An Introduction - History

An Introduction - History

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The word “Antebellum” means, the period before a war. That certainly is an apt title to give to the history of the United States from 1820 to 1855. It was indeed the period leading up the Civil war. Many of the events that occurred during that period helped make that war inevitable. The issue of slavery and its expansion caused a deep political divide in the country during this time, with continual fighting over the question of whether a state should be “free” or “slave”. Views on slavery hardened–– with vigorous anti-slavery organizations becoming strong in the North… While the defenders of slavery became ever louder in the South.

That being said, one should not look at this period only through the lens of the events that led to the war–– since these events did not take place in a vacuum. At the start of the Antebellum period, the United States was a group of states (primarily in the areas hugging the Atlantic coast.) By the Civil War, the United States was a continental power, with states on both sides of the Continent. When the Antebellum period started, the future borders of the United States were unknown. When the period came to a close, the borders of the Continental United States were set. The Antebellum era in American history was a period of continuous westward expansion. In the Eastern half of the country, the Native Americans ceased to be a problem (after the Indian Removal Act led to the forced removal of the majority of the Native Americans to areas west of the Mississippi River, opening up their lands to White settlers.)

The Antebellum period was an era of rapid technological change, change that transformed America during these years. The first major changes, brought by the older, existing technology, enabled the building of the Erie Canal. This opened up the Mid-West for settlement and trade. Soon after, more major advances came about by the introduction of railroads. The railroads quickly created a single, interdependent economy for the United States. The railroads radically changed the time it took to travel from one place to another. Finally, the introduction of the telegram in the Antebellum period totally transformed communication. Suddenly, news was instant. You might not be able to send a great deal of information at once, but imagine if, in 1815, those fighting the Battle of New Orleans had gotten the message in time that the war had already been settled.

Lastly, the face of America changed radically during the Antebellum period. The population of the United States climbed from 9 million to close to 30 million during this period. And while the United States remained an overwhelmingly rural country—even at the close of the period–– the percentage of people living in American cities continued to grow (from just 6% of the population to close to 19%.) Those nineteen percent represented 6 million people.
The cultural composition of America was changing rapidly as well– with new immigrants from Germany, Scandinavia and Ireland joining the early Americans who were mostly from England.

An Introduction to Ancient (Classical) History

While the definition of "ancient" is subject to interpretation, there are some criteria that may be used when discussing ancient history, a period of time distinct from prehistory and late antiquity or medieval history.

  1. Prehistory: The period of human life that came before (i.e., prehistory [a term coined, in English, by Daniel Wilson (1816-92), according to Barry Cunliffe
  2. Late Antiquity/Medieval: The period that came at the end of our period and lasted into the Middle Ages

The Holocaust: An Introductory History

The Holocaust (also called Ha-Shoah in Hebrew) refers to the period from January 30, 1933 - when Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany - to May 8, 1945, when the war in Europe officially ended. During this time, Jews in Europe were subjected to progressively harsher persecution that ultimately led to the murder of 6,000,000 Jews (1.5 million of these being children) and the destruction of 5,000 Jewish communities. These deaths represented two-thirds of European Jewry and one-third of all world Jewry.

The Jews who died were not casualties of the fighting that ravaged Europe during World War II. Rather, they were the victims of Germany&rsquos deliberate and systematic attempt to annihilate the entire Jewish population of Europe, a plan Hitler called the &ldquoFinal Solution&rdquo (Endlosung).


After its defeat in World War I, Germany was humiliated by the Versailles Treaty, which reduced its prewar territory, drastically reduced its armed forces, demanded the recognition of its guilt for the war, and stipulated it pay reparations to the allied powers. With the German Empire destroyed, a new parliamentary government called the Weimar Republic was formed. The republic suffered from economic instability, which grew worse during the worldwide depression after the New York stock market crash in 1929. Massive inflation followed by very high unemployment heightened existing class and political differences and began to undermine the government.

On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler, leader of the National Socialist German Workers (Nazi) Party, was named chancellor of Germany by President Paul von Hindenburg after the Nazi party won a significant percentage of the vote in the elections of 1932. The Nazi Party had taken advantage of the political unrest in Germany to gain an electoral foothold. The Nazis incited clashes with the communists and conducted a vicious propaganda campaign against its political opponents &ndash the weak Weimar government and the Jews whom the Nazis blamed for Germany&rsquos ills.

Propaganda: &ldquoThe Jews Are Our Misfortune&rdquo

A major tool of the Nazis&rsquo propaganda assault was the weekly Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer (The Attacker). At the bottom of the front page of each issue, in bold letters, the paper proclaimed, &ldquoThe Jews are our misfortune!&rdquo Der Stürmer also regularly featured cartoons of Jews in which they were caricatured as hooked-nosed and ape-like. The influence of the newspaper was far-reaching: by 1938 about a half million copies were distributed weekly.

Soon after he became chancellor, Hitler called for new elections in an effort to get full control of the Reichstag, the German parliament, for the Nazis. The Nazis used the government apparatus to terrorize the other parties. They arrested their leaders and banned their political meetings. Then, in the midst of the election campaign, on February 27, 1933, the Reichstag building burned. A Dutchman named Marinus van der Lubbe was arrested for the crime, and he swore he had acted alone. Although many suspected the Nazis were ultimately responsible for the act, the Nazis managed to blame the Communists, thus turning more votes their way.

The fire signaled the demise of German democracy. On the next day, the government, under the pretense of controlling the Communists, abolished individual rights and protections: freedom of the press, assembly, and expression were nullified, as well as the right to privacy. When the elections were held on March 5, the Nazis received nearly 44 percent of the vote, and with 8 percent offered by the Conservatives, won a majority in the government.

The Nazis moved swiftly to consolidate their power into a dictatorship. On March 23, the Enabling Act was passed. It sanctioned Hitler&rsquos dictatorial efforts and legally enabled him to pursue them further. The Nazis marshaled their formidable propaganda machine to silence their critics. They also developed a sophisticated police and military force.

The Sturmabteilung (S.A., Storm Troopers), a grassroots organization, helped Hitler undermine the German democracy. The Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei, Secret State Police), a force recruited from professional police officers, was given complete freedom to arrest anyone after February 28. The Schutzstaffel (SS, Protection Squad) served as Hitler&rsquos personal bodyguard and eventually controlled the concentration camps and the Gestapo. The Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsführers-SS (S.D., Security Service of the SS) functioned as the Nazis&rsquo intelligence service, uncovering enemies and keeping them under surveillance.

With this police infrastructure in place, opponents of the Nazis were terrorized, beaten, or sent to one of the concentration camps the Germans built to incarcerate them. Dachau, just outside of Munich, was the first such camp built for political prisoners. Dachau&rsquos purpose changed over time and eventually became another brutal concentration camp for Jews.

By the end of 1934 Hitler was in absolute control of Germany, and his campaign against the Jews in full swing. The Nazis claimed the Jews corrupted pure German culture with their &ldquoforeign&rdquo and &ldquomongrel&rdquo influence. They portrayed the Jews as evil and cowardly, and Germans as hardworking, courageous, and honest. The Jews, the Nazis claimed, who were heavily represented in finance, commerce, the press, literature, theater, and the arts, had weakened Germany&rsquos economy and culture. The massive government-supported propaganda machine created a racial anti-Semitism, which was different from the long­standing anti-Semitic tradition of the Christian churches.

The superior race was the &ldquoAryans,&rdquo the Germans. The word Aryan, &ldquoderived from the study of linguistics, which started in the eighteenth century and at some point determined that the Indo-Germanic (also known as Aryan) languages were superior in their structures, variety, and vocabulary to the Semitic languages that had evolved in the Near East. This judgment led to a certain conjecture about the character of the peoples who spoke these languages the conclusion was that the &lsquoAryan&rsquo peoples were likewise superior to the &lsquoSemitic&rsquo ones&rdquo

The Jews Are Isolated from Society

The Nazis then combined their racial theories with the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin to justify their treatment of the Jews. The Germans, as the strongest and fittest, were destined to rule, while the weak and racially adulterated Jews were doomed to extinction. Hitler began to restrict the Jews with legislation and terror, which entailed burning books written by Jews, removing Jews from their professions and public schools, confiscating their businesses and property and excluding them from public events. The most infamous of the anti-Jewish legislation were the Nuremberg Laws, enacted on September 15, 1935. They formed the legal basis for the Jews&rsquo exclusion from German society and the progressively restrictive Jewish policies of the Germans.

Many Jews attempted to flee Germany, and thousands succeeded by immigrating to such countries as Belgium, Czechoslovakia, England, France and Holland. It was much more difficult to get out of Europe. Jews encountered stiff immigration quotas in most of the world&rsquos countries. Even if they obtained the necessary documents, they often had to wait months or years before leaving. Many families out of desperation sent their children first.

In July 1938, representatives of 32 countries met in the French town of Evian to discuss the refugee and immigration problems created by the Nazis in Germany. Nothing substantial was done or decided at the Evian Conference, and it became apparent to Hitler that no one wanted the Jews and that he would not meet resistance in instituting his Jewish policies. By the autumn of 1941, Europe was in effect sealed to most legal emigration. The Jews were trapped.

On November 9-10, 1938, the attacks on the Jews became violent. Hershel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old Jewish boy distraught at the deportation of his family, shot Ernst vom Rath, the third secretary in the German Embassy in Paris, who died on November 9. Nazi hooligans used this assassination as the pretext for instigating a night of destruction that is now known as Kristallnacht (the night of broken glass). They looted and destroyed Jewish homes and businesses and burned synagogues. Many Jews were beaten and killed 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

The Jews Are Confined to Ghettos

Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, beginning World War II. Soon after, in 1940, the Nazis began establishing ghettos for the Jews of Poland. More than 10 percent of the Polish population was Jewish, numbering about three million. Jews were forcibly deported from their homes to live in crowded ghettos, isolated from the rest of society.

This concentration of the Jewish population later aided the Nazis in their deportation of the Jews to the death camps. The ghettos lacked the necessary food, water, space, and sanitary facilities required by so many people living within their constricted boundaries. Many died of deprivation and starvation.

The &ldquoFinal Solution&rdquo

In June 1941 Germany attacked the Soviet Union and began the &ldquoFinal Solution.&rdquo Four mobile killing groups were formed called Einsatzgruppen A, B, C and D. Each group contained several commando units. The Einsatzgruppen gathered Jews town by town, marched them to huge pits dug earlier, stripped them, lined them up, and shot them with automatic weapons. The dead and dying would fall into the pits to be buried in mass graves. In the infamous Babi Yar massacre, near Kiev, 30,000-35,000 Jews were killed in two days. In addition to their operations in the Soviet Union, the Einsatzgruppen conducted mass murder in eastern Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. It is estimated that by the end of 1942, the Einsatzgruppen had murdered more than 1.3 million Jews.

On January 20, 1942, several top officials of the German government met to officially coordinate the military and civilian administrative branches of the Nazi system to organize a system of mass murder of the Jews. This meeting, called the Wannsee Conference, &ldquomarked the beginning of the full-scale, comprehensive extermination operation [of the Jews] and laid the foundations for its organization, which started immediately after the conference ended.&rdquo

While the Nazis murdered other national and ethnic groups, such as a number of Soviet prisoners of war, Polish intellectuals, and gypsies, only the Jews were marked for systematic and total annihilation. Jews were singled out for &ldquoSpecial Treatment&rdquo (Sonderbehandlung), which meant that Jewish men, women and children were to be methodically killed with poisonous gas. In the exacting records kept at the Auschwitz death camp, the cause of death of Jews who had been gassed was indicated by &ldquoSB,&rdquo the first letters of the two words that form the German term for &ldquoSpecial Treatment.&rdquo

By the spring of 1942, the Nazis had established six killing centers (death camps) in Poland: Chelmno (Kulmhof), Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Maidanek and Auschwitz. All were located near railway lines so that Jews could be easily transported daily. A vast system of camps (called Lagersystem) supported the death camps. The purpose of these camps varied: some were slave labor camps, some transit camps, others concentration camps and their subcamps, and still others the notorious death camps. Some camps combined all of these functions or a few of them. All the camps were intolerably brutal.

In nearly every country overrun by the Nazis, the Jews were forced to wear badges marking them as Jews, they were rounded up into ghettos or concentration camps and then gradually transported to the killing centers. The death camps were essentially factories for murdering Jews. The Germans shipped thousands of Jews to them each day. Within a few hours of their arrival, the Jews had been stripped of their possessions and valuables, gassed to death, and their bodies burned in specially designed crematoriums. Approximately 3.5 million Jews were murdered in these death camps.

Many healthy, young strong Jews were not killed immediately. The Germans&rsquo war effort and the &ldquoFinal Solution&rdquo required a great deal of manpower, so the Germans reserved large pools of Jews for slave labor. These people, imprisoned in concentration and labor camps, were forced to work in German munitions and other factories, such as I.G. Farben and Krupps, and wherever the Nazis needed laborers. They were worked from dawn until dark without adequate food and shelter. Thousands perished, literally worked to death by the Germans and their collaborators.

In the last months of Hitler&rsquos Reich, as the German armies retreated, the Nazis began marching the prisoners still alive in the concentration camps to the territory they still controlled. The Germans forced the starving and sick Jews to walk hundreds of miles. Most died or were shot along the way. About a quarter of a million Jews died on the death marches.

Jewish Resistance

The Germans&rsquo overwhelming repression and the presence of many collaborators in the various local populations severely limited the ability of the Jews to resist. Jewish resistance did occur, however, in several forms. Staying alive, clean, and observing Jewish religious traditions constituted resistance under the dehumanizing conditions imposed by the Nazis. Other forms of resistance involved escape attempts from the ghettos and camps. Many who succeeded in escaping the ghettos lived in the forests and mountains in family camps and in fighting partisan units. Once free, though, the Jews had to contend with local residents and partisan groups who were often openly hostile. Jews also staged armed revolts in the ghettos of Vilna, Bialystok, Bedzin-Sosnowiec, Krakow, and Warsaw.

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was the largest ghetto revolt. Massive deportations (or Aktions) had been held in the ghetto from July to September 1942, emptying the ghetto of the majority of Jews imprisoned there. When the Germans entered the ghetto again in January 1943 to remove several thousand more, small unorganized groups of Jews attacked them. After four days, the Germans withdrew from the ghetto, having deported far fewer people than they had intended. The Nazis reentered the ghetto on April 19, 1943, the eve of Passover, to evacuate the remaining Jews and close the ghetto. The Jews, using homemade bombs and stolen or bartered weapons, resisted and withstood the Germans for 27 days. They fought from bunkers and sewers and evaded capture until the Germans burned the ghetto building by building. By May 16, the ghetto was in ruins and the uprising crushed.

Jews also revolted in the death camps of Sobibor, Treblinka and Auschwitz. All of these acts of resistance were largely unsuccessful in the face of the superior German forces, but they were very important spiritually, giving the Jews hope that one day the Nazis would be defeated.


The camps were liberated gradually, as the Allies advanced on the German army. For example, Maidanek (near Lublin, Poland) was liberated by Soviet forces in July 1944, Auschwitz in January 1945 by the Soviets, Bergen-Belsen (near Hanover, Germany) by the British in April 1945, and Dachau by the Americans in April 1945.

At the end of the war, between 50,000 and 100,000 Jewish survivors were living in three zones of occupation: American, British and Soviet. Within a year, that figure grew to about 200,000. The American zone of occupation contained more than 90 percent of the Jewish displaced persons (DPs). The Jewish DPs would not and could not return to their homes, which brought back such horrible memories and still held the threat of danger from anti-Semitic neighbors. Thus, they languished in DP camps until emigration could be arranged to Palestine, and later Israel, the United States, South America and other countries. The last DP camp closed in 1957

Below are figures for the number of Jews murdered in each country that came under German domination. They are estimates, as are all figures relating to Holocaust victims. The numbers given here for Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania are based on their territorial borders before the 1938 Munich agreement. The total number of six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, which emerged from the Nuremberg trials, is also an estimate. Numbers have ranged between five and seven million killed. The exact number will never be known because of the many people whose murders were not recorded and whose bodies have still not be found.

An Introduction - History

"The Khazar people were an unusual phenomenon for Medieval times. Surrounded by savage and nomadic tribes, they had all the advantages of the developed countries: structured government, vast and prosperous trading, and a permanent army. At the time, when great fanatism and deep ignorance contested their dominion over Western Europe, the Khazar state was famous for its justice and tolerance. People persecuted for their faiths flocked into Khazaria from everywhere. As a glistening star it shone brightly on the gloomy horizon of Europe, and faded away without leaving any traces of existence."
- Vasilii V. Grigoriev, in his essay "O dvoystvennosti verkhovnoy vlasti u khazarov" (1835), reprinted in his 1876 compilation book Rossiya i Aziya on page 66

"Though the Jews were everywhere a subject people, and in much of the world persecuted as well, Khazaria was the one place in the medieval world where the Jews actually were their own masters. To the oppressed Jews of the world, the Khazars were a source of pride and hope, for their existence seemed to prove that God had not completely abandoned His people."
- Raymond Scheindlin, in The Chronicles of the Jewish People (1996)

The history of Khazaria presents us with a fascinating example of how Jewish life flourished in the Middle Ages. In a time when Jews were persecuted thruout Christian Europe, the kingdom of Khazaria was a beacon of hope. Jews were able to flourish in Khazaria because of the tolerance of the Khazar rulers, who invited Byzantine and Persian Jewish refugees to settle in their country. Due to the influence of these refugees, the Khazars found the Jewish religion to be appealing and adopted Judaism in large numbers.

Most of the available information about the Khazars comes from Arabic, Hebrew, Armenian, Byzantine, and Slavic sources, most of which are reliable. There is also a large quantity of archaeological evidence concerning the Khazars that illuminates multiple aspects of the Khazarian economy (arts and crafts, trade, agriculture, fishing, etc.) as well as burial practices.

Origins. The Khazars were a Turkic 1 people who originated in Central Asia. The early Turkic tribes were quite diverse, although it is believed that reddish hair was predominant among them prior to the Mongol conquests. In the beginning, the Khazars believed in Tengri shamanism, spoke a Turkic language, and were nomadic. Later, the Khazars adopted Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, learned Hebrew and Slavic, and became settled in cities and towns thruout the north Caucasus and Ukraine. The Khazars had a great history of ethnic independence extending approximately 800 years from the 5th to the 13th century.

The earliest history of the Khazars in southern Russia, prior to the middle of the 6th century, is hidden in obscurity. From about 550 to 630, the Khazars were part of the Western Turkish Empire, ruled by the Celestial Blue Turks (Kök Turks). When the Western Turkish Empire was broken up as a result of civil wars in the middle of the 7th century, the Khazars successfully asserted their independence. Yet, the Kök kaganate under which they had lived provided the Khazars with their system of government. For example, the Khazars followed the same guidelines as the Kök Turks regarding the succession of kings.

Political power. At its maximum extent, the independent country of Khazaria included the geographic regions of southern Russia, northern Caucasus, eastern Ukraine, Crimea, western Kazakhstan, and northwestern Uzbekistan. Other Turkic groups such as the Sabirs and Bulgars came under Khazar jurisdiction during the 7th century. The Khazars forced some of the Bulgars (led by Asparukh) to move to modern-day Bulgaria, while other Bulgars fled to the upper Volga River region where the independent state of Volga Bulgharia was founded. The Khazars had their greatest power over other tribes in the 9th century, controlling eastern Slavs, Magyars, Pechenegs, Burtas, North Caucasian Huns, and other tribes and demanding tribute from them. Because of their jurisdiction over the area, the Caspian Sea was named the "Khazar Sea", and even today the Azeri, Turkish, Persian, and Arabic languages designate the Caspian by this term (in Turkish, "Hazar Denizi" in Arabic, "Bahr-ul-Khazar" in Persian, "Daryaye Khazar").

In addition to their role in indirectly bringing about the creation of the modern Balkan nation of Bulgaria, the Khazars played an even more significant role in European affairs. By acting as a buffer state between the Islamic world and the Christian world, Khazaria prevented Islam from significantly spreading north of the Caucasus Mountains. This was accomplished thru a series of wars known as the Arab-Khazar Wars, which took place in the late 7th and early 8th centuries. The wars established the Caucasus and the city of Derbent as the boundary between the Khazars and the Arabs.

Cities. The first Khazar capital was Balanjar, which is identified with the archaeological site Verkhneye Chir-Yurt. During the 720s, the Khazars transferred their capital to Samandar, a coastal town in the north Caucasus noted for its beautiful gardens and vineyards. In 750, the capital was moved to the city of Itil (Atil) on the edge of the Volga River. In fact, the name "Itil" also designated the Volga River in the medieval age. Itil would remain the Khazar capital for at least another 200 years. Itil, the administrative center of the Khazar kingdom, was located adjacent to Khazaran, a major trading center. In the early 10th century, Khazaran-Itil's population was composed mostly of Muslims and Jews, but a few Christians lived there also. The capital city had many mosques. The king's palace was located on an island nearby, which was surrounded by a brick wall. The Khazars stayed in their capital during the winter, but they lived in the surrounding steppe in the spring and summer to cultivate their crops.

The great capital city of modern Ukraine, Kiev, was founded by Khazars or Hungarians. Kiev is a Turkic place name (Küi = riverbank + ev = settlement). A community of Jewish Khazars lived in Kiev. Other towns of the Khazars, many of which also had important Jewish communities, included Kerch (Bospor), Feodosia, Tamatarkha (Tmutorokan), Chufut-Kale, Sudak, and Sarkel. The local governor of Samandar was Jewish, and it may be assumed that many of the governors of these other localities were also Jewish. A major brick fortress was built in 834 in Sarkel, along the Don River. It was a cooperative Byzantine-Khazar venture, and Petronas Kamateros, a Greek, served as chief engineer during the construction.

Civilization and trade. The staple foods for the Khazars were rice and fish. Barley, wheat, melons, hemp, and cucumbers were also harvested in Khazaria. There were many orchards and fertile regions around the Volga River, which the Khazars depended upon due to the infrequency of rain. The Khazars hunted foxes, rabbits, and beavers to supply the large demand for furs.

Khazaria was an important trade route connecting Asia and Europe. For example, the "Silk Road" was an important link between China, Central Asia, and Europe. Among the things traded along the Khazar trade routes were silks, furs, candlewax, honey, jewelry, silverware, coins, and spices. Jewish Radhanite traders of Persia passed thru Itil on their way to western Europe, China, and other locations. The Iranian Sogdians also made use of the Silk Road trade, and their language and runic letters became popular among the Turks. Khazars traded with the people of Khwarizm (northwest Uzbekistan) and Volga Bulgharia and also with port cities in Azerbaijan and Persia.

The Khazars' dual-monarchy was a Turkic system under which the kagan was the supreme king and the bek was the civilian army leader. The kagans were part of the Turkic Asena ruling family that had provided kagans for other Central Asian nations in the early medieval period. The Khazar kagans had relations with the rulers of the Byzantines, Abkhazians, Hungarians, and Armenians. To some extent, the Khazarian kings influenced the religion of the Khazar people, but they tolerated those who had different religions than their own, so that even when these kings adopted Judaism they still let Greek Christians, pagan Slavs, and Muslim Iranians live in their domains. In the capital city, the Khazars established a supreme court composed of 7 members, and every religion was represented on this judicial panel (according to one contemporary Arab chronicle, the Khazars were judged according to the Torah, while the other tribes were judged according to other laws).

Ancient communities of Jews existed in the Crimean Peninsula, a fact proven by much archaeological evidence. It is significant that the Crimea came under the control of the Khazars. The Crimean Jewish communities were later supplemented by refugee Jews fleeing the Mazdaq rebellion in Persia, the persecutions of Byzantine emperors Leo III and Romanus I Lecapenus, and for a variety of other reasons. Jews came to Khazaria from modern-day Uzbekistan, Armenia, Hungary, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and many other places, as documented by al-Masudi, the Schechter Letter, Saadiah Gaon, and other accounts. The Arabic writer Dimashqi wrote that these refugee Jews offered their religion to the Khazar Turks and that the Khazars "found it better than their own and accepted it". The Jewish Radhanite traders may have also influenced the conversion. Adopting Judaism was perhaps also a symbol of political independence for Khazaria, holding the balance of power between Muslim Caliphate and the Christian Byzantine Empire.

Under the leadership of kings Bulan and Obadiah, the standard rabbinical form of the Jewish religion spread among the Khazars. King Bulan adopted Judaism in approximately the year 838, after supposedly holding a debate between representatives of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths. The Khazar nobility and many of the common people also became Jews. King Obadiah later established synagogues and Jewish schools in Khazaria. The books of the Mishnah, Talmud, and Torah thus became important to many Khazars. Saint Cyril came to Khazaria in 860 in a Byzantine attempt to convert the Khazars to Christianity, but he was unsuccessful in converting them away from Judaism. He did, however, convince many of the Slavs to adopt Christianity. By the 10th century, the Khazars wrote using Hebrew letters. The major Khazar Jewish documents from that period were written in the Hebrew language. The Ukrainian professor Omeljan Pritsak estimated that there were as many as 30,000 Jews in Khazaria by the 10th century. In 2002, the Swedish numismatist Gert Rispling discovered a Khazar Jewish coin.

In general, the Khazars may be described as a productive and tolerant people, in contact with much of the rest of the world and providing goods and services at home and abroad. Many artifacts from the Khazars, exhibiting their artistic and industrial talents, have survived to the present day.

Decline and fall. During the 10th century, the East Slavs were united under Scandinavian overlordship. A new nation, Kievan Rus, was formed by Prince Oleg. Just as the Khazars had left their mark on other peoples, so too did they influence the Rus. The Rus and the Hungarians both adopted the dual-kingship system of the Khazars. The Rus princes even borrowed the title kagan. Archaeologists recovered a variety of Khazar or Khazar-style objects (including clothing and pottery) from Viking gravesites in Chernigov, Gnezdovo, Kiev, and even Birka (Sweden). The residents of Kievan Rus patterned their legal procedures after the Khazars. In addition, some Khazar words became part of the old East Slavic language: for example, bogatyr ("brave knight") apparently derives from the Khazar word baghatur.

The Rus inherited most of the former Khazar lands in the late 10th century and early 11th century. One of the most devastating defeats came in 965, when Rus Prince Svyatoslav conquered the Khazar fortress of Sarkel. It is believed that he conquered Itil two years later, after which he campaigned in the Balkans. Despite the loss of their nation, the Khazar people did not disappear. Many of them converted to Islam and survived in the North Caucasus and Central Asian regions under new identities. Others lived and studied in other Jewish communities from Spain to the Byzantine Empire 2 but in the end had no impact on the ancestral composition of any modern Jewish population.

1. Many medieval writers attested to the Khazars' Turkic origins including Theophanes, al-Masudi, Rabbi Yehudah ben Barzillai, Martinus Oppaviensis, and the anonymous authors of the Georgian Chronicle and Chinese chronicle T'ang-shu. The Arabic writer al-Masudi in Kitab at-Tanbih wrote: ". the Khazars. are a tribe of the Turks." (cited in Peter Golden, Khazar Studies, pp. 57-58). T'ang-shu reads: "K'o-sa [Khazars]. belong to the stock of the Turks." (cited in Peter Golden, Khazar Studies, p. 58). In his Chronographia, Theophanes wrote: "During his [Byzantine emperor Heraclius] stay there [in Lazica], he invited the eastern Turks, who are called Chazars, to become his allies." (cited in Theophanes, Analecta Bollandiana vol. 112, 1994, pp. 339-376).

Suggestions for further research. Here are some useful published introductory materials on the Khazars. Some are available from retail bookstores, while others are only available through libraries.

"The World of the Khazars" edited by Peter B. Golden, Haggai Ben-Shammai, and András Róna-Tas (2007)

"Khazar Studies: An Historico-Philological Inquiry into the Origins of the Khazars" by Peter B. Golden (1980)

Journal article "Khazaria and Judaism" by Peter B. Golden, in Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi, volume 3, 1983, pages 128 to 156.

"The Kuzari: In Defense of the Despised Faith" by Yehudah HaLevi, translated by N. Daniel Korobkin (1998, 2009)

"The Emergence of Rus 750-1200" by Jonathan Shepard and Simon Franklin (1996)

“Get Big Fast”

In 1994 Jeff Bezos, a former Wall Street hedge fund executive, incorporated, choosing the name primarily because it began with the first letter of the alphabet and because of its association with the vast South American river. On the basis of research he had conducted, Bezos concluded that books would be the most logical product initially to sell online. was not the first company to do so Computer Literacy, a Silicon Valley bookstore, began selling books from its inventory to its technically astute customers in 1991. However, the promise of was to deliver any book to any reader anywhere.

While famously started as a bookseller, Bezos contended from its start that the site was not merely a retailer of consumer products. He argued that was a technology company whose business was simplifying online transactions for consumers.

The business strategy was often met with skepticism. Financial journalists and analysts disparaged the company by referring to it as Amazon.bomb. Doubters claimed ultimately would lose in the marketplace to established bookselling chains, such as Borders and Barnes & Noble, once they had launched competing e-commerce sites. The lack of company profits until the final quarter of 2001 seemed to justify its critics.

However, Bezos dismissed naysayers as not understanding the massive growth potential of the Internet. He argued that to succeed as an online retailer, a company needed to “Get Big Fast,” a slogan he had printed on employee T-shirts. In fact, did grow fast, reaching 180,000 customer accounts by December 1996, after its first full year in operation, and less than a year later, in October 1997, it had 1,000,000 customer accounts. Its revenues jumped from $15.7 million in 1996 to $148 million in 1997, followed by $610 million in 1998.’s success propelled its founder to become Time magazine’s 1999 Person of the Year.

The company expanded rapidly in other areas. Its Associates program, where other Web sites could offer merchandise for sale and would fill the order and pay a commission, grew from one such site in 1996 to more than 350,000 by 1999. Following Bezos’s initial strategy, the company quickly began selling more than books. Music and video sales started in 1998. That same year it began international operations with the acquisition of online booksellers in the United Kingdom and Germany. By 1999 the company was also selling consumer electronics, video games, software, home-improvement items, toys and games, and much more.

To sustain that growth, needed more than private investors to underwrite the expansion. As a result, in May 1997, less than two years after opening its virtual doors to consumers and without ever having made a profit, became a public company, raising $54 million on the NASDAQ market. In addition to the cash, the company was able to use its high-flying stock to fund its aggressive growth and acquisition strategy.

Although offering more types of goods broadened its appeal, it was’s service that gained it customer loyalty and ultimate profitability. Its personalization tools recommended other products to buy on the basis of both a customer’s purchasing history and data from buyers of the same items. Its publishing of customer reviews of products fostered a “community of consumers” who helped each other find everything from the right book to the best blender.

An Introduction to Oral History

When we transitioned to working remotely in March, units across the Smithsonian were encouraged to think about how we can continue to ensure our mission to increase and diffuse knowledge with the doors to our museums and research centers closed. At the Archives, we turned to our work with our oral history collection. Since 1973, the Archives has worked to record a wide, diverse range of viewpoints about the events that have shaped the Smithsonian. So what exactly is oral history?

Oral history is a technique for generating and preserving original, historically interesting information— primary source material—from personal recollections through planned recorded interviews. This method of interviewing is used to preserve the voices, memories and perspectives of people in history. It’s a tool we can all use to engage with and learn from family members, friends, and the people we share space with in an interview that captures their unique history and perspective in their own words. Oral history stems from the tradition of passing information of importance to the family or tribe from one generation to the next. In the United States, the Oral History Association connects oral historians and provides a broad range of information on oral history. Some basic tenets include:

Technique: The methodology of oral history can be adapted to many different types of projects from family history to academic research projects in many different disciplines. The interviews should usually be conducted in a one-on-one situation, although group interviews can also be effective.

Sharing: In collaboration with a well-prepared and empathetic interviewer, the narrator may be able to share information that they do not realize they recall and to make associations and draw conclusions about their experience that they would not be able to produce without the interviewer.

Preserving: Recording preserves the interview, in sound or video and later in transcript for use by others removed in time and/or distance from the interviewee. Oral history also preserves the ENTIRE interview, in its original form, rather than the interviewer’s interpretation of what was said.

Original historically important information: The well-prepared interviewer will know what information is already in documents and will use the oral history interview to seek new information, clarification, or new interpretation of a historical event.

Personal recollections: The interviewer should ask the narrator for first-person information. These are memories that the narrator can provide on a reliable basis, e.g., events in which they participated or witnessed or decisions in which they took part. Oral history interviews can convey personality, explain motivation, and reveal inner thoughts and perceptions.

Oral history is an essential tool for us as we aim to record the history of the Smithsonian and the folks that contribute to it, but it is also an inherently democratic practice. Anyone anywhere can conduct an oral history to learn more about their friends, family, and the people they share space with. For more tools and information on conducting oral histories, check out our How To Do Oral History site. And check out what other units from across the Smithsonian are sharing over at Smithsonian Cares!

History of Greece: Introduction

The ancient Classical and Hellenistic eras of Greece are undoubtedly the most splendid, having left behind a host of ideas, concepts, and art to provide the foundation of what we call &ldquowestern civilization&rdquo. However, the two previous millennia that lead to these ancient eras, as well as the other two millennia that succeeded them are all part of the history of Greece and have left just as rich a cultural footprint on the land.

Much of the ancient Greek civilization has survived either directly or through permutations to our day. The ancient Greek dialects are influential even to this day with much Greek vocabulary embedded in the Modern Greek and English languages. Likewise, the art and architecture of ancient Greece has remained relevant and influential up to our time in the breadth of western society. The much-celebrated Renaissance was guided in large part by the re-discovery of the ancient Greek ideas through text and art, which were hitherto suppressed by the belief in the absolute authority of the supernatural power and the church.

It should be noted that History is a discipline that was conceived first in Ancient Greece. Herodotus (484 &ndash 425 BCE) is considered the Father of History, as he was the first who attempted to record events and human actions for the sole purpose of preserving them for future generations. The very first lines of his Histories read: &ldquoHerodotus of Halicarnassus here displays his inquiry, so that human achievements may not become forgotten in time, and great and marvelous deeds &ndash some displayed by Greeks, some by barbarians &ndash may not be without their glory&rdquo (Herodotus, 3). Being the first to attempt such a feat, Herodotus was not spared from harsh criticism for including in his Histories (written between 431 and 435 BCE), myths, legends, and outrageous tales.

&ldquoI have written my work, not as an essay which is to win the applause of the moment, but as a possession for all time.&rdquo (Thucydides, 16)

Not much later than Herodotus, Thucydides (460 &ndash 395 BCE) with his History of the Peloponnesian War, put his own stamp on the discipline of History by attempting to present history in an &ldquoobjective&rdquo way, and to make correlations between human actions and events. Their approach and methods of recording historical events became the guiding light for historians of the next two thousand years.

This brief history of Greece is compiled here as an introduction to web readers and to provide the historical background that&rsquos needed to appreciate all the subjects of Ancient Greek culture. It was no easy task to compress the history of Ancient Greece into a concise format that would be appropriate both for online reading and as a precise overview of the subject. Suffice to say that each sentence of this essay has been the subject of countless volumes of discourse throughout history. Further reading can be found in the bibliography. -- 6/2007

The Aim of a Strong Introduction

Along with excellent organization, your introduction lets the visitor know that what you’ve written is of interest. For what reasons would someone come to read your post? Craft an intro that shows them they’ve come to the right place. Here are a few tactics and introduction examples to help you accomplish that.

1 Answer the question “Why should I read this?”

In the intro to this article, I smacked you in the face with a statistic: If you don’t capture a reader’s attention within fifteen seconds, 55 percent will surf on to something else. Right from the first sentence, I’ve told you why this article matters, which is a powerful way to compel someone to read on.

2 Engage the visitor with an anecdote.

Hook the visitor in with an intriguing narrative that gives a hint as to what the article is about and she’s more likely to continue reading.

In the summer of 2015, Stan Transkiy was 16 years into a life sentence, and he had finally found a way to occupy his time.

3 Tell the reader “This is not for you. (But not really. It totally is.)”

When you tell someone “Whatever you do, don’t think of a purple gorilla!” the first thing they do is think of a purple gorilla. (You’re welcome! Don’t worry he’s friendly.) The same psychological tactic can work in writing an introduction.

Why do you look so angry? This article hasn’t even begun and already you disapprove. Why can’t I ever win with you? I see it in your face.

If this sounds unfamiliar, good for you. You don’t need this.

4 Share something personal.

Much like storytelling, sharing something personal in an introduction can pique a visitor’s curiosity. Either he’ll feel he can relate, or the story will be so unique that he’ll be driven to read on to discover more.

I write to fill the page, preferably with nothing.

This ambition was in me before I could write. I grew up in a family of refugees speaking Russian, a language that, as my teachers and classmates took pains to remind me, did not belong to me.

5 Ask a question.

Some may argue that this introduction-writing technique is overused, but now and then a compelling question is the hook your piece needs. It’s especially effective if the visitor has to read on to uncover the answer.

What do you get when you combine a classic psychology experiment with the search for extraterrestrial intelligence?

Introduction and Conclusion

The introduction of a paper must introduce its thesis and not just its topic. Readers will lose some—if not much—of what the paper says if the introduction does not prepare them for what is coming (and tell them what to look for and how to evaluate it).

For example, an introduction that says, “The British army fought in the battle of Saratoga” gives the reader virtually no guidance about the paper’s thesis (i.e., what the paper concludes/argues about the British army at Saratoga).

History papers are not mystery novels. Historians WANT and NEED to give away the ending immediately. Their conclusions—presented in the introduction—help the reader better follow/understand their ideas and interpretations.

In other words, an introduction is a MAP that lays out “the trip the author is going to take [readers] on” and thus “lets readers connect any part of the argument with the overall structure. Readers with such a map seldom get confused or lost.”1

Introductions do four things:

attract the ATTENTION of the reader
convince the reader that he/she NEEDS TO READ what the author has to say
define the paper’s SPECIFIC TOPIC
state and explain the paper’s THESIS
Writing the introduction:
Consider writing the introduction AFTER finishing your paper. By then, you will know what your paper says. You will have thought it through and provided arguments and supporting evidence therefore, you will know what the reader needs to know—in brief form—in the introduction. (Always think of your initial introduction as “getting started” and as something that “won’t count.” It is for your eyes only discard it when you know exactly what your paper says.) A common technique is to turn your conclusion into an introduction. It usually reflects what is in the paper—topic, thesis, arguments, evidence—and can be easily adjusted to be a clear and useful introduction.

Some types of introductions:

Historical overview (provides introduction to topic AND background so that fewer explanations are needed later in paper)
Review of literature or a controversy
Statistics or startling evidence
Anecdote or illustration
From general to specific OR specific to general

“The purpose of this paper is . . .” OR “This paper is about . . . .”
First person (e.g., “I will argue that”)
Too many questions
Dictionary definitions
There is no rule other than to be logical. Short papers require short introductions (e.g., a short paragraph) longer ones may require a page or more to provide all that a reader needs. Longer papers require ELABORATION of the thesis a sentence is not sufficient to prepare the reader for the many pages of arguments and evidence that follow.

Conclusions are the last thing that readers read they define readers’ final impression of a paper. A flat, boring conclusion means a flat, boring (or, at least, disappointing) paper.

Conclusions should be a climax, not an anti-climax. They do not just restate what has already been said they interpret, speculate, and provoke thinking.

Some types of conclusions:

Statement of subject’s significance
Call for further research
Recommendation or speculation
Comparison of part to present
Questions (with or without answers)

“In conclusion” “finally” “thus”
Additional or new ideas that introduce a new paper
First person
Again, there is no rule, although too short conclusions should definitely be avoided. Short conclusions leave the reader on the edge of a cliff with no directions on how to get down.

You are the expert – help your reader pull together and appreciate what he/she has read.

1Howard Becker, Writing for Social Scientists (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986).

Alumni Intros

How have History & American Studies majors built careers after earning their degrees? Learn more by clicking the image above.


The prehistoric reptiles known as dinosaurs arose during the Middle to Late Triassic Period of the Mesozoic Era, some 230 million years ago. They were members of a subclass of reptiles called the archosaurs (“ruling reptiles”), a group that also includes birds and crocodiles.

Scientists first began studying dinosaurs during the 1820s, when they discovered the bones of a large land reptile they dubbed a Megalosaurus (𠇋ig lizard”) buried in the English countryside. In 1842, Sir Richard Owen, Britain’s leading paleontologist, first coined the term 𠇍inosaur.” Owen had examined bones from three different creatures–Megalosaurus, Iguanadon (“iguana tooth”) and Hylaeosaurus (“woodland lizard”). Each of them lived on land, was larger than any living reptile, walked with their legs directly beneath their bodies instead of out to the sides and had three more vertebrae in their hips than other known reptiles. Using this information, Owen determined that the three formed a special group of reptiles, which he named Dinosauria. The word comes from the ancient Greek word deinos (“terrible”) and sauros (“lizard” or “reptile”).

Did you know? Despite the fact that dinosaurs no longer walk the Earth as they did during the Mesozoic Era, unmistakable traces of these enormous reptiles can be identified in their modern-day descendants: birds.

Since then, dinosaur fossils have been found all over the world and studied by paleontologists to find out more about the many different types of these creatures that existed. Scientists have traditionally divided the dinosaur group into two orders: the 𠇋ird-hipped” Ornithischia and the “lizard-hipped” Saurischia. From there, dinosaurs have been broken down into numerous genera (e.g. Tyrannosaurus or Triceratops) and each genus into one or more species. Some dinosaurs were bipedal, which means they walked on two legs. Some walked on four legs (quadrupedal), and some were able to switch between these two walking styles. Some dinosaurs were covered with a type of body armor, and some probably had feathers, like their modern bird relatives. Some moved quickly, while others were lumbering and slow. Most dinosaurs were herbivores, or plant-eaters, but some were carnivorous and hunted or scavenged other dinosaurs in order to survive.

At the time the dinosaurs arose, all of the Earth’s continents were connected together in one land mass, now known as Pangaea, and surrounded by one enormous ocean. Pangaea began to break apart into separate continents during the Early Jurassic Period (around 200 million years ago), and dinosaurs would have seen great changes in the world in which they lived over the course of their existence. Dinosaurs mysteriously disappeared at the end of the Cretaceous Period, around 65 million years ago. Many other types of animals, as well as many species of plants, died out around the same time, and numerous competing theories exist as to what caused this mass extinction. In addition to the great volcanic or tectonic activity that was occurring around that time, scientists have also discovered that a giant asteroid hit Earth about 65.5 million years ago, landing with the force of 180 trillion tons of TNT and spreading an enormous amount of ash all over the Earth’s surface. Deprived of water and sunlight, plants and algae would have died, killing off the planet’s herbivores after a period of surviving on the carcasses of these herbivores, carnivores would have died out as well.

Despite the fact that dinosaurs no longer walk the Earth as they did during the Mesozoic Era, unmistakable traces of these enormous reptiles can be identified in their modern-day descendants: birds. Dinosaurs also live on in the study of paleontology, and new information about them is constantly being uncovered. Finally, judging from their frequent appearances in the movies and on television, dinosaurs have a firm hold in the popular imagination, one realm in which they show no danger of becoming extinct.

Settlement Houses: An Introduction

One of the most influential organizations in the history of American social welfare was the “settlement house.” The establishment and expansion of social settlements and neighborhood houses in the United States corresponded closely with the Progressive Era, the struggle for woman suffrage, the absorption of millions of new immigrants into American society and the development of professional social work.

Settlements were organized initially to be “friendly and open households,” a place where members of the privileged class could live and work as pioneers or “settlers” in poor areas of a city where social and environmental problems were great. Settlements had no set program or method of work. The idea was that university students and others would make a commitment to “reside” in the settlement house in order to “know intimately” their neighbors. The primary goal for many of the early settlement residents was to conduct sociological observation and research. For others it was the opportunity to share their education and/or Christian values as a means of helping the poor and disinherited to overcome their personal handicaps.

What actually happened was that residents of settlements learned as much or more from their neighbors than they taught them. The “settlers” found themselves designing and organizing activities to meet the needs of the residents of the neighborhoods in which they were living. While trying to help and uplift their neighbors — organizing classes, clubs, games and other educational and social activities — settlement house residents and volunteers experienced first hand the powerlessness of the poor, the pervasive abuse of immigrants, the terrible conditions in which men, women and children were required to work in factories and sweatshops, the failure of public officials to enforce laws, the dangers of unsanitary conditions and the debilitating effects of tuberculosis and other diseases. Settlement house residents soon learned that the low standards of living and unsafe working conditions that were the usual lot of poor people in the neighborhoods were most often not the result of choice but of necessity.

When neighborhood conditions and individual or social problems seemed too pressing to be ignored, settlement workers tried to meet them. Their efforts often led to confrontations with local and state officials. At other times, bringing about a change required becoming advocates for a specific cause or acting as spokespersons appealing to a wider public for understanding or support for a proposed civic matter or political measure. From their advocacy, research and sometimes eloquent descriptions of social needs afflicting their neighbors, lasting contributions were made by residents of settlement houses in the areas of education, public health, recreation, labor organizing, housing, local and state politics, woman’s rights, crime and delinquency, music and the arts. Settlements soon became renown as the fountainhead for producing highly motivated social reformers, social scientists and public administrators, including such early notables as

Background: The Early Years

The settlement house movement started in England in 1884 when Cannon Samuel A Barnett, Vicar of St. Jude’s Parrish, founded Toynbee Hall in East London. The settlement idea, as formulated by Cannon Barnett, was to have university men “settle” into a working-class neighborhood where they would not only help relieve poverty and despair through their good works but also learn something about the real world from living day-to-day with the residents of the slums. According to an early Toynbee Hall report, it was “…an association of persons, with different opinions and different tastes its unity is that of variety its methods are spiritual rather than material it aims at permeation rather than conversion and its trust is in friends rather than in organization.”

Several Americans visited Toynbee Hall and were so influenced by the English experiment they decided to organize similar “settlements” in the United States. Among them:

Stanton A. Coit who founded the first American settlement in 1886 — Neighborhood Guild — on the Lower East Side of New York City (Note: the name was later changed to University Settlement)

Christina Isobel MacColl and her friend Sarah Carson founded Christodora Settlement House in the slums of New York City’s Lower East Side

Jane Addams and her college classmate, Ellen Gates Starr, founded Hull House on the West Side of Chicago in 1889

Vida D. Scudder and Jean Fine organized College Settlement in New York City

Robert A. Woods established Andover House in Boston (the name was later changed to South End House.

The settlement idea spread rapidly in the United States. By 1897 there were seventy-four settlements, over a hundred in 1900, and by 1910 there were more than four hundred in operation. Most settlements were located in large cities (40 percent in Boston, Chicago, and New York), but many small cities and rural communities boasted at least one settlement house. In the early years settlements and neighborhood houses were financed entirely by donations and the residents usually paid for their own room and board.

The American settlement movement diverged from the English model in several ways. More women became leaders in the American movement and there was a greater interest in social research and reform. But probably the biggest difference was that American settlements were located in overcrowded slum neighborhoods filled with recent immigrants. Working with the inhabitants of these neighborhoods, settlement workers became caught up in searching for ways to ease their neighbor’s adjustment and integration into a new society. Settlement house residents often acted as advocates on behalf of immigrants and their neighborhoods and, in various areas, they organized English classes and immigrant protective associations, established “penny banks” and sponsored festivals and pageants designed to value and preserve the heritage of immigrants.

It is important to note that settlements helped create and foster many new organizations and social welfare programs, some of which continue to the present time. Settlements were action oriented and new programs and services were added as needs were discovered settlement workers tried to find, not be, the solution for social and environmental deficits affecting their neighbors. In the process, some settlements became engaged in issues such as housing reform, factory safety, labor organizing, protecting children, opening health clinics, legal aid programs, consumer protection, milk pasteurization initiatives and well-baby clinics. Others created parks and playgrounds or emphasized the arts by establishing theaters and classes for the fine arts and music education. A number of settlement leaders and residents conducted research, prepared statistical studies, wrote reports or described their personal experiences in memoirs (e.g., Hull-House Maps and Papers, Robert Woods’s City Wilderness, Jane Addams’s Twenty Years at Hull-House, and Lillian Wald’s House on Henry Street).

Early settlement house residents did not escape the prejudice nor completely overcome the ethnic stereotypes common to their generation and social class they tried consciously to teach middle-class values, often betraying a paternalistic attitude toward the poor. On the other hand, and this was typical of progressives, most settlements were segregated. Although Hull-House and other settlements helped establish separate institutions for Black neighborhoods, pioneered in studying Black urban communities, and helped organize the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Blacks were not welcome at the major settlements.

The Contributions of “Living” in a Settlement House

A distinctive feature of the early years of the settlement movement was “residency.” By design, staff and volunteers lived communally in the same house or building, sharing meals and facilities, working together and spending some or all of their leisure time together. This arrangement fostered an exciting environment in which university-educated and socially motivated men and women enjoyed the opportunity to share their knowledge, life experiences, ideas and plans for the future. Working and living together, even for short periods, the residents of a settlement house bonded around specific projects, collaborated on social issues, formed close friendships and experienced lasting impressions they carried with them for a lifetime.

How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Hansan, J.E. (2011). Settlement houses: An introduction. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved [date accessed] from

21 Replies to &ldquoSettlement Houses: An Introduction&rdquo

Hello, You offer a great framework to understand the origins of the settlement home movement. Given that many settlement homes in the United States “originated” just prior to the Emancipation Proclamation and that “Blacks were not welcome at the major settlements“, can you direct me to research about settlement homes started by and for Black people in the late 1800s? Thank you!

You might start by looking at the Seventeenth Street Mission in Richmond, Va. More pictures here: You might also look at the work of Rev. John Little who directed especially successful settlement houses serving African Americans in Louisville, Ky.

Thank you! I teach graduate level social work classes and want to continue to disrupt the Jane Addams (the story told is that she started “the first” settlement home in 1870). Her story is frequently the only settlement home story told. It’s one the excludes the narratives of people of color who helped people of color.

One further thought, while this is not exactly a settlement house, you might want to look into Ora Brown Stokes. Here’s one of her projects and a bit of biography

Settlement Houses are needed now more than ever!!
It is so sad to see them closing their doors. Power to the people!

how did the social settlement movement help progressive reforms?

The best response to your comment is to suggest you read about specific settlement houses, e.g., Hull House, Chicago Commons, Baden St. Settlement and Baltimore Settlements. Also, read about some of the residents who lived in a settlement house and launched their careers. Good luck. Jack Hansan

[…] Hansan, J.E. (2011). Settlement houses: An introduction. Retrieved October 1, 2015 from […]

Hi,can anyone answer these, I have two questions related with this article:
1. Identify a group of people who lived in the settlement houses.
2. Name two groups serviced by the settlement houses.

Thank you! greatly appreciated.

Dear Aggiebaby: It is easy to answer your question: First, before we were married, my wife and I lived as residents on the third floor University Settlement in Philadelphia. Also living in the “Unie House” at the same time were two dental externs, a heart surgeon from Bari, Italy, two other social work students and a psychology major plus two other administrative staff and the the Executive Director, his family and one daughter. Second, there are countless groups serviced by settlement house since their founding. All you need to do is read the histories of most any settlement house on the SWH web site. Good luck, Jack Hansan

Hi Mr. Hansan,
thank you for this contribution as your article carries a spirit of this movement which is sometimes hard to place in words and often gets lost in translation when transferred into historical scholarship.

I am teaching a social work practice with groups class and was wondering if you can direct me to resource with specific examples of group activities (i.e. social/fun/recreational) that I could use to, in addition to providing theory and historical overview, demonstrate and engage my class into a type of activity such as the ones you describe in your article….?

Thank you for your time, Dunja

Dear Dunja: Sorry for the delay in responding to your request. It would take more time than I have to give to fully answer your question however, I have several resources for you to consider. 1) Read the entry under SOCIAL WORK titled: “More Than Sixty Years with Social Group Work” by Katy Papell who died just recently. 2)Another entry to read is listed with the tab for Settlements. It is “The Position of United Neighborhood Houses on Issues.” 3) Google “National Association of Settlements and Neighborhood Centers.” 4) Read the entry titled “Phillip Schiff Presentation” under the tab for Settlements. 5) Google: “United Neighborhood Centers of America.” 6) If your students are required to do field work direct them to engage in organizations dealing with current social problems, e.g., homelessness, food banks, teen pregnancy, poverty, immigrants, etc.

Good luck with your practice. Jack Hansan

Thanks for a great article. I have been involved in settlement house programs for a number of years beginning in the 1960 while in undergraduate school and then later during and after my MSW at Washington Univ. in St Louis Mo. Now late in life I find my self on a settlement house board of directors who is trying to re program an organization that lost its way. Do any of you have suggestions to update my knowledge of what kind of programs are operating in contemporary settlement houses. We are in Brownsville Texas at the Texas Mexico boarder.

Any suggestions will be most appreciated.

Dear Jack White: I am pleased to reply to your comment. I started to work in a Kansas City, Mo. neighborhood center in 1950 and received my MSW in Social Group Work from the Univ. of PA in 1956. While I have been retired for many years, I have created the SWH Project and it has helped me keep up to date on the history of settlement houses. In response to your question I have several suggestions: 1) the successor of the National Federation of Settlements & Neighborhood Centers is the “United Neighborhood Centers of America.” It recently merged with the Alliance however, it would be a good place to start your search for help or resources. Another suggestion is to contact the United Neighborhood House of New York, or Northeaster PA. If you search for United Neighborhood Houses you will learn several areas of the US have such organizations.

Good luck in locating some help. Regards, Jack Hansan

Dear Mr. Hansan,
In my field of clinical social work we are so entrenched in the notion of individual pathology that it is next to impossible to find support for the idea that doing what we can to focus on the health of families and neighborhoods and the social and economic policies that effect them, is always a part of our work. And listening to the people we serve to better understand what they need! Thank you for reminding me of why I got into social work in the first place.

Thank you for the nice comment. Jack Hansan

Mr. Hansan,
I am attending school at the older than average student age of 46 for social work. I have read and enjoyed your writing on Settlement Houses. I think my plans for social work may have hung a sharp left. Thank you so much.

Thanks for the nice comment. If you follow through, contact the director of United Neighborhood Centers of America. He would be interested in communicating with you. Regards, Jack Hansan

John.. what year did you write the article ” The settlement House Movement”? Thanks. Raymond Sims.

Dear Raymond Sims: It is difficult to put a time frame on that article. I started working in a neighborhood house in K.C. Mo in 1950 and with the exception of two years active duty during the Korean War I continued to work in settlements until 1965. During that time I acquired a great deal of knowledge about settlements and their contribution to American social welfare. If it is important, I can tell you when the article was posted on the SWH web site. Warm regards, Jack Hansan

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