The History Department’s Senior Thesis Presentations of 2018

By Gillian Reinhard ’20

Contributing Writer; History Major 

On Wednesday, May 2, thesis writers from the class of 2018 presented the culmination of their year-long research projects with topics ranging from Russian Communist influence in twentieth-century China to studies of the environment on the New England coast. Each thesis is the result of countless hours of independent study and serves as a significant achievement for a history major.

The first presenter, Elenore Saunders, introduced her thesis titled “The Bluefish, an Unsolved History: Spencer Fullerton Baird’s Window into Southern New England’s Coastal Fisheries.” This project examined the bluefish, a species of fish that has historically been tied to the disease epidemics of indigenous populations in early America. Ms. Saunders also explored the negative stigma placed on the species and historical comparisons of the fish to wolves.

“The Fallacy of Estimates: Bulfinch, Boston, and Debtors’ Prison” by Chris Bulfinch investigated debtors’ prisons in post-Revolution New England. Bulfinch explained the societal stigma rooted in Puritan culture towards debt as well as class struggles of the era. Most interestingly, Ms. Bulfinch profiled his ancestor, Charles Bulfinch, who ultimately designed the prison he was held in. The thesis explored the implications of incarceration in American society.

Jane Linhares’ “Egyptian Pieces of the Empire’s Puzzle: Peasants, Women, and Students in British Official Documents Issued after the 1919 Revolution in Egypt” explored the British occupation of Egypt and the empire’s focus on peasants, women, and students following the revolution. For example, the British hoped to manipulate the concept of oppression of Egyptian women to justify their own colonial claims over the territory. The presentation allowed for a greater understanding of the British empire and its subjects.

“King Alfred in Early-Modern Enlightenment Britain: Historiographical Precursors to the Victorian Cult of Alfred” by Ian King observed the legendary figure Alfred the Great and his profound influence on the centuries of British history after his death. Alfred took on many legendary (and not necessarily accurate) roles amongst the British people, including the founder of English Common Law, the founder of the University of Oxford, and the creator of a cohesive Anglo-Saxon identity.

Sophie Tomaso’s thesis, “Understanding Winston Churchill Through His Writings” examined the war memoirs and autobiography of statesman and writer Winston Churchill. Through his writings, Mr. Tomaso argued, Churchill attempted to stylize himself as both a martyr, through his exclusion from politics in the 1930s, and a prophet, based on his predictions of both world wars decades before they occurred. Mr. Tomaso explored a stronger understanding of Churchill’s personality and legacy.

Charles Tuckwell’s “Combatting Australia’s ‘Founding Myth’: the Motives Behind the British Settlement of Australia” debunks the popular notion that Australia was colonized by the British as a place to settle convicts. As Mr. Tuckwell explains, Britain had much stronger solutions towards prisoners. Mr. Tuckwell also addressed the massive costs as well as material and nonmaterial gains this massive settlement in Australia created.

Finally, “Borodin and the Escalator to China” by Caleb Wint presented an analysis of Mikhail Borodin, a Comintern agent who shaped Chinese history in the twentieth century. Mr. Wint elaborated on the impact this figure had on the history of China, given his role as an advisor to Sun Yat-sen. The presentation traced the life of Borodin and his extensive world travels and international knowledge.

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