Month: April 2019

History Department Inducts Nine Students into Phi Alpha Theta

From left: Bobby Hughes ‘20, Tyler Viger ’19, Matthew Bacon ‘20, Breda Holland ’20, Edward Frankonis ’19, Allison Reh ‘20, Dena Miller ’20, Harrison Morin ’19, Chapter Advisor Professor Sean Perrone, and PAT Member Sarah Hummel ’19 who inducted the new members. Not in photo: Maxwell Ernst ’19.

On Wednesday, April 3, 2019, the Saint Anselm College History Department inducted nine new members into the National History Honor Society Phi Alpha Theta in front of their parents and friends.

Phil Alpha Theta is a professional society whose mission is to promote the study of history through the encouragement of research, good teaching, publication, and the exchange of learning and ideas among historians. The society also seeks to bring students and teachers together for intellectual and social exchanges which promote and assist historical research and publication by members. There are 970 chapters and approximately 400,000 members in the United States. The Saint Anselm College Sigma Omega chapter was founded in 1972.

Undergraduate students must complete a minimum of 12 semester hours (4 courses) in History with a minimum History GPA of 3.1 and a 3.0 overall GPA. Members receive four issues of The Historian and are eligible to present research at one of 35 annual regional Phi Alpha Theta regional conferences. They can also apply for funding for undergraduate and graduate scholarships and prizes.

From left: Assistant Professor Sarah Hardin, Bobby Hughes ‘20, Tyler Viger ’19, Matthew Bacon ‘20, Breda Holland ’20, Edward Frankonis ’19, Professor Hugh Dubrulle, Allison Reh ‘20, Dena Miller ’20, Professor Sean Perrone, Harrison Morin ’19, and Associate Professor Silvia Shannon.

Professor Pajakowski Puts Hughes and Meissner to Work Researching Authoritarian Legal Systems

History students Bobby Hughes ‘20 and Nick Meissner ’20 have been working on a research project with Professor Phil Pajakowski to locate sources that he will use in his upcoming class on the legal history of authoritarian regimes. Employing library resources and online databases, Hughes and Meissner found primary and secondary sources that are pertinent to the subject of law in the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. These resources will be used by students in Professor Pajakowski’s class to conduct research of their own. One Thing after Another thought it would ask Professor Pajakowski about the research before turning eventually to Bobby and Nick.

Q: Tell me about the class on legal history you will be offering. 

Pajakowski: The class will be called Law and Dictatorship in the Twentieth Century. The theme is the function of law in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and the Soviet Union. In each country, law was an instrument of the absolute authority invested in an individual, Mussolini or Hitler, or the ruling party, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Whereas in modern society law normally functions as a binding set of rules obligatory for the government and all citizens, in dictatorships the function of law was different and requires exploration. The main question we ask is, why did these states retain extensive legal apparatuses when unrestricted power was concentrated in the hands of the rulers?

Q: How will these sources be used in the class? 

Pajakowski: The primary use of the sources will be to provide materials for students to write research papers. The source base Nick and Bobby have provided will help students determine reasonable subjects for research projects and give them a solid base for their papers.

Q: Will the students be researching different topics using the sources?

Pajakowski: Yes, the students can figure out ways to tailor projects to the available materials. I can imagine people doing comparative projects, work on particular aspects of the law in one of these countries, or taking broader views of social, political, cultural, or other issues that the law casts light on.

Q: What else will the students be doing/learning/researching in the class?

Pajakowski: Besides the term papers, we will use the law as a lens to examine these countries closely to see what legal sources can tell us about life under these forms of dictatorship. I would like for us to think closely about the protections law provides citizens in democratic societies and ways those legal safeguards can be eroded or misdirected.

Q: What other aspects of the class may these resources contribute to?

Pajakowski: They should be very helpful to me in preparing lectures, and we pull out particular documents or secondary readings to discuss in class.

Q: Do you have more than one class in mind that would use the sources? Will the sources contribute to any of your own research?

Pajakowski: I will use the bibliographies mainly in the new course, but the sources will also be useful for my Modern Germany and Modern Russia classes and also for my intro course, Law and Justice in European History.

Q: When do you think this class will be offered?

Pajakowski: I have sabbatical this coming fall, and I will devote some of my time to working on the new class. I hope to offer it in the 2020-21 academic year.

One Thing after Another next turned to Hughes and Meissner to ask them for their thoughts regarding their experiences.

Q: How difficult was it to locate relevant sources on Soviet/Nazi German legal history? Were there a wide variety of primary and secondary sources available?

Bobby: Finding sources was not too difficult. I thankfully had assistance from Professor Pajakowski and the history department’s librarian, Rebekah Dreyer, to help me find sources. It was mostly a matter of searching the internet and our library’s many databases––JSTOR and ProQuest in particular. I also found databases online that contained several primary sources.

Our school’s databases did not really help me in this respect, as they contained mostly secondary sources like scholarly articles. I really had to search the internet for primary sources, but I was able to find them.

There was a pretty even mix of primary and secondary source documents. I found most of the secondary sources on our school’s databases, primarily JSTOR and ProQuest. To find primary sources I really had to search the internet. I found one website called “Seventeen Moments in Soviet History” ( that had documents directly relating to the titular seventeen moments. I found another website titled which contained the philosophical writings of many Soviet legal philosophers and lawyers, such as Evgeny Pashukanis and Andrei Vyshinsky.

Nick: At first, it was a bit of a challenge finding relevant sources on Nazi legal history primarily because I had to distinguish between written law and hrerprinzip, or the “will of the Führer” aka Hitler. It was very common in the Third Reich for written law to become worthless paper if Hitler made it so; at the end, his was the final word. As I accessed online databases, however, I found a wide variety of primary and secondary documents that pertained to Nazi law.

Databases like JSTOR and a few reference books in the Geisel Library provided an abundance of primary and secondary sources on Nazi law. JSTOR, for example, provided over 1,000 search results for Nazi legal history alone.

Q: Was it difficult to find primary sources available in English?

Bobby: Oddly enough, no. Almost all of the primary sources I found were translated into English. There were only a few sources that were only in Russian, but these did not dramatically alter the course of my research. Whenever I ran into such a situation, I was able to find another law or primary source that echoed the exact same sentiments/concepts.

Nick: All of the primary and secondary sources I came across were either written in English or had already been translated to English. This even included primary source documents on the actual laws and decrees passed by the Nazis.

Q: What was most challenging about researching the sources? / How did you evaluate the sources you found?

Bobby: The hardest part of researching sources was evaluating whether or not certain sources were worth putting in my final draft of a source list. Thanks to the fact that the Soviets were insistent on creating and recording their new revolutionary form of law, there was no shortage of sources. This also meant that there were many sources that essentially echoed the same sentiments and many that were outright irrelevant to what I was researching.

I was assigned to researching the legal history of the Soviet Union, not the political history, so this meant I had to omit many of the sources that did not directly relate to legality. This isn’t to say that politics did not influence the legal system, they absolutely did, and such documents that expressed that sentiment I kept. I kept sources that explored legal philosophy in the Soviet system, laws, orders, speeches about law, criminal and civil justice, criminal and civil procedure, and secondary sources that directly addressed the legal system.

Nick: What I found most challenging was distinguishing between normative law (that which is written and accessed by the public) and prerogative law (decrees that weren’t accessed by the public, were mostly kept secret, and were passed by the organs of the Nazi state – the SS, Gestapo, SD – and not by civil servants). I discovered that in Nazi Germany, there existed this “grey zone” where written law was either mixed or nullified by decrees passed by security organizations and even Hitler himself. This took away the common perception of law as something people followed and never changed, even leaders; in the Third Reich, this never existed because law became subservient to party ideology and Hitler’s will.

Q: What did you find most interesting about the sources you located? Did anything surprise you?

Bobby: I think that what I found the most interesting about this project was its historiographical aspect. Throughout time we see non-Soviet scholars evaluate legalism in the Soviet Union differently. From the inception of the nation till about the 1960s, most American scholars described legalism in the Soviet Union as not really existing. They wrote that rule of law did not exist, and that the country was in a state of anarchy since it was subject to the will of the central committee and eventually to Stalin’s will (which was not entirely inaccurate). From the 60s and onwards, American scholars began to take a different approach. They recognized the flaws with the legal system, but it was a much more measured or balanced approach; the Soviet Union was no longer an evil anarchic state, but rather a deeply flawed state attempting to define what a socialist legal system ought to look like.

And on that note, I found it very surprising how similar, in theory, the legal system in the Soviet Union was to that of the United States. Of course the two legal systems emphasize radically different social values, the Soviet Union being more focused on the collective and the United States being more focused on the individual, but in many respects both systems, in theory, operated similarly. Contrary to popular belief, the Soviet Union was not a lawless state where the will of an iron-fisted leader had absolute control.

Stalin too, believe it or not, desired to create a legitimate socialist legal system. To do this he had to give the appearance that legality existed. Indeed to many outsiders, the show trials and the arrests of “traitors” appeared to be legitimate. Moreover the victims in theory had a form of due process—it was just that the framework of what appeared to be a legitimate criminal justice system was intimidated and coerced by Stalin. During and after Stalin’s reign, Soviet citizens had rights enumerated in a constitution; there were established criminal and civil procedures, methods for solving civil disputes, and a criminal justice system. The Soviet Union had staples of a legitimate criminal justice system like that of the United States. It was not, however, independent from the influence of the Communist party, and it emphasized socialist values.

Nick: Two things really surprised me in my research. I came across one document entitled “A Jewish Nature Preserve,” which analyzed an overlooked period in the history of the Nazis where Jews in Upper Silesia (in what is today western Poland) were subject to special minority protections that barred Nazi discrimination on the basis of religion. Between 1933 and 1937 the 10,000 German Jews living in Upper Silesia were not persecuted under the Nuremberg Race Laws like elsewhere in Germany. Another document entitled “Law and Justice in the Nazi SS” was about the SS and how this Nazi organization was able to manipulate its own judicial system – with special SS courts and judges – as separate from regular civilian and army courts.

Q: How has the research contributed to your studies as a history major?

Bobby: I’ve gained a much greater capacity of individual research as a result of this project. Much of the research that I had done before was very directed: I had a very distinct topic I would have to research, I had to pull a few sources that related directly to that topic, and then I was finished. With this project, however, it was very open-ended. I was given free rein to find sources for a broad topic. This project definitely taught me how to evaluate a large number of sources and to establish their relevance to a topic.

The material itself was very applicable to the class [on Modern Russia] I was taking at the time. It was kind of cool because as I was doing research, Professor Pajakowski was pointing out in class several themes across the history of the Soviet Union which aided me in understanding and finding sources. It was a mutually-reinforcing system. Professor Pajakowski spoke in class about how scholarly representations of the Soviet changed over time, and I noticed this change in historiography in the secondary sources I found. This project and the research skills it taught me, I feel, will help prepare me for my thesis next year.

Nick: The research on Nazi law has provided me with a whole new outlook on law and dictatorships. It also helped me become a better researcher in accessing online documents, using databases, and writing abstracts on sources. Overall, the research enhanced my interest in German history.

I truly had an interesting time researching Nazi legal history which is, after all, not as well known as Nazi military history or the history of Nazi racial policy. The hours I spend researching certainly applied to one of my classes, 20th Century Eastern Europe taught by Professor Pajakowski, because I saw how Nazi applied law to Nazi policies in Eastern Europe during World War II.

Be sure to keep an eye out for Professor Pajakowski’s upcoming class, Law and Dictatorship in the Twentieth Century.

The 5th New Hampshire Project Studies the Experiences of Civil War Veterans

As Professor Masur mentioned in his February post, the History Department has started an intermittent lecture series to “reach out to the campus community and give students a chance to learn about history outside of the classroom.” On March 25, it was Professor Dubrulle’s turn to deliver a talk about what he calls “The 5th New Hampshire Project” and some of the research he’s done recently to support a student project about the life outcome of 5th New Hampshire veterans after the Civil War was over. What follows is a shortened version of what he discussed.

The Origins of The 5th New Hampshire Project

I started the so-called “5th New Hampshire Project” (so-called by me) in the summer of 2017 when I knew that I’d be teaching History 352: The Civil War and Reconstruction in the spring of 2018. I wanted to create a New Hampshire-focused research project for students in that class. I eventually settled on the 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry as an object of study for two reasons. First, it is notorious for having suffered more combat fatalities than any other regiment in Union service during the Civil War. Second, although it was by no means a “typical regiment,” its experiences provide an ideal vehicle for exploring a wide variety of topics associated with the war. I eventually amassed a large collection of primary and secondary sources associated with the 5th New Hampshire so my students could research a number of different subjects.

As time went on, though, I realized that the project could do more than merely support the students in my Civil War course. For one thing, it could provide other students with opportunities to do research projects great and small. For another, as maintaining this collection and overseeing student research became more time-consuming, I realized that it would be increasingly difficult to keep a separate research agenda of my own. So I started thinking about making the 5th New Hampshire the subject of my next book. As it stands now, my general idea is that the book will use the regiment to explore various dimensions of the Civil War soldier’s experience. These dimensions would include subjects like recruitment (which itself would cover issues like the draft, substitution, and the use of immigrants), military leadership, discipline, the experience of combat, tactics, desertion, medical care, politics, relations with the home front, and so on. The plan also envisions tracing the experiences of men in the regiment from the antebellum period all the way through to their lives as veterans. Throughout, I will rely on the latest historiography to illuminate these experiences to produce a book that could be used in undergraduate courses.

Student Research and The 5th New Hampshire Project

So far, this project had relied on student research, and I hope to continue that tradition in the future. Back in the fall of 2017, the department kindly allocated four research assistants to assist me. Two of them, Caitlin Williamson ’19 and Lauren Batchelder ’18, transcribed soldiers’ letters for students’ use. Two others, Greg Valcourt ’19 and William Bearce ’19, took soldiers’ abbreviated service records that appeared in The Revised Register of the Soldiers and Sailors of New Hampshire in the War of the Rebellion. 1861-1866 (1895) and transferred them onto a sortable, searchable Excel file. This work was enormously helpful for me and the students in the Civil War class. Later, Josh Pratt ’22 transcribed more letters, Emma Bickford ’22 used various records to tabulate the casualties the 5th New Hampshire suffered at Antietam and figure out what happened to these men later on.

In addition, several students have approached me asking to use the material for larger research projects. Emily Lowe ’19 obtained a summer honors research fellowship in 2018 so she could use the regiment as a case study in the treatment of combat trauma. And Katherine Warth ’21 has approached me about doing a statistical study of the life outcomes of veterans of the 5th New Hampshire. It’s this last project I’d like to spend the remaining time discussing.

Veterans, Trauma, and the 5th New Hampshire

To quote Benedetto Croce, “All history is contemporary history.” Among scholars, interest in the experiences of Civil War veterans has really taken off in recent years. That interest probably has something to do with where the United States finds itself ourselves today; as a result of the two wars we’ve recently fought, we have large numbers of veterans with recent combat experience, and the American public seems especially aware of these veterans’ difficulties in adjusting to civilian life. So Katherine’s interests are congruent with those of contemporary scholars.

Using the 5th New Hampshire for this kind of study is especially interesting because the regiment lost a great number of men due to illness and combat. It suffered large numbers of casualties at five important battles: Fair Oaks, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and Cold Harbor. As the chart below indicates, of the original 1000 volunteers, very few emerged from the war unscathed.

Figure 1. (click for larger image): These figures cover the original thousand-some-odd volunteers who were mustered in around the middle of October 1861. The numbers are based on an Excel spreadsheet that was compiled using The Revised Register of the Soldiers and Sailors of New Hampshire in the War of the Rebellion. 1861-1866 (1895). The men mustered out in June 1862 belonged to the regimental band; they were sent home after the Seven Days’ Battles. Those mustered out in October 1864 had completed their three-year term of service and had not re-enlisted. Note that 30% of the original volunteers did not survive the war. Moreover, almost half of them received disabled discharges due to wounds or illness. 

For a variety of reasons, I think these numbers, which come from the Revised Register, undercount the number of casualties. Whatever the case, the question Katherine and I have is, what effect did this kind of physical and psychological trauma have on veterans’ lives after the war?

The Data and the Sample

First we had to figure out how to go about doing a study of this sort. Over the course of the war, 2500 men served in the 5th New Hampshire, and we just don’t have the man- or woman-hours to look through all of their lives, so we had to make our pool of soldiers manageable. I decided to that we ought to look at the original 1000 volunteers. First, it was a good way of limiting our task and, second, this group would be easier to trace than the substitutes who flooded the regiment in 1863 and after (many of whom were foreign-born and many of whom deserted).

I then asked Professor Tauna Sisco in the Sociology Department, the Queen of Statistics, how big of a pool I would need to get a representative sample. She said 300. So I decided I’d have to select every second man on an alphabetical list, knowing I’d have to skip a large number who died in the service (roughly 270). I’m happy to report that as of the date of this talk, I’ve collected biographical information on 100 men, and I have some preliminary findings to share. At the rate I’m going, I’ll end up looking at about 380 men.

You might well ask, what kind of data are you using, and how do you get access to it? I’ve got a free Family Search account, and using that, I can find the following documents: census records, enlistment papers, pension index cards, pension payment forms, marriage records, birth records, records of town payments to the families of soldiers during the war, death records and certificates, records from the National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, and so on. I can’t find every type of record for every man, but I’ve been able to piece together pretty decent biographies on just about everyone.

For this talk, I mined the biographies for three types of information: lifespan, cause of death, and crude social mobility as measured by occupation upon enlistment versus terminal occupation. I have far more information than that, but I thought these three topics would be interesting. The following, then, are raw data coupled with some very sketchy hypotheses. And, of course, more questions.

The first question worth asking is: “How representative is our sample so far?” The sample seems fairly representative of the regiment. To name one example, the percentage of native-born Americans among the original 1000 volunteers was 88%; in my sample, it’s 92%. And as you can see from the graphic below, in some important ways, the sample actually seems representative of Northern soldiers in general. For those who are interested, by the way, the average age of my sample upon enlistment was 24, and the average height was 5’8”, both of which are pretty much in keeping with Northern norms.

Life Outcomes: Lifespan

So let us take a look at lifespan. The average lifespan of the men in my sample was 65.6 years. It’s hard to understand the significance of that figure. There is a debate among demographers over the life expectancy of the Civil War generation, so I can’t quite place this figure. On the one hand, it sounds impressive when you take into account that almost two-fifths of these men had been shot and around half of them had obtained a disabled discharge from the army. On the other, it doesn’t sound quite as impressive when you consider that life expectancy for men in this period was dragged down largely by infant mortality—if you made it to 20, you had a good chance of living to your 60s.

We should remember in this context, too, that lifespan is only a very crude measure of health. It says nothing about the quality of life. The Veterans Census of 1890 reveals a number of veterans then in their 50s living with painful old wounds or chronic illnesses contracted in the army.

Life Outcomes: Death

And that brings us to death—what killed these men, and what do their deaths say about their lives? Out of the 100, I found 61 causes of death.

We’d have to compare this list to normal causes of death at the turn of the century, but several things stand out. The number of deaths related to alcohol looks rather high. It’s hard to nail down a precise figure because in addition to the veterans who clearly died from the effects of alcoholism, you have a number who may have died of diseases associated with the overconsumption of alcohol or expired under circumstances that may lead one to think they were alcoholics (e.g. deaths from liver cancer, congestion of the liver, a five-day drinking spree, and so on). The number of suicides also seem fairly high, and I have a sense that such causes of death may have been underreported.

It is interesting to see the number of old people’s diseases on this list—a reflection of the fact that a fair proportion of the sample died in old age (38 of the 90 men for whom I found both birth and death dates lived past the age of 70).

Life Outcomes: Social Mobility

Before you die, you do things like hold a job down, and that job says something about how successful you are. In 96 cases, I found the occupation of enlistees in 1861, and for 81 of those men, I located information about the last job they held before they retired or died.

Figure 2. (click for larger image): The majority of the occupations listed on this chart were self-reported on enlistment forms in 1861. The US Sanitary Commission figures come from a survey that was conducted among over 600,000 Northern soldiers during the war. There are some very good matches between the sample of men from the 5th New Hampshire and the US Sanitary Commission Figures (e.g see farmers). 

Of the 81 cases where I found sufficient information to make a judgment, in only 8 cases did a veteran experience downward social mobility. Overall, if we look at the question broadly (that is, what percentage of men fit in which general category) there appears to be palpable positive social mobility. It’s hard to say what these results indicate. To what extent are changes in occupation a matter of one’s doing and to what degree are they a function of a changing economy? And how much of this outcome was influenced by the war experience? Part of the problem is that we have no control group; an entire generation of Northern men served in the war, so it’s hard measure the veterans of the 5th New Hampshire against other men of the same age. But some economic historians have controlled for this type of problem, and we’ll have to see how they did it.

Figure 3. (click for larger image): These pie charts compare the occupations of enlistees in 1861 with the terminal occupations of veterans after the war. Note the degree to which the proportion of professionals and owners of capital increased—from under 30% to just over half. Notice too that the proportion of unskilled/semi-skilled laborers fell from almost 45% to under 30%. In general, veterans of the 5th New Hampshire enjoyed upward social mobility, but how did it compare with Northern men as a whole during this period?


There are a lot of problems with looking at life outcomes statistically. Statistics can only tell you about correlations, not causes. Causes have to be determined on an individual level—and even then, the case is difficult. Moreover, if we are determined to look at veterans’ post-war experiences through the lens of war trauma, we run the risk of suffering from the worst kind of confirmation bias. Statistics cannot tell the whole story—they always must be supplemented by other evidence (such as, say, the letters of James Larkin, pictured above, who worked his way up from 1st Lieutenant in Company A to Lieutenant Colonel of the 5th New Hampshire; photo courtesy of David Morin). So as Katherine and I forge ahead on this project, we will look at more primary and secondary sources to shed light on the statistical analysis of veterans’ experiences.