The December 2012 Edition of History Senior Seminar!

Last night Prof. AnneMarie Kooistra’s group of Senior Seminar students presented their research projects to an audience of faculty, fellow students, family, and other guests. It’s a twice-yearly treat to watch our students show off their knowledge and skills as the in-room experts on a wide array of topics. Check out what was presented last night, starting with four topics from global history and concluding with five more from the history of the United States:

Carly Miller, “The Karen: A Study on the History and Struggle of a Stateless People”

As part of her research into the history of this people-group from southeast Asia, Carly conducted oral history interviews with some of the 2000-3000 Karen refugees who have settled in and around St. Paul, Minnesota. (A future social studies teacher, Carly helped start a Karen Club as part of her activities working at an area high school.)

Emily Mensch, “Marie Antoinette: A Woman of Many Faces”

Emily (who will be spending spring semester studying in Paris) studied how France’s most famous (or infamous?) queen has been represented at the intersection of history and popular culture — ranging from scholarship by historians like Lynn Hunt to historical novels by Antonia Fraser and Chantal Thomas and feature films like Sofia Coppola’s 2006 biopic.

Simon VanderHaar, “The Balfour Declaration: Zionism’s Declaration of Independence”

Simon emphasized that the present conflict in Israel and Palestine is not centuries old, but rooted in relatively recent events like the November 1917 publication of this letter from the British foreign secretary to Baron Rothschild, a leading financier and supporter of the Zionist movement.

Samuel Hallberg, “The Sepoy Incident: A Historiography of the Events of 1857”

Sam examined three waves of historical interpretations of the 1857 mutiny/revolution by Indian soldiers employed by the British East India Company, from the self-serving memoirs of British officer E.J. Churcher and the anti-colonial polemic of Indian nationalist Vinayak Sarvarkar to R.C. Majumdar‘s revisionist history, commissioned by the Indian Government to commemorate the 1857 incident and then rejected by it for his complicated portrait, and a more recent wave of “restructuring.”

Jenna Kaliszewski, “Ordinary Women with True Grit”

A double-major in History and English Literature, those dual interests were reflected in Jenna’s project, which drew on a wide variety of sources written by women, from the mid-19th century journal of Mollie Dorsey Sanford to Karen Kanter’s recent novel, The Laughing Ladies. She found that women in the history of the American West were more diverse than the stereotypical “sunbonneted helpmates,” “gentle tamers,” “hell raisers,” and “bad women” featured in an earlier wave of historiography, yet shared common experiences of isolation and uprooting.

Matisse Murray, “Trees Nestled Among Skyscrapers: Frederick Law Olmsted and the Creation of Central Park”

Our second History/Social Studies Education major of the night, Matisse explored the papers of Frederick Law Holmsted (the “quintessential nineteenth-century man”) to understand his motivations for the creation of Central Park, finding his vision classically republican — balancing “democratic inclusiveness” and “aristocratic elitism” (plus other tensions: frontier vs. civilization, freedom vs. order) in his ambition to produce social uplift and “gentlemanly” virtues.

Anj Thunberg, “No Longer the Greatest Show on Earth: The Fall of the American Circus”

Why did the circus fall so sharply from its peak in the late 19th and early 20th century? Anj originally suspected that migration to urban areas was the chief cause of decline (shrinking the audience), but as she researched the rise and fall of the Forepaugh Circus, she also found significant the rise of new, competing forms of entertainment, calls for reform of a system of labor that required long hours of dangerous work at low pay, the takeover of circuses by corporations, and the effects of the Great Depression.

The F. Scott Fitzgerald House on Summit Ave.
The F. Scott Fitzgerald House, 599 Summit Ave., St. Paul, MN – Creative Commons (Eikman)

Katie McEachern, “The Crown Jewel of St. Paul: A History of Conservation along Summit Avenue”

Looking for a project that would let her engage in original, hands-on research at the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS), Katie studied community and municipal efforts to preserve what’s perhaps the most famous (or most “idealized,” one of her secondary sources called it) street in Minnesota’s capital, home to wealthy elites like James J. Hill in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and connected to the City Beautiful movement of that time. (A double-major in History and Political Science, Katie has previously been featured in our Studying Abroad series of interviews.)

Daniel Goldschmidt, “Frank T. Kolar and George E. Leach: Comparing the Experiences of a Private and an Officer in World War I”

Also making use of MHS resources, Daniel compared two diaries from World War I, both kept by members of the so-called Rainbow Division: a private named Frank Kolar and the unit commander, Col. George Leach (later a mayor of Minneapolis). While Leach experienced the war as the greatest adventure of his life, interrupted by tours, concerts, and opulent dinners, Kolar’s recollections of frontline duty resonate with the shell-shocked poetry of Wilfred Owen (whose “Dulce et Decorum Est” was pasted into the back of Kolar’s diary).

(Lauren Kofsky was unable to present her paper, “We Are Now Our Own: The History of Kenyan Independence.”)



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