest Senior Thesis Seminar Option, “Histories of the Present”!

For more information, please contact:

Professor Milanich: nmilanich@barnard.edu

Professor Tiersten: ltiersten@barnard.edu

*This track will be offered in the future again but not in the 2021-2022 academic year. Next track: TBA.