History Department Tenures A Woman

Angelika E. Laiou, an expert in Byzantine history, will join the History Department as its only tenured women July 1 when she becomes professor of History, pending Corporation approval.

Laiou's appointment will bring the number of tenured women on the Faculty to an all-time high of 16 and is the fourth tenured appointment of a woman this year. All four are in departments that were "underutilizing" women in tenure positions, according to statistics recently compiled by Harvard.

"We're very pleased to be appointing our first (tenured) woman, but that's not the reason for the appointment--our prime reason for choosing her is that we think she's the best scholar in the Byzantine field," Wallace T. McCaffrey, chairman of the Department, said yesterday.


Other History professors and Dean Rosovsky--who said he is "delighted" with the appointment of Laiou, who taught her as an assistant professor of History from 1969 to 1972--agreed yesterday that Laiou's gender played no role in her appointment, though Rosovsky's office has recently encouraged underutilizing departments like History to seek women scholars more aggressively.


Laiou was the first person the department recommended after its lengthy search, professors said yesterday.

Known for her books on the foreign policy of Andronicus II, an emperor in the late Byzantine period, and on peasant society in the same era, Laiou--currently a professor of history at Rutgers University--said yesterday she is "very excited" about returning to Harvard.

She will lead a seminar on "Women in the Byzantine Empire" next fall at Dumbarton Oaks. Harvard's center for Byzantine studies in Washington, D.C., which will share Laiou's joint appointment with the History department.

She will first teach at the College next spring, when she will lead several graduate seminars and a conference course on the Crusades, while pursuing her research Byzantine history and civilization.

Though she said she has no knowledge of the department's deliberations in recommending her appointment, Laiou said she is "certain" her gender played no role in her selection. She added that because she was the only tenured woman in the history department at Rutgers College, being the only tenured woman in her department won't be her "first time."

The appointment of the 40-year-old Laiou fills a vacancy in Byzantine history that opened in the department after Robert L. Wolff, Coolidge Professor of History and Byzantine specialist, died last fall.

Laiou's is the fifth tenured appointment made by the department within the past two years. The rash of appointments stems from the department's desire to fill spots vacated by professors who either died of left, David J. Herlihy, Lea Professor of Medieval History, said yesterday.

The department will soon be seeking a successor to Frank B. Freidel, Warren Professor of American History, who will leave the University this year to teach at the University of Washington, MacCaffrey said, adding that "We'll be filling it as soon as possible."

Rudolph Bell, professor of history at Rutgers, yesterday called Laiou a "mainstay" of the department and said he feels "very badly" that she will leave Rutgers. "We made a very generous alternative offer which after much consideration she turned down," he said.

At Rutgers, where she came in 1975 after spending three years as an associate professor of history at Brandeis University. Laiou is "known for very high standards" and is "a popular teacher--not an extraordinarily popular one but a well-received one." Bell said. "We think she's probably the best young Byzantinist in the country," he added.

History Department professors here also laud the selection of Laiou, who will become the second tenured woman in the department's history. Helen Cam taught in the department several decades ago as Stone-Radcliffe Professor--a chair reserved for a woman and now held by Emily D.T. Vermeule.

Citing Laiou's work in the diplomatic and social history of the Byzantine empire, MacCaffrey said. "Though she's a relatively young scholar, she's done work in two very diverse fields." Franklin L. Ford, McLean Professor of Ancient and Modern History, yesterday called Laiou "the best person" for the post, adding, "I am delighted to have her as a colleague."

Giles Constable, professor of History and director of Dumbarton Oaks, yesterday declined to comment on what role Laious will play at his center because the Corporation has yet to approve the selection. However, he called Laiou "without question one of the most original and interesting scholars" in the field