The Department of History


The department congratulates history undergraduate Sara Leonetti, who was named as a 2015 recipient of the highly prestigious University of Washington's President's Medal.

This award recognizes the two graduating seniors who have achieved the most distinguished academic records at the university - one who earned the bulk of his or her degree at UW, and one who completed at UW after transferring from a Washington community college.

Leonetti is completing her undergraduate career with degrees in history and philosophy. Her love of history was invigorated by her experiences at UW. "Initially I was interested in journalism. But that first year I took a course on the history of the Medieval World, and that was the class that made me want to jump out of bed in the morning. As I started to focus more on a career in the law, it became clear that a history degree was the right choice for me. The skills I was learning in my history courses were great preparation for law school, and at the same time I could major in something I love."

Leonetti's enthusiasim for history has shone through in the leading role she has taken in departmental activities. This year she participated in the History Honors and the History Fellows programs, as well as serving as president of the UW chapter of the national Phi Alpha Theta honors society. 

Leonetti plans to take a year abroad to teach English in Asia, before starting law school in 2016. The department wishes her all the best!



Josué Estrada

Josué Estrada recently earned his master’s degree in history, and is moving full speed ahead with his doctoral work. His dissertation will expand on themes he explored in his MA research: internal migration in the U.S., the complex formation of rural Mexican American communities, the dynamics of voter suppression among Mexican Americans, and the Mexican American movement against voter literacy tests.

“Studying Chicano communities in places like Washington State offers new perspective on the struggles for racial equality and cultural identity taking place in the 1960s and 1970s. For example, this research sheds light on the results and limits of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 outside the American South,” remarked Estrada. “It also shows that Chicanos were not just challenging literacy tests, but expanding the definition of American citizenship to include their distinctive racial, cultural, linguistic, and transborder identity.”

For Estrada, the vistas of history opened up as an undergraduate at UW. “In high school, I read perhaps one paragraph about Spanish-speakers—about the early Spanish explorers in the Pacific Northwest. I didn’t see myself in history. But at UW, taking classes in Chicano history, it was empowering to see that people of Mexican descent had played a significant role in influencing events in the U.S. and the Pacific Northwest. I wanted to be a part of writing that history.” Now as a member of the graduate program, Estrada is already well on his way to that goal.


In Motherless Tongues, Vicente L. Rafael examines the vexed relationship between language and history gleaned from the workings of translation in the Philippines, the United States, and beyond. Moving across a range of colonial and postcolonial settings, he demonstrates translation's agency in the making and understanding of events. These include nationalist efforts to vernacularize politics, U.S. projects to weaponize languages in wartime, and autobiographical attempts by area studies scholars to translate the otherness of their lives amid the Cold War. In all cases, translation is at war with itself, generating divergent effects. Over the course of this journey, Rafael delineates the untranslatable that inheres in every act of translation, asking about the politics and ethics of uneven linguistic and semiotic exchanges. Mapping those moments where translation and historical imagination give rise to one another,Motherless Tongues shows how translation, in unleashing the insurgency of language, simultaneously sustains and subverts regimes of knowledge and relations of power.