Pulitzer Prize-winning historian comes to campus, discusses American historical perspectives

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Pulitzer Prize winning historian Steven Hahn spoke Wednesday for the annual Littlefield Lecture Series. 

Photo Credit: Chase Karacostas | Daily Texan Staff

Inverted views of history deepen understandings of society today and the current political climate, and one has to start with angles people normally overlook, said Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Steven Hahn.

Hahn spoke Wednesday at the AT&T Conference Center for the annual Littlefield Lectures series, where he focused on asking people to use a holistic understanding of American history—beyond the perspective of the northeast—to comprehend society today.

Redefining American expansionism as conquest and the centrality of the Mississippi River in the 19th century American South were just a few of the topics Hahn discussed. Hahn said current interpretations of the past are becoming increasingly important, especially when it comes to analyzing our current political climate.

“You could argue that the election was about historical interpretation,” Hahn said. “When someone says ‘Make America great again’ they’re talking about historical interpretation of the past and what that past looks like. So, it seems to me that history speaks to us in really powerful ways.”

History Department Chair Jacqueline Jones said she brought Hahn to the University to provide students with a provocative scholar who would encourage students to think in different ways. 

“He’s a really fabulous historian and a lot of people have read his work,” Jones said. “I think it’s always wonderful to hear firsthand a distinguished scholar and just to hear them talk about their work and how they go about studying history.”

Philosophy sophomore Harris Khowaja, who was required by a professor to attend the lecture, said he was immediately captivated by Hahn.          

“That emphasis on alternative viewpoints is something that I find personally interesting, but it is also something that needs to be expanded further,” Khowaja said. “It’s something that absolutely needs to have interpretation in not only historical discourse but in discourse between average people.”