Fresh Faculty of the Week- Ellen Boucher
Issue   |   Wed, 02/08/2012 - 01:54

Professor Ellen Boucher received her undergraduate degree in History and Classical Archeology from the Univ. of Michigan and her Ph.D. in Modern European History from Columbia Univ.

Why did you decide to study history?
I’ve always really liked history. When I was a kid, I was one of those really dorky kids who would play history and dress up, as if I was a character in a historical era. I used to turn off the lights when I was in elementary school and pretend it was the olden days and we didn’t have electricity. It was always this very nerdy love of the past. Then when I went to college, I knew that I wanted to study history, but I initially thought that I would be an archeologist and study the ancient world. Then I went and did a dig and realized that I just wasn’t cut out for it. I just didn’t think that way, and I was actually more interested in using history as a way of understanding my world, the present.

What areas of history are you particularly interested in?
My specialty is the modern British Empire and the history of childhood. Within my study of the British Empire, I focus more on settler societies so I look at Australia, Southern Africa and Canada. Within the history of childhood ,I’m interested in the history of child welfare and how our ideas about childhood get formed and how we think about the care of children and how those ideas change over time. You find that a lot of the debates that people confronted in the past are debates we are still working through.

Why Amherst?
I was really interested in the liberal arts focus. Amherst had this reputation of having a real intellectual culture. The connection to the Five Colleges was really attractive to me. The fact that we live in this valley that is so intellectually focused ... I just love that. I was also really interested in the diversity of the student body. I thought it would be great to teach in a classroom where I’d have lots of people from different backgrounds with different perspectives. I thought that would be a really engaging part of the classroom experience.

What do you do in your spare time?
I just started rock climbing. It’s really fun; I’m terrible at it but I go with my husband, and we just learned how to belay with the ropes. I’m trying not to be petrified that I’ll plummet to my death every time I get to the top of the wall. I’ve started climbing with a couple of other faculty members around campus who are experienced rock climbers, and that’s been really fun to get into that culture a little bit.

Do you have a favorite historical event?
It’s totally cheesy to say the storming of the Bastille, but that’s one of those moments where you can really think about people making history. I’m studying the French Revolution with a lot of depth right now and thinking about the ways in which revolutions happen and the ways in which people become involved and the turning points in the course of a revolution. That moment is just so crucial in terms of thinking about what was this revolution about and whose revolution was it? Oh, another one that I just think is kind of fascinating, it’s not really an event, it’s a year. 1953 is just one of those years when no one thinks anything happened but in terms of British Imperial History it’s a pretty crucial year. It was the year that Edmund Hillary climbed to the top of Mount Everest. It was the year that there was an exhibition of the British Empire and the Queen was traveling around the world. There was just a lot of discussion in popular culture that was centered around British History. For some reason I’ve just always been drawn to that year.

Sebastian De Carss. (not verified) says:
Fri, 04/04/2014 - 07:44

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A survivor of child migrant slave programm from 1966 to 1975.
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