Research

History Majors Present at Phi Alpha Theta Conference

On Saturday, November 23, three Saint Anselm College students joined 41 other history majors from 15 New England colleges and universities at Salem State University to present their research at the Phi Alpha Theta New England Regional Conference.  One Thing After Another caught up with Maria Gregor, Dena Miller, and Nicholas Meissner to ask them about the experience.

Maria Gregor ’21

Q: What was your presentation about?

A: I presented my research seminar thesis which argues that Renaissance courtesans were early feminists who have been omitted from the feminist narrative. The poetry of the likes of renowned Venetian courtesan Veronica Franco are not only left out of the narrative of Renaissance history, but from the history of feminist writings. I believe that this omission indicates that courtesan women were excluded from academia and the category of feminist literature due to scholars’ disproportionate fixation on their sex work rather than their scholarly achievements.

Q: What was it like to present your research at an academic conference? 

A: I greatly enjoyed presenting at Phi Alpha Theta, and it was interesting to hear the research topics inside and outside of my own panel. My panelwas focused on gender and race in Early Modern Europe, and all of the topics presented during this segment were linked by rampant negative assumptions about specific groups of people [Spanish colonists, women, courtesans]. Talking with other students outside of my own college gave me the opportunity to gain additional perspectives on my research and re-evaluate the most effective aspects of my thesis.

Dena Miller ’20

Q: On what did you present?

A: I presented my senior thesis, “Mary of Hungary and the Political Manipulation of Gendered Assumptions.”

Q: What did you think of the conference? 

A: Initially, the idea of presenting my research at a conference was intimidating but once the program began, I didn’t feel that way anymore. Instead, it was interesting. It was cool to hear from other undergraduate students about their research. There was a supportive atmosphere because we all knew what it took to produce research papers of this sort. When I got up to give my presentation, I didn’t feel like I was being judged, as I was afraid I was going to be. I don’t know if I would do it again, but I do value the experience of presenting and showing off what I have worked so hard on.

Nick Meissner ’20

Q: What was the topic of your presentation?

A: I presented my history thesis on the involvement of the United States in the Guatemalan Civil War between 1965 and 1968. During these years, officials in the State Department, Office of Public Safety (a bureau to the USAID), and the CIA-trained the Guatemalan police and military in counterinsurgency warfare. The result was state-sanctioned terrorism with right-wing death squads, indiscriminate violence committed by government forces in the countryside, and selective violence practiced by the police via an efficient archive system.

What was it like to share your research at an academic conference?

I found it very engaging to share the results of my research with other history students from different colleges and universities. It was personally intriguing to be placed in a discussion group whose members presented theses with similar stories of American political and/or economic imperialism in the post-war world (i.e. Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, Cuba before 1959). We were all able to connect our arguments into a larger historical trend of foreign interventionism abroad during the Cold War.

Moore and Small Study the Relationship between Guns and Evangelicals

Last academic year, Professor Andy Moore obtained a summer research grant from Saint Anselm College’s Center for Ethics in Business and Governance. Moore used part of the grant to pay History major William Small ‘22 a stipend to serve as a research assistant. One Thing after Another asked them about the project on which they worked together.

The blog first asked Professor Moore some questions.

Q: Please tell us about your research topic.

A: Within the past couple of years, I started to notice a public and very distinctive relationship between Protestant evangelicals and the gun rights movement. This project explores that relationship both historically and in its current state. So in a sense, I am exploring the 21st-century culture wars and the nature of the conservative movement now. If we created a Venn diagram of the people I will be studying, there would be considerable overlap between Protestant evangelicals and gun rights supporters. Both groups are politically conservative, both tend to come from rural areas or the South, and both supported Donald Trump by overwhelming majorities in 2016. Beyond simply acknowledging the overlap, however, I hope to tease out some of the theological underpinnings of these evangelicals’ connection to guns and the Second Amendment.

Q: How did a historian come to work with the Center for Ethics in Business and Governance?

A: I have been developing a new course called “Guns in America” that I am teaching for the first time this fall. As part of my interest in guns, I started to notice these examples of Protestant evangelicals closely aligning themselves with gun rights, the National Rifle Association, and defending the Second Amendment. I started to collect news accounts and other sources about this trend, thinking I might come back to it at some point after I finished other projects that I have been working on for a long time.

When the Center for Ethics in Business and Governance (CEBG) announced its summer research grant, I started thinking about the ethical questions inherent in this topic. Because I think this could be a great opportunity to engage in interdisciplinary conversation with another discipline, I reconsidered the project in light of the CEBG’s mission. A good friend who is an ethicist critiqued my original proposal for me, so even in writing the proposal I have engaged in interdisciplinary conversation.

For me, one aspect of the grant that made it attractive was the opportunity to work with a student researcher. Will Small agreed to work with me this summer to track down and analyze sources. Last year, Will had helped me locate primary sources to use in my new course, “Guns in America,” so this gave the chance for us to continue that research and take it in a different direction.

Q: What types of sources were available for this project?

A: Will found a lot of online sources that were relevant. Those include news stories from both Christian and secular publications, as well as blog entries and discussion forums by activists on both sides and by people who have given this issue some theological thought. Also, I visited the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives in Nashville, Tennessee. The Southern Baptists are the largest evangelical denomination, and they have leadership that has been increasingly political the past 40 years. There I found official church publications and letters from lay Southern Baptists from all over the country about gun rights and gun control. About 20 years ago, there was a mass church shooting at a Baptist church in Fort Worth, Texas. I found some information about that shooting and its aftermath.

Q: Given the controversial nature of gun rights in the United States, have you envisioned opening up the discussion of them to Saint Anselm students in any way? If so, how?

A: I hope so. The research grant requires a public presentation of the research. I hope that proves to be an opportunity to engage with students—or anyone with an interest in guns and gun-related issue—in a fruitful dialogue about a controversial topic.

 Q: Besides the public presentation, what are the goals of this research?

A: I hope that an academic journal article will be the ultimate product of this research. By the end of the year, I expect Will and I to have a serviceable article manuscript that we can begin to shop around to potential journals for feedback and eventual publication.

Next, One Thing after Another turned to Will Small for some questions.

Q: What was your experience doing research over the summer? What skills did you develop? 

 A: I was allotted approximately 125 hours of work over the summer, so I decided to schedule this number out to encompass the entire season rather than front or back-load it all. I ended up with a routine that involved working two hours a day every week, minus weekends. Towards August, though, I began to work three hours every other day, including weekends, as I felt that it fit my schedule better. I found, as probably is to be expected, that digging up new materials on the topic was more engaging than taking detailed notes on what I had already found. Throughout the project, I was able to develop efficient methods of online research and further my knowledge use of the college’s databases. I was also able to put some analytical thought into action in attempting to figure out how all of these pieces of research fit into the larger narrative of American or evangelical history or culture.

 Q: Did anything surprise you during this research?

A: As Professor Moore mentioned, the majority of my research involved finding and taking notes on newspapers or other editorial articles that expressed a Christian perspective on gun rights. Surprisingly, much of what I found from evangelical authors supported a more restricted view of gun rights, especially from the Reverend Robert Schenck, president of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute and a faith consultant for many officials in Washington, D.C. In fact, according to an August 2017 survey by the National Association of Evangelicals (https://www.nae.net/evangelical-leaders-own-guns-but-want-stricter-laws/), although 58% of evangelical leaders live in a home with guns, 55% of them also support stricter gun laws. I was not expecting the sheer volume of pro-gun control (or gun safety, as some prefer to call it) evangelical writings. Additionally, in rifling through public forums, I was a little surprised to find how common concealed carrying in churches is in some places in America. Since I had never come across this phenomenon in my daily life or given it much thought, it was interesting to find a way that others in the country lived differently.

Gibb Reads Spain’s Early Modern History

As History major Nelson Gibb ’21 returns to campus, One Thing after Another decided to ask him about his experience learning paleography (that is, deciphering old handwriting) and transcribing sixteenth-century Spanish documents from the Archivo General de Simancas over the summer for Professor Perrone. Gibb obliged us in this thoughtful interview.

Q: How did you learn paleography?

A: I learned paleography both with the help of Professor Perrone and an online course that covered the basics of the subject. This course, through the website Coursera, highlighted basic steps one should take when presented with a document. It also gave a general overview of the history of medieval Spain which was the period these documents were from. Spending much time in Professor Perrone’s office going over every letter of every document as well as refining my skills throughout the entire summer has made me feel confident in the art of paleography.

Q: What were the challenges of transcribing sixteenth-century documents?

A: By far, the hardest thing about transcribing such documents was the penmanship of the various writers and scribes I was presented with. Each writer had a different writing style from the next, and getting used to each of them was certainly very hard. Another challenge was that these documents featured many abbreviations which could be dealt with only by keeping a list of all of their meanings. Very often I would come across a few letters or even just a symbol that the original scribe had written to avoid writing common words and place names too often; these all had to be memorized or written down. Obviously working 130 hours on this project as well was challenging, as sorting through so much data at times became tedious. Overall, however, I would not trade the experience, and I am very glad that I was able to help with this project.

Q: What did you find most interesting about the archival documents? Did anything surprise you?

A: What was most interesting to me was how thorough the scribes were about their discounting. These documents were filled with very specific amounts that certain monasteries had been discounted—as well as the very date that certain transactions had taken place. I was surprised by how important this information must have been to those who organized and received it. I also appreciated the occasional 500-year-old doodle on the sides of some pages done by the original scribes.

Q: What do you believe you gained from transcribing documents for a data base? What did you learn about Spanish history from using digital images of original sources?

A: I believe that by having the opportunity to transcribe these documents I have learned how to identify early modern Spanish abbreviations, better recognize long strings of Roman numerals, and apply myself for long hours at a time to a project with great significance. Obviously, the online course taught me a lot about the history of medieval and early modern Spain, but nothing could compare to the in-depth look that this paleography project gave me.

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

A: The medieval and early modern periods in Europe have always been very interesting to me, and this subject allowed me to fully invest myself in the day-to-day life of sixteenth-century scribes. There is something awe-inspiring about not only learning about this time period, but immersing oneself in it. The idea that these documents have not been transcribed by anybody before now is also very humbling. I feel that my knowledge of day-to-day affairs in early modern Spain has been deepened, and to look this closely at history is something that I had always hoped my college career would prepare me for. I will also be touring Spain with the Saint Anselm College Choir in the spring, and I look forward to gaining an even deeper understanding of the places and names that popped up often in the documents.

Q: What made you decide to be a history major?

A: I actually started my freshman year as theology major, but I always knew that the history of theology was what truly interested me more than anything else. Because of this, I tended to be more engaged in theology courses that discussed the history of the Hebrews or Christians, or of the church itself. With the help of many amazing history professors, I realized that I could combine history and theology by majoring in one and minoring in the other. Before I had officially switched majors, I took Origins of European Civilization with Professor Perrone and Asian Civilization with Professor Masur. These two classes confirmed that history was what I was truly passionate about, and I am grateful that I have been able to focus heavily on it as well as theology.

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” (soviethistory.msu.edu) that had documents directly relating to the titular seventeen moments. I found another website titled Marxists.org 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?

Conclusion

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.

Professor Moore Puts Research Assistants Warth and Small to Work

Over the course of the 2018-2019 academic year, the History Department has continued to provide opportunities for a number of its majors to serve as paid research assistants for professors engaged in a variety of tasks. One Thing after Another thought it would ask Professor Andy Moore about the work to which he put his research assistants this year. American Studies major Katherine Warth ’21 (left) assisted with research on Moore’s forthcoming biography of Jimmy Carter while History major Will Small ’21 (right) helped collect material for a course that Moore will teach this fall: Guns in America.

Q: Could you tell us a little more about the purpose and focus of these research projects?

A: The Jimmy Carter research has been ongoing for a long time. Many years ago I agreed to write a biography of him for Louisiana State University Press.  Other projects and family obligations have slowed my progress almost to a standstill. The Carter Library in Atlanta, Georgia doesn’t really have any archival material from his post-presidential life.  But he has had a productive life since he left the White House—some would argue more productive than when he was in the White House—and he is still alive and active. So Katherine is trying to round up research material about that part of his life. The guns research originated in a personal interest in guns—an interest I’ve had since childhood. Probably a year or so ago, I decided that guns would make an interesting course—especially for non-History majors, who need to a historical reasoning course. I read enough secondary sources to know what the overall course narrative and the key themes should be, but I had no primary sources to build a course on. That’s the research that Will did for me. He found primary sources that I could have students read. I could not have made this a historical reasoning course—which was my goal—without his work.

Q: Why do you believe these projects matter?

A: The Carter project matters because Carter himself is an interesting person. My biography of him will approach him as a southerner.  I believe—and this is the direction my biography of him is taking for now—that he was far more typical of many white southerners in the years leading up to his presidency than he or other biographers have allowed.  And since his presidency, the ways that he has diverged from the majority of white southerners is an interesting window into the development of the South in the late 20th century. The guns project matters because guns matter in our current political and social climate. I hope that a historical perspective will help at least everyone involved in the course to see the complexity of the issue and maybe, in some way, help move the needle a little bit in public discussions of an emotional and controversial topic.

Q: What roles did the students play during these projects?

A: Their roles are invaluable. I wouldn’t be prepared to develop a new course without Will’s guns research, and Katherine’s Carter research will save me time when I do get around to writing again. I won’t have to look for sources; she will already have done a lot of that heavy lifting for me.

Q: What do you believe the students got out of their work?

A: Not as much as I have, I’m sure. I hope they at least gained some valuable research experience. I think that inadvertently they have gotten really good at playing, “guess what Moore’s thinking,” since sometimes my instructions were probably too vague and left too much uncertainty.

Q: How is the Guns in America course coming along?

A: I have a draft syllabus completed, and I have done the credit hour, historical reasoning, and citizenship applications, and am now waiting for approval. I hope that approval goes through, because it is on the books for Fall 2019 registration (which happens in a few weeks)! I am scheduled to teach two sections of it in the fall.

Q: Still plan on working with student researchers in the future?

A: I sure hope so. There is still plenty of guns and Carter research still to do.

At this point, since turnabout is fair play, once One Thing after Another finished with Moore, it asked Katherine Warth and Will Small for their perspectives about their work.

Q: How did you get involved with these projects?

Katherine: I got involved with this research project when I received an email from the history department over the summer explaining job offerings for the upcoming year. One of the projects was on the post-presidential career of Jimmy Carter with my academic advisor professor Moore. I’ve been interested in Jimmy Carter since middle school when I saw ARGO, a film on the Iran Hostage Crisis. This movie sparked my interest in American history and motivated me to conduct personal research on the event and on Jimmy Carter, who was president at the time of the crisis. I thought it would be fun and a good opportunity to be involved in this research, so I applied and was lucky enough to be offered the position!

Will: Either during the summer before sophomore year or shortly into the first semester, I got an email listing several job opportunities for the History Department. I applied for a few and, after different interviews for each position, I was invited to become Professor Moore’s research assistant. I wanted to participate in the Guns in America project for several reasons. Most important, I’ve always had an interest in guns to some degree. Regardless of where my opinion lies in terms of gun rights and ownership, I just think they’re kind of neat inventions. I also developed an interest in the debate over gun rights due to noticing several strongly opposing viewpoints being held by my fellow students on the Hilltop. Shortly after the shooting at Stoneham Douglas in 2018, I overheard a number of conversations regarding a need to enact stricter legislation. At the same time, I had visited dorms on campus with flags on the walls stating, “Come and Take It” with an image of a cannon proudly displayed beneath the motto. I wondered how these differing opinions came into being, which had been more prominent in the past, and which was currently in control of the debate. I figured that first-hand research would be a great way to find out.

Q: Please describe your experiences working on these projects. What were your primary objectives and methods of accomplishing them?

Katherine: My research mainly involves researching documents pertaining to the post-presidential career of Jimmy Carter from 1990 to the present. I read through articles from TIME and The New York Times, press releases from The Carter Center, and book reviews of Carter’s published works. I’m using the information I gather to create an account of what Jimmy Carter has done since 1990 and how he has been viewed by the public. A lot of what I do also involves summarizing and organizing materials as I am compiling these sources for Professor Moore to use on his book on Carter. I have to make sure that the work I do is easily understandable as I know it will be used by others in the future.

Will: I spent a lot of time researching primary sources related to the gun rights debate throughout the entirety of American history. As long as the 2nd Amendment has existed, people have been arguing over how to interpret it, and it was my job to discover what their exact arguments were and help form a timeline of when they came onto the scene. New York Times articles and editorials and any other newspaper reporting on local or national gun laws, old hunting and fishing magazines like Field and Stream or Arms and the Man, TIME, and a number of Supreme Court and circuit court cases proved to be most of what I found, aided by the bibliographies of secondary sources. Most of these resources were found using online databases that the college has access to or public databases like the Library of Congress’s public archives. Anytime I found a document I believed would be useful, I uploaded a PDF or transcription of it to an online repository and created an entry detailing the name of the document, when it was published and who it was published by, as well as a short description of its main points.

Q: What do you believe you gained from working on these projects? Similarly, what is something about the topics that you learned during the course of your research?

Katherine: I’ve learned a lot about how research is conducted through this project. I’ve taken history classes and done research projects before but they have all been structured by my professors. This research is a lot more independent. Even just finding time to do this research while taking classes and being involved on campus can be difficult at times and I’ve learned the importance of self-motivation in research. Ultimately what keeps me going is my love of research and my interest in Jimmy Carter. It’s so fun to use a jumble of documents to create a clear picture of the past, which is exactly why I’m a part of the American Studies program and the History Department! One of the most interesting things I’ve learned through my research is about the work The Carter Center does regarding mental health and overseeing foreign elections. Mental health and advancing care for those affected is a huge concern of mine and seeing what Rosalynn Carter has done to advance Americans outlook on mental health, even in the late 20th century, is truly astonishing. The Carter Center’s involvement in overseeing foreign elections actually helped me in my Intro to American Studies class when we were discussing the concept of expanding manifest destiny and American democracy abroad. It was really fun to add information I learned from my research to the class discussion, especially because Professor Moore teaches my Intro to American Studies class.

Will: I definitely gained a deeper understanding of the research process and discovered a few tips and tricks that allow me to find the information that I want, faster. For instance, Professor Moore provided me with an outline of subtopics, possible questions, and time periods that helped to guide the process. Had he just said, “Well, I need documents concerning the gun rights debate, go find some,” it would have taken much longer for me to collect sources, since I wouldn’t have known what was possibly useful or not. I also now have a solid grasp of what sort of research resources the college does and does not have at its disposal, which will help streamline any further research I do down the road. One of my favorite things about this topic that I’ve learned is that arguments in favor of gun rights became more and more fundamental as the gun rights movement gained popularity and organized. For instance, in the 1800s, it was established jurisprudence that concealed carry was against the law. Those who argued against it generally did not have any problems with the constitutionality of anti-concealed carriage laws, but rather their practicality. They stated that criminals were not going to follow the law anyways, which put innocent, law-abiding citizens at risk. As the National Rifle Association began to take charge of the movement, that’s when you really begin to see appeals for the fundamental right of individual ownership and concealed carry being safeguarded by the Bill of Rights.

Q: Do you plan to do more research for the History Department?

Katherine: I hope to do more research with the department! I’m currently working with Professor Dubrulle on preliminary research for a statistical study of life outcomes for Civil War veterans from the Fifth New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry. We’re only in the beginning stages of this project but I hope to be able to pursue it in my next couple years at SAC!

Will: Yeah! I actually plan on continuing to do gun-related research for Professor Moore over this coming summer, this time about the relationship between guns and Evangelical Christians, if his application for a faculty-student grant is accepted. Other than that, though, I’d always be open to research opportunities that match my interests.

Q: How does it feel to almost be juniors at SAC?

Katherine: It’s a little sad almost being a junior. Being halfway done with my time here on the Hilltop and only having two more gingerbread competitions makes me sorrowful thinking that in just two more years I’ll graduate. I’m also excited for everything to come in the next two years! Every day here is full of excitement, or at least some snow, and I can’t wait for the chance to make more memories, take more classes, watch my class of 2021 banner move in Davison Hall, and so much more!

Will: I don’t know! So I’m just not going to think about it until I’m already a junior and let the weight of that hit me all at once.

Perrone Named Jean Chair

In August, 2018, President Steven DiSalvo appointed Professor Sean Perrone of the History Department to serve as the first Robert E. Jean Professor of History and Government for two academic years. This endowed chair was made possible by a generous gift from the estate of Joseph Jean ‘53. The gift honors Joseph’s brother Robert. As part of the appointment, Prof. Perrone will work on a project titled: “Visualizing Historical Data: Opportunities for Students to Hone Historical and Computational Skills.” One Thing After Another sat down with Prof. Perrone to learn more.

Q: Can you tell us a little about the project?

A: My project involves mapping the payment of the ecclesiastical subsidy in sixteenth-century Castile, Spain. That might need a little explanation. Though the clergy were technically exempt from royal taxation, popes regularly granted monarchs a percentage of the ecclesiastical revenues in a given year. The kings then negotiated with their local clergy to determine the actual amount of the subsidy and the terms of payment. After an agreement was reached, clerical elites (e.g., cathedral canons in Castile) apportioned the subsidy among the kingdom’s clergy and arranged for the transfer of monies to royal coffers or directly to the king’s bankers. The local apportionment of the subsidy, however, burdened many clergy, and kings regularly provided discounts to over-assessed institutions, particularly monasteries.

Right now, I am working with students to finish preparing an Excel spread sheet on discounts to monasteries in the ecclesiastical subsidy. This data is culled from handwritten accounts located in the royal archive established by Charles V in 1540 in the castle of Simancas, Spain (see photo above). Over the past several years, I’ve been transposing the pertinent information from the accounts into Excel, and last year, computer science major Dan Kelly ’18 developed an easily searchable master Excel file on monastic discounts with assessment and discount data on individual monasteries as well as their latitude and longitude coordinates. Table 1, is a screenshot showing the assessment and discount data for some Franciscan monasteries. As can be seen in the table, the data is incomplete. We are missing the latitude/longitude coordinates for several monasteries, and the names of some monasteries are uncertain and their location (that is, city) unknown (see yellow highlight). In some cases, we’ve only been able to approximate the location of monasteries, using the coordinates for the city the monasteries were in or nearby (see purple highlight). With over one thousand monasteries receiving discounts between 1523 and 1558, there is a fair amount of material yet to process.

Table 1: Sample of Master Excel file on monastic discounts.

Perrone 2

Once the material is processed, we can upload it into ArcGIS to do spatial analysis. For example, using the incomplete data that we have, two computer science students, Caroline Parsons ‘19 and Pauline Yates ‘19, were able to visualize the percent of taxes discounted for Franciscan friars and nuns between 1544-1546 (see maps 1 and 2).

Map 1: Discounts to Franciscan Monks

Map 2: Discounts to Franciscan Nuns

Q: Why does this project matter?

A: By turning handwritten data into Excel data, this project makes the data more accessible to researchers. Then, even with incomplete data, these initial maps provide the beginnings for spatial analysis. For example, by comparing these initial maps, we can see geographic clustering of female and male houses. There were more Franciscan friars in the northwestern corner of the kingdom (i.e., Galicia) than nuns. We can also see that the area with the highest percentage of tax relief for both male and female Franciscans was in Old Castile (north central portion of the kingdom). The maps also make clear that the female houses received more tax relief than the male houses. But these maps also show errors and gaps in the data. First the errors. On map 1, the circle in Valencia (to the right of the map), and on map 2, the circle in Palma (to the far right of the map), indicate that incorrect latitude/longitude coordinates have been entered into the Excel Spread Sheet, because Valencia and Palma in the Balearic Islands belonged to the crown of Aragon and not the crown of Castile. Second the gaps. The archdiocese of Toledo in the middle of the map is blank. Franciscan friars and nuns lived in the archdiocese, but accounts in the royal archive only indicate the amount that those houses were discounted in the payment period of 1544-1546 and not the amount that they were assessed. Thus, we can’t calculate how much relief these discounts provided houses there. Therefore, the blank space on the map. This underscores a challenge working with the documents – they are often incomplete. In any case, the beauty of ArcGIS is that once we correct the errors and fill in the holes in the datasets, it will be relatively easy to update the maps.

Q: What is the role of students in the project?

A: Student researchers are essential to advance this project. I simply cannot do all the transcriptions and data processing by myself, and much of the progress with mapping made to date has relied heavily on Saint Anselm students. To meet this year’s goal of completing the databases on the ecclesiastical contribution for ArcGIS, I have hired three students. Two history majors, Brodie Deshaies ’21 and Mitch McLaughlin ’19, are currently finding the coordinates of the various monasteries using printed sources and Google Earth. We are hoping to identify the locations of at least 2/3 of the monasteries, which can be challenging as many no longer exist. A Spanish major, Braina Ruiz ’21, is learning paleography to help with transcribing data from the handwritten records (see photo) into Excel. Later in the semester, I hope to recruit some students from Professor Carol Traynor’s CS 210 Introduction to Geographical Information Systems class to help with preparing more maps.

Q: What benefit do students get from this project?

A: Through this research, students will perform vital tasks to advance the project and gain experience doing digital humanities research. Digital humanities is a new field that recognizes sources, tools of study, and methods of distribution far beyond the page or book, integrating computing and digital technologies in the study and spread of humanistic knowledge. All student researchers will develop collaborative skills by working as part of a team, while also honing both historical and computational skills. The skills obtained will vary by student task, but include:

  • becoming familiar with historical data from sixteenth-century Spain, understanding the basic types of primary sources for the project, and learning about transcription and crowd-sourcing
  • organizing data using controlled-vocabulary schemes to develop a process of metadata selection to create databases
  • mapping various data in GIS platform
  • developing content to display as a website or an online article, designing appropriate interface to convey the knowledge easily to users/readers, and allowing users/readers to access the information for their own research
  • using spatial and virtual presentations to interpret the past in conjunction with documents; students will begin to do original research and ideally see how their work contributes to knowledge and moves the historiography forward in an innovative way

Q: Sounds like you and the students are going to be quite busy!

A: The Jean Chair comes with course releases to permit an intense focus on the research and student engagement. The project is connected to the course I am currently teaching on Medieval Spain, and will also connect to a team-taught course on the Digital Humanities next year. Connecting teaching and research is one aspect of the Jean Chair. I’m very grateful to my colleagues and the College for giving me this opportunity. It is a real honor.

Warth, American Studies, and NH-INBRE

The History Department has two majors —History and American Studies. American Studies is an interdisciplinary major that allows students to learn about the United States from multiple perspectives, including history, literature, politics, art and music, religion, philosophy, sociology, and criminal justice. One Thing After Another sat down with American Studies major Katherine Warth ’21 from Rochester, NY to talk about the major and her summer research project.

Q: What made you decide to be an American Studies major?

A: I’m really interested in American History, but I wanted to be able to take a range of classes in different departments during my time at Saint A’s. The American Studies program allows me to take the American history classes I love while also exploring different fields like sociology, politics, and art history. It’s the perfect fit for someone interested in interdisciplinary studies!

Q: What has been your best experience in the major thus far?  

A: My best experience in the major so far has been being a part of the history department family! All of the professors in the history department are so kind, intelligent, and passionate about history. [One Thing After Another is blushing!] It’s been a true pleasure getting to know them! They all always have open doors to students and are great people to go in and talk to if you need a little extra help with a paper or just want to have a chat.

Q: What do you do when you are not doing classes and research?

A: When I’m not doing classwork or research, you can almost always find me in the lower church working for the choir. Music has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember, and one of the first things I did after arriving on campus freshman year was audition for choir. I currently work as choir manager so I spend a lot of my time sorting music, preparing paperwork, and designing whiteboards (@sacchoirwhiteboards on instagram). Working and singing for the choir is one of my favorite things I do on campus!

Q: You got paid to do research this summer and presented your findings at a regional conference.  How did you get involved in the project?

A: After taking a social statistics course in Fall 2017, my professor reached out to me to see if I was interested in doing stats for a research project during summer 2018. After learning more about this research project—a statistical analysis of data collected on postpartum depression—I decided to submit a formal application for a NH-INBRE grant. The NH-INBRE program provides undergraduate students in New Hampshire with grants to perform biomedical research both during the academic year and over the summer. After receiving this grant, I officially became a part of a research team of four students and two professors!

Q: What did your research involve?

My research primarily used statistics to analyze data on postpartum depression and other postpartum experiences. Data used for my research was collected by Saint Anselm College nursing professor Dr. Deb McCarter at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire. Analyzing this data meant first transferring women’s responses into a SPSS, a computer statistical analysis program, filing and labeling, categorizing, and giving values for each variable. Next, I conducted descriptive statistics (mean, median, frequency), created graphs (histograms, pie charts), and conducted advanced analysis (Analysis of Variance, Repeated Measures Analysis of Variance).

Q: What were you trying to find out or prove or disprove?

A: In my research, I was trying to prove that women’s experiences with postpartum depression influence their breastfeeding intensity or the number of times a day they breastfeed in comparison to other feedings. I found out that postpartum depression does in fact impact breastfeeding intensity, with women experiencing moderate to high signs of postpartum depression having a significantly lower breastfeeding intensity than women with low signs of postpartum depression. My poster with all of my findings is hanging on the third floor of Gadbois if you’d like to know more!

Q: What impact did your research have on you and what impact do you hope it will have on others?

A: This research had a significant impact on me as a woman who may someday have children, I felt really connected to what I was studying. It also helped me understand what many women go through after giving birth which has equipped me to better support friends or family members through the process. I’m hoping that my research will have an impact on nursing practices, encouraging nurses to do additional screenings for postpartum depression, diagnose, and begin treatment as soon as needed. I also hope that people who see my poster or hear about my research will become more aware of the significance of postpartum depression and the serious consequences it can have on millions of mothers all over the world if left untreated.

Q: Where did you present your research and what was that like?

A: I presented my research at the annual NH-INBRE conference at the Mount Washington Resort this August. I had a great time presenting my work and hearing about other students research at this conference! I got to present at an open poster session, which gave me the opportunity to have one-on-one conversations with people about my research and how it’s significant. I got a really positive response from everyone who stopped by! Lots of mothers and fathers came by and shared their own stories about their experience or their partner’s experience with postpartum depression and breastfeeding intensity, which really showed me how my research impacts everyone. Everyone knows someone who’s had a child, and it was great to hear feedback from people who’ve had experiences with childbirth. Hearing other students present their research also inspired me in my own work. Seeing students who are so passionate about the research they’re doing really showed me what the scientific community is all about. Overall, this conference was a wonderful experience that helped me learn a lot about my own research and expanded my knowledge of many other areas of scientific research.

Q: Will you be continuing to do work on this project, or do you have plans to work on another research project?

A: I’m continuing to work on this project during the school year, mostly preparing to present at the Breastfeeding and Feminism International Conference in South Carolina in March. I also am working on formally writing up the results of my research and sending it to be reviewed for publication so that more people can read about what I did and learn from my research. I also have the honor of working as a research assistant in the history department next semester. I will be doing research with Professor Moore on the post-presidential career of Jimmy Carter, reading and analyzing documents from this time period. I’m very excited to do this research as I’ve been interested in Jimmy Carter since watching Argo in middle school and because it gives me an opportunity to do historical research outside of the classroom!

Q: Other than research, what are you most looking forward to this year at SAC?

A: I’m most looking forward to going on a winter break service and solidarity trip through campus ministry in January. I’m going to Bethlehem Farm in West Virginia with a great group of students, and I’m very excited to have the chance to do service through Saint A’s for part of my winter break.

History Majors Make the Civil War “Legible and Searchable” for the Future

“What is a gabion?”

“Where are the Bolivar Heights?”

“What does ‘N. f. r. A. G. O.’ stand for?

“Is that word ‘gout’?”

These kinds of questions were asked every Friday afternoon around 2:30 in Professor Hugh Dubrulle’s office this semester. Why? Four student research assistants—history majors Caitlin Williamson ‘19, Gregory Valcourt ‘19Lauren Batchelder ‘18, and William Bearce ‘19 (from left to right in the photo above)—prepared materials for the research project that will be assigned in History 352: The American Civil War and Reconstruction which Dubrulle will teach next semester (Spring 2018). This project will require students in the course to do research on the 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry and write papers explaining the degree to which the regiment’s experiences match up with what current Civil War historiography claims about a variety of topics. These topics will include studies of the regiment’s participation in various battles and biographies of its leading officers. Other papers will look at topics such as desertion, politics, discipline, leadership, recruitment, medicine, and so on.

Why choose the 5th New Hampshire? Dubrulle says there are several reasons: “First, it lost more combat fatalities over the course of the Civil War than any other unit in Federal service. We ought to remember and honor this distinction, but it also raises the following question: what made it possible for this regiment, which was a typical product of its time and place, to compile such an outstanding service record? Second, much primary source material is easily available in local archives or online. Third, there are some excellent secondary sources about the unit in print, particularly Mike Pride and Mark Travis’ My Brave Boys: To War with Colonel Cross & the Fighting Fifth (2001).”

Williamson, Batchelder, Valcourt, and Bearce assisted Dubrulle with a number of important tasks, including transcribing letters and entering information from regimental service records into a searchable database. As Valcourt put it, their job consisted of making “the past legible and searchable for the future.” Williamson and Batchelder first transcribed the letters (34 of them) of Pvt. Miles Peabody (born and raised in Antrim, NH) who enlisted in Co. K of the 5th New Hampshire in 1861 at the age of 21. Williamson and Batchelder then moved on to transcribe selected portions of Lieut.-Col. James E. Larkin’s correspondence. A coach painter from Concord, NH, Larkin was mustered in as a 1st Lieut. when the regiment was organized in October 1861. He eventually became the commander of the unit in June 1864.

Both Batchelder and Williamson enjoyed getting to know Peabody and Larkin through their letters. Williamson commented that “I became really attached to the soldiers while reading their correspondence! I felt for them and found myself really invested in their stories that were told over a century ago.” Batchelder also felt an affinity for the men whose letters she read. On occasion, however, she was startled by what they wrote: “A lot of people assume that the Northerners were ‘the good guys,’ but there were times when I transcribed the letters and I would see these people fighting for the Union making a racist comment or saying something completely unexpected.” Such moments made her realize that while she shared a common humanity with these soldiers, they lived in a very different world.

Although Batchelder noted that “some people have the messiest handwriting,” Williamson pointed out that reading handwriting was actually affecting: “There is a lot of emotion in these letters, and much of it is expressed in the handwriting.” Not only that, Williamson felt that reading the letters helped illuminate Civil War history in a striking way that other sources could not. As she put it, the correspondence allowed her to study the conflict more broadly than one might have thought. The letters show “what they [the soldiers] were eating, what they were doing with their time, how they slept, what the weather was like, their experience on the battlefield—along with other important moments, all seen from different perspectives.”

Meanwhile, Bearce and Valcourt scoured Augustus D. Ayling’s Revised Register of the Soldiers and Sailors of New Hampshire in the War of the Rebellion 1861-1866 (1895) for the abbreviated service records of all the men who served in the 5th New Hampshire during the war. They then transferred this information to an Excel spreadsheet that is both searchable and sortable. Arrayed in this fashion, the data can yield all sorts of interesting patterns. For instance, Bearce quickly noticed that substitutes and foreign-born soldiers seemed much more likely to desert than volunteers and the native-born. Valcourt was stunned by the large number of casualties the regiment lost in the last days of the war at the Battle of Farmville (otherwise known as the Battle of High Bridge)—a fight he’d never heard of. Both research assistants recognized that intriguing trends in the data could prove very useful to students writing papers on any number of topics. At the same time, Bearce also saw that the “the quantitative information [from the database] complements the qualitative data from the transcription of letters.” Among other things, “one can use the service records to contextualize the letters and vice versa.” Valcourt was struck by the strange stories “and colorful cast of characters” that seemed to emerge from the spare notes of the abbreviated service records. His favorite person was Oliver Grapes, an original volunteer in the regiment who deserted in July 1863 and, using the alias Oliver Vine, volunteered the next month as a Wagoner in the 3rd Maryland Volunteer Infantry. As Valcourt explained it, “you learn about the ‘small’ people in order to understand ‘big’ people and events.” At the end of the day, though, through the exercise of data entry, Bearce learned how “quantitative history can be, and how the quantitative aspects of history comes to be.” And, of course, both Bearce and Valcourt brushed up on their Excel skills.

Throughout the semester, all of the research assistants were intrigued with finding out “the rest of the story.” Batchelder and Williamson were crushed to learn that Peabody died of illness in November 1864 near Alexandria, VA. They were relieved to learn, however, that Larkin survived the war. Unfortunately, as a result of his military service, he suffered from ill-health, particularly rheumatism, for the rest of his life. Larkin floated between a number of jobs before dying in 1911. From his very different perspective of having dealt with the service records, Bearce was interested in finding out what happened after the war to the soldiers he studied. Noting that Ayling’s Revised Register had addresses for many veterans who had survived to 1895, Bearce stated, “I would really like someone to take on the challenge of doing research using the post office addresses listed in the registry for some purpose. These just seem absolutely tantalizing to me, and I think a paper trying to find out how people adjusted after the war would be very interesting.” One can only hope that future students working with these sources will take on that challenge as well as some of the others presented by the material.

And by the way, what are the answers to the questions above? A gabion is a wicker basket filled with earth and used to shore up fortifications. Bolivar Heights overlooks the town of Harper’s Ferry in what is now West Virginia. “N. f. r. A. G. O.” stands for “No further record Adjutant General’s Office, Washington DC.” And yes, the word in the letter was “gout.”

Furthermore, I consider that the myth of the unemployable History major must be destroyed.

Labbe and Miller Transcribe the Kimball Diaries

Psychology major and History minor Lisette Labbé ’18 (left) and History major Dena Miller ’20 (right) spent part of their semester in the Saint Anselm College Archives transcribing the 1891-1892 diary of Edwin C.H. Kimball.  One Thing After Another caught up with them to learn more about this campus history project.

Q: Can you tell us a little more about the project and how you got involved?

Dena and Lisette:  We are working on producing a literal transcription of the Edwin C.H. Kimball Diaries. Kimball recorded his day-to-day activities from January 1891 to December 1894. For our class project, we are focusing on the 1891-1892 diary. The ultimate goal of the project is to transcribe and digitally scan both diaries to have original pages of the dairies aligned with their transcriptions for viewing on the web.  We were both interested in being involved with the history of Saint Anselm College. So we chose this project as the final project in our History 363: Public History course.

Q: So, what did you know about Edwin C.H. Kimball when you started, or what have you learned about him?

Lisette: I did not even know he was a young farmer of 23 until about 20 pages into the diary. I assumed that he was much older and a parent based on how serious he was and his involvement in local and national politics. After reading further into the diary, it appears that he had a mother, a father, and a sister named Ethel. He was also unmarried. He was very interested in politics and would report voting rankings of political candidates from local and national elections. He would also report events that happened nationally which made me wonder if this was information he learned from his visitors who would stay at his family’s inn. He did not seem to deal much with the inn, focusing most of his efforts on the farm. It was interesting to see him interact with the Monks of the college as he was not Catholic but perhaps Baptist.

Dena:  I get the impression that Kimball was a very intelligent man. So much so that I did not even realize how young he was when I started reading his diary. I would have sworn that the diary was written by someone in his 40’s until he mentioned celebrating his 23rd birthday. Despite this initial confusion, I feel that as the project progressed I got a clear picture of who Kimball was. Kimball seemed to be a very family-oriented young man, judging by the amount of work he did for his family on their farm and in their house. Along that same line, he also seemed to care deeply about his community and his neighbors, since he spent hours a day working on their behalf, especially for Rev. Fr. Hugo Paff, O.S.B. Kimball also seemed to be very interested in politics, both local and national. Overall, my impression of Kimball is positive and I think that, judging by his political interests and community sensibilities, he would fit right in on the Saint Anselm College campus today.

Q: So, no juicy details in these diaries?

Lisette:  The psychology major in me wants to know more about the man behind the diary. But I have learned from this project that his diary was more of a journal or a records book than what we view as a diary in the 21st century.

Dena:  The Kimball family owned the property on Shirley Hill Road that was once used as an entrance to the College. Kimball recorded in his diaries the comings and goings of friends, family, and guests at his family’s inn and boarding house, the Maplewood Farm. Kimball also recorded his economic exchanges with the Monks of the college, usually days spent plowing or haying the monastic fields.  These diaries are essential to the school’s history because they are the only primary documents that recorded the fire that burned down the only college building where Alumni Hall is located in 1892.  But we only got through 1891, so we did not get to read that part!

Q: What does an average day of transcription look like?

Dena and Lisette:  So one of us will go into the Archives and typically Keith has printed out the other person’s transcriptions for us to edit. We will edit them by looking at the original document to check for errors, like a missed or an accidently capitalized letter. Afterwards, there may be edits on our own transcriptions for us to review and fix in the transcription document. So we would have to look at our partner’s edits and the diary to cross-compare before fixing the errors on the transcription document. There is also a working log where we post comments, questions and concerns for our partner, such as “what do you think this word is on page 54 line 4?” After all these steps are done we start transcribing again. If we have any questions, we typically ask Keith, or just text each other.

Q:  That is a lot of detail work! What skills do you think you have acquired through this work?

Dena and Lisette:  We learned how to transcribe exactly from a handwritten source to a digital file, which requires careful detail orientation, an understanding of cursive, and specialized knowledge of Microsoft Word. We also learned many other work-flow and project management skills. The diaries needed to stay in the College Archives, and digital pictures and copies could not be made. Hence, we had to go into the archives to do the transcriptions with the College Archivist, Keith Chevalier. Unfortunately, we could not go in at the same time because we were both working on the same diary and the same transcription document. As a result, we had to learn to schedule shifts around our three different schedules. Because of this problem, we learned how to collaborate as a team, even when the team was never in the same place at the same time. We also learned how to create a transcription and editing log to track our work as well as a style and process guide to help those who come after us maintain a consistent transcribing process.

Q:  You make it sound pretty easy. What obstacles did you encounter?

Dena and Lisette:  One of the major obstacle we have is his handwriting. Kimball forms his letters in very confusing way, where letters could look very different on different pages or pieces of the letters could look like punctuation. For example, when he writes an “a”, it often looks like “,a” because he connects the beginning of the letter to the line on the paper. This has caused confusion and in some cases has made punctuation a judgement call. Other obstacles that we’ve found is that he misspells words and we often find ourselves writing the correct word instead of the literal transcription of his misspelled word.

Q:  What do you think is important about your project? 

Dena and Lisette:  This project is important to the college’s history because we are preserving essential parts of the early life of the college. We are also working towards having the diaries online for the public to view. This initial process is to have the metadata of each page image. Metadata is data that describes and gives information about other data. We have created a catalogue record of each page. Ultimately, when each page of the diary is uploaded, typing keywords will cause all relevant pages and items to appear. These transcriptions are just the first step towards this major archival project.

Q:  So what are possible next steps for continuing this project?

Dena and Lisette: There are many ways in which future students could expand upon the work we have done. First they could continue the transcription—there are three more years to go!  After that, they could create annotations within the text of the diary. Annotations could be used to give context for the people and the situations that he describes in the diary. For example, annotations could shine a light on the political importance of James G. Blaine [a congressman and senator from Maine who was the Republican nominee for president in 1884; he served as secretary of state under President Benjamin Harrison from 1889 to 1892], who was mentioned many times. Another way that the project could be expanded upon would be the creation of a searchable index. If a future researcher wants to find all the times that a name or a term is mentioned in the diary (for example, Ethel), the index would refer the researcher to every mention of her name. This index could be expanded even further to include the misspelled versions of common words that would typically be left out of a common search because it was misspelled.

Furthermore, I consider that the myth of the unemployable History major must be destroyed.