Hidetaka Hirota

Lecturer in History and the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race Columbia University

Hidetaka Hirota is a historian of the United States. He received his PhD in History from Boston College, where his dissertation was awarded the university’s best humanities dissertation prize. The dissertation also won the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation Prize from the American Society for Legal History as the best dissertation in American legal history. Hirota’s major research and teaching interests include United States history; American immigration; wealth and poverty in America; the history of the Atlantic World; global migration; and transnational history.

Hirota’s current book project, Expelling the Poor, examines the origins of immigration restriction in the United States, especially American deportation policy. It locates the roots of American immigration control in nativism and economics in nineteenth-century Atlantic seaboard states. The influx of impoverished immigrants from Ireland during the first half of the nineteenth century led New York and Massachusetts to develop policies for prohibiting the landing of destitute foreigners and deporting those already in the states to Europe, Canada, or other American states. Expelling the Poor demonstrates that these two states’ immigration policies, which were driven by cultural prejudice against the Irish and economic concerns about their poverty, laid the foundation for later federal restriction policies. By analyzing the lives of deported paupers in Britain and Ireland, Expelling the Poor also places American nativism in a transnational context and reveals that American deportation policy operated as part of a broader legal culture of excluding non-producing members from societies in the Atlantic world. The completion of the book project is supported by the Paul L. Murphy Award from the American Society for Legal History, an award given to an outstanding work on civil liberties in American history.

Hirota’s first article, “The Moment of Transition: State Officials, the Federal Government, and the Formation of American Immigration Policy,” received the Organization of American Historians Louis Pelzer Memorial Award and was published in the Journal of American History in 2013. The article also earned the 2014 James Madison Prize from the Society for History in the Federal Government.

In 2014, Hirota published another article, “The Great Entrepot for Mendicants,” which examines the development of regulatory immigration policy in nineteenth-century New York State, in the Journal of American Ethnic History. In April 2015, the article won the Carlton C. Qualey Memorial Award, as the best article published in the journal during the 2013 and 2014 calendar years.

Hirota’s research and writing have been supported by the American Historical Association, the Immigration and Ethnic History Society, the American Society for Legal History, the American Philosophical Society, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Institute for Political History, and the Notre Dame Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism. Hirota has also presented his work at an array of conferences, such as annual meetings of the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the American Studies Association, and the Social Science History Association, as well as various international meetings in Canada, China, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, Portugal, and the UK.

During the 2014-2015 academic year, Hirota participated in several seminars and workshops, including the New York University Irish Studies Program, the Workshop on Critical Approaches to Race, Ethnicity, and Migration at Columbia, and the Massachusetts Historical Society Immigration and Urban History Seminar. In February 2015, he visited McGill University in Montreal as an exchange scholar from the Columbia Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, giving a lecture in an undergraduate course on Quebec Studies and a presentation on historical methodology at the Montreal History Group.

Hirota has also remained committed to the profession beyond his own research. He is currently a member of the Executive Board of the Immigration and Ethnic History Society and serving on the IEHS George E. Pozzetta Dissertation Award Committee. In April 2015, he organized a two-day interdisciplinary conference on American immigration, “Managing Borders,” to mark the 50th anniversary of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 by inviting many of the leading scholars in the field of American immigration from universities across the nation.

Last but certainly not least, Hirota has greatly enjoyed teaching “Wealth and Poverty in America” and “Contemporary Civilization” during his first two years at Columbia. In the fall 2015 semester, he is offering a new interdisciplinary seminar, “American Nativism: Crusades against Immigrants in a Nation of Immigrants.” Aspiring to write a synthetic book on the history of American nativism as his future project, Hirota very much looks forward to teaching this seminar.