Oral History Center - UC Berkeley Library

Robert Brentano: Scholar and Teacher of Medieval History, University of California, Berkeley, 1952-2002

Interviewee(s):
Brentano, Robert
Interviewer(s):
Starn, Frances
Title:
Robert Brentano: Scholar and Teacher of Medieval History, University of California, Berkeley, 1952-2002
Abstract:
Robert Brentano was a distinguished professor of medieval European history at the University of California, Berkeley for fifty years. He authored major historical works on British and Italian medieval church history that combined erudite scholarship and rich descriptive detail with a lively writing style. Born (1926) and raised in Evansville, Indiana, Brentano attended Swarthmore College, joining the army after his freshman year and serving as a translator in Japanese war crimes trials after World War II. Following graduation from Swarthmore, he received a D.Phil at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He joined the faculty at Berkeley in 1952 and taught in the Department of History until his death in 2002. He was married to Carroll Winslow Brentano in 1956. In this oral history Brentano discusses the influences of early life and family; students, teachers and culture at Swarthmore and at Oxford; mentors, colleagues, friends, and experiences over five decades of intellectual, social, and cultural change at UC Berkeley. He describes research in provincial Italian archives and living and traveling in Italy, and discusses in depth his writing process and philosophy and his devotion to teaching throughout his career. He reflects on the impact of fatherhood, especially the importance of his relationship with his third child Robert, a Downs person. Brentano was active in campus governance, as chair of the history department (1975ā€“1978), a member of the Budget Committee, and chair of Academic Senate (1998ā€“1999).Ā  He discusses the impacts of the Free Speech Movement, Vietnam War protests, and the Third World strike of 1960sā€“1970s, as well as campus issues related to ethnic studies, historical preservation, promotion and tenure decisions, and the Education Abroad Program. This interview was conducted as part of the series on the Department of History at Berkeley.
Subject area(s):
Education, University of California
Interview date(s):
2002
Project:
History Department, UC Berkeley
Oskicat record:
b20575198
Rights:
Brentano, Robert. "Robert Brentano: Scholar and Teacher of Medieval History, University of California, Berkeley, 1952-2002." Interview by Frances Starn in 2002. Oral History Center, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2006.