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Howard Louthan

Department of History
2010-2011 Library Enhancement Grant

The University of Florida is home to a large and growing group of scholars of Central and Eastern Europe. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union this region has emerged with a distinct and fascinating identity, and UF has been leading the way in the study of its languages, cultures, politics, and history. For example, the University of Florida teaches a full sequence of Hungarian classes for undergraduates, something not even Oxford University can claim. Another area of growing interest is religious history. There has been an increase in the number of classes on religion in several departments, and UF recently wrapped up a two year-long lecture series “Faithful Narratives” which brought leading scholars in the history of religion to speak at UF. One area where the two expanding fields of East-Central Europe and religion intersect is in the study of the Protestant and Catholic Reformations. UF has a number of undergraduates interested in the Reformation in Central and Eastern Europe, and several graduate students and faculty members are conducting research on this broad area of study.

Nonetheless, the library at UF has had an inadequate collection to provide students and faculty with the books and journals that they increasingly need. Many have relied on acquiring their research material from the libraries of other universities. Dr. Howard Louthan in the history department realized that this was a problem. With the university librarian Blake Landor, he compared UF’s holdings of Reformation books with those of other large public universities. Their results were troubling. They found that UF has half the holdings of Michigan State and approximately one fifth of Wisconsin’s total in this area. “Despite interest and apparent growth in the study of the Reformation,” Dr. Louthan said, “gains will be illusory unless more attention is paid to the library’s holdings.”

Trying to mitigate this problem, Dr. Louthan applied for Library Enhancement Grant from the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere, and after receiving it was able to bring important new books to the University of Florida Library. He acquired a number of vital works that were missing from the library, covering Reformation subjects that range in focus from England to Poland, and from Italy to the Baltic. In order to be useful to as many people as possible, Dr. Louthan focused on English-language works that would provide important information to undergrads while at the same time exploring innovative approaches that would interest experienced scholars in the field. He acquired some of the classics of Reformation studies, as well as biographies of Luther, Zwingli, Lefèvre d’Étaples, Erasmus, and John Calvin. The acquisitions were primarily aimed at Central and Eastern Europe. Several of the books are concerned with the Reformation in Germany, and two books focus on the Reformation in Poland. “It is a small, small start to getting the sort of collection we need,” Dr. Louthan said, “but it’s good to know we can grow our library in this important area.”