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From the Director

By Helmut Puff

I very much love the prospect of directing for several years what, to my mind, is one of the premier historical institutes of its kind in the country. The Eisenberg, entering its second decade, is an excellent example of what makes History at U-M exceptional—a vibrant forum for ideas on the past and a motor of change in the present. Whether it is rethinking pedagogy, making a case for public history at a major research university, or supporting diversity initiatives, EIHS has made its contributions felt in many discussions over the years. To keep pushing boundaries of historical thought, urging historians to reflect on their practices, and making connections between the people who are the true force behind reimagining the future of history—this is how I approach my mission these coming years.

In order to move EIHS forward in a changing intellectual, academic, and political environment, we want to experiment with what many people have helped build so successfully over the years. For the academic year 2017-18, we—former director Howard Brick, Steering Committee members, and I—decided to take a break from the themes that have structured many of our activities in the past. This is to give all the stakeholders in the institute space to reflect on what themes achieve and whether or what themes we may want in the future.

Disrupting a standard, if only for a moment and even if the change is a small one, offers a respite to raise questions about what frequently remains unquestioned. Importantly, doing so allows us to recharge our relation to such themes or engage them in a new way.

What would you like the institute to do? Take a minute and write to the director. Come and visit us in Haven Hall. This is what the EIHS is all about. We are an advocate of the past in and for the present.      

Helmut Puff is a professor in History and Germanic Languages and Literatures and director of the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies. He can be reached at