Kathryn Ciancia

Assistant Professor of History



Office: 4133 Mosse Humanities
Mailbox: 4019 Mosse Humanities
Office Hours: TBA

Kathyn Ciancia


I am an historian of modern Eastern Europe, with a research focus on Poland between the two world wars. In my current book project I explore the ways in which Polish national identity was shaped by perceptions of—and encounters with—Poland’s multiethnic eastern borderlands. Drawing on historical geography and environmental history, I show how a range of Polish actors, including border guards, boy and girl scouts, ethnographers, and military settlers, linked the physical spaces of everyday life with imagined hierarchies of civilization between Ukrainians, Jews, Poles, and others. Based on archival research in Poland, Ukraine, the U.S., and the U.K., my work looks beyond official minority policies and toward how the nation was imagined through local experiences of marshlands, village huts, and town streets.

Furthering my work on the links between physical spaces, projected identities, and hierarchies of civilization, I am beginning work on a new transnational history of the relationships between the Polish interwar state, Polish citizens abroad, and members of the Polish diaspora.

My teaching interests include modern Europe and Eastern Europe, Poland, mass violence, nationalism, and ethnic relations. In my classes I like to experiment with innovative assignments, including those that ask students to create and develop fictional historical characters.


Ph.D., Stanford University
M.A., University College London
B.A., University of Oxford

Selected Publications

  • “Borderland Modernity: Poles, Jews, and Urban Spaces in Interwar Eastern Poland,” Journal of Modern History 89, no 3 (September 2017).
  • Review of Brian Porter-Szűcs, Poland in the Modern World: Beyond Martyrdom, Patrice Dabrowski, Poland: The First Thousand Years, in Journal of Modern History 88, no. 3 (September 2016): 709–711.
  • “Creating Lives: Fictional Characters in the History Classroom,” Perspectives on History (October 2013) (with Edith Sheffer)

Selected Awards

  • Distinguished Honors Faculty Award, College of Letters and Science, UW-Madison, 2018
  • Karen F. Johnson Teaching Award, History Department, UW-Madison, 2017-18
  • 2015 Center for the Humanities First Book Award, UW-Madison.
  • Mellon Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, 2011
  • Vice Provost for Graduate Education Diversity Dissertation Research Award, 2008-09
  • History Department Five-Year Fellowship, Stanford University, 2005-10

Advisor To

History Courses

  • History 200 – Historical Studies – Mass Violence in Europe, 1900-1950 – Syllabus 2016 (pdf)
  • History 201 – The Historian’s Craft – Civilians and War on WWII’s Eastern Front – Syllabus 2019 (pdf)
  • History 223 – Eastern Europe Since 1900: War, Revolution, Society – Syllabus 2013 (pdf)
  • History 270 – Eastern Europe since 1900 – Syllabus 2017 (pdf)
  • History 425 – A History of Poland in the World – Syllabus 2018 (pdf)
  • History 500 – People, Ideas, and Institutions on the Move: Transnational Histories of Modern Europe – Syllabus 2017 (pdf)
  • History 600 – Migration and Me: Researching Family Stories – Syllabus 2018 (pdf)
  • History 680/690 – Senior Thesis/Honors Thesis Colloquium – Syllabus 2019 (pdf)
  • History 550/891 – People on the Move: Migrants, Refugees, and Border-Crossers in Modern Europe – Syllabus 2015 (pdf)
  • History 891 – Historiography of Modern Eastern Europe – Syllabus 2016 (pdf)
  • History 891 – People, Ideas, and Institutions on the Move: Transnational Histories of Modern Europe – Syllabus 2017 (pdf)