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WIU History Professor to Sign New Book September 30 in Macomb

September 25, 2006

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MACOMB, IL - - Scott W. Palmer, Western Illinois University associate professor of history and a scholar of modern Russian culture and technology, is also an author on the subject of aviation. This Saturday, Sept. 30, he will sign copies of his new book, “Dictatorship of the Air: Aviation Culture and the Fate of Modern Russia,” from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at New Copperfield’s Book Store, located at 118 N. Side Square in Macomb.

Based on nearly a decade of archival research, but intended for general readers, “Dictatorship of the Air” examines Russia’s 20th century quest for aviation prominence. It reveals how behind public displays of daredevil pilots, record setting flights and gargantuan airplanes, Russian legacies of industrial backwardness, cultural xenophobia and state-directed modernization prolonged dependence upon Western technology and foretold the USSR’s collapse. “Dictatorship of the Air” was released last month by Cambridge University Press. It is the first book in the new “Cambridge Centennial of Flight Series,” which showcases new scholarship on the evolution of flight, from wood and fabric machines to modern jetliners.

In addition to launching the new series, Palmer’s book is the first new title in Russian history to be included in the American Council of Learned Societies “History E-Book Project” (, an online collection of high-quality books in the field of history. Putting together the e-book version of “Dictatorship of the Air” required a significant commitment of time and labor, Palmer said. In addition to translating dozens of Russian literary and archival documents, Palmer spent many hours transcribing his English and Russian texts so that they could be encoded for web-based delivery.

Palmer’s publications on Russian aviation culture have been made possible through his success as a grant writer, as he has received numerous national awards since joining Western’s history faculty in 1998. In 2001-2002 he was named an American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Fellow as well as a Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Fellow at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air & Space Museum. In 2004-2005 Palmer received a research grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, and he was one of 12 scholars to hold a John W. Kluge Fellowship at the United States Library of Congress.

Palmer recently was awarded a 2006-2007 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Fellowship for College Teachers. The $40,000 award will allow him to conduct nine months of uninterrupted, full-time study and research on his current project, a history of large-scale Soviet architecture. The NEH Fellowship is particularly noteworthy because it is widely recognized among scholars in the humanities as one of the most prestigious and difficult to obtain, he explained.

These fellowships have been key to Palmer’s work a scholar; and he says that they have also had a dramatic, positive impact on his primary role as a teacher. In Spring 2007 Palmer will teach a new 400-level course directly related to his expertise on aviation: “History of Flight Culture.” The product of his years of research and scholarship, the course is a cross-cultural, multi-media survey of flight's social, cultural, political and military impact, and will be taught from a global perspective, he said.

“Without the time to research, think and write afforded by fellowships from NEH, ACLS and others, it would not have been possible for me to continue the scholarly pursuits that inform and shape my teaching,” Palmer said. “Fortunately, WIU, as an institution, increasingly recognizes scholarly research as an integral and essential component of the faculty’s broader liberal arts mission.”

Palmer earned his B.A. in history and Slavic languages and literatures (1989) at the University of Kansas and his M.A. (1991) and Ph.D. (1997) in history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He joined Western’s history faculty in 1998.

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