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Robert Vega, Director FAC 18 / 2304 Whitis Ave. Stop G6200 78712-1508 • 512-471-7900

Faculty Profiles - History

Dr. Benjamin C Brower - European and Middle Eastern History
Dr. Toyin Falola - African History
Dr. Gail Minault - South Asian History


Academic Background: Ph.D. & B.A., History, University of Ife, Nigeria

Field of History: African History

Areas of Specialization: African history since the 19th century with regional focus on Nigeria, and thematic foci in Diasporas and migration, nation building and development, nationalism and intellectual history, empire and globalization, and religion and culture.

What made you decide to go to graduate school?
First, to teach, a great passion of mine. Second, to discover new ideas. Third, to popularize those ideas.

What was your dissertation topic when you were in grad school?
"The Political Economy of A Precolonial African State: Ibadan, 1830-1893"

What topics do you teach at UT?
I currently teach a course on the modern history of Africa, beginning from the nineteenth century to the present. The course starts with an overview analysis of the great changes of the nineteenth century, including the partition of the continent. The twentieth century forms the major concern, divided into two phases: the colonial and post-colonial. In the first phase, the imposition of colonial rule, the changes of colonial rule, and decolonization are the three principal themes. The second phase examines a variety of issues dealing with independence, the management of modern states, and the international environment.

What is your current research focus at UT?
I am working on a long history book on Southwestern Nigeria since 1800.

Is there a hot topic currently being discussed by history scholars in the U.S. or around the world?
The African continent is comprised of 53 independent nations, and hundreds of different ethnicities, cultures, and languages. Research is usually focused within a single nation or geographic region and its corresponding literature. Therefore, possibilities are vast and include: studies of globalization and economic development, violence and warfare, health and human welfare, post-colonial political development, and Diasporas in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

Did you participate in a research project as an undergraduate?
Yes, I did an honor's thesis on chieftaincy and the palace. It was actually published by the university's undergraduate journal. Research is an integral component of graduate study. Furthermore, graduate committees encourage students to have clearly defined research goals when applying. Participation in research projects as an undergraduate allows students to determine whether or not they want to continue their present studies at an advanced level as well as narrow possible topics.

What makes a good grad student?
A good graduate student is a self-motivated individual who takes initiative in his/her own academic and professional development. They must possess an unyielding curiosity, analytical mind, and independent spirit.

What are your top three tips for students interested in applying to a history graduate program?

  1. Do your homework about the graduate programs you are applying to. Find out what funding they provide for graduate students and the resources they have available. Most important, know what faculty members are there and who you want to work with before applying.
  2. Contact those faculty members you want to work with ahead of time and get departmental support from your present academic institution. Be visible because graduate schools are becoming increasingly competitive for financial resources.
  3. Prepare well for the GRE. As competition increases, your score gains increasing weight in the decision process. Often it is the first thing graduate committees look at.

What are the top five history graduate programs in the US?

  1. Northwestern University
  2. University of Wisconsin-Madison
  3. Michigan State University
  4. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
  5. University of Texas at Austin

What careers do alumni generally pursue after graduation from the program?
Graduates primarily remain in academia, teaching African and world history at the university level.

Download Dr. Falola's Profile


Academic Background: Ph.D., History, Cornell University – Ithaca, NY; M.A., History, University of Colorado –Boulder, CO; B.A., French and History, University of Idaho – Moscow, ID

What was your dissertation topic when you were in grad school?
My grad school interests initially focused on social history, “French theory,” and psychoanalysis. I came to my current specialization in Algeria’s colonial history from my concerns about violence and memory.

What is your area of specialization?
I teach and conduct research in the fields of European and Middle Eastern history. My main interest is Algeria in the colonial period.

What topics do you teach at UT?
I teach an undergraduate writing seminar on the study of violence and undergraduate courses on Algerian history and a course about imperial categories grouped about the terms “France” and “Islam.” My graduate courses deal broadly with the study of French colonialism.

What is your current research focus?
I’m currently at work on a project about French colonial regulation of Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca and the Holy Places (hajj).

Is there a hot topic currently being discussed by history scholars in the U.S. or around the world?
Generally it has “trans-“ in the title. For undergraduates this translates into the importance of language study. Everybody training in history should seek proficiency in one European language (besides English of course) and one non-European language.

What makes a good grad student?
The person who works tenaciously and with grim persistence is generally the one who can see a great dissertation through to its end.

What are your top three tips for students interested in applying to graduate programs?
1. Read well the work of people who do work that engages you.
2. Contact them and courteously ask advice (“courteously” also means a “thank you” to those who help).
3. Contact people who have studied with these people and courteously ask their advice.

Did you participate in a research project as an undergraduate?
I did an undergraduate research project in my senior year. It focused on the fall of the political left in France prior to WWII. I strongly encourage my undergraduate students to throw themselves passionately into a research project.

What are the top five U.S. graduate programs in your area?
UT obviously! At the same time, it makes sense for our undergraduates to broaden their horizons and embark upon “travel in search of knowledge” (al-rihla fi talab al-‘ilm). A place like Algeria and North Africa, with a history that interests so many other places, doesn’t easily fit into a single existing field of research. There are programs focused on Middle East studies, African studies, and French studies all doing wonderful work. The main thing would be to select a program with advisors with wide-ranging interests who are committed to graduate education. Also important are well-developed institutions that can fund and support graduate activities. Particularly important in this regard are universities that are “patient” with students doing ambitious archival work.

Download Dr. Brower's Profile


Academic Background: Ph.D., South Asian History & M.A., South Asian Regional Studies, University of Pennsylvania – Philadelphia, PA; B.A., History, Smith College – Northampton, MA

What made you decide to go to graduate school?
I served in the US Foreign Service between 1961 and 1964, and was assigned to Lebanon and Pakistan; at the latter post, I became fascinated with Indian and Pakistani history and culture, started studying the language, and decided to apply for graduate school to learn more.

What was your dissertation topic when you were in grad school?
My dissertation topic was the Khilafat movement that took place during the Indian nationalist movement in 1919-24. This was the topic of my first book: The Khilafat Movement: Religious Symbolism and Political Mobilization in India (Columbia University Press, 1982).

What is your area of specialization?
I specialize in the history of modern India, especially the 19th and 20th centuries, the period of British colonial rule and the nationalist movement. In particular, I have written about Islam and politics in South Asia, women’s education and rights in South Asia, and Muslim society and culture in India and Pakistan.

What topics do you teach at UT?
I teach a two-semester sequence on the history of India: Muslim India before 1750, and Indian History and Culture since 1750; and a two-semester sequence on comparative European empires: European Expansion in Asia 1500-1800, and European Empires in Asia in the 19th and 20th centuries. I also teach undergraduate seminars on Gandhi and Gandhism, Women in South Asian Societies, and the Partition of India. My graduate seminar topics include Communalism in Colonial India, Religious and Social Reform in Modern India, and the Transmission of Knowledge in Modern India.

What is your current research focus?
I am currently working on an intellectual history of the city of Delhi in the first half of the 19th century. This was a period when the Mughal emperors were still on the throne, but when the British were establishing their dominance, so it was a fascinating period of transition from native to colonial rule. I am using both British and Urdu-language sources for this, and have spent time doing research in archives in both Great Britain and India. I am also working on a new topic having to do with the writings of women in Urdu, especially poetry than gives expression to women’s individuality.

Is there a hot topic currently being discussed by South Asian history scholars in the U.S. or around the world?
In my field, the topic of Islamic fundamentalism and its political repercussions in South Asia is a topic of current relevance, as is Hindu resurgence in the politics of India. Some of my work has looked at the origins of some of these trends. Women’s rights in India and Pakistan are also an ongoing area of interest.

Did you participate in a research project as an undergraduate?
I wrote several research papers in the context of courses and seminars as an under-graduate. I did not, however, write an honors thesis. I would definitely recommend that undergraduates participate in research, either for an honors thesis, or in the context of undergraduate seminars such as History 350Ls.

What makes a good grad student?
A fascination with a question about history (or any other discipline) that they absolutely have to answer.

What are your top three tips for students interested in applying to a history graduate program?

  1. For students applying to do South Asian history, I would say that a knowledge of your research language is essential, so it helps to have a couple of years of an Indian language under your belt before applying to graduate school.
  2. Some field experience in South Asia is also important: a summer exchange program, a Jr. year program, an internship with an NGO, or something like that.
  3. Finally, I would recommend corresponding with the professors with whom you want to study, both at UT and at other programs, outlining your research interests and background.

What are the top five South Asian history graduate programs in the US?
For South Asian history, UT is definitely among the top five. The others, in no particular order, are Chicago, Columbia, California, and Michigan.

What careers do alumni generally pursue after graduation from the program?
PhDs usually pursue college or university teaching. MAs may go into government or international service, journalism, law, or secondary school teaching.

Download Dr. Minault's Profile

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