Coups, Coronation, and Crowds: Transitions of Power

Written by Delaney Freud ’22, History & Political Science double-major

On January 14, 2021, the History Department hosted a History in the Headlines event about “Coups, Coronation, and Crowds: Transitions of Power.” This event’s timing was extremely fitting, as it occurred just a week after the attempted coup on the U.S. Capitol and a mere six days before President Joe Biden’s inauguration. Moderated by Dr. Amy Woodson-Boulton, the event offered a conversation about various transitions of power in different historical contexts. The discussion began with Professor Anthony Perron, a historian of medieval Europe, who spoke about transitions of power during the Carolingian Empire. Next was Professor Kevin McDonald, who discussed the Haitian and American Revolutions, while questioning the meaning of revolutionary symbols and citizenship. Professor Nigel Raab followed, speaking on the troublesome transitions of power within Russia. Following Professor Raab was Professor Elizabeth Drummond, a historian of modern Germany and central Europe. Professor Drummond outlined the transitions of power at the beginning of the Weimar Republic and from the Weimar Republic to the Nazi Party, while noting that the study of Weimar Germany’s can help us to understand politics in our current climate. Lastly, Professor Sean Dempsey presented on the attempt of white conservatives to take back power at the end of Reconstruction. Following the professors’ presentations, there was a Q&A with the audience, with questions about the military’s role during transitions of power, the distinction between power and authority, the role the media plays in scenarios such as the recent coup, and more. Overall, History in the Headlines allowed for engaging discussions on noteworthy transitions of power in the past, while also connecting these events to the modern day and offering insight on today’s political climate.