William Wagner

William Wagner

Brown Professor of History, Emeritus



A specialist on Imperial Russian and early Soviet history, Bill Wagner has been at Williams since 1980. He has written widely on pre-Revolutionary Russian law, religion, and women and currently is completing a book entitled Russian Sisters: Monasticism, Modernity, and the Nizhnii Novgorod Convent of the Exaltation of the Cross, 1764-1935. His research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the International Research and Exchanges Board. Prior to coming to Williams he was a Research Lecturer at Christ Church College, Oxford University, where he taught modern European and Russian history and Soviet politics. At Williams, in addition to survey courses on modern Europe and on Russia from the medieval period to the collapse of the Soviet Union, he has taught introductory and upper level seminars and tutorials on a range of topics in modern Russian and European history, including Russian cultural and intellectual history, Russian and Soviet women, religion in modern Russia, the emergence of the Stalinist system, and the collapse of the Soviet system. He has served as chair of the History Department, Director of the Williams College Oxford Program, Dean of the Faculty and College President.

Selected Publications

“Fashioning Ideals of Monasticism and Womanhood: The Nizhnii Novgorod Convent of the Exaltation of the Cross, 1802-1857,” in Gary Marker, Joan Neuberger, Marshall Poe, and Susan Rupp, eds., Everyday Life in Russian History. Quotidian Studies in Honor of Daniel Kaiser (Slavica Publishers, Bloomington, IN, 2010), pp. 85-102

Russian Women, 1698-1917: Experience and Expression. An Anthology of Sources, compiled, edited, introduced, and annotated by R. Bisha, J. Gheith, C. Holden, and W. Wagner (Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN, 2002)

Marriage, Property, and Law in Late Imperial Russia (Oxford Historical Monographs, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1994)

“Female Orthodox Monasticism in Eighteenth-Century Imperial Russia: The Experience of Nizhnii Novgorod,” in Rosslyn Marsh and Alessandra Tosi, eds., Women in Eighteenth-Century Russian Culture and Society, 1700-1825, (Palgrave Macmillan, Houndmills, Basingstoke, UK, and New York, NY, 2007), pp. 191-218

“Orthodox Domesticity: Creating a Social Role for Women in Late Imperial Russia,” in M. Steinberg and H. Coleman, eds., Sacred Stories: Religion and Spirituality in Modern Russian Culture (Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN, 2007), pp. 119-145

“The Transformation of Female Orthodox Monasticism in Nizhnii Novgorod Diocese, 1764-1929,” in Comparative Perspective, The Journal of Modern History, LXXVIII:4 (2006), 793-845

“Paradoxes of Piety: The Nizhegorod Convent of the Exaltation of the Cross, 1807-1935,” in V. A. Kivelson and R. H. Greene, eds., Orthodox Russia. Belief and Practice under the Tsars (Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, PA, 2003), pp. 211-38

“Civil Law, Individual Rights, and Judicial Activism in Late Imperial Russia,” in P. H. Solomon, Jr., ed., Reforming Justice in Russia, 1864-1994: Power, Culture, and the Limits of Legal Order (M. E. Sharpe, Armonk, NY, 1997), pp. 21-44

“Family Law, the Rule of Law, and Liberalism in Late Imperial Russia,” Jahr-bücher für Geschichte Osteuropas, XLIII:4 (1995), 519-35

Research Interests

Imperial Russian and Early Soviet History; Modern Europe; Women, Religion, and Law in Russia and Modern Europe

Theses Advised

David Rosenblum, ’03Italian Policy and Civil Society during the Second Empire

Charles Mahoney, ’01Spanish Foreign Policy During World War II

Anthony Salerno,’01The Great Game and British Empire

Michelle Moon, ’94Ethnic Tensions and Relations in Yugoslavia

Jerry Useem, ’93Collective Security in Inter-War Belgium