This was the theme the Dean of the College of Science and Humanities, Dr. Michael Maggiotto, set for the 18th Annual Student History Conference. Will artifacts from the Disney movie “Frozen” or t-shirts glorifying the Grateful Dead represent the information available to future historians? How will they interpret what they find? These observations highlight the importance of primary source resources, and the ability to make sense and find valuable information from what was left behind.
The skill of sifting through primary source material was crucial to the efforts of the three award winners’ carefully developed, compelling papers on their chosen topics.
Lisa Mercer has demonstrated this ability to identify and evaluate historical information and articulate fascinating conclusions. Her essay, “‘Where Airy Voices Lead’: Joan of Arc’s Auditions in Historical Debate,” received the award for Best Graduate Paper in World History. Lisa meticulously walked her readers (and audience) through the thoughts of people throughout history on the origins of the voices Joan of Arc claimed to have heard. Depending on the era, the attitude shifted between believing that the voices were a ploy by Joan, the result of a mental illness, or that they were authentically divine. Lisa pointed out that the accepted thoughts of the time tell historians more about the periods in which the shift in thinking occurred than it does about the origin of Joan’s voices.
The Best Graduate Paper in US History award was earned by Nathanael Pass for his essay, “Pursuing an Avenging Mission: The American Fenian View of England Under the Fenian Brotherhood, 1858-1870.” He discusses the influence on Irish-Americans generated by the rhetoric used by the Fenian Brotherhood. There were two primary political parties of the time related to the treatment of the Irish by England: the Ireland Party and the Canadian Party.” The members of the Fenian Brotherhood were primarily involved with the Canadian Party, and they believed that invading Canada would hurt England, which in turn would help the people of Ireland. The Fenian Brotherhood felt that the Irish were not protected by English law, and even that the potato famine was a consequence of these policies. Ultimately the Canadian Party lost momentum and 1870 marked the end of the Fenian Brotherhood
The award for the Best Undergraduate Paper was awarded to Jason Rose from IU-South Bend. He was unable to attend the conference due to weather. In his paper, “Consistently inconsistent: The ‘NO HYMN of hate’ of the CPI and the Four Minute Men,” Jason discusses the Committee on Public Information’s (CPI) role in disseminating information to try and promote the war effort during World War I. There was a blurred line between what was considered truth and propaganda leaving the Four Minute Men with conflicted guidance on what they should say to the public. The Four Minute Men were encouraged in one place to describe Germans as people who would rape and torture if they ever came to American soil but were discouraged from appealing to their listeners emotions. Jason’s paper pointed out that these pieces of information are conflicting, along with several more examples as the Four Minute Men and the CPI tried to balance promoting the war and demonizing the enemy.
Congratulations to all of our award winners and great job to all those who participated!