July 22, 1999

Middlebury College Adds African Studies Position to History Department

Jacob A. Tropp will join the Middlebury College history department in the fall of 1999 as the first Spencer Fellow in African Studies. A graduate of Haverford College and a doctoral candidate in the department of history at the University of Minnesota, Tropp's research has focused on South Africa, with a dissertation entitled, "Roots and Rights in the Transkei: Colonialism, Natural Resources, and Social Change, 1880-1940."

He brings to the Middlebury faculty expertise in the areas of the social and environmental history of Africa, southern African history, and African women's history. He has done field work in South Africa and taught at the University of Cape Town. His work, which addresses the history of natural resource management, questions of global change and sustainability in Africa as well as issues in comparative development, will enrich the College's programs in both international studies and environmental studies.

Now occupied for a term by Tropp as the Spencer Fellow, the endowed position will eventually be known as the John Spencer Chair of African Studies. The position was endowed in 1992 by friends and alumni of the College to honor John Spencer, professor emeritus of history and current member of the Middlebury College board of trustees.

Spencer joined the Middlebury College faculty in 1974. Before pursuing his doctorate in African history at Columbia University, he lived and worked in Africa in several capacities: for two years as a fellow with the Institute of Current World Affairs in East Africa; for three years as a program officer at the Ford Foundation for Eastern, Northern, and Southern Africa; and as a Peace Corps evaluator for Gambia, Mauritania, and Senegal.

At Middlebury, he established the study of African history in the curriculum, and kindled student interest in Africa, organizing study tours for students and alumni. His book, "History of the Kenya African Union" (1985), remains the standard work on the subject. In 1976, he was named dean of the College, a position in which he served for five years.