Undergraduates Recognized at Campus Research Conferences

Several undergraduate students within the Department of History have recently participated in undergraduate research conferences across campus.

At the end of last month, several students presented posters at URCA, the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Conference. The following students presented research they have conducted under the supervision of department faculty:

Brandley Beasley in front of his poster.

Bradley Beasley, with Dr. John Beeler
The Admiralty Foreign Intelligence Committee/Naval Intelligence
Department Reports Database

In 1883 the British Admiralty (Navy Department) began systematically to preserve intelligence reports on rivals’ navies, coast defenses, etc., and to produce analyses, policy recommendations, and operational plans based on that intelligence. The most important of these documents were preserved in bound volumes which are now housed in the British National Archives (ADM231). During the summer 2016 Dr. Beeler spent a month working in the National Archives, during which he photographed several thousand pages of those reports covering the period 1883-1902 for a book-length project on British naval policy in the late Victorian era. Dr. Beeler has not, however, had time to analyze the material thus gathered in systematic fashion, and I have offered to assist him in doing so. By by building a searchable database of the documents.

Molly Buffington in front of her poster.

Molly Buffington, with Dr. George McClure
“A Faith That Sings: Lutheran Liturgy as a Theological Tool in the Reformation”

Martin Luther’s alteration of the Roman Catholic Mass into the Lutheran Gottesdienst (or “God’s service”) has been critiqued as an afterthought or an act of theological compromise to appease the conservative German princes and peasants. However, Luther’s worship rite, especially the ceremonies surrounding the Sacrament of Communion, was crafted to teach and comfort the faithful while also battling heterodoxy. Luther and those in his circle crafted a distinctly “Lutheran” way to celebrate Communion in response to the needs of their congregations, especially with the undereducated peasantry in mind, as a means of explaining complex theological concepts through word and act. Further, they allowed for practices considered unnecessary in order to console the weak in faith or to facilitate the conversion of former Catholics. The early Lutheran Service of the Sacrament was even influenced by the arguments and liturgies of non-Lutherans, such as Zwingli, Karlstadt, Schwenkfeld, and others, as the Lutherans countered other teachings on Communion and even tried purposefully to offend non-Lutherans through their liturgical choices. Thus the liturgy was not intended as a static, repetitive rite as a means to itself, but rather an educational, pastoral, and polemic tool to deliver forgiveness of sins and strengthen the laity in their faith.

Rhiannon Hein in front of her poster.

Rhiannon Hein, with Dr. Daniel Riches
“Nationalist Sentiment in the Era of German Unification.”

Before its unification in 1871, Germany was a loose confederation of self-governing territories. The unification of 1871, led by Prussia, one of Germany’s largest states, finally forged these heterogeneous territories into a singular political entity. My senior honors thesis for the Department of History – a paper entitled “Nationalist Sentiment in the Era of German Unification” – analyzes the dissemination of nationalist expressions in Germany from a small but influential class of bourgeois intellectuals and artists to broader populations at the time of unification in the early 1870s. With support from two University of Alabama Research Scholarships, I conducted research with German and French documents over the course of two months at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, one of Europe’s largest libraries.
The project examines why German nationalists in the 1870s disseminated their narratives, the characteristics of these views, and how these messages might have reached citizens beyond the bourgeoisie. I argue that in response to certain intellectuals’ critiques and doubts of the new Prussian-dominated Reich, nationalists strove to propagate patriotic mythology in the forms of new German identity and founding legends through a variety of means to as broad a population base as possible. I have utilized published poems, newspaper articles, memoirs, history texts, images, songs, and monuments of the era in making my argument. Current scholarship focuses on the fact that these ideas were generated by a small segment of the population but leaves room for exploration as to where and how these ideas traveled. My argument builds upon current scholarly conversation in its recognition that although these nationalists messages were generated by few, they had the potential to impact broad swaths of the German population’s collective consciousness.

Wenkang Li, with Dr. Margaret Peacock
“Basic Knowledge of Industry Textbooks
Used in Hefei during the Educational Revolution.”

In the mid-1960s, the Chinese Cultural Revolution brought about massive educational changes for students at all age levels. This movement, which is known as the “Educational Revolution,” was marked by the heavy revision of textbooks. In previous years, textbooks had concentrated on teaching fundamental scientific principles with little attention paid to political slogans and indoctrination. The textbooks that accompanied the Educational Revolution provided students with pragmatic and military-related knowledge. Mao’s quotations and political slogans permeated these books, which were characterized by anti-bourgeoisie, anti-capitalist, anti-Soviet, and nationalist ideologies. Why high school textbooks underwent such changes during the early 1970s? What did this transformation look like for ordinary high school who were suddenly directed to learn practical skills and political propaganda instead of the curricula that their predecessors had studied?

This research studies this transition of textbooks used before and during the Educational Revolution and ties the transition to the background of the Cold War. This paper argues that Chinese high school educators and policy makers sought to teach practical skills–such as industrial, agricultural, and military skills–and political propaganda, in order to prepare them for their perceived impending conflict, and to help Mao’s ideal of socialism and to eliminate the influence of his political enemies. This study compares Knowledge of Industry textbooks used during the Educational Revolution with a physics textbook that was used before the Educational Revolution, and also examines Mao’s speeches, letters, governmental announcements, and newspapers from the 1950s to the 1960s.

Emma Pepperman in front of her poster.
Emma Pepperman, with Dr. Jenny Shaw
“Where Legends Were Forgotten:
Enslaved Workers at The University of Alabama, 1831- 1865.”

On The University of Alabama’s web page is a link explaining the Capstone’s slogan: “WHERE LEGENDS ARE MADE is about the past, present and future of The University of Alabama. It speaks to the aspirations of our students and their parents, to the pride of our alumni and donors, and to the devotion of our legions of fans in our state, across the nation and around the globe. It highlights our successes and the legacy we will continue to build upon.” With almost 200 years of history in Tuscaloosa, The University of Alabama has a large number of great legends in its history. Among those legends are the enslaved workers who built and served on campus but their contribution to UA’s success is often overlooked. UA, which opened in 1831, owned some enslaved workers and hired many others from local enslavers between the time that campus opened and the end of the Civil War. Enslaved workers served faculty members and students, made repairs on buildings and the grounds of the campus, built furniture, and assisted professors with teaching and research. This paper will explore sources written by white men to tell stories of the enslaved workers who lived and labored on UA’s campus. By looking at diaries, receipts, notes from faculty meetings, and other sources for and about the leaders of the school, found at the Hoole Special Collections Library, this paper will piece together what enslaved workers on campus did, why they were so often hired by the university, and how certain skills were monetarily valued over others. It will also paint a picture of what daily life looked like for slaves on campus.

We would also like to extend a special congratulations to Rhiannon Hein and Molly Buffington. Rhiannon won first place in the Arts and Humanities Presentation Category, and Molly won third place in the College of Arts & Science — Arts and Humanities Category.

Additionally, Rhiannon and Molly also presented their work at the College of Arts & Sciences Summit for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity (URSCA) in mid-April. Molly was given the Dr. Laura Busenlehner Award for first prize in Oral Presentations — Arts and Humanities.

Great work and congratulations to all of our students who presented their scholarship! The Department is proud of all of the hard work you have done, and we look forward to watching what you continue to do in your college careers and beyond.