Historian Chuck Walker Named a MacArthur Chair

Photo: historian speaking at podium
Chuck Walker

History professor Charles “Chuck” Walker has been appointed to one of the UC system’s MacArthur Foundation Chairs. He’s been designated the holder of the MacArthur Foundation Endowed Chair in International Human Rights.

Walker and another faculty member — to be announced at a later date — are the first MacArthur chair appointees at UC Davis.

The director of the Hemispheric Institute on the Americas, Walker teaches courses on all aspects of Latin American history as well as natural disasters, truth commissions, social movements, and sports and empire.

He is a member of the coordinating committees of the UC Davis Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas and the UC Davis Human Rights Initiative.

His most recent book deals with the Tupac Amaru Rebellion that began in the Spanish viceroyalty of Peru in 1780 and turned into the largest popular uprising in Spain’s imperial history.

Walker gives the rebellion “masterly treatment,” wrote London’s Financial Times in naming The Tupac Amaru Rebellion among the nine best history books of 2014. The book is soon to be published in Spanish in Peru.

Walker’s other books include Shaky Colonialism: The 1746 Earthquake-Tsunami in Lima, Peru, and its Long Aftermath (2008); and Smoldering Ashes: Cuzco and the Transition from Colony to Republic, 1780-1840 (1999).

Walker said his appointment to an endowed chair will allow him to push forward on a project on the Shining Path in Peru, 1980-2015. He said he expects to write a global history of the violent uprising and its aftermath.

“I’m particularly excited about the possibility of incorporating undergraduates into the research itself and to contribute to the very active human rights community at UC Davis,” he said.

History of the chairs

The MacArthur chairs derive from the foundation’s $1.2 million endowment to UC in 1981 to establish a chair at UC Berkeley. Gerald Rubin, professor of genetics and development, held that chair until his retirement in 2008.

By that time, the endowment had grown to $10 million. With the foundation’s approval, UC split the MacArthur endowment into five subaccounts for chairs around the system.

One of those subaccounts evolved into a permanent chair at UC Irvine, leaving four subaccounts to be shared by the other campuses.

The Los Angeles, Merced, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz campuses benefited first. Now it is Davis’ turn, along with the Riverside, San Diego and San Francisco campuses. (Berkeley voluntarily opted out of the first rotation.) Each campus decides whether to use its allocation to fund one chair or two.

— Kathleen Holder, content strategist in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science