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History’s Lessons: Empathy and Eloquence


Right up front, Associate Professor of History John Eldevik set students straight. Emily Granoff ’18 was in her first Medieval and Renaissance studies course, Late Antiquities and the Early Medieval Ages, when Eldevik made it clear that the “Dark Ages” is a terrible term for the period between the fall of Rome and before the Renaissance.  

Rather than seeing themselves as living in the dark, Granoff learned, people of the time believed they were carrying on the legacy of Rome despite the fact that they’d lost most of Rome’s discoveries. It was engaging stuff. From there she took Gender and Violence in the Middle Ages, co-taught by Eldevik.

“I remember Professor Eldevik recommending The Godfather as a good way to understand feudal culture, and I watched it recently and realized he's right. Don Corleone provides favors in return for protection, similar to a feudal lord,” says Granoff, who became a history major.

She likes the way history teaches you to think about the world. “In history, you have to ask why people did the things they did,” she says. “You have to ask about their motivations and their desires and their hopes and dreams and fears. History teaches empathy. It also teaches you to write and speak with great eloquence.” 

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