William E. Watson., Ph.D.


Title: Professor of History

Department: Civic Engagement

Office: Faculty Center 21

Phone: (610) 647-4400 Ext: 3491

Ph.D. in History, University of Pennsylvania, 1990
M.A. in History, University of Pennsylvania, 1986
B.A. in History, Eastern College, 1984, magna cum laude


Dr. William Watson, professor of history, teaches courses on world civilization, medieval studies, Middle East history and politics, and Russian history. He studied under Alexander Riasanovsky and Edward Peters at the University of Pennsylvania, and his research interests include medieval cross-cultural topics (convergences in the history of the West, the Islamic world, and Russia) and 20th century international relations in the era of World War II and the Cold War.  He was born in New York City during the Cuban Missile Crisis and received his Ph.D. one year prior to the fall of the USSR.

Dr. Watson has spent 15 years teaching at Immaculata and previously taught at Drexel and LaSalle Universities. He has taught at the college level since 1986.

Dr. Watson has published numerous articles in publications such as America’s Civil War, The Pennsylvania Gazette, The Keystone, Pennsylvania Minuteman,  Immaculata Magazine, Collier’s Encyclopedia, Encyclopedia of the Cold War (ABC-Clio), The United States at War (ABC-Clio), Great Events from History: The Renaissance (Salem Press), Magill’s Guide to Military History (Salem), The Sixties in America (Salem), Great Lives from History: the Twentieth Century (Salem), and Encyclopedia of the Ancient World (Salem).

Dr. Watson is the director of The Duffy’s Cut Project and has conducted research into an Irish-American railroader mass grave from 1832. His work was covered in hundreds of media venues on television, radio, magazines, and newspapers, including: National Public Radio, including “Radio Times” with Marty Moss-Coane;  CNN-TV’s “The Situation Room” with Wolf Blitzer;  BBC Radio; RTE Radio; The Wall Street Journal; The Smithsonian Magazine; The Irish Times; Tile Films hour-long documentary on RTE TV, “The Ghosts of Duffy’s Cut;” Praeger Publishers book, The Ghosts of Duffy’s Cut; 5 Associated Press wires; The Philadelphia Inquirer; American History Magazine; dozens of other newspaper, magazine, television and radio pieces; a second Tile Films hour-long documentary entitled “Death on the Railway,” June, 2012; and an episode of the Travel Channel’s “Mysteries at the Museum” television segment that aired May 1, 2012.

Teaching Philosophy: 

Following Tacitus: “This I regard as history’s highest function, to let no worthy action be uncommemorated, and to hold out reprobation of posterity as a terror to evil words and deeds.”

I try to get students to imagine themselves being alive in whatever time period they’re studying. Connecting with the past is the reason we’re here. We’re keeping these people alive by telling their stories.


  • Chairman of Department of History
  • Member of Undergraduate Academic Policy Committee
  • University Awards Committee
  • Former Liaison to Education Department

Courses Taught: 

  • World Civilization
  • History and Politics of Russia
  • History of the Middle East
  • History of the Second World War
  • The American Civil War
  • The World Conquerors
  • Senior Seminar in History
  • The Legend of Duffy’s Cut

Research Interests:

Cross-cultural contact and conflict between the West, the Islamic World, and Russia in the Middle Ages; Irish-American labor history; military history.



Irish Americans: The History and Culture of a People. William E. Watson, Eugene J. Halus, Jr., Ph.D., eds. (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2014).

The Ghosts of Duffy’s Cut: The Irish who died building America’s most dangerous stretch of Railroad William E. Watson, J. Francis Watson, John H. Ahtes, Earl H. Schandelmeier (Westport: Praeger  Publishers, 2006)

Tricolor and Crescent: France and the Islamic World William E. Watson (Westport: Praeger  Publishers, 2003)

The Collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union William E. Watson (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1998)

Readings in Russian History 3 vols., Alexander V. Riasanovsky and William E. Watson  (Dubuque: Kendall-Hunt, 1991-1992)

Peer-reviewed articles:

“Ibn Rustah’s Book of Precious Things: A Reexamination and Translation of an Early Source on the Rus,” in Canadian-American Slavic Studies, v. 38, no.3 (Fall, 2004), pp. 289-299.

“Ibn al-Athir on the Rus: A Commentary and Translation,” in Canadian-American Slavic Studies, v. 35,  no.4 (Winter, 2001), pp. 423-438.

“The Battle of Tours-Poitiers Revisited,” in Providence: Studies in Western Civilization, v. 1, no. 2 (Fall, 1993), pp. 51-68.

“Arabic Perceptions of Russia’s Christian Conversion,” in Albert Leong, ed.  The Millennium: Russia and Christianity, AD 988-1988 (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1990), pp. 33-40.

“The Popes and the Medieval Islamic Invasions of Italy,” in International Journal of Historical Studies, v. 1, no. 1 (August, 1988), pp. 27-35.

“The Sisters of Charity, the 1832 Cholera Epidemic in Philadephia, and Duffy’s Cut,” US Catholic Historian v. 27, no. 4  (Fall, 2009), pp. 1-16.

“Carl Krepper: American Pastor and Nazi Saboteur,” with J. F. Watson, Lutheran Quarterly v. 23, no. 4 (Winter, 2009), pp. 388-405.

Four entries in Alexander Mikaberidze, Ed., Conflict and Conquest in the Islamic World (Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio Publishers, 2011) “Algerian War (1954-62),” vol. 1, pp.77-82;  “Frankish-Moorish Wars (718-759),” vol. 1, pp. 318-319;  “Muslim conquest of Sicily (827-902),” vol. 2, pp. 831-832; “Battle of Tours-Poitiers (732),” vol. 2, p. 895.

Book Reviews:

History: Reviews of New Books, Canadian-American Slavic Studies, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science


Several hundred presentations on Duffy’s Cut to historical societies, college and university audiences and the following scholarly papers presented at conferences:

“The Sisters of Charity, the 1832 Cholera Epidemic, and Duffy’s Cut” at “Chronicle of Faith” Conference on the 200th Anniversary of Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Immaculata University, PA (2008)

“The Ghosts of Duffy’s Cut” at the annual Pennsylvania Historical Association Conference in Pittsburgh, PA  (2005)

“Rus Trade and Warfare in Arabic Geographical Literature,” at Mid-Atlantic Slavic Association Conference, Dickinson College (1989)

“Arabic Perceptions of Russia’s Christian Conversion,” at “Russia and Christianity” conference, University of Oregon (1988)

“The Popes and the Medieval Islamic Invasions of Italy,” at “The Medieval Mediterranean” conference, University of Minnesota (1987)

“The Third Tribe of Rus in Medieval Arabic Geographical Literature,” at Mid-Atlantic Slavic Association conference, CUNY (1987)

“Ibn al-Athir on the Rus: A Neglected Islamic Source” at “The Vikings in Russia and the East” conference, University of Minnesota, 1986


  • State of Pennsylvania Grant for research on Duffy’s Cut (2011)
  • Immaculata grant for student research (2010)
  • Mellon Dissertation Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania (1989-1990)
  • Odlozilik, Mitchell, Snowden, Lingelbach Fellowships, University of Pennsylvania (1988-89)
  • University Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania (Spring 1988)
  • Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania (1985)

Professional Memberships: 

  • De Re Militari
  • Pennsylvania Historical Association
  • Phi Alpha Theta
  • Pi Gamma Mu


  • Senate of Pennsylvania Certificate of Congratulations, 2011
  • Award of Commendation for Publication, Concordia Historical Institute, 2010
  • Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award, Immaculata University, 2007
  • Commonwealth Speaker, Pennsylvania Humanities Council, 2006-2007
  • Committee on Undergraduate Research (CUR) Speaker
  • Recommended Professor in Middle Eastern Studies, Campus Watch, Middle East Forum Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, Immaculata University, 2000


“The Hammer and the Crescent: Contacts Between Andalusi Muslims, Franks, and Their Successors in Three Waves on Muslim Expansion into Francia,” 1990, University of Pennsylvania

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