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How to Apply for a Leopold Fellowship


The 2023-24 Leopold Fellows have been selected. Details of the faculty projects they are working on are available below.

The Leopold Fellows undergraduate program honors Professor Richard Leopold, a long-time member of the NU Department of History, by providing a small group of able undergraduate students with an opportunity to engage in genuine historical research. Leopold Fellows will work on current History faculty research projects, learning how to interpret archival and documentary materials. Successful candidates should demonstrate an interest in learning how to interpret complex primary data. Working under the guidance of a member of the Department of History, the Leopold Fellow will learn how scholars develop arguments out of diverse research materials.  Scroll down to view current faculty research projects and application details.

The program is OPEN to ALL Northwestern undergraduates, irrespective of school or major. History faculty may nominate students to apply or interested students may apply in response to specific faculty projects. Typically each year a Call for Applications with faculty projects goes out in March/April and faculty sponsors select their Leopold Fellows by early May. Applicants are asked for the following, sent as one email attachment:

Each Leopold Fellow receives financial support as a temporary employee at the current rate of $15 per hour (for a possible average of 8-10 hours a week). This program should not be confused with Work-Study. The CCHS may also fund travel or other expenses incurred by the Leopold Fellows. Students may apply to be Leopold Fellows for two or three quarters, which can include the summer. Leopold Fellows are expected to present their research to their peers, faculty sponsors, and Center associates. They also fill out a survey and write a short research report for the Center at the end of the fellowship period.

Questions and applications should be addressed to Asst. Director  Elzbieta Foeller-Pituch:

For 2024-25: the Call for Applications and faculty projects will be published in February 2024.

Application process: Please look over our list of faculty projects below and if interested apply for a Fellowship. Undergrads from all schools of NU can apply for a Fellowship. History faculty may nominate students to apply or interested students may apply in response to a specific faculty project. In either case, please send in an application (see above for what needs to be included) to Asst. Director Elzbieta Foeller-Pituch via email at The deadline for completed applications will be  early APRIL 2024. Receipt of applications will be acknowledged by email. Faculty may wish to interview you in the next few weeks. Announcement of successful candidates will occur by early May.

2023-2024 Faculty research projects

More may become available, so check our website regularly.

I seek a Leopold Fellow for the 2023-24 academic year to help me finish up my current book on liberals and presidential power from Franklin Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan and to help me begin research on a new project about political violence in the 1960s and ‘70s. Background in recent US history and/or political reporting is welcome. Preference will be given to students who have done superlative work in classes I have taught. 


This project explores violence, politics, and space in the 1990s in Colorado, focusing on the role of suburbs, gun violence, and environmental contamination in shaping life and culture. Research materials will include work with the surveillance documents and the Freedom of Information Act, work with online newspaper archives, and may include travel to other archives.


Self-driven, curious, and creative—this person needs to both follow leads and generate their own questions about the material. A trip to Colorado, if time and funding permits, may allow archival experience. Spanish would be a bonus but not required. Happy to work in any/all quarters. Experience in chemistry, military affairs, or environmental science would be cool if the right candidate comes along.

If there is a student with mapping or GIS background, that would be excellent!


I am probing a neglected phase in the urban history of Black Americans.  In the first decades after the Civil War, the great majority of African Americans continued to live in rural areas in the South.  We commonly think of Black people becoming northern and urban as part of the Great Migration of the 1910s and 1920s.  After the war, however, tens of thousands of Black Americans moved to the rapidly growing cities of the Middle West, many coming from the former slave states.  These migrants joined tiny but long-standing communities of Black residents in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Chicago, and other regional centers.  In several localities, the increase in numbers and the acquisition of property changed urban geography and politics.  Networking among ambitious Black residents in and between these cities created a substrate for the explosive growth of these centers in the early twentieth century.

This project is an offshoot of my previous work on nineteenth century Cincinnati and my ongoing interest in poor migrants, Black and White, who started very small businesses in nineteenth century cities.  I have relevant data and other information from that previous work.  I would like to have help in expanding and exploiting my troves of statistical data, and doing library and archival work to further the project. (Winter/Spring 2024)


In 1930-1931, rebellion rocked the Vietnamese provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh. The French colonial government subdued the rebels by deploying members of the Foreign Legion against them and bombing them from the air.

By the time the uprising was defeated, more than 2000 Vietnamese and a single Frenchman had been killed. In colonialaftermath, the colonial authorities established the Commission of Enquiry into Events in Tonkin and Northern Annam. As a Leopold Fellow, you will assist with cataloguing and describing the digital papers of this Commission and the rebellion it documented. The ability to read French quickly and accurately is essential.(Winter/Spring)


 Project 1—Men on Trial 

 This project involves exploratory research for my new book about the International Military Tribunal (IMT) at Nuremberg, specifically the trial of the so-called "Major War Criminals."  A joint effort of the U.S., Britain, France and the U.S.S.R., the IMT set out to try 24 Nazi war criminals.  Between November, 1945, when the trial started, and when the IMT rendered judgment in October, 1946, those present at the Palace of Justice found themselves relitigating questions about the 1930s, including appeasement, the sins of empire, and the role of emotions in politics.  The work for this project will stretch from summer 2023 through the academic year, though Leopold Fellows need not necessarily work all four quarters.  Summer work may include travel to archives.

Project 2—Notorious Flops: Why Entrepreneurs Failed

This project is related to a new course I'm teaching next fall on entrepreneurship and global capitalism.  For the course, our main case studies will be successful ventures, ranging from Josiah Wedgwood's anti-slavery porcelain to Jamsetji Tata's textile and steel conglomerate to Aristotle Onassis's global shipping concern.  But the Leopold project will concentrate on the what-ifs of entrepreneurship, identifying cases of entrepreneurs who flopped.  We'll ask why they failed where others succeeded.  This project will be conducted over the summer.  Residence in Evanston isn't required and the job will be to gather source material from both primary and secondary texts.


We look south to Mexico and imagine a place of danger – a war on drugs, a revolution, banditry, death cults – or beaches, or anthropological tourism to the exotica of indigenous cultures. What we often do not see is the world’s first great hybrid society, a place where Asians, Africans, indigenous Americans and Europeans mingled from the 16th century onwards. We do not see one of the first democracies in the world; neither do we see the first black president in North America and the only indigenous one in history; nor do we see a long history of distinguished women writers, religious leaders and drug dealers, or people like Colonel Amelio Robles, a famous transgender revolutionary who was buried with full military honours in a dress. This book project, to be published by Penguin in late 2024, follows this rather different version of the history of Mexico, starting at first contact and ending in the present. The Leopold Fellow will be responsible for part of the primary research, both online and at Chicago’s Newberry Library, finding relevant data in secondary sources and drafting original 150-word biographies for the book’s appendix.

The Fellow will work as needed through the quarters of Fall 2023 and Winter 2024. Advanced Spanish is a prerequisite.


I’m designing a new course on Famous Trials that will delve into several legal trials that captured the public’s attention (some possible topics include the Salem Witchcraft trials; the prosecution of John Brown; the Haymarket trial; the Scopes trial; the prosecution of Sacco and Vanzetti; the prosecution of Leopold and Loeb; the prosecution of the Chicago Eight; the My Lai courts-martial; and the prosecution of O.J. Simpson). The Leopold Fellow will locate and read legal materials, media coverage, and fictionalized treatments of those trials, as well as other primary sources that help illuminate each trial’s cultural context and impact. I’ll also need assistance identifying and summarizing secondary sources. The research can largely be done in library databases, so residence in Evanston is not required. Summer/Fall.


Project—Leaving New Orleans: A Personal Urban History

I will be completing my book manuscript, which addresses the history of race, class, and environmental issues in New Orleans from the nineteenth century to the present, through the experiences of my family. The Leopold fellow will assist me in researching topics in the urban, racial, and economic history of New Orleans.  This might include newspaper research; reading and summarizing relevant historical books and articles; or other primary source research (government documents, for example).  The fellow might help me put together the draft and/or final version of the manuscript (checking citations; copy-editing; maps and other images). Summer/F/W/S

Project 2—The history of race and medicine at Northwestern University

A group of scholars (historians and School of Medicine doctors and lecturers) is interested in investigating the history of race and medicine at Northwestern. The Leopold Fellow would work with us to figure out what sources at Northwestern and in the Chicago area are available to study the history of race and medicine at Northwestern in the twentieth century.  Some questions might involve investigating the experiences of non-white medical staff and patients at Northwestern hospital; investigating Northwestern’s history of relationships with non-white communities in Chicago; investigating how non-white communities view Northwestern hospital.  Research might involve Northwestern archival materials (including figuring out what’s available); Chicago area archives (e.g., Chicago History Museum, DuSable Museum, Newberry Library); perhaps oral histories with Northwestern staff and community members.  Student will work with Professor Harris but may also work closely with other scholars.  Student should feel comfortable traveling to different sites in Chicago, as listed above. (summer, F/W/S)


Two facts distinguish the United States up through 1900. First, it possessed an abundance of timber and built nearly everything it could out of wood. Second, consequently, the country was extraordinarily--and alarmingly--flammable. Chicago has a "great fire" in its past (multiple, actually), but so do many cities. This project is an investigation of life during the precarious time when buildings, blocks, and whole neighborhoods were liable to catch fire. Leopold Fellows will use largely digital, English-language sources to examine the effects of the combustibility of the pre-twentieth-century landscape on slavery, settler colonialism, capitalism, and everyday life.

I can take LFs for any quarters, including summer, but they should be willing to work at least two. 


This project explores how and why the United States has historically rejected national consumption taxes.  Nearly all developed countries, and many in the developing world, have some type of a national consumption tax, frequently in the form of a value-added tax (VAT).  The United States is an exception.  This project uses a comparative and historical perspective to address the fundamental question: why no VAT in the United States? Because VATs in many other advanced, industrialized countries fund robust national spending on healthcare and education, scholars have identified a strong correlation between VATs and resilient social-welfare states.  Thus, this project uses the central research question of “why no American VAT?” to explore the historical and comparative relationship among fiscal policy, social-welfare spending, and inequality.

This fellowship is for summer 2022 plus F/W/S.  Reading knowledge of Japanese would be very helpful.


Project 1—National Democracy Behind Bars: Ukrainian and Jewish dissidents in the gulag, 1959-1989 

I am working on a book manuscript tentatively entitled “National Democracy behind Bars: Ukrainian and Jewish dissidents in the Soviet prison.” By “dissidents” I understand a wide range of the representatives of USSR intelligentsia – artists, writers, poets, journalists, engineers, teachers, scholars – who opposed the Soviet regime and sought various ways to reform it. Most of them were actively involved in the national revivalist and human rights movements and most of them ended up in the correction colonies. Two groups of inmates, one of Jewish another of Ukrainian descent, established close relations in the colonies and produced a significant corpus of literary texts about one another. Looking into multiple KGB (state security committee) documents, I am analyzing this counter-intuitive encounter which defied the xenophobic ethno-national stereotypes of both groups, and the way modern-day historians understand nationalism.  

The Leopold Fellow will be reading Russian- and Ukrainian-language memoirs, diaries, other ego-documents of the dissidents of Ukrainian and Jewish origin and helping reconstruct the network of inter-ethnic connections of the human rights activists in the Soviet underground and in the correction colonies, focusing on the period of the Cold War, from the late 1950s through the late 1980s. The Fellow will have taken a couple of courses in history and will be interested in developing critical skills while reading dissident memoirs in the original. All work could be done at home, at the library, and online with a variety of sources, including specially ordered ILL ones. Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring, 2023-2024. 

Project 2—History of Laughter 

My book on the history of laughter takes the reader from the 16th-century Praise of Folly by Erasmus Desiderius of Rotterdam through the 20th century One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. I focus on tragicomic laughter generated by fantasy, memory, creativity and other functions of human mind. The forms of laughter I am interested in traverse linguistic, cultural, and geographical boundaries. Building my book around 14 “monographic” chapters dedicated to Erasmus, Rabelais, Cervantes, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Sterne, Gogol, Flaubert, Sholem Aleichem, Joyce, and Bulgakov, I demonstrate how grotesque forms of imagination generate the fantasy laughter that, in turn, shapes who we are as modern human beings. 

I am looking for a Leopold Fellow interested in general humanities, particularly in the intersection of literature, history, and philosophy. My Leopold Fellow will identify, read, and annotate general theoretical books on wit, humor, satire, grotesque, and laughter; will create bibliographies of the most recent English-language critical studies of the authors discussed in the book; and will read my manuscript as my interlocutor who critically evaluates my theory and the way I prove it in my study. All readings will be in English, most of the readings available through the library, ILL, and online journals and book publications, regular interaction with the mentor in person and/or on zoom. Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring. 


This project is a cultural history that examines the origins and evolution of uses of the camera in the identification of men and women defined as criminals.  While the project focuses mainly on the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it considers subsequent developments (e.g., security cameras, facial recognition software) up to the present.  Among the kinds of photographs it examines are those in wanted posters, rogues’ galleries, and mugshots, and police files, as well as pseudo-scientific uses of photography that claimed to make it possible to recognize the “criminal type.” The project also considers reform-minded photography intended to expose the causes of crime.  The broader context includes urbanization and industrialization in the US and Europe, discussions of photographs a mirror of reality and/or an art form, changes in policing, and the rise of the social sciences, especially anthropology and criminology.

 I am looking for a Leopold fellow with a strong interest in visual culture, but just as important is a willingness to pursue elusive historical questions (sometimes without definitive answers) and explore a wide variety of print and online sources, including newspapers, periodical literature, and, of course, photographs.


Project 1—Social History of the Jet Age (Quarters: F/W/S)

I am in the very beginning stages of a book manuscript on the social history of the “jet age,” the period after 1969 when advances in aviation technology meant that jet travel became accessible to wider groups of people. I plan to focus on several typical travelers who came to define both the popular imagination of aviation and the way that airports and airlines actually functioned. 

The Leopold Fellow will work with me on exploring the holdings of the Northwestern Transportation Library and developing annotated bibliographies about potential topics like airplane hijackings in the 1970s, asylum seekers at airports in the 1970s and 1980s, anti-airport protesters in the 1980s, and today’s “flight-free” movement.  

No languages required; all languages welcome.

Project 2—Right-Wing Environmentalism in Europe (Quarters: F/W/S)

 I am working on a set of articles about the European “new right” and its understanding. I’ve done a fair amount of the work on right-wing environmentalists in Germany but want to further draw out transnational connections. The Leopold Fellow would trace connections in the European “new right”/far right since the 1960s with a particular focus on their engagement with environmental causes.

Skills in French and/or Italian would be particularly desirable; other European languages could also be helpful.


I’m seeking one or two Leopold Fellows who are interested in global history, economics, medicine, intellectual property, imperial governance, and law. I have a few ongoing projects for which I need help tracking down evidence and citations. You might conduct new primary source research, fact-check key details, systematize notes (on court cases and legislation), collect materials in the Africana Library, and scan sources. Reading knowledge of French, Spanish, or Yoruba would be a bonus, though not required. Some work will need meticulous attention to detail, particularly footnotes. (sumemr, F/W/S)

Project 1—The Wisdom of the Peoples: A Global History of Traditional Medicine

The first project is a medical and legal history of traditional medicine during the long twentieth century. My research places this concept in the wider context of African imperialism, the rise of ethnoscientific research, and the global Cold War. The first part of the book explores shared patterns in Anglophone and Francophone Africa relating to: 1) medical licensing, drug, and patent laws and their criminal law counterparts such as “anti-witchcraft ordinances”; 2) botanical, epidemiological, pharmaceutical, and ethnographic research that had some bearing on African therapeutics; and 3) the transnational organizations that helped set global standards, legal and medical, for public health work. The second part of the book examines in more detail pan-African networks, conferences, and events that took “traditional medicine” seriously, including trends in the World Health Organization and with intellectual property laws.

Project 2— "The Common Property of Mankind”: When Intellectual Property and Experimental Economics Collide

My second research project grows out of my current work on the history of laws and commercial infrastructures built in different parts of the world around copyright, trademarks, patents, trade secrets, and transnational organizations. Too much legal scholarship on matters relating to trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPS) and development economics flatten out the world and misconstrue origin stories and legal precedents. This project is designed to excavate the deeper roots of ongoing policy debates over randomized controlled trials in economics and of collective authorship and creative works in intellectual property. It dovetails with medical history in its focus on “patent” medicines, experimental trials, and the rise of pharmaceutical industries, and with imperial and legal history in its examination of the ultimately unsuccessful, yet influential efforts to create uniform patent laws across the British empire (circa 1900 to 1930). By foregrounding cultural property, the project also gets at First, Second, and Third World struggles during the Cold War over legal definitions of “cultural heritage” and “informal economies” that neither policy-makers nor scholars fully understand. We will be looking at the legacies and effects of several international organizations and agreements including the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (1883), the Berne Convention on the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (1886), the United International Bureau for the Protection of Intellectual Property (1893), the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (1948), the UN Conference on Trade and Development (1964), and the UN Industrial Development Organization (1966).