Associate Professor of History Matt Kadane has been named to a pair of prestigious fellowships beginning this summer that will take him abroad to the United Kingdom and to California where he will be working on his upcoming book, “The Path to Enlightenment.”
This spring, Kadane was named Mellon Fellow at the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif., as well as an awardee of the Summer Stipend from the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH), which will take him to England to conduct research on 18th century sources.
The NEH stipend begins Wednesday, July 1, and the Mellon Fellowship is a year-long appointment beginning Friday, Aug. 1. While Kadane is on sabbatical leave for his fellowships, Professor of History Susanne McNally HON’14 will take over as Chair of the History Department.
“‘The Path to Enlightenment’ explores the process that some people went through during the 18th century when they abandoned tradition and embraced newer ideas,” Kadane says. “We know about Locke and Voltaire, but historians don’t know a great deal about more ordinary people who came to characterize themselves as part of Enlightenment culture.”
Kadane will first travel to England to research primary sources from the life of Pentecost Barker (1690-1762). Barker was a ship’s purser and wine trader (and a previously unknown figure) whose ties to religious dissent, commerce, and the expanding British empire brought him into regular contact with major transformations of the era, Kadane says.
Around the 1730s, Barker distanced himself from tradition, undergoing a period of great change associated with the Enlightenment. His motives had as much to do with his experience of empire, his heavy drinking, and his economic ambition as with reading radical authors. And telling Barker’s story is an opportunity to highlight some of the more subtle and unexpected reasons that people came to associate with emerging modernity, Kadane says.
Kadane’s work will complement a broader study he’s pursuing on original sin in the early modern era.
Kadane joined the HWS faculty in 2005 as an assistant professor of history and most recently served as chair of the History Department. Prior to joining the Colleges, Kadane was a lecturer at Harvard University. He received a B.A. in philosophy from Southern Methodist University and earned a M.A. in historical studies from the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research. He received both an A.M and Ph.D. in history from Brown University.
He was awarded the Derek Bok Distinction in Teaching Award at Harvard University in 2001 and 2002 and the John Lax Fellowship at Brown University in 2004. Since 2006, he has also been a regional visiting fellow at the Institute for European Studies at Cornell University.
Kadane is the author of “The Watchful Clothier” (Yale University Press, 2013) as well as a number of book chapters and articles in journals such as The American Historical Review and Republics of Letters.