In Class News

March 25, 2021 at 4:20 pm

Winning Student Essays Explore Wide Range of History Topics

2021 prize winners and history majors (clockwise from top left) Holly Thompson, Eli Wanner, Justin Boyle, and Miranda Christy.

2021 prize winners and history majors (clockwise from top left) Holly Thompson, Eli Wanner, Justin Boyle, and Miranda Christy.

The Ohio University History Department awarded four undergraduate essays with this year’s Randolph Stone Prize.

Each Randolph Stone Prize winner receives a cash award as well as recognition at the Annual Undergraduate History Conference.

Justin Boyle originally wrote “New Mexican and Hawaiian Statehood: National Identity in Twentieth-Century America” as his junior composition essay for Dr. Mariana Dantas. He was inspired by recent movements to award statehood to Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. His research on New Mexico and Hawaii led him to conclude that “whiteness” was treated as a prerequisite to statehood in the 20th-century United States. Boyle said he especially enjoyed reading congressional records for the first time.

In her essay, “Bleeding Kansas, the New York Tribune, and Republican Rhetoric, 1854-1858,” Miranda Christy argues that newspaper coverage of the settlement of Kansas was central to developing the policies and rhetoric of the newly formed Republican Party in the years before the Civil War. She researched and wrote her essay as a directed study with Dr. Brian Schoen. Many white Americans viewed the possible emancipation of enslaved people in terms of potential competition in the paid workforce.

“I am interested in the role race played in 19th-century American life,” Christy said, “and I love working with newspapers as a source, since they give a unique window into how people in the past understood the events unfolding around them.”

Holly Thompson‘s essay, “Red Guard Revolution and the Exploitation of Chinese Youth,” was written for her junior composition course with Dr. Alec Holcombe. In it, she explores how Chairman Mao’s cult of personality and larger Chinese social trends culminated in the proliferation of violence of millions of Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution.

“My favorite aspect was reading accounts of young Red Guard members themselves,” Thompson said, “who often secretly harbored fear, confusion, anger, or disillusionment while finding happiness and connection in unexpected places.”

Eli Wanner wrote “Metalwork, Manuscripts, and Meeting Places: Outlets for Religious Syncretism in Viking and Anglo-Saxon Culture” for a tutorial in early medieval history with Dr. Kevin Uhalde. He argues that Anglo-Saxon and Viking converts to Christianity mingled pagan traditions with their new faith, often because Christian missionaries made it easy for them to do so.

One of his most interesting discoveries “was that Viking chieftains saw Christianity as an exotic, impressive faith,” Wanner said, “and proudly used their new-found religious rituals to impress guests at parties and feasts: a break away from the stereotype of Vikings as bloodthirsty monk-murderers (not that monk-murdering never happened).”

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