Nigel Raab

Professor of History

  • Los Angeles CA UNITED STATES

Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts



Dr. Raab is the author of All Shook Up: The Shifting Soviet Response to Catastrophes, 1917-1991 (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2017), The Crisis from Within: Historians, Theory and the Humanities (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2015), Who is the Historian? (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2016), Democracy Burning? Urban Fire Departments and the Limits of Civil Society in Late Imperial Russia, 1850-1914 (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2011).

Nigel focuses on Russia, the Soviet Union, civil society, natural disasters, and theories of historical analysis.


Columbia University



University of Zurich


Osteuropaische Geschichte



Areas of Expertise

Theories of Civil Society
19th Century Russia
Urban History
Global Encounters
Soviet History
Natural Disasters

Industry Expertise



  • Russian
  • French
  • German
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A History of Walking

Almost forty years ago, Reyner Banham glorified the automobile culture of Los Angeles in text and on television, mistakenly shifting our attention away from a fundamental human activity - walking. As a corrective, this course explores the meaning of walking from the eighteenth century to the present in an international context. From Jean Jacques Rousseau's contemplative walks in the eighteenth century, to the formation of Swiss hiking clubs and the Sierra Club in California at the end of the nineteenth century to Marina Abramovic's performance art walk along the Great Wall of China in 1988, walking has a humanistic dimension which extends well beyond the mundane exercise of placing one foot in front of the next. Paris has long been a revolutionary city because it is so amenable to walking and processions. Sidewalks, such abandoned sites in our own city, represented critical political spaces in commercial areas where they occupied a blurred zone between public and private. Philosophical, literary, environmental and historical texts will be combined with the works of performance artists and photographers to situate walking in a broad framework, demonstrating to the unsuspecting student that even the simplest exercises can have broad ramifications in our lives.

Culture and Society in Soviet Russia

What is to like to be part of a human social experiment? What is it like to be a cultural guinea pig? What was it like to live in the Soviet Union? The Soviet Union is often portrayed as the Communist foe of the United States but it was also a testing ground for new ways of living. Since it was a socialist society, the state turned life into a massive cultural laboratory. Through books, films and other documents, we will explore artistic and literary expression from 1917 until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. We will investigate important issues relevant to cultural production. These include the portrayal of women, the struggle of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim cultures to survive, the negative portrayal of America in Soviet films, the glorification of the iron worker, etc. The seminar will bring the Soviet Union to life in a way Richard Nixon never could.

Introduction to Modern Russian History

This course explores the demise of the Russian tsars and the creation of the world’s first communist society. It focuses on the development of an underground revolutionary movement in which radical men and women plotted to overthrow the autocrats. It also looks at the works of reformers who hoped to build a democratic society. In the Soviet period that followed the revolution of 1917, the course examines a society that experimented with radical women’s rights, avant garde film, nationalist movements and socialist realism. At the same time, it will look at the excesses of communism and try to explain why the communist party sent so many of its own citizens to death in cold work camps in Siberia. At the end of the course, we will assess the state of democracy in contemporary Russia.

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