March 07, 2012

History in Action: The 15th Annual Student History Conference at Ball State University

On Friday, February 24, 2012, the Ball State University History department hosted its 15th Annual Student History Conference. This year’s speaker, Dr. Jeremy Popkin of the University of Kentucky was invited because of his reputation in the field of French history and particularly because his book, You Are All Free: The Haitian Revolution and the Abolition of Slavery, received the David Pinkney Prize. This prize is awarded annually by the Society for French Historical Studies for the best book on French history published by a North American scholar. His presentation titled “Stories of Saint-Domingue, Stories of Haiti, Stories of the Modern World,” was intriguing on a variety of levels, and relatable to most topics studied by all of the history students.

The conference consisted of various panels, ranging from “Of Cats and ‘Irishmen’: Domesticating Wildness” to “Czarinas, Dictators, and their Challengers.” These panel sessions allowed students to explore the diverse research of Ball State’s History faculty and their fellow undergraduate and graduate students. It was also a great experience for the students who presented. Nancy Lee Clark, a first year graduate student, presented on the origins of the Boy Scouts and how it was primarily a way to take assist young men who were not equipped to deal with the rigors of war. She argued that Robert Baden Powell, a career army man, designed the Boy Scouts to prepare young men to serve in the military and die for God, king and empire. She presented alongside Michael Chudzinski and Timothy C. Rainesalo in the panel “Of Boys and Men: Masculinity, Military Service, and Propaganda in World War One Era Britain.” They indicated that the blending of topics into one, organized discussion was “a great experience – and has made the three of us better prepared” for future professional endeavors.

Dr. Rene Marion, then an Assistant Professor of History in the department organized the first Student History Conference (SHC). The annual Dorothy J. and Richard W. Burkhardt Lecture was moved to the last Friday in February so that it could serve as the keynote lecture in a plenary session of the SHC. Dr. Richard W. Burkhardt specialized in modern European history and Dorothy Burkhardt taught French in the Dept. of Modern Languages. After they retired, their three adult children (including Dr. Richard W. [Chip] Burkhardt, Jr., a Prof. Emeritus of History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) endowed an annual lecture in honor of their parents a specifically related to the topic of French history and culture broadly conceived.

Eric Spall, BSU M.A. candidate in History, won the award for Best Graduate Paper, entitled, “Leisler’s Rebellion Revisited.”

Joseph Bodley, University of Western Ontario B.A. candidate in History, won the Best Undergraduate World History Paper, entitled “The Noble Radical: Alexander Radishchev and the Culmination of Eighteenth Century Enlightenment thought in Russia.”

Ms. Shira Lurie, University of Western Ontario B.A. candidate in History, won the award for best Undergraduate U.S. paper, entitled “Loading the Dice: Gambling and the Constraint of Chance in Colonial Virginia.”

Photos documenting the 15th annual SHC will be uploaded to the History Department’s Facebook page.

-Blogger Maggie Cude, SPO & Graduate School Graduate Assistant

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