UW News

January 6, 2016

Politics, pioneers and ‘pandemonium’: 2016 History Lecture Series digs into Seattle history

UW News

The 2016 History Lecture Series, "Excavating Seattle's Histories: People, Politics, Place" will be held Wednesday evenings from Jan. 13 to Feb. 3, with an additional panel discussion, "The Future of Seattle" on Feb. 10.

The 2016 History Lecture Series, “Excavating Seattle’s Histories: People, Politics, Place” will be held Wednesday evenings from Jan. 13 to Feb. 3, with an additional panel discussion, “The Future of Seattle” on Feb. 10.

Though pioneers settled Seattle and make for colorful storytelling, they had mostly passed from the scene by the time the 20th century drew near and the area started taking on the urban feel of a city, says University of Washington historian John Findlay.

Seattle’s past — from its earliest years to the turn of the 21st century — will be the topic of the Winter 2016 History Lecture Series, “Excavating Seattle’s Histories: People, Politics, Place.” The series, sponsored by the UW Alumni Association, will run Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. from Jan. 13 to Feb 3 in Room 130 of Kane Hall. It will feature presentations by department faculty Linda Nash, Quintard Taylor, James Gregory and Findlay.

“The pioneers get more than their share of attention, and often they are more or less permitted to tell their own story,” Findlay said. “But paradoxically, to my point of view, pioneers lived in Seattle during its least urban phase.”

Findlay, who speaks first, noted that much of Seattle’s growth came in waves, with population soaring from 1880 to 1910 — “shedding its pioneer remnants” — and again between 1940 and 1960 and as the 20th century gave way to the 21st.

“These phases of rapid growth I call pandemonium,” he said. “They are very hard for historians to capture, in part because the overall change and population turnover are so fast.”

  • Taylor is a professor emeritus of history and creator of blackpast.org, the 13,000-page African-American history website. He will speak Jan. 20 on “The Peopling of Seattle: Race, Migration and Immigration.”
  • Nash is an associate professor of history and director of the UW’s Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest. She will speak Jan. 27 on “Putting People in Their Place: Seattle’s Environmental History.”
  • Gregory is a professor of history and organizer of a growing set of digital resources called the Pacific Northwest Labor and Civil Rights Projects. He will speak Feb. 3 on “Left Coast City: The History of a Political Reputation.”

Findlay said, “When going through phases of rapid growth, as we are right now, growth feels threatening and chaotic. Many identify scapegoats to blame — the Chinese during the 1880s, or Amazon.com today — without appreciating the broader picture.

“By contrast to pandemonium moments, pioneer days may seem like a haven of stability.”

Tickets to the 2016 History Lecture Series are available through the UW Alumni Association.

  • Also, panel discussion, “The Future of Seattle,” 7:30 p.m. Feb 10: What will the city look like in 20 years? As a complement to the History Lecture Series, the UW Office of External Affairs and Alumni Association will present this discussion moderated by Enrique Cerna. Panelists will be labor leader David Rolf, education advocate Trish Millines Dziko, social benefit entrepreneur Ruby Love and sustainable development innovator Eric Carlson. The discussion will be held in Room 130 of Kane Hall. Free but separate registration is required.


For more information about the 2016 History Lecture Series speakers and their work, contact Findlay at 206-543-2573 or jfindlay@uw.edu; Nash at 206-616-7176 or lnash@uw.edu; Taylor at 206-543-5698 or qtaylor@uw.edu; or Gregory at 206-543-7752 or gregoryj@uw.edu.