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Tiffany Trimmer

Specialty area(s)

World History, Migration History, How La Crosse connects to World History, British Empire 19th-20th C.

Brief biography

Whatever career path they want to pursue, every person needs to be able to:

• understand complex causes and effects…and explain how they shape present circumstances

• understand how local/personal experiences are related to regional/global trends

• make their own ideas understood by choosing the most relevant, and persuasive, evidence

Studying history gives you the intellectual tool kit to master these daily life survival skills.

For me, teaching a history class means focusing on both historical content and the practical skills necessary to make sense of the knowledge about the past a person has gained. Here are some of the main skills you can expect to practice with me as a student: tracing connections and patterns of interactions over time and across geographical space; making meaningful historical comparisons; having an accurate command of the broad outlines of historical chronology and content; being able to use what is known about the historical context of a primary or secondary source and its author to draw appropriate conclusions; asking clear historical questions that can actually be answered; constructing evidence-based arguments about the past.

I was trained as a world historian, which means that my research focuses on how local, regional, and world-scale historical trends intersect and feed off of each other. Long-distance labor migration is the thing that most fascinates me as a historian -- it is a process that is simultaneously massive (millions of people emigrating each year) and intimately personal (each migrant, family, community having to figure out how to adjust to separation).

My current research focuses on political struggles over immigration quotas, and labor migrants' wages and working conditions that took place in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula in the early 1900s. Why this part of the world? Three worldwide historical phenomena overlapped here -- the British Empire, the Indian immigrant labor diaspora, for-profit plantation-style agriculture -- making it an intriguing case study of the "bring in outsiders who will do the work" tactic that helped overseas empires function ca the 1500s-1900s. In Singapore and Malaya, creating workable immigration policies required complex negotiations among British colonial officials, local planters' association representatives, and Indian nationalists concerned about the perception of Indians as cheap, replaceable labor. Migration policymaking became a kind of arena where local (planters), regional (Indian nationalists), and empire-wide (British civil servants anxious to please superiors in Bengal and London) interests competed. To me, this is the lure of world history -- illustrating how the wider world can work its way into seemingly local issues. As a migration historian, I also have the responsibility to help readers understand the experiences and agendas of migrants in cases when they were not permitted to participate in the policymaking process themselves (as was the case in early 1900s Singapore and Malaya).


Ph.D. History, Northeastern University, 2007
M.A. History, Northeastern University, 2000
B.S. History and Politics, Drexel University, 1998

Teaching history

HIS 306: Ethnic America (Counts for GEN ED Credit)

HIS 337: La Crosse, WI in World History

HIS 338: Sugar, Coffee, Rubber & Bananas -- Commodities in World History

HIS 399: Migration and Empire, 1200-1900 (Mongols, Ottomans, British, Dutch)

HIS 200: Historiography & Historical Methods

HIS 490: Senior Research Seminar

HIS 101: Global Origins of the Modern World

HIS 102: Global Transition & Change: Migration in World History

Research and publishing

“Bring in Outsiders Who Will Do the Work: Migration and British Malaya’s Imperial Labor Hierarchy, 1900-1930,” _World History Connected_ 11:3 (October 2014). Available at: