Widgets Magazine

History conference draws fire for featuring 30 white men as speakers

30 white male historians made up the body of speakers at the Applied History conference at Stanford earlier this month, stirring controversy regarding the event’s lack of diversity.

The event, organized by Hoover Institution senior fellow Niall Ferguson, featured 12 sessions spanning a wide variety of topics, with titles such as “Is Trumpism Merely Populism revisited?” and “Same As It Ever Was: The History of Inequality and Mobility.”

On Wednesday, Howard University in Washington history professor Ana Lucia Araujo posted a tweet criticizing the conference, prompting public outcry against the event on social media.

“This goes for the GUINNESS BOOK of the century!” she wrote, adding a screenshot of the event’s roster as evidence. “What a shame.”

(FANGZHOU LIU/The Stanford Daily)

In an email statement to The Daily, Ferguson said that he regretted not inviting more women to speak at the event.

“I have no doubt that there are many talented female historians whom I should have invited,” he wrote. “I reproach myself for not knowing them and not having done more to get to know them.”

Ferguson reported that just four out of 19 individuals invited to present papers at the conference were women, and that they were unable to attend due to other commitments. Of those four, two were women of color. The presenters were invited in addition to the event speakers, not all of whom spoke on their own papers.

According to the event’s website, the only female speaker at the conference was Mary Sarotte, who chaired a session called “The History of the Future.” 20 out of the 87 people in attendance at the event were women, said University spokesperson Lisa Lapin.

“Everybody was keenly aware that it was too white and too male,” Ferguson said in an interview with The New York Times, citing that the problem was “explicitly discussed” prior to the event.

At the same time, he defended the conference in an email statement to The Daily, arguing that “much of the controversy on social media is based on a series of false assumptions about the intention of the event.”

Referring to the titles of the conference’s 12 sessions, several of which are phrased as questions, Ferguson said, “They are mainly questions about economics, politics, diplomacy, [and] war. As anyone who works in a modern history department will confirm, the majority of scholars who work in these sub-fields (which have been much depleted in recent decades) tend to be male.”

Stanford history professor and head of the department’s diversity committee Priya Satia contested this claim in an interview with The New York Times, arguing that while fields like science and technology tend to be male-dominated, history is not.

“Given how prevalent women are in the history department, you’d have to try really hard to come up with a roster of speakers that looks like that,” she said.

Ferguson said that since his move to Stanford just under two years ago, “only a small number” of history department members communicated with him personally, “much less to welcome [him].”

As of Thursday, the main website for the event has been taken down.

Ferguson has recently drawn attention for his leadership role in organizing the Cardinal Conversations speaker series, which is aimed at broadening the spectrum of political discourse at Stanford. The series has drawn widespread controversy on campus for its roster of speakers including social scientist Charles Murray, who faced campus protest for his appearance.  

In his email, Ferguson reflected on the criticism of the conference.

“If any good has come of all this negative publicity, perhaps I shall now get to know [more female historians],” Ferguson wrote. “Or perhaps the result will instead be a boycott of future events I organize. We shall see.”


Contact Claire Wang at clwang32 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Claire Wang

Claire Wang is a sophomore from Detroit, Michigan studying Economics and Political Science. She's a fan of anything with tomatoes in it, and her favorite poet is Ocean Vuong. When she's not biking, her second-favorite mode of transportation is by rollerblade. Contact Claire at clwang32 'at' stanford.edu.
  • anon_64

    Maybe these women should whine less and put together their own conference. Ban white men from speaking and you’ll be a hero on campus

  • Ryan

    why is everyone focused on race instead of the research and topics that were discussed?

  • cardcounter

    I am so sick of identity politics. It’s like skin color is the sole criteria for evaluating any human. The left has become so filled with racism and hatred that it is devoid of any rational and objective thought.

  • JamilMalik

    >It’s like skin color is the sole criteria for evaluating any human.

    For Ferguson it clearly was a criteria. If not, then how did he end up with an all-white, all-male panel of historians who look just like him?

    There are two ways:

    1) There are no qualified women and non-white historians and this was a really fair selection process.

    2) Niall Ferguson, famous for making statements like “Keynes didn’t care about the long-term implications of his economic theories because he was gay and thus didn’t care about children he couldn’t have” and “Barack Obama is a lot like Felix the Cat, not only black, but also very very lucky”, is a bit of prejudiced person and evaluates people based on how similar they are to him in terms of race and gender.

    Which is more likely to you?

  • Romans 12 17 21

    The left I so easy to understand and ultimately crush. Worship anything and everything that is the opposite of the white, Christian European male and ram this subliminal hypnotic obsession into the hearts and minds of the people every hour of every day through music,television, movies, print and the courts. Control the poor masses through government program addiction and educational indoctrination. Flood them with pornography, homosexuality, transgender and moral relativism messages 24/7. Get the picture now. This is how a tiny handful of liberal elites stands high atop the mountain and pisses on everyone else. All walking in lockstep with Wall Street traitors, Hollywood degenerates, and other social engineering psychotics. Soon enough countries like China, Russia , Japan, Turkey and Mexico will quietly step in and crush us while we keep arguing over racial equality. How easy it is to see now why President Trump won.

  • TLKC

    WOW! Where did you get your Bible – The Dollar Store? In mine Romans 12 17 21 reads:

    “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
    In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[b]

    21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

  • diogene

    If this worthless woman had anything to contribute, she wouldn’t be working in a tiny corner of Howard U doing shit-all nothing. Her platform, job, funding, and livelihood rely on an intricate argument of constant victimhood, a victimhood that can never see justice until Hispanic immigrants + blacks are awarded (as courtesy) everything that whites have achieved. She peddles her insecurity over her relative lack of success as an academic as something that has to do with prejudice. Laughable. More affirmative action! More affirmative faculty hires! More gibs, gibs, gibs for illegals and under-performers.

  • Loose change

    If my enemy is trying to destroy me I destroy him.

  • Loose change

    Becuase they are activist. They serve no purpose other then for activism. Nothing else matters.
    And that’s all they should be thought of.

  • Candid One

    With that perspective, your enemies surround you 24/7.

  • Candid One

    Humans are racist; it’s basic to the human condition. Sexism has been as embedded in the human psyche since before homo became sapient. Academics are nerds who don’t tend to be more socially developed than the general population where this “good old boy” syndrome flourishes. More than hatred, fear and insecurity in the face of gender difference is where this kind of de facto segregation derives. It isn’t a more sanctimonious form simply because advanced academics are involved.

  • Candid One

    How’s race salient? This is about gender bias. Male and female aren’t separate races. Separate species, maybe. But that’s even more threatening to the good old boys.