On Thursday, November 18, 2021–the Thursday before Thanksgiving–State Historian and UConn Professor Walt Woodward and Professor Manisha Sinha gave testimony before the Connecticut state legislature on the John Mason statue at the State Capitol. John Mason, considered a founder of the Connecticut colony, set fire to a Pequot community in 1637, claiming the lives of at least 400 people. Anthropologists, members of the Mohegan, Eastern Pequot, Mashantucket tribes, and a descendant of John Mason convened for over 2 hours to discuss the removal of his statue. This discussion examined the complexities of history, memory, symbolism, and the violence integral to the story of the making of the United States. Professor Woodward and Professor Sinha grappled with the meaning of the statues t for the teaching and remembering of history. Both are cited in this excellent CT Mirror article that recaps the state session. Prof. Walt Woodward is also quoted in the December 11 issue of The Economist, in the article “How the culture wars can show what’s right with America.”
UConn ’21 graduate Michael Francomano worked with UConn History Professor Alexis Dudden on their senior thesis that explores the legal discourses around nuclear weapons in the twentieth century. A job well done!
Michael Francomano, “The Influence of the United States on Nuclear Laws”
Thesis Advisor: Alexis Dudden
The United States government has influenced the laws surrounding the use of nuclear weapons from the moment of their first use against a civilian population in 1945. These efforts include countless measures taken to absolve the United States from responsibility for their actions. This is especially seen in the Marshall Islands where US government efforts to abjure legal responsibility to help those directly impacted by radioactive fallout resulting from weapons testing between 1945 and 1962 abound as do efforts to attend the natives that were completely displaced from their home islands destroyed in the name of nuclear testing. These actions span to current day warfare. In so doing, the United States government defies international laws prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons in war in the form of armor piercing rounds of munitions made out of depleted uranium (used as recently as 2015 in Syria). The legality of these weapons is something that remains a gray area in international law, and a major contributor to that is the fact that the United States has used its power and history with nuclear weapons to influence the creation of new precedents and disregard the laws that have already been in place.
UConn ’21 graduate Michael Fox worked with UConn History Professor Meredith Rusoff on their senior thesis that explores freedom of speech in early modern England. A job well done!
Michael Fox, ““A Strange Thing for the Foot to Guide the Head”: Freedom of Speech in Elizabethan Parliaments
Thesis Advisor: Meredith Rusoff
Freedom of speech is a right that many in the United States, and the Western world, take for granted as something that is critical for any modern democratic society to function. However, this has not been the case for the vast majority of Western, and human, history. It is during the early-modern period, specifically the Enlightenment, that concepts such as freedom of speech were developed, and eventually became fully encoded in law. Britain, more specifically England, led the way in the development of freedom of speech within its Parliament, and the practice of common law. Similar to how the government itself evolved in England, so too did its concept of what rights and liberties could be exercised.
Tomorrow, our colleague Robert Gross, Draper Chair of Early American History Emeritus, is publishing with Farrar, Straus & Giroux his long-awaited history of Emerson, Thoreau and their circle in Concord: The Transcendentalists and Their World. A lovely first review came out in the Wall Street Journal a few days ago, with many more surely on the way.
There will also be many talks about the book in the coming weeks, starting with a book launch at the Boston Public Library on November 9. A list follows below.
The New York Times has once again turned to UConn History Professor Micki McElya for her insights into the national politics of mourning, memorials, and memory. In a recent piece on The Tomb of the Unknowns–scheduled for public opening for the first time in 73 years this week–Prof. McElya indicates that “Arlington became a site that every single American can claim a relationship to,” in large part because of the tomb. In the article, Prof. McElya details the debates about veteran burial and remembrance, culminating in this tomb functioning as a political symbol imbued with ever-changing meanings about military service and leadership. Read more in the excellent NYT article and consider taking a look at Prof. McElya’s award-winning book, The Politics of Mourning: Death and Honor in Arlington National Cemetery.
UConn History Professor Fiona Vernal delivered a talk on Shade Tobacco Stories: Land, Labor, and Immigration in the CT Tobacco Valley. As a part of Capitol Community College’s virtual history heritage series, Prof. Vernal gives us a deeper appreciation of the local histories that go forgotten between the larger national stories that influence yet take center stage in the narratives we tell about the past. She illustrates the connections and collaborations that people of West Indian, Caribbean, and African descent fostered as they labored and organized to create political communities and social networks. The making of tobacco culture in CT is one that Prof. Vernal details with passion and dedication.
Listen to her talk on the CT Old State House page and read this Hartford Courant article that chronicles the work of historians throughout the region laboring to bring the history of Hartford and its surrounding areas to the fore. The whole series is on the CT Old State House page!
UConn ’21 graduate Elisabeth Bienvenue worked with UConn History Professor Nancy Shoemaker on their senior thesis that explored music and culture among New Englanders of Franco American descent. A job well done!
Elisabeth Bienvenue, “La Vie en Chant: The Role of Songbooks in Twentieth Century Franco-American Survivance”
Thesis Advisor: Nancy Shoemaker
The Chants Populaires des Franco-Américains were a collection of songbooks published by the Union Saint-Jean-Baptiste d’Amérique in Woonsocket, Rhode Island from 1929-1962. These songbooks should be considered as part of “la survivance” (“the survival”), a mindset in which the Franco-Americans of New England sought to preserve the French language, Catholic faith, and cultural ties to Quebec and Acadia in future generations. This paper argues that survivance was both a political and cultural phenomenon and that while the politicized survivance movement fell out of favor after the divisive reform effort known as the Sentinelle Affair ended in 1928, the cultural aspects of survivance endured for several more decades. While the songbooks serve as a powerful example of the importance of music and culture among Franco-Americans of the twentieth century, the songbooks themselves did not survive in mass distribution, but they successfully contributed to the movement to create a cultural legacy among New Englanders of Franco-American descent.
Between November 11-12, UConn History will host Emory Professor Mariana P. Candido as a part of the annual Gender & History Series. Professor Candido’s training is in African history, and her work explores gender, property, and land in Angola. Professor Candido will discuss her research in a public lecture and workshop:
Thursday, November 11
Public Lecture | Storrs Campus, Class of ’47 Room in Homer Babbidge Library | 4:30-6pm
“Wealth and Accumulation in Angola: A History of Dispossession and Inequality”
Friday, November 12
Workshop | Storrs Campus, Wood Hall Basement Lounge | 10-11:30am
“Gendered Strategies to Secure Property in 19th century Angola”
*(a pre-circulated paper is available – email Cornelia Dayton at email@example.com)