Meet the board members of the UCSB History Associates below.
Helen Murdoch received her Masters in History from UCSB in 1992. Finding herself lonely doing research, but loving working with her students, she earned a Teaching Credential from UCSB in secondary Social Studies and National Board Certification in Social Studies-History for Adolescence and Young Adulthood. After teaching World History, American Government, and Yearbook for 15 years at local high schools, she became a high school Teacher Librarian, a Technology Integration Coach, and finally the Social Studies Instructional Support Specialist for the Santa Barbara Unified School District, working with district social studies teachers. Helen now works in Educational Technology in the private sector. In addition, Helen is the President of the Santa Barbara High School Alumni Association. In her spare time, Helen is a book blogger and enjoys travelling.
History Department Community Relations Chair
Giuliana Perrone studies in the history of slavery and race in North America, American socio-legal history, the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction, and the development of American political institutions. She is especially interested in the multiple approaches to studying slavery, the ways in which concepts of race shaped American political and legal identities over time, and the ways in which courts have operated and intervened during times of crisis and radical transition. Her first book, Nothing More than Freedom: The Failure of Abolition in American Law, was published in 2023 by Cambridge University Press.
R. Stephen Humphreys
Stephen Humphreys joined the UCSB History Department in 1990 as the first holder of the King Abdulaziz Al Saud Chair in Islamic Studies, a position he retained until his retirement in 2012. Soon after retirement he joined the History Associates Board. Both his teaching and research portfolios have ranged widely across Middle Eastern history, from the rise of Islam (early 7th century CE) down to whatever the latest crisis may be. His publications deal with Syria-Palestine in the age of the Crusades (1095-1291), the early caliphate (7th century CE), the adaptation of Christian communities to Muslim rule down to ca.1200, and secular/religious politics in the Middle East since World War II. He has resided and traveled in Europe and the Middle East, as well as India, China, and Japan.
Beth Digeser received her Ph.D. in Ancient History from UC Santa Barbara in 1996, and joined the History faculty here in 2004. Her research has focused on the intersection of ideology and politics in the third- and fourth-century CE Roman Empire, while her teaching engages the broad sweep of Roman history, including the rise of Christianity. She is the author of The Making of a Christian Empire: Lactantius and Rome (2000) and A Threat to Public Piety: Christians, Platonists, and the Great Persecution (2012). The founding editor of the UC Press journal, Studies in Late Antiquity, she also served as Chair of the Department of History from 2012-15. As a graduate student, Digeser was the beneficiary of the History Associates’ generosity, and she has happily served as a member of the Board for a number of years—including a stint as Treasurer.
Director of Membership
Claudia Kashin received her Bachelor’s in Political Science-International Relations from UCSB in 1986 and spent four years in Washington, DC, first interning for the Project on the Vietnam Generation (housed at the time in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History), and then working for the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs when Senator Alan Cranston of California was its chair. She returned to UCSB and received her Master’s in History in 1993. After travelling in Europe for a few months, Claudia returned to Santa Barbara and began her administrative career at UCSB and presently is the Senior Academic Personnel Analyst for the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts. She enjoys following current events, acting in local plays, and travelling.
Jeff Brax earned his B.A. from the History Department in 1998, and won the History Associates Board Prize for his paper entitled “The British War in Vietnam: Imperialism and Military Intervention, 1945-1946.” He then earned a J.D. in 2001 from the UC Berkeley School of Law, and has spent the last 20 years as a land use and municipal law attorney, including with Sonoma and Napa Counties, before returning to Santa Barbara in October 2021. He currently advises the County of Santa Barbara on legal matters including emergency preparedness, fire response, cannabis ordinances, and land use projects.
Mary Louise Days
A Santa Barbara native, Mary Louise Days received degrees in history from Santa Barbara City College and UCSB. Her minor was architectural history. She was employed by the City of Santa Barbara Planning/Community Development Department for over thirty-five years. This included a number of years as the City’s first urban historian and staff to the Historic Landmarks Commission. She has published numerous articles on historical topics and has been a frequent adviser to UCSB’s Public Historical Studies program. A consulting historian and researcher, she serves on the boards of several organizations, including the Citizens Planning Association and the Santa Barbara Conservancy. She is a past president of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. Travel is her main hobby. She is a co-author of the 2016 book Santa Barbara A Guide to El Pueblo Viejo, and is a past president of the UCSB History Associates.
Hal Drake taught Roman history at UCSB from 1970 until his retirement in 2008. A specialist in the historiography and political thought of the Late Roman Empire, he is the author of Constantine and the Bishops: The Politics of Intolerance (2000) and A Century of Miracles: Christians, Pagans, Jews and the Supernatural, 312-410 (2017). As chair of the History department in 1988, he watched in awe as Dick Cook single-handedly talked the legendary UC bureaucracy into creating the History Associates, and he has served on the Board since its inception. He currently holds an appointment as Research Professor at UCSB and keeps busy with conferences celebrating the 1700th anniversary of Constantine’s conversion to Christianity.
J. Sears McGee
Sears McGee joined the UCSB History Department in 1971 and has served twice as department chair (1900-95, 2006-07). He joined the History Associates Board a few years after this organization was established and has served as its president and (currently) its vice-president. He has given two talks at History Associates events (“Henry VIII: Hero or Monster,” and “Queen Elizabeth I Goes to the Movies”). His research concerns early modern Britain (especially religion and politics in England from the 1590s through the civil wars of the 1640s), and his courses deal with early modern Britain and, more widely, early modern Europe from the High Middle Ages to the French Revolution. He won the Academic Senate’s teaching prize for the social sciences in 1989, and he co-directed a program of professional development for K-12 teachers in our region from 1997-2005. His wife Marni writes books for children (see marnimcgee.com), and they have two children and three grandchildren.
Andrew graduated from UCSB with a BS in History in 2012, with a personal focus on Ancient Rome and the Ancient Mediterranean. After graduating, Andrew joined the Santa Barbara Museum of Art as a research assistant and institutional historian, where he helped compile a history of SBMA for their 75th anniversary celebration. In 2013, Andrew moved to Shanghai, China, where he earned a LL.M. in Chinese and International Law, and immersed himself in the historical and cultural context that shaped modern Chinese legal thought and institutions. After three years of exploring the country and culture of Mainland China, Andrew returned to Santa Barbara to work as a healthcare data analyst, applying his research skills and legal background in support of local healthcare needs. He continues to engage in historical studies on his own time, and loves to cook, travel, and play baseball.
History Department Chair
Stephan F. Miescher is a historian of West Africa and joined the History Department in 1998. He grew up in Switzerland where he attended the University of Basel before pursuing graduate studies at Northwestern University (Ph.D. 1997). His research has focused on gender, masculinities, oral history, and the history of development and technology in Africa. He is the author of Making Men in Ghana (2005) and A Dam for Africa: Akosombo Stories from Ghana (2022), and the co-editor of six volumes, including Men and Masculinities in Modern Africa (2003), Africa After Gender? (2007), Modernization as Spectacle in Africa (2014), and Gender and Imperialism and Global Exchanges (2015). He served as co-editor of Ghana Studies and as co-convenor of the Mellon Sawyer Seminar, “Energy Justice in Global Perspective.” With his partner R. Lane Clark, he made the documentary film Ghana’s Electric Dreams, which will accompany his book, A Dam for Africa.
Graduate Student Representative