Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • Sephardic Family Life in the Eighteenth-Century British West Indies

    Author:
    Stanley Mirvis
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Jane Gerber
    Abstract:

    Spanish-Portuguese Jews of eighteenth-century Jamaica and Barbados sustained an Iberian rooted Converso heritage through their patterns of family life. While in other parts of the eighteenth-century British Atlantic Sephardic society and culture was in a state of decay, it flourished in the West Indies. Spanish-Portuguese Jews settled in the British West Indies as extended families, actively promoted traditional marriage patterns through near exclusive endogamy, addressed the place of their children of color through distinctively Sephardic concerns, and asserted a sense of Iberian patriarchy in opposition to communal interference in child rearing. In exploring the private and familial lives of Spanish-Portuguese Jews, this dissertation reveals the long-term social-historical consequences of the rejudaization process.

  • Female Learning in Early Modern Europe: Advocates and Institutions

    Author:
    Victoria Mondelli
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Margaret King
    Abstract:

    Schooling for girls begins in the early modern West as intellectuals make the case that women possess the same human characteristics as men; that they are capable of rational thought; and that they can and should be educated. Religious and civil officials, founders of schools, teaching orders, school masters and mistresses accept the new characterization of women, finding girls to be worthy of education and apt pupils. They create day and boarding schools for girls across Europe, announcing them as ideal training grounds for literacy, academic training, domestic skills, and quite importantly, religious and moral training. The founding of the first schools for girls follows after more than a century of discussion of women's worth, carried on in a querelle des femmes, a “debate about women,” that raised questions about the nature and capacity of women, commonly characterized as the “weaker sex.” In large part, a double-edged fear about endangering female chastity by exposing girls to ideas contained in books and removing them from the home to attend schools was addressed by humanists and other authors to allow for a greater acceptance of female learning, and soon after, girls' schooling. Influential figures, like Juan Luis Vives, Desiderius Erasmus, Johannes Amos Comenius, and others wrote against the traditional view that barred women from learning, strongly advocating education for girls and women highlighting many benefits for the individual and society. Many of the first founders of girls' schools and teachers recognized and credited the earlier advocates for their works and ideas, which they implemented in the classroom. This dissertation examines both the intellectual tradition of the fourteenth through seventeenth centuries that opens the way to the schooling of women, and the emergence of the first schools, both religious and secular, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

  • Safe Distance: U.S. Slavery, Latin America, and American Culture, 1826-1861

    Author:
    Paul Naish
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    James Oakes
    Abstract:

    This dissertation argues that in the thirty-five years before the Civil War, people in the United States used discourse about Latin America as a way to discuss slavery in the U.S. Through outright comparisons or implicit metaphors, they employed the Latin American context to say what was literally unspeakable when talking about slavery at home. Politicians stifled by Congress's gag rule, Northerners wary of offending their Southern neighbors, even proslavery partisans who countenanced no whisper of criticism of their own peculiar institution, all analyzed slavery south of the border without fear of censure. At the time of Spanish-American independence, achieved just as the U.S. celebrated its fiftieth jubilee in 1826, many Americans looked forward to a future of shared republicanism and beneficial commercial relations. But during the widely-publicized Panama Congress debates of that year, Southern politicians insisted on the racial difference that characterized their neighbors to the south. By the 1830s, `40s, and 50s, U.S. citizens saw Latin America, however much it shared a history of European colonization and a population that included whites, blacks, and native peoples, as unquestionably the Other. With chapters considering the work of early U.S. archaeologists, the fiction and drama of the antebellum period, William Hickling Prescott's The Conquest of Mexico and The Conquest of Peru, and proslavery analyses of Cuba and Brazil, this dissertation explores the purpose served by the perception of Latin American otherness during a period when open discussion of U.S. slavery was highly charged and polarized. Though proximate in geography, Latin America was remote in culture, language, and customs--a combination that allowed people in the U.S. to comment on conditions in their own country without appearing to do so. At the same time, the disparagement of Latin America proved to be something about which everyone--Northerners and Southerners, Whigs and Democrats, scholars secure in their libraries and settlers vulnerable on the Mexican frontier--could agree. By creating a safe space onto which to displace anxieties about racial tensions, servile rebellion, miscegenation, and emancipation, discourse about Latin America helped to unify and reassure a nation whose sectional fissures were growing deeper.

  • Quadrivial Pursuits: Case Studies in the Conceptual Foundation of the Mathematical Arts in the Late Middle Ages

    Author:
    Daniel Newsome
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Joseph Dauben
    Abstract:

    The quadrivium, the four mathematical disciplines of the Middle Ages, described the structure of the medieval cosmos, both macrocosm and microcosm. Arithmetic and music were the mathematics of Platonic counting numbers. Geometry and astronomy were the mathematics of continuous magnitude. All four disciplines worked in concert to describe a cohesive and harmonious universe, which in the late Middle Ages incorporated everything from Aristotelian elemental theory to astrology. This dissertation describes the early philosophical formulation of these disciplines from Pythagorean and Platonic roots and the foundation of the quadrivium itself in the mathematical writings of Boethius in the early sixth century. This dissertation then examines the mathematical philosophy of three late medieval authors who were proficient in the quadrivial arts: Nicole Oresme (ca. 1320-1382), Prosdocimo de' Beldomandi (ca. 1375-1428), and Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472). All three demonstrate that the Boethian quadrivial philosophy continued to be relevant in the late 14th and early 15th centuries, but all three studies point to a significant fault line in the metaphysical structure of the quadrivium itself - the distinction between discrete and continuous, the quadrivial distinction between arithmetic and geometry.

  • Dangerous Grounds: The American GI Coffeehouse Movement, 1967-1972

    Author:
    David Parsons
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Joshua Brown
    Abstract:

    The 1960s witnessed an unprecedented level of antiwar organization in the United States, as a movement to end the war in Vietnam grew to include millions of Americans who participated in a wide range of protest activities. Beginning in 1967, antiwar activists opened GI coffeehouses in the cities and towns outside U.S. military bases, designed to serve as off-base refuges for the growing number of active-duty soldiers resisting the war. This dissertation examines three representative coffeehouses (the UFO coffeehouse in Columbia, South Carolina; the Oleo Strut coffeehouse in Killeen, Texas; and the Shelter Half coffeehouse in Tacoma, Washington) as nodal points of culture and politics that provide a fresh perspective on the complex relationship between the civilian antiwar movement and U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam era. The coffeehouse story reveals soldiers and activists working together, planning antiwar actions, printing underground newspapers and, more often than not, defending the coffeehouses themselves from unsympathetic citizens and concerned military authorities. Using radical publications, Congressional testimony, private letters, organizational records, military and government archives, and oral histories from key participants, this study analyzes a unique and thinly researched component of the antiwar movement and situates it within the larger history of late twentieth century American politics. The GI coffeehouse movement constituted an important institutional component of the GI movement and the wider landscape of antiwar resistance and political activism in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As fundamentally cultural institutions with explicit political goals, GI coffeehouses bridged the often wide gap between the civilian antiwar movement and the American military, and in doing so ignited a significant amount of controversy that included many incidents of violent retaliation. The study concludes by examining the deep shifts in military policy that took place during the period immediately following the Vietnam War, contextualizing the impact of the era's social, political, and cultural turmoil on both the nation's military and the society it serves.

  • Banditry and Politics in Puebla, 1846-1848: The Contra-guerrilla of Manuel Domínguez and the Mexican-American War

    Author:
    Adriana Perez
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Alfonso Quiroz
    Abstract:

    In the midst of the war between the United States and Mexico (1846--1848) a group of Mexicans from the state of Puebla began to work for the U.S. army as spies, couriers and fighters. The group operated under the leadership of Puebla's famous highwayman Manuel Domínguez, "El Chato." U.S. officials called this group the Mexican Spy Company, while contemporary Mexicans named Domínguez's band contra-guerrilla poblana. Given the collaborationist nature of the counter-guerrilla it comes as no surprise that Mexicans and Americans alike still remember Domínguez and his followers as no more than criminals and traitors, unnatural Mexicans who betrayed their homeland in its darkest hour. I argue, however, that the contra-guerrilla can be seen as an example of popular political action. Evidence suggests that, on the one had, the activity of the contra-guerrilla seems to have been anchored in a desire to exercise power. On the other, the contra-guerrilla deliberately challenged governmental authority. Overt violence perpetrated against fellow Mexicans was the way in which the contra-guerrilla made its claims public. Although the study of popular violence concerns both the scholarship on banditry and the scholarship on popular politics, these fields remain disconnected. Scholars still debate whether or not banditry can be considered political while those who study popular politics often overlook popular mobilizations not tied to formal or high politics. As a result, we continue to misunderstand phenomena that do not fit neatly into either area of study. The contra-guerrilla is a case in point. This dissertation draws on Charles Tilly's theory of collective violence to revise dominant conceptualizations of banditry which tend to deny it a political dimension.

  • To Break Down the Walls: The Politics and Culture of Greenwich Village, 1955-1965

    Author:
    Stephen Petrus
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Thomas Kessner
    Abstract:

    More than simply a bohemian sanctuary during an age of conformity, Greenwich Village was a locus of resistance to the dominant political and cultural order in the 1950s. Probably the most famous neighborhood in the nation, the Village possessed abundant resources to advance fresh agendas of reformers, radicals, and artists. Community engagement in politics and the arts distinguished the lower Manhattan neighborhood. The period from 1955 to 1965 in particular witnessed an outburst of activism and creativity. This study analyzes the local institutions that nourished alternative or oppositional ideas, ways, and practices, focusing on the Village Voice, Judson Memorial Church, the Village Independent Democrats, and the Living Theatre. Skepticism of authority, both political and cultural, pervaded Greenwich Village. In an era when the principles and practices of modern urban planning and bossism shaped New York life, Villagers expressed resentment toward powerful individuals who were dismissive of community opinion. Neighborhood residents questioned the notion of a "professional" dictating policy from above and maintained that efficient municipal politics and urban redevelopment depended upon citizen involvement at the local level. In the cultural realm, Village artists were similarly dubious of the idea of professionalism. Theatermakers and filmmakers, respectively, disavowed established methods on Broadway and in Hollywood. Though neighborhood artists differed widely in views and methods, several trends characterized the area scene. Village artists demolished hierarchies, leveling differences between highbrow and lowbrow entertainment, between the serious and the playful. They borrowed copiously from a range of sources, from classical art to popular culture, finding value not only in the sublime but also in camp. Eclectic in outlook, they developed pastiches from literary, musical, and theatrical texts. The results of the civic participation and artistic innovation were remarkable. Village reformers led movements that restructured urban planning, Democratic Party politics, and narcotics policy. Village artists and their allies redefined the use of public space. They transformed performance art and visual art. The developments influenced national politics and culture. In the 1950s and 1960s, Villagers fueled an age of idealism, laid the groundwork for the counterculture, and contributed to the formation of the New Left.

  • Standard Bearers of Liberty and Equality: Reinterpreting the Origins of American Abolitionism

    Author:
    Paul Polgar
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    James Oakes
    Abstract:

    America's first abolitionists sought a rights revolution for a people who for centuries had been viewed as little more than chattel objects. But the story of the sweeping challenge these reformers posed to slavery and black inequality remains untold. A generation of scholarship on the first emancipation has demonstrated the gradual and incomplete nature of African American liberation in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century North. In turn, historians have interpreted both gradual emancipation and those activists who advocated for it as inherently conservative. Between tenacious slaveholder resistance to their slaves' liberty and white skepticism about the merits of black freedom, abolitionists faced daunting obstacles to ending slavery in Post-Revolutionary America. Yet it was these very obstacles that generated the early national abolition societies' racially progressive approach to reform. By seeking to obtain and enforce antislavery laws, guard and expand the rights of illegally enslaved and free blacks, uproot white prejudice, and overturn racial inequality through making African Americans virtuous citizens of the new republic, antislavery activists met the formidable barriers to emancipation with a cohesive vision of black freedom and equality. Early national abolitionism was designed to vanquish slavery through the joint enlightenment of black and white Americans. As gradual abolition laws and the implementation of black education and civic cultivation gave time for former slaves to be fitted into republican citizens, early national antislavery activists hoped to persuade a prejudiced white public to extend the egalitarian promises of Revolutionary ideology to the nation's African Americans. But by the end of the War of 1812, these reformers discovered that prejudice was hardening and the problem of slavery was becoming overshadowed by the problem of race. Nothing embodied this shift more fully than the founding of the American Colonization Society. Colonizationists viewed white prejudice as unconquerable and therefore the incorporation of free blacks into the body politic as an impossibility. When immediate abolitionists emerged they linked gradualism with colonization and labeled both reactionary and exclusionist, thus erasing the racially progressive origins of gradual abolitionism that this dissertation aims to recapture.

  • A Race Against Time: Governing Femininity and Reproducing the Future in Revolutionary Iraq, 1945-63

    Author:
    Sara Pursley
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Beth Baron
    Abstract:

    This dissertation rethinks the Iraqi revolution of 1958 and the post-World War II era leading up to it through the lens of gender and family reform, in particular by examining the relation between such reforms and various conceptions of temporality, both secular and Islamic. Engaging critically with Lee Edelman's notion of "reproductive futurism" as a hegemonic political imaginary of modernity, I argue that projects to cultivate modern feminine domesticities in Iraq during this era were linked to larger depoliticizing and disciplinary mechanisms that sought to stabilize the political present in the name of an ever-receding economic future. Sexual difference and the fantasy of the child as the embodiment of the nation's future development were keys to this process. Gender and family reform efforts in this period were markedly different from earlier nationalist projects to cultivate feminine domesticity in the Middle East, shifts that were related to the expansion of public schooling to the lower classes; new understandings of pedagogy, psychology, and child development and new global knowledge networks through which such understandings traveled; ruptures in conceptions of historical time and generational time; the rise of the United States as a superpower; and the dawn of the Cold War and the "age of development" after 1945. Yet the family-reform efforts I examine were not instances of a universal and linear modernization process; they were shaped by, and often direct responses to, local forces of upheaval, including rural rebellions connected to the agrarian crisis and the widespread political mobilization and radicalization of youth in the postwar era. They also ran up against local modes of life and networks of solidarity, Islamic and otherwise, that were not organized according to the child-centered, future-directed, and present-freezing logic of family reform in the age of development.

  • Glory and Infamy: Making the Memory of Duke Alessandro de' Medici in Renaissance Florence

    Author:
    Tracy Robey
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Margaret King
    Abstract:

    Duke Alessandro de' Medici (1512-1537, r. 1531-1537) was the victim of a previously unknown and far-reaching conspiracy to condemn him in posthumous histories and erase him from the archives of Florence. This cultural manipulation cast Duke Alessandro for the past 500 years as a tyrant, murderer, and rapist of nuns. The case study of how later dukes, historians, and archivists defamed Alessandro de' Medici illustrates the ways people made and destroyed memory in sixteenth-century Florence. The first chapter outlines the negative statements made about Duke Alessandro in the major histories that discuss his reign. The second chapter explores the political affiliations of the contemporary authors who wrote the histories used in the first chapter. I show that the historians' opposition to Alessandro's rule during his lifetime influenced what they eventually wrote about the Duke in their histories--a fact overlooked by scholars, who tend to almost wholly rely on the histories. The third chapter outlines the neglected concept and practice of damnatio memoriae, or condemnation of memory, in the Renaissance. Using poems, paintings, and rumors, I demonstrate how unknown Florentines secretly marginalized the memory of Duke Alessandro using objects intended to commemorate him. The fourth chapter explores how Alessandro's successor, Duke Cosimo I de' Medici (1519-1574, r. 1537-1574), feuded with Alessandro during his life, and constructed the Florentine archives in such a way that Alessandro's reign is excluded from both the Medici family archives and Medici ducal archives. No corpus of archival documents exists that could correct the slander spread by the official historians. Anonymous citizens, politically-active historians, and later Medici Grand Dukes effectively obliterated all good memory of Duke Alessandro de' Medici within 100 years of his assassination.