The Center for Legislative Archives

National Archives Announces Peter Shulman the Recipient of the First Legislative Archives Fellowship

Refer to CaptionPeter Shulman, recipient of the first National Archives Legislative Archives Fellowship and Assistant Professor of History at Case Western Reserve University

On July 5, 2011, David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, announced that Peter Shulman was the recipient of the first National Archives Legislative Archives Fellowship, a $10,000 stipend funded by the Foundation for the National Archives. Dr. Shulman’s appointment, noted Ferriero, “grows out of our commitment on many different levels to foster research and inquiry into the historical records of Congress housed in the National Archives Center for Legislative Archives. We look forward to having him share the results of his research with the community at large.”

Dr. Shulman is an Assistant Professor of History at Case Western Reserve University where he teaches courses on the history of technology, energy and the environment, historical methods, and contemporary history. His research explores the complex interplay between technological change, the rise of fossil fuels, and the emergence of the United States as a global power. He is expanding his 2007 dissertation into a manuscript, Engines and Empire: America, Energy, and the World, 1840-1940, that promises a significant reinterpretation of 19th and 20th century American foreign relation and brings new perspectives to several subfields of U.S. history.

After concentrating mainly on the actions of cabinet officials and executive departments, Shulman “realized that it was impossible to understand the politics of technology in the 19th and 20th centuries—let alone foreign affairs—without a stronger focus on Congress.” He also concluded that focusing on Congress “allows us to explain the development of American foreign relations in far more concrete, material, and sophisticated ways than ever before.” In the summer of 2010, research in 19th century petitions and memorials sent to Congress added a critical dimension to his narrative by offering “an unparalleled view of what Americans thought of their country and its government.” In the next few months, Shulman plans to expand his research into congressional committee records for the full period covered by the book. As part of the fellowship, he will also make presentations on his research plan and findings.

To qualify for the fellowship, announced by Ferriero last March, applicants had to be Ph.D. candidates with an approved dissertation proposal at the time of application or have received their Ph.D. within the last five years. Research proposals were considered on any topic that used the historical records of Congress housed at the Center for Legislative Archives. Applicants had to submit a research plan that identified the records at the Center that supported their topics and that included complementary collections such as members’ personal papers. The fellowship required a minimum tenure in residency at the National Archives of a month.

The fellowship invited scholars to consider the great diversity of topics that research in the archived records of Congress support and to take advantage of the enormous volume of records open to them. Congress has legislated, held hearings, investigated, or debated nearly every conceivable subject, and the records of the Senate and House of Representatives reflect the full spectrum of the nation’s concerns and preoccupations since the First Congress convened in 1789. Consequently, the 26 fellowship applicants’ proposals explored broad and diverse topics, including consumer rights, the Poor Peoples Campaign, the political history of the computer, Indian removal, American public broadcasting, military chaplains, the impact of women staff members on Capitol Hill’s legislative agenda, and compensation for victims of Wounded Knee. The proposals were evaluated by an outside review panel of prominent scholars from across the nation who assessed and ranked them on their scholarly merit and on the strength of two required letters of recommendation. A selection committee, chaired by the Archivist, used those rankings to determine this year’s fellowship winner.

If you have questions about the fellowship or have a research interest in the records of Congress, contact the Center for Legislative Archives at or 202-357-5350.