David D. Roberts, a professor of history at the university, has been named the first Albert Berry Saye Professor of History. Roberts was selected by a faculty committee for the honor, which was approved by history department head Edward Larson and Wyatt Anderson, dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.
The Saye Professorship was named for one of UGA’s most distinguished and honored faculty members, who began his long career here in 1939 when he was appointed an instructor in history. Saye was later named an assistant professor of political science and became Alumni Foundation Distinguished Professor and then Richard B. Russell Professor of Political Science. He was widely known as a leading authority on state and federal constitutional law and was the author of numerous articles and books.
Roberts joined the UGA faculty in 1988 and served as head of the history department from 1993 to 1998.
“Being named the first Saye Professor is a tremendous honor, and one for which I am deeply grateful,” says Roberts.
Roberts is an internationally recognized expert on European fascism and the modern Italian intellectual tradition, centering on historicism and philosophical idealism. He is currently completing a book reassessing the origins and outcomes of totalitarianism.
“Drawing on all the strands of my scholarly career, the book offers a new understanding of the political departures in Russia, Italy and Germany during the interwar period,” he says. “The regimes that resulted present us with some of the most vexing questions in modern history, and though ‘totalitarianism’ has proven a notoriously problematic category, I argue that, understood in a more deeply historical way, it provides the keys to the understanding we seek.”
Roberts graduated from Stanford University in 1965 with a bachelor’s degree in economics. He earned master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of California at Berkeley in 1966 and 1971, respectively. He taught for six years at the University of Virginia before joining the humanities faculty at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music in 1978. He chaired the humanities department at Eastman from 1980 to 1987 and was promoted to full professor in 1986.
He is the author of five published books, including The Syndicalist Tradition and Italian Fascism, published by the University of North Carolina Press, and Benedetto Croce and the Uses of Historicism and Nothing but History: Reconstruction and Extremity after Metaphysics, both published by the University of California Press. He also co-authored the standard textbook, Western Civilization: The Continuing Experiment, which is soon to appear in its fourth edition. In addition, he is the author of more than 40 book chapters, articles and reviews.
Roberts has spoken at numerous international conferences. For years he has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in modern European cultural and intellectual history, 20th-century Europe, European fascism, modern Italy and historiography and the philosophy of history. He recently completed a two-year term as president of the Society for Italian Historical Studies, founded in 1956 and the major organization of Italianists of all specialties in North America.
The Saye Professorship will provide Roberts with an annual account in support of his research.