Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • The "Mary Carver" Affair: United States Foreign Policy and the Africa Squadron, 1841 - 1845

    Author:
    Amy Van Natter
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Robert David Johnson
    Abstract:

    Diplomatic historians have ignored the U.S. Africa squadron, leaving the subject to slave trade historians. Consequently, the squadron has only been interpreted through the narrow lens of the slave trade, resulting in a distorted view of a failed squadron disconnected from foreign policy. This dissertation re-evaluates the squadron from a foreign policy perspective and concludes that it was not created to suppress the slave trade. Instead, it argues that the United States created the squadron in response to an escalating dispute with Britain over the future of international law. Britain wanted the United States to concede the right of search to facilitate slave trade suppression, but the United States refused. Granting Britain the peacetime right of search would change international law, threatening free navigation of the seas. Americans argued that such a change would make slaves of us all. Britain increased pressure on the United States to concede by illegally searching more merchant vessels flying the American flag, provoking a serious diplomatic dispute. As this situation escalated, Americans dispatched naval cruisers to protect their merchant vessels from British interference. The dispute worsened to the point that the United States needed a permanent Africa squadron to protect Americans from ongoing British abuse. The proposed squadron faced many political obstacles. Ultimately, the tragedy of the merchantman Mary Carver helped the Tyler administration secure the necessary support and funding. The Mary Carver had been trading along the coast of West Africa when natives murdered her crew and destroyed the schooner. The attack provided the administration with a new justification for the squadron. Squadron supporters created an exaggerated portrait of Africans as savage pirates who preyed on American shipping, arguing that the incident proved the need for a squadron. Historians have mistakenly assumed that the United States created the squadron to suppress the slave trade and consequently judged it a failure. But the squadron was primarily created to protect Americans and their interests in West Africa; suppressing the slave trade was only a secondary concern. Considered in light of its total purpose and mission, the first U.S. Africa squadron was far from a failure.

  • The Business of Settlement: Land Companies and Colonization in the British Empire, ca 1800-1850

    Author:
    Cheryl Wahl
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Timothy Alborn
    Abstract:

    When analyzed in a comparative fashion, rather than an understanding of British policy as a mass of "apparent inconsistencies which seem to defy coherent analysis," imperial policy clarifies and displays an evolution as it reflected changes based on knowledge gained from the colonies themselves and highlights domestic legal, social, and political changes. Imperial policy failed to "design an international regime that would make the world safe for the monarchial, propertied, gentlemanly orders" by the end of the 1830s. A study of land companies demonstrates the significance of the gentlemanly capitalists and the importance of the relationship of these men with the Home Government in the creation and implementation of imperial policy, specifically the Anglicization policy. A study of the three land companies allows a view of foreign investment before the bubble burst with a study of the Canada Company, after it burst but while a sense of optimism existed towards land companies with a discussion of BALC, and long after the optimism toward land companies died with an analysis of the New Zealand Company. As a new domestic environment arose, which included strict interpretation of contract and law and greater regulation of overseas investments, the Government changed along with this new state of affairs. The land companies, however, sought to ignore the changing domestic atmosphere and to maintain privileges typically associated with gentlemanly status. The failure of the Anglicization policy post 1837 accelerated the "ungentlemanly" nature of the relationship between the Home government and gentlemanly capitalists. The inability of the British government and land companies to institute English traditions through assimilation at the periphery had implications on a global scale. As the Anglicization policy failed, ideas regarding the inferiority of imperial subjects emerged. The construction of races of non-British colonial occupants created not only racism within the colonies, but also created pre-conditions for ready acceptance of racial inferiority associated with Social Darwinism in the second half of the century.

  • An Uneasy Idealism: The Reconstruction of American Adolescence from World War II to the War on Poverty

    Author:
    Lucas Waltzer
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    David Nasaw
    Abstract:

    This dissertation argues that American adolescence was reconstructed in the two decades after the end of World War II. At the beginning of the period, adolescent behavior was widely seen as a function of biological and psychological factors inside the individual. By the end, more adults understood the behavior of the young as reflective of the broader social, cultural, and political currents in American life. This transition was primarily visible in the reformulation of juvenile delinquency policy during these years. It was also present in the other realms where adolescence was constructed: in the mass media's investigation and entrepreneurial exploitation of youth, in the discourses that surrounded youth culture and consumption, in battles over school curricula, and in the way adolescence was invoked by politicians and other authority figures. This project looks at the reconstruction of adolescence both nationally and in New York City, and ultimately demonstrates that the concept is often about much more than the collective experiences of an age group made up of individuals who are transitioning to adulthood.

  • American Missionaries, Armenian Community, and the Making of Protestantism in the Ottoman Empire, 1820-1860

    Author:
    Cemal Yetkiner
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    BETH BARON
    Abstract:

    This dissertation explores how missionaries of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) started their journey to the East hoping to reach Jerusalem to "save" souls and "convert" Jews and Muslims in the Bible lands (1819), ultimately landed in Istanbul (1831), and partitioned the Armenian Church in the Ottoman Empire into two (1846). The study focuses upon American Protestant missionaries and examines their complex relations with the indigenous population of the region, especially the Armenians. Missionary relations with the "heathens" (as missionaries often referred to the locals) led to the formation of the "Protestant millet" in the Ottoman Empire. This study argues that American missionaries had contradictory impact on the Armenian community in the Ottoman Empire. On the one hand, they introduced missionary services, most importantly education, to the Armenian community in the Ottoman capital and across Asia Minor, preparing Armenians for the financial and spiritual challenges of the nineteenth century. On the other hand, they divided the same community, transforming and creating new factions.

  • American Missionaries, Armenian Community, and the Making of Protestantism in the Ottoman Empire, 1820-1860

    Author:
    Cemal Yetkiner
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    BETH BARON
    Abstract:

    This dissertation explores how missionaries of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) started their journey to the East hoping to reach Jerusalem to "save" souls and "convert" Jews and Muslims in the Bible lands (1819), ultimately landed in Istanbul (1831), and partitioned the Armenian Church in the Ottoman Empire into two (1846). The study focuses upon American Protestant missionaries and examines their complex relations with the indigenous population of the region, especially the Armenians. Missionary relations with the "heathens" (as missionaries often referred to the locals) led to the formation of the "Protestant millet" in the Ottoman Empire. This study argues that American missionaries had contradictory impact on the Armenian community in the Ottoman Empire. On the one hand, they introduced missionary services, most importantly education, to the Armenian community in the Ottoman capital and across Asia Minor, preparing Armenians for the financial and spiritual challenges of the nineteenth century. On the other hand, they divided the same community, transforming and creating new factions.

  • Love's Ethics: Sibilla Aleramo and Queer Feminism in Fin de Si├Ęcle Italy

    Author:
    Ellen Zitani
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Mary Gibson
    Abstract:

    Utilizing the love story of feminists Sibilla Aleramo and Lina Poletti as a case study, this work illustrates lesbianism's complicated intersection with the public discourses of sexology, feminism and sexual ethics in turn-of-the-century Italy. While both Aleramo (famous for her 1906 feminist anthem, Una donna) and Poletti (a lesser-known scholar and activist) served on the frontlines of the Italian women's emancipation movement, their private lives lingered on the far periphery of acceptable sexual practices in recently-unified Italy. This dissertation looks at the public and private discourses surrounding the topics of women's homosexuality, love and polyamory in Italy in order to demonstrate how same-sex attraction, gender-nonconformity, feminism, and sexual ethics were understood and articulated by early-twentieth-century Italians. Italian public discourse by medical, criminological and social researchers categorized lesbianism as a disease, a sign or result of gender-nonconformity and sometimes criminality, or as a foreign plague infecting Italy's feminists. In contrast, Aleramo all but rejected the ideas of the sexologists and instead relied on the discourses of feminism and sexual ethics to inform her ideas on gender-nonconformity, homosexuality and monogamy. For her, homosexuality was not an identity or a disease. She saw love as feminist and debated sexual ethics in order to develop a new sexual space for herself and all Italian women, hetero- and homosexual.

  • The Bright Flash of Peace: Hiroshima in the World, 1945-1995

    Author:
    Ran Zwigenberg
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Barbara Brooks
    Abstract:

    Abstract The Bright Flash of Peace: Hiroshima in the World, 1945-1995 By Ran Zwigenberg This dissertation is a history of commemoration of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima in the context of the global development of Holocaust and WW II memory. Using the history of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park as a platform, it examines the role of architecture, psychiatry, emotions, tourism, economics and politics to trace the process by which commemoration was used to normalize and domesticate the memory of the bombing within the discursive space of the Cold War. The "bright flash of peace," as a Hiroshima journalist - oxymoronically - referred to the A-bomb on its first anniversary, was conceptualized not as a cataclysmic horror but as a rebirth and a transformation that allowed its victims to find meaning in the quest for a future world without wars. The bombing, this manuscript argues, was thought to have bequeathed Hiroshima's victims with a global mission and importance. This was synchronous with, and influenced by, a similar view of the place of the victim/witness in Holocaust discourse. This development was not least a direct consequence of the unprecedented nature of the tragedies and of the failure of conventional means to represent and explain them. Hiroshima victims and the peace movement that surrounded these were the first to publicly use and disseminate testimonies as a way of tackling the complex and pressing issues of nuclear victimization. Thus, this manuscript uses the experience of commemoration of the Holocaust and its survivors, mostly in Israel but also elsewhere in the West as well as the East, not only as a point of comparison and contrast but also as an opportunity to trace the many links that ultimately emerged between Holocaust and A-bomb discourses. It traces the convergence of these discourses, the way the survivor was eventually elevated to be the ultimate bearer of moral authority, and the consequences of this development for commemoration and politics in Japan and elsewhere.