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00:00:00 - Start of Interview 00:00:01 - George L. Mosse's Writing Style

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Partial Transcript: "Okay...I should say first that it's April 9, 2013..."

Segment Synopsis: David Sabean (DS) began by discussing George Mosse’s writing style.

Keywords: George L. Mosse; Writing Style

00:01:37 - Mosse's Reception in Germany

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Partial Transcript: "Well, that will be one of my questions."

Segment Synopsis: DS explained that Mosse’s reception was minimal and Germans found his style difficult to grasp. Most of his contacts were in England, particularly among Jewish émigrés. DS does not know which of George's books were circulated in Germany.

Keywords: Crisis of German Ideology; George L. Mosse; Writing Style

00:04:31 - Reception of Mosse's Work and Types of History

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Partial Transcript: "Well there was a frustration with George's work."

Segment Synopsis: John Tortorice (JT) and David Sabean discussed German reactions to Mosse’s brand of cultural history. DS remarked that his German colleagues were more engaged with sociological history, taking their cues from Max Weber. Both DS and Mosse advocated a different approach to social history. However DS suspected that a shift away from the Bielefeld School (prominent in the 1970s and ‘80s) helped draw attention to both cultural history and Mosse.

Keywords: Bielefeld School; Cultural History; George L. Mosse; Sociological History

00:09:03 - A "Confrontation" of Two Kinds of History

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Partial Transcript: "Well, and cultural history had a lot of baggage..."

Segment Synopsis: DS recalled an academic panel in the early 1970s during which other panel members dismissed his interest in the history of everyday life and the use of anthropological methods. He dubbed the affair “a confrontation between two very different kinds of history.”

Keywords: Academic Panel; Anthropological History; Historical Studies

00:12:23 - David's Background

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Partial Transcript: "Do you want to follow a script?"

Segment Synopsis: DS was born in Waltham, Massachusetts to parents who had immigrated from Nova Scotia. He described his family’s warmth and fundamentalist religious leanings. DS called himself an “incipient intellectual” from an early age. He often memorized poetry, as well as parts of Plato.

Keywords: Childhood; Poetry; Religion; Waltham, Massachusetts

00:16:59 - Demographics of Waltham, Massachusetts

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Partial Transcript: "In any event what was really interesting..."

Segment Synopsis: Sabean discussed the immigrant population of Waltham, particularly its Irish, Italian, Jewish, and French Canadian communities. He shared a story about his experience working at a haberdasher’s shop, which alerted him to the racial, religious, and economic divisions between Waltham’s various social groups. His upbringing in Waltham developed DS’s interest in thinking about Protestantism, as well as kinship and social groups. Even as a boy, he recognized that his teacher differentiated her students by class according to their clothing. However he did not realize that the family’s Baptist church was “the working man’s church.”

Keywords: Class Discrimination; Immigrant Groups; Kinship; Poetry; Waltham, Massachusetts

00:23:54 - David's Family

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Partial Transcript: "Now, I had two brothers..."

Segment Synopsis: DS described his family. He had a contentious relationship with his older brother who eventually became a missionary. His younger brother followed in DS’s footsteps, earning his PhD. DS’s father was a grocer. His mother was the “more dominant figure” in his life.

Keywords: Family; Missionary

00:27:27 - David's Early Education

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Partial Transcript: "Teachers, that's quite interesting..."

Segment Synopsis: DS detailed his early education, his avid reading, and his independence in the classroom. He briefly discussed broader changes in elementary education and women’s roles therein, before and after the rise of second wave feminism. None of his teachers inspired his interest in history, however, he mentioned a ninth grade teacher whom he admired. DS mostly read novels and many were historical novels. He also singled out Jonathan Edwards’ book on free will as critical to his development.

Keywords: Education; Jonathan Edwards; Reading

00:34:01 - Undergraduate Career

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Partial Transcript: "Oh, undergraduate work..."

Segment Synopsis: DS followed his brother to Houghton College, a Wesleyan Methodist college in upstate New York. There, he gained experience in close reading, particularly within a course on English literature. However the college did not emphasize secondary sources or criticism. A new faculty member in history (Troutman) encouraged DS’s interest in history. A course on the history of philosophy helped him grasp intellectual history.DS earned his BA in three years (1960), while also taking more “exciting” summer courses at Boston University. Follow-up: Masters? Answer: After graduating, he entered a Masters program in history at the University of Wisconsin. He knew nothing of George Mosse, only of the University’s leftist reputation. DS briefly mentioned Mosse’s attitude toward Catholic students (as alternately Trotskyist or Trotskyite).

Subjects: Bachelors Degree; Boston University; History Studies; Houghton College

00:42:07 - Graduate Work at UW-Madison

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Partial Transcript: "So anyways, so I came there and..."

Segment Synopsis: Sabean arrived among a very large cohort of graduate students. The department chair recommended he work with Mosse based on his interest in intellectual history in the early modern period. DS shared his first impressions of Mosse. DS enrolled in his seminar on Calvin and Calvinism. Before the semester began, he killed time by looking through every journal in Memorial Library, identifying relevant articles on the topic. DS described Mosse’s Calvinism seminar, detailing a humorous incident in which Mosse misunderstood the word “sects” for “sex.” DS drew Mosse’s attention due to his uncanny knowledge of the current literature on Calvinism, as well as his interest in Calvinism and skepticism. Subsequently, Mosse provided a bibliography that DS attempted to track down in Memorial Library.

Keywords: Calvinism; George L. Mosse; History PhD; University of Wisconsin Madison; University of Wisconsin Madison History Department

00:52:52 - Other Students in David's Cohort

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Partial Transcript: "Do you recall any of the names of the other students?"

Segment Synopsis: DS listed other members of his cohort. Few from this group succeeded in academia, however, their predecessors and successors did. DS singled out Robert Soucy.

Keywords: Tenure; UW-Madison History Department; University of Wisconsin Madison

00:55:40 - Mosse and Sabean's Teaching Styles

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Partial Transcript: "I presented my paper and George..."

Segment Synopsis: In his seminar, Mosse obligated each student to participate in critiques of each other’s work. (Sabean adopted this model later on.) However he made an exception for DS during his first seminar; Mosse spent nearly 2 hours humorously (and humiliatingly) drawing attention to his paper’s errors. Another student told DS that this attention, although ostensibly negative, was in fact a compliment to his work. When students blew him off, he simply ignored them. DS reflected briefly on poor writing and the influence of oral speech in academic writing. Some students were devastated by George's critiques of their work. DS mentioned that Mosse gave short shrift to women students, with the exception of one student who was a former nun. Mosse also admired Joan Scott, who did not participate in his seminars but acted as his TA. JT mentioned Scott’s hesitation about her closeness to Mosse, given his reputation. Tortorice and Sabean remarked on how Mosse’s relationships with women evolved over time, citing the paucity of female influence in his early life.

Keywords: George L. Mosse; Teaching Styles; Writing; Writing Critiques

01:05:32 - Graduate Educational Path

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Partial Transcript: "By the way, when did you and Ruth get married?"

Segment Synopsis: DS met Ruth (his wife) at Houghton. She finished her undergraduate degree before joining DS in Madison. DS had completed his Masters within one year, when he decided to go to Brandeis and study with Herbert Marcuse. However, Marcuse was in Europe writing One Dimensional Program. DS soon realized the benefits of Wisconsin’s graduate program. Here, he contrasted Harvard intellectual historian Frank Manuel’s method of teaching with that of Mosse's. Despite Marcuse’s absence, DS ascertained that he was a distinct product of the German Gymnasium. Although Mosse likewise had a classical education, he read more broadly. DS described his coursework at Brandeis in the history of ideas, which provided him with a broader base of knowledge than what he had gained at Wisconsin. Nevertheless, Sabean decided to return after one year.

Keywords: Brandeis University; Frank Manuel Historian; George L. Mosse; Marcuse; UW-Madison History Department; University of Wisconsin Madison

01:13:37 - Dissertation and Graduate Work at UW-Madison

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Partial Transcript: "And then decided to do your dissertation..."

Segment Synopsis: DS contrasted Mosse’s flexible attitude toward his students’ research interests with another professor who dictated his students’ projects. After returning from Brandeis, DS began preparing for his prelims exam, working closely with Domenico Sella and occasionally with Robert Reynolds. He also studied with Chris Johnson, a student of Henry Hill. Johnson and Sabean would eventually collaborate on several volumes on early modern history.

Keywords: Dissertations; George L. Mosse; UW-Madison History Department; University of Wisconsin Madison; Writing

01:19:29 - Discussion of Mosse

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Partial Transcript: "But, as we were working through everything..."

Segment Synopsis: George Mosse was “always a decade ahead of everybody,” introducing his students and colleagues to scholars such as Philippe Ariès and E.P. Thompson. At the same time, Mosse’s students were somewhat wary of his “seat of the pants” treatment of popular literature’s reception. DS returned to the subject of the German academy’s eventual retreat from its disdain for popular literature. Mosse always harbored a keen appreciation of popular novels.

Keywords: George L. Mosse; Philippe Aries; Popular Literature; UW-Madison Department of History; University of Wisconsin Madison

01:25:00 - David as a Social Historian

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Partial Transcript: "So we are reading these new texts..."

Segment Synopsis: While studying for prelims, DS decided to become a social historian and to focus on the German peasant war. Mosse took a hands-off approach, sending DS away to research on his own.

Keywords: George L. Mosse; Social Historian

01:27:09 - George L. Mosse as a Historian

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Partial Transcript: "So you found George's method..."

Segment Synopsis: DS reflected on Mosse’s dramatic intellectual and personal evolution in the 1960s and later, including his transition to twentieth-century history and the rediscovery of his Jewish identity. JT called him a “moving target as a historian.”

Keywords: George L. Mosse; George L. Mosse's Work; Historian

01:30:23 - Mosse's Graduate Students

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Partial Transcript: "And in those years..."

Segment Synopsis: JT and DS discussed Mosse’s graduate students and others who worked closely with him. (He stopped taking students after 1972.) Mosse’s later students were drawn to the Frankfurt school and New Left politics. He taught Jewish history only after DS left Wisconsin.

Keywords: Christopher Browning; George L. Mosse; Graduate Students; New Left Politics; UW-Madison History Department; University of Wisconsin Madison

01:38:13 - Mosse's Lectures and Seminars, Anecdotes

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Partial Transcript: "He taught his first..."

Segment Synopsis: Sabean recalled a humorous incident wherein Mosse pronounced smock as “schmuck,” eliciting his students’ laughter.

Keywords: George L. Mosse; Jewish History; UW-Madison History Department; University of Wisconsin-Madison

01:41:21 - David's First Job

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Partial Transcript: "Okay graduate school..."

Segment Synopsis: DS spoke about entering the job market, commenting on George’s cousin Werner, then a historian at the University of East Anglia. George told Werner to hire Sabean. Werner obliged and DS remained at East Anglia for four years (through 1968). There, he developed an interest in Annales school methods and incorporated statistical, demographic, and economic data into his dissertation. When it was completed, DS met Mosse in London and received his comments within a day. DS cited Mosse’s prompt feedback as a mark of his professionalism.

Keywords: George L. Mosse; Historical Research; Job Market; University of East Anglia

01:48:11 - David's Dissertation and Career Path

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Partial Transcript: "That he valued you and your work..."

Segment Synopsis: Professors Mosse, Sella, Kingdon and Herlihy directed Sabean’s dissertation defense, for which he had returned from England. DS described his career path to Pittsburgh, Göttingen, and finally to UCLA (under circumstances that caused some tension between him and Mosse).

Keywords: Dissertation; George L. Mosse; UCLA

01:51:53 - David's Time at UCLA

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Partial Transcript: "And I got the job..."

Segment Synopsis: DS got a job at UCLA. He described his efforts to restructure teaching models there and incorporate new fields of history into his classes (e.g. gender, the body, and memory). Additionally, DS developed a two quarter research seminar at UCLA. He jumped at an opportunity to join the faculty at Cornell University, but quickly regretted his decision. Mosse visited frequently, although he had caused a rift with another scholar there.

Keywords: Cornell University; History Professor; UCLA

01:56:54 - Post Cornell, Return to UCLA

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Partial Transcript: "And then you ended up coming back here..."

Segment Synopsis: After Cornell, Sabean returned to UCLA as a German historian. He discussed several of his doctoral students, including Claudia Verhoeven, Robert Batchelor, John Mangum, and others.

Keywords: German Historian; Graduate Students; UCLA

02:04:12 - David's Work

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Partial Transcript: "You know David, it seems that in many ways..."

Segment Synopsis: JT compared DS’ career to that of Mosse, underscoring his students’ influence and his passion for teaching. Sabean described his own work, explaining how his village study relied heavily on anthropological methods. Although he still regarded himself as a social historian and quite distinct from Mosse, he noticed himself mimicking Mosse’s writing. At the time of the interview, his work focused on incest discourse in the early modern period, attempting to connect discourse to social relationships. Again, DS stressed the importance of training an anthropological eye on history, which he believed Mosse did.

Keywords: George L. Mosse; Historical Studies; Social History; Teaching Styles; Writing Styles

02:14:52 - David's Approach to History

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Partial Transcript: "When it comes to a school or an approach to history..."

Segment Synopsis: Members of DS's cohort imagined themselves as a bund, a special group at Wisconsin.

Keywords: History; UW-Madison History Department; University of Wisconsin

02:16:52 - George's Legacy and Work

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Partial Transcript: "Umm, you asked a few things..."

Segment Synopsis: JT and DS spoke about the roles of politics and power within historical study, especially the work of Michael Foucault. JT and DS contrasted Foucault to Mosse, emphasizing moral commitment and political engagement as keys to Mosse’s work. Sabean linked this discussion to his own investigation into the history of the nuclear family, a line of research driven in part by political and ethical issues.

Keywords: Foucault; George L. Mosse; Historical Study; Kinship; Nuclear Family; Politics

02:21:35 - David's Teaching

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Partial Transcript: "Teaching is different..."

Segment Synopsis: DS briefly discussed his attempts to integrate research and teaching.

Keywords: Professor; Research; Teaching Style

02:23:07 - End of Interview