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Who Are We?

Department Staff:
Jeffrey Bayliss, Dept. Chair
Gigi St. Peter, Admin. Assistant
Blog Editors:
Brendan W. Clark ’21
Prof. Sean Cocco
Prof. Seth Markle
Prof. Luis Figueroa-Martínez
Campus Address:
Seabury Hall T–127
Postal Address:
History Department
Trinity College
300 Summit Street
Hartford, CT 06106
Telephone & Fax:
Phone: (860) 297.2397
Fax: (860) 297.5111

History Majors Awarded Prizes At 71st Honors Day Ceremony

Elizabeth M. Sockwell ’21 won the D.G. Brinton Thompson Prize In American History. Ms. Sockwell was awarded $500.00 with the prize. The prize is awarded to a thesis considered by the Department to be an excellent one in the field of American history.

Brendan W. Clark ’21 and Corey T. Cheung ’21 won the Miles A. Tuttle Prize. Mr. Clark and Mr. Cheung were awarded $700.00 with the prize. The prize is awarded to a senior whose thesis considered by the Department to be an excellent one any the field of history.

Brendan W. Clark ’21 won the George B. Cooper Prize In British History. Mr. Tuckwell and was awarded $300.00 with the prize. The prize is awarded to a senior majoring or minoring in History considered by the Department to have done  excellent work in British history.

Brendan W. Clark ’21 and Tanuja A. Budraj ’21 won the Ferguson Prize In History. Mr. Clerk and Ms. Budraj were awarded $500.00 with the prize. The prize is awarded to a senior history major who has the best portfolio of essays. Essay portfolios consisted of three essays and a cover letter.

The George J. Mead Prize In History for Scholarship In Non-English Sources, the George J. Mead Prize in History, and the Gerald A. McNamara prize were not awarded this year. 

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.


A Concise History of Trinity College and the 1918 Influenza

By Brendan W. Clark ’21

Editor; History Major

An Introduction: The Pandemic of a Century

A review of Trinity’s response to the 1918 flu pandemic, often referred to as the “Spanish influenza” or the “Spanish flu,” is doubtless merited in our present time living through the 2019 coronavirus.[1] With that in mind, the following is a recitation of Trinity’s actions and some student responses made during the course of an event that impacted millions at the start of the twentieth. There are admittedly few Trinity sources, but those that remain illumine this region of history so relevant for us today and form the subject of our study.

“Quarantine Lifted.” The Trinity Tripod, Nov. 5, 1918.

While the College archives reveal that Trinity was not unaffected by the pandemic, there is no mention of it in our two major annals of College history. Esteemed College archivist Peter Knapp ’65 makes no mention of the pandemic in Trinity College in the Twentieth Century. Rather, he notes correctly that the gravamen in 1918 for the College—and President Flavel Sweeten Luther ’70—was World War I and the institution’s military response. Knapp, quoting Luther, indicates that “other areas of concern included student social and academic life, which had suffered from the disruptions of World War I.”[2] Knapp notes, also, that the College held its Commencement in June 1918 in the midst of the pandemic. Indeed, with former President Theodore Roosevelt in attendance as an honorand and speaker, he gave his peroration to “‘the largest crowd of people ever assembled at one time on campus,’ estimated at approximately 5,000.”[3]


A Conversation With Associate Academic Dean, Emeritus, J. Ronald Spencer

By Brendan W. Clark ’21

Professor and Associate Academic Dean, Emeritus, J. Ronald Spencer

Editor; History Major 

Professor and Associate Academic Dean, Emeritus, J. Ronald Spencer ’64 has long been a fixture of Trinity College and for more than forty years taught the history of the Civil War, among other topics, in the Trinity College History Department.

While at Trinity, Spencer studied history and took a class colloquially referred to as from “Christ to Khrushchev.” Spencer notes that during his early years as a history major, United States history was relatively weak in comparison to the European canon. Spencer recalls that that changed when former Professor Edward “Ted” Sloan, Charles H. Northam Professor of History, a graduate of Harvard and Yale, arrived on the campus.


Lecture Recap: African Americans & Classical Education after the Civil War


By Tess Meagher ’20

Editor; History Major

In coordination with the History Department, the Trinity College Classics department hosted its annual Moore Lecture on November Ninth during common hour. The lecture, entitled “African American Intellectuals and the Study of Ancient Greek After the Civil War,” was given by guest lecturer Michele Valerie Ronnick. The lecture dealt specifically with historical African American scholars, mostly during the era of 1850-1950, who had an impact on the study of classics and/or on the way African Americans were educated in classics during this time period.

Professor Ronnick began the talk with an explanation of the importance of Greek and Latin in nineteenth-century western culture, specifically the American education system. She said that beginning around the same time as the American Revolution, there was a debate as to how useful the prerequisite of Greek and Latin for further education was. Among the founding fathers, there was a group of anti-classicists who said there was no place in the new republic for the study of dead languages. However, this group was in disagreement with other founding fathers who believed in the studies of the classics as necessary. The disagreement wasn’t resolved here and continued to affect the education system until the twentieth century.

Senior Thesis Profile: Christopher Bulfinch





By Brendan W. Clark ’21

Editor; History Major

About the Thesis Writer: Christopher Bulfinch ’18 is a senior history major and thesis writer. Chris came to Trinity knowing that he wanted to study history, but did not declare until the spring of his sophomore year. He has studied a myriad of topics from within the history department, but takes a particular interest in subjects of Americana. However, one of his favorite courses falls outside of this realm: “Living on the Margins of Modern Japan,” taught by Jeffery Bayliss, is a course he highly enjoyed and encourages prospective or current history majors to take.

American Periodicals: History on a Page

Written By: Tess Meagher (History Class of 2020)

Want to see original publications of American authors, not in books, but in periodicals? Interested in understanding the media culture of a time period? All of this and more is available at the new Watkinson Library exhibit. The Watkinson Library at Trinity College currently has Easy Vehicles and Knowledge for an Enlightened and Free People: American Periodicals in the Watkinson, 1750-1950 on exhibit. The exhibition will be in the Watkinson from now until June 15, 2018. The exhibit was curated by Leonard Banco, M.D., who, though a guest curator, is a trustee of the Watkinson. The exhibition features the hundreds of american periodicals the Watkinson has in its collection. Dr. Banco has divided these periodicals into the categories of general interest, music, women, religion, politics, and literature for easier research into the exhibit. At the exhibit are pamphlets containing summaries of the works featured that both students and faculty can take to further interests or research.

I found the exhibit especially compelling as a history student. Standing in the Watkinson and see many, clearly old, periodicals spread around and opened to carefully picked pages meant to pique your interest is curiosity candy. From seeing first editions of famous works, to learning about medical practices and theories of different time periods in America, to viewing election coverage from the nineteenth century, the exhibit offers a window into American history that is unique because it is all primary sources. History students should take advantage of this exhibit. Wandering around may just give you a new area of historical interest, or  at the very least feed an old one. Not only history students should visit, however. Because the exhibit is curated into subtopics, students from nearly all majors from English, to biology can find something interesting here.

The History of Elm Trees at Trinity

By Brendan W. Clark ’21

History Major

Neath the Ashes: Revisiting the Veracity of Trinity’s Alma Matter in the Present Day
Alumni and present students of Trinity alike will recall fondly their jovial experiences of youth whenever the refrain of Trinity’s alma matter ‘Neath the Elms is heard at various college events: “No more shall we meet, our classmates to greet, / ‘Neath the elms of our old Trinity.” The tune, first set to words by Augustus P. Burgwin, Class of 1882, is still a centerpiece of tradition amongst Trinity students and stands as a bulwark against the changing landscape of Trinity in the 21st century.

Indeed, all may be surprised to know that the majority, save a few stragglers, of those familiar elms referenced in the tune were gone by the early 1970s. Before that matter can be addressed, however, the history of the trees which became eponymous with the song must first be examined.

First in 1880 and thereafter in 1883, the Trustees allocated funds and authorized the planting of several rows of English elm trees on the Quad. The location of these earliest rows can be ascertained by the location of the trees which currently stand parallel to Seabury and Jarvis and also the rows of trees that project outward from Northam Towers.


A Response to the 2017 Wassong Lecture: “Trigger Crimes & Social Progress: The Tragedy-Outrage-Reform Dynamic in America”

By Callie Prince (History ’17)

Paul H. Robinson, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School
Paul H. Robinson, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

This past week I attended the 2017 Wassong Lecture in European and American Art, Culture, and History, a lecture organized every year by the interdisciplinary studies department. I was excited to hear the lecture from Paul H. Robinson who is a Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. His long list of accomplishments would extend beyond the length of this post, as he has been prolific and diversified in his work. The topic of his lecture was “Trigger Crimes & Social Progress: The Tragedy-Outrage-Reform Dynamic in America”. A brief synopsis written by Robinson describing the work behind his lecture, posed the main question as, “Why do some tragedies produce broad outrage while others, often of a very similar nature, do not? Why do some outrages produce reform while others, often with greater claims to outrageousness, do not?”

History Department’s Senior Thesis Presentations 2016-2017

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This academic year, the History Department has nine honor thesis writers. Elizabeth, Sedona, Callie, Dylan, Elm, Chelsey, Eleanor, Seth and Andrew will be presenting on their research on Wednesday, May 3, 2017. The presentations will take place at Seabury Hall 215 (Trinity College), starting at 9:00 a.m. History Thesis Writers, History Majors, members of the History Department, and members of the Trinity and Hartford community are invited and encouraged to attend this special event. A five minute Q+A will follow each presentation. For the full schedule, continue reading….