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Department ofHistory


Jo Burr Margadant hugging granddaughter

Jo Burr Margadant hugging granddaughter

Catching up with Professor Emerita Jo Burr Margadant

Travels, family, and work on anew book

“Retirement has been for me and my husband, Ted Margadant, anything but retiring, at least for the first ten years. Both of us had major book projects underway when we left teaching, but having already completed the archival research which had kept us tied to France on our vacations, we were now free to roam other parts of the world of intense interest to us both. We began with Syria where we had the immense good fortune to visit the Roman ruins of Palmyra and the incomparable medieval center of Aleppo before civil war and ISIS had demolished them. The nuclear agreement with Iran also made it possible to join an overland tour through that remarkable country which took us to Isfahan and the ruins of Persepolis, introduced me to life under a head scarf, and brought us both into daily contact with the enterprising and gracious Iranian people. Ted’s lifetime interest in birding led us still further afield, first to Papa New Guinea and then to Madagascar. But the inspiration for most of our wide-ranging adventures has been a friendship with two retired historians of India, who led two tours of India that we also joined, but who were as eager as we to visit places outside their areas of expertise. Myanmar would figure among the many places we wandered together at a time when political peace had briefly opened that country to foreign travelers but which a violent military coup has now closed off again. Who would ever have imagined before March 2020 that closed borders would become a commonplace around the world as governments grapple with containing a pandemic that has profoundly changed our daily lives and disrupted everybody’s plans. Those of us who have not yet lost a member of the family or a friend to this disease can easily imagine the pain and sorrow that such a loss has caused to others. The photo of me, fully vaccinated and hugging my seven-year-old granddaughter for the first time in fourteen months, speaks to that shared recognition. All the same, confinement has not been without its benefits for me. I am about to launch the last chapter of “Family Politics in the Making and Unmaking of a Liberal King of France,” a book manuscript that I have been working on for years. Given that most of us are still in lockdown, recommending a remarkably wide-ranging work in modern history by Linda Colley, a brilliant historian with an original take on how written constitutions became a signal feature of the modern age seems appropriate. Its title, The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen gives the author’s major claim away which she presents with vivid stories from around the globe. Borders may be closed for now, but from the safety of our couches, historical imagination can ignore them."