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Department of HistoryStudent Research

Department of History Support for Undergraduate Research

The Department of History can offer monetary support to three undergraduate students engaged in significant research projects in collaboration with full-time faculty members. The year-long projects should culminate in the production of a paper, to be concluded at the end of the spring semester.

The paper can emerge from an upper division course offered by a professor, from a 402 historiography project in the fall which continues in the spring, or from an independent study (497) arranged between the professor and student. By October 1 the professor and student will submit to the Chair a short description of the proposed project, to be completed and submitted to the Chair by the end of the spring semester.

Undergraduate Research Participants

2021: Rane Fox & Toni Gaisford


Rane Fox

Radiation Poisoning: A Slow and Painful Death

Notable cases of radiation poisoning include the Radium Girls, Tokaimura's employee Hisashi Ouchi, the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima, and the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant explosion. These cases not only lead to large numbers of deaths, but in some cases caused generations and the land to be affected for years to come. While these events could have been avoided, the attempted coverup of information and unethical handling of victims made them even more tragic. The effects of radiation poisoning are traumatic both immediately and long term.

Faculty Advisor: Annette Finley-Croswhite

Toni Gaisford

Toni Gaisford

Building Nationalism: Germany's Use of Propaganda Posters to Unify People

My research analyzes art and propaganda to understand the development and progression of German nationalism during the Great War. By looking at propaganda posters, I analyze how the German military and government wanted their people to see themselves and their military. Throughout the war, posters and propaganda shifted their focus from regional to national unity and from the strength of the military to generating civilian support for the troops. Building a sense of German identity became paramount to keeping civilian support for the Great War, and an in-depth evaluation of propaganda posters provides important insight into how the government created it from the ground up.

Faculty advisor: Brett Bebber

2020: Brieanna Bullaro


"The Impact of Religion on the Eradication of Leprosy"

Leprosy is a disease that has stood the test of time. With an astounding rate of immunity worldwide, and the availability of therapy that can both prevent and cure the disease, the question stands: why has it not been eradicated? This paper examines the definition, history, treatment and changing social perception of leprosy. The paper will conclude by hypothesizing that the stigma attached to the disease via historic religious texts has prevented the eradication of leprosy.

Faculty Advisor: Annette Finley-Croswhite

2019: Alexandra Arnold

Alexandra Arnold

"Italy in the Early 20th Century: Establishing the Fascist Religion"

In the late 19th century, the ideological and literary movement known as Risorgimento swept across Italy. Meaning "rise again," it was a call for Italian unification and the establishment of a national consciousness. This successful movement allowed Italy to unite its territories, finally establishing a sovereign state in 1870. Although Italy could claim victory after World War I, her political system was divided and becoming increasingly hostile. The liberal monarchy was no longer what the people wanted for Italy, and many political movements and leaders emerged. Benito Mussolini saw this as an opportunity to introduce fascism to the nation, but he knew he needed more than just a political party at his back. He recognized the need for a new national consciousness, and Fascism's ambiguous structure allowed him to mold its political ideology to fit the needs of the Italian people. Not only did Fascism take hold in the government, but it began to sacralize symbols of the state establishing itself as the new national religion.

Faculty Advisor: Maura Hametz

2019: Ian Shannon

Ian Shannon

“Blueshirts, Greenshirts, and the Red Scare: The Fascist Failure in Ireland”

In many countries which eventually embraced Fascism, a strong militant Leftist faction pushed moderate conservatives into the arms of the Fascist faction. In Ireland, a strong Leftist faction never developed, and yet for a time it seemed that a Fascist faction in alliance with moderate conservatives would come to control the country. This paper analyzes the political rise and fall of Irish General Eoin O'Duffy primarily through his leadership of the Blueshirt Movement, and later through his foundation of the National Corporate Party. It first examines the history of the Irish socialist Left from 1917 through the foundation of Saor Eire by Peadar O'Donnell in 1931, and relates the failures of the Irish Left to the centrist Irish politics of this period. It then discusses the characteristics and failures of the Blueshirts, the foundation and defeat of the Fine Gael coalition, and O'Duffy's turn towards international fascism in the aftermath of his exodus from Fine Gael. Ultimately, it concludes that the lack of a strong revolutionary Leftist faction in Ireland contributed to the failure of the Fine Gael coalition and to the failure of Irish fascism overall.

Faculty Advisor: Maura Hametz

2019: Jessica E. McCarty

Jessica McCarty

"Lest they Should Infect the Rest: Papal Policy, Heresy and Authority in the Middle Ages"

This paper examines how the concept of heresy was manipulated by the Roman Catholic Church in order to maintain its orthodoxy and ultimately authority over Western Europe during the Middle Ages. It evaluates the growth of the Church's supremacy and links the concept and evolution of heresy with the Church's attempt to maintain both a spiritual authority and its governing power between the years of 1000 AD and 1500 AD using councils and conclave documents, canonical legislation, papal bulls, pastoral manuals, and treatises. This paper argues that as the power and authority of the church declined the concept of heresy evolved with each new faction and adversary that challenged the supremacy of the Catholic Church, ultimately culminating in witchcraft.

Faculty Advisor: Erin Jordan

2018: Elleanor Wells

Eleanor Wells

"I'm Obliged to do All That I Can:' Robert F. Kennedy and the Struggle for Social Justice"

Robert F. Kennedy had a profound impact on the course of events in the United States in the 1960s as a passionate advocate for Civil Rights via his post of Attorney General. He was influenced by the Freedom Riders, the efforts to integrate the University of Mississippi, the struggle for voting rights for African-Americans, social inequality in American cities, and related topics. His commitment and dedication to the pursuit of justice continue to inspire Americans to work to achieve a better society today.

Faculty Advisor: Austin Jersild

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