Congratulations to Our Class of 2020 History Thesis Writers!

By Brendan W. Clark ’21

Editor; History Major

Congratulations to four of the History Department’s senior majors who presented the culmination of a year’s worth of research and study this past Friday!

Despite the difficulties which beset the end of their work from the coronavirus crisis, Gillian Reinhard ’20, Aidan Turek ’20, William Tjeltveit ’20, and Connor Struyk ’20 presented their research to the department’s faculty and friends via thoughtful presentations on Zoom.

Reinhard’s thesis, “Orientalist Opera: Western Perceptions of the Other in the Early Twentieth Century,” focused on the premiere of Giaccomo Puccini’s Turandot at the Royal Opera House in London during the 1920s. Reinhard relied on a variety of primary source material and newspaper coverage of the premiere and sought to examine the place and extent of Orientalism in the British imagination. Drawing on scholarship from noted British historians Robert Bickers, Sarah Cheang, and John MacKenzie, Reinhard also argued for a greater recognition of the opera as serving the imperialist ambitions of the British Empire. You can read more about Reinhard and her thesis, which were profiled by History@Trinity in November, here.

Struyk’s “Washington: The Politics and Perceptions Which Shaped the Pacific War” broadly examined the Washington Naval Conference and Treaty of 1922 and considered post-war changes to naval power and technology. Struyk also examined factors which contributed to the failure of the Treaty and its impacts on the naval armaments build-up in advance of World War II. Struyk considered especially the Treaty’s parity requirement for the navies of the United States and Britain which, he argued, contributed toward a feeling of inferiority among the Japanese prior to their annexation efforts in the Pacific.

Turek’s “The Architect of Myth and Misery: Albert Speer and the Long Shadow of the Third Reich,” profiled Nazi Minister of Armaments and architect Albert Speer and argued against the intentionalist arguments propagated by Speer himself and other mid-twentieth century German historians. Turek sought to understand Speer’s construction as an ideological figure, especially in his own Inside the Third Reich, and worked to dismantle the notion that Speer was not responsible because he alleged a lack of “direct involvement.” Turek pointed to numerous instances in which Speer was closely involved and a full participant in the atrocities of the Holocaust to demonstrate the failings of extant scholarship and also considered Speer’s work with Nazi architecture. You can read a profile of Aidan’s work here.

Tjeltveit’s thesis, “Riots and Rebellions: Memory of Newark’s Long Hot Summer of 1967,” focused on the Newark race riots of 1967 and conceptions of historical memory in the city. Tjeltveit analyzed a variety of different individuals and concepts to consider the riot’s impact on Newark then and today. Studying closely the memories of the Newark firemen, the work of poet and activist Amiri Baraka, and the various memorials which exist throughout the city. Tjeltveit ultimately sought to understand how the event still holds historical resonance today in the memories of so many Newarkers.

Leave a Reply