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Last modified: Tuesday, April 6, 2010

David L. Ransel

Robert F. Byrnes Professor of History
Department of History
College of Arts and Sciences
University Graduate School
Indiana University Bloomington
Appointed to IU faculty, 1985
B.A., Coe College, 1961
M.A., Northwestern University, 1962
Ph.D., Yale University, 1969

"He has given his heart and soul to the cause of Russian, Eurasian, and international studies during his entire career." --Stephen E. Hanson, Vice Provost for Global Affairs, University of Washington

David Ransel

Photo by Aaron Bernstein

David Ransel

Print-Quality Photo

David Ransel is a leader in the field of international studies, having been a historian, teacher, administrator, editor, and champion of area studies for more than 40 years. As director of the Russian and East European Institute (REEI) at IU Bloomington from 1995 to 2009, he assured IU's place among the first ranks of area studies centers in the nation.

"In a word, David Ransel is a powerhouse," writes Steven Franks, professor and chair of IU's Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. "During his long tenure as director of the REEI, Professor Ransel worked tirelessly to advance Russian and East European Studies at IU, expanding the program to offer additional degrees, recruiting students and faculty of the highest caliber, and raising levels of funding."

A renowned scholar of Russian history, Ransel specializes in the history of politics and society in Russia. His works include The Politics of Catherinian Russia, a study of political clienteles. He edited The Family in Imperial Russia, the first collection of essays on Russian family life. His second monograph, Mothers of Misery: Child Abandonment in Russia, opened the field of the history of charity in Russia. He followed this with Village Life in Late Tsarist Russia, and another monograph, Village Mothers: Three Generations of Change in Russia and Tataria, a book based on oral testimony collected from 100 village women throughout Russia.

Ransel then published Imperial Russia: New Histories for the Empire and Polish Encounters, Russian Identity. His newest monograph, published in 1999, is A Russian Merchant's Tale: The Life and Adventures of Ivan Alekseevich TolchŽnov, Based on His Diary. He is the author of several dozen articles on these and related topics. Ransel's publications, according to Jane Burbank, Collegiate Professor of History and Russian and Slavic Studies at New York University, "make major interventions in the Russian field by opening up new ways to understand social affiliation and political connections in imperial and post-Soviet Russia."

Ransel has had far-reaching influence on the fields of history and international studies through his editorships. From 1980 to 1985 he was editor-in-chief of Slavic Review, the leading North American journal of Russian and East European studies. He then served for 10 years, until 1995, as editor-in-chief of the American Historical Review, where he encouraged the internationalization of historical writing.

His career has been marked by a strong commitment to teaching. His popular 100-level Icon and Axe course introduces undergraduates to Russian history, and each year he has guided more than a dozen master's degree students in REEI through their capstone essay course. "David has been a generous mentor to graduate students, many of whom have gone on to have prominent academic careers at peer institutions, passing on his passion for Russian history to new generations of students," writes Maria Bucur, John V. Hill Chair in East European History at IU Bloomington and current director of the REEI.

Ransel has also contributed to the internationalization of the curriculum at IU and its research profile by encouraging administrators to fund faculty positions in Russian and East European studies. At the same time, he has brought "greater diversity and depth to the language offerings on campus, helping to introduce new languages (Macedonian, Ukrainian) while helping to improve the level of immersion offered in other languages (Russian especially)," according to Bucur. Ransel is fluent in Russian, German, French, Swedish, and Danish, and his work has been translated into several other languages.

In 2000 Ransel was named the first Robert F. Byrnes Professor of History at IU, and he has held many prestigious fellowships and grants. He served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies in 2004, and he is currently co-chair of the Coalition of National Resource Centers, a national lobbying group for international studies.

Ransel has also arranged a number of important conferences in international studies, including one in February 2009 that marked the 50-year anniversary of the IU Russian and East European Institute and the enactment of the National Defense Education Act (now Title VI). The conference was titled "Area Studies in the Future of Higher Education." He is currently working with colleagues in the field on a workshop, "Everyday Life in Russia: Strategies, Subjectivities, and Perspectives," to be held in Bloomington in May.

Professor Stephen E. Hanson, vice provost for global affairs at the University of Washington, notes that Ransel is a passionate advocate for area studies, traveling frequently to Washington to remind "policymakers of the vital importance of federal support for study of the world's diverse cultures and languages." Hanson sums up Ransel's commitment to his work: "He has given his heart and soul to the cause of Russian, Eurasian, and international studies during his entire career."