The OU Historical Journal - Issue 1, Fall 2012

Undergraduate Editoral Board
Tessa Blanchard, Meghan Riley, Michael Carter, Ryan Geary, Scott Renner

Faculty Advisors
Raphael Folsom, Sandie Holguín, Alan Levenson

Preface to the Inaugural Issue of the OU Historical Journal
by Raphael B. Folsom
Assistant Professor of History

Every year, students at the University of Oklahoma write hundreds of papers for their courses in the History Department.  These range from short journal entries and in-class writing exercises to critical review essays and long research papers.  Of those written works, roughly a quarter get A's.  Of those A's, a smaller proportion are forwarded to the editorial board of the OU Historical Journal.  Of the dozens of papers the editors receive, only six are chosen to be published.  And only one receives our annual prize for excellence.

The papers we publish in the first issue of the OU Historical Journal are thus the product of an enormous amount of intellectual work: the work of the administrators who coordinate the many courses offered in the history department, the work of our faculty members, who devote passion and precision to teaching the subjects they love, and most importantly, the work of our undergraduates, who struggle, strive, and sometimes triumph in the rigorous discipline of historical scholarship.  This journal is a tribute to the extraordinary daily efforts of all the above, and a testimony to the kinds of achievement that their collective labors make possible.

A few words are in order about our editorial board.  Our five undergraduate editors were nominated by faculty members who had taught them, and voted on by the history faculty as a whole.  Their election to the editorial board recognizes their excellence in a broad variety of history courses at OU.  It marks their transition from being students in our department to being among its intellectual leaders.  Tessa Blanchard, Meghan Riley, Michael Carter, Ryan Geary, and Scott Renner deserve high praise for the hard work they applied to the tasks of conceiving and promoting the journal, collecting submissions, and selecting works for publication.

The criteria we used for the selection of these papers were the same ones the department employs in the senior capstone course.  Developed by Professor Melissa Stockdale, and approved by the faculty as a whole, these criteria can be found here.  In publishing them, we hope to let the university community know about the intellectual values we espouse as a department: hard work, rigorous thinking, distinction in style, and honesty in crediting our sources and scholarly peers (1).

I speak for many in offering thanks to my fellow faculty advisors, Professor Sandie Holguín and Professor Alan Levenson, for their wit, wise counsel, and hard work.   Thanks also to the many professors who shared the secrets of their craft with the students who submitted papers.  Thanks especially to the students who took a chance and sent papers to us.  It has been a privilege to read your scholarship.  And thanks, finally, to the intellectual author of this journal, Dr. Cathy Kelly, and to our department chair, Dr. Robert Griswold.  In addition to providing fifteen years of scintillating intellectual leadership to our department, not to mention indispensable support for this journal, Rob has unknowingly lent his name to the inaugural Griswold Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Historical Scholarship.

And now, without further ado, the papers!

Winner of the Griswold Prize

Meghan Riley. “Stolen Victories, Evaluating the War Cult in Soviet Russia.” Prize Citation: Meghan Riley is the inaugural winner of the Griswold Prize. Although the competition for this prize was fierce, the editorial board concurred that Ms. Riley’s essay embodied most clearly the standards of exceptional historical scholarship: an original and compelling argument that employed a variety of primary and secondary sources, an understanding of the historiography in her field, and a lucid and engaging writing style that added that extra touch of elegance to an already sophisticated argument. -Sandie Holguín


  1. Kayla Pittman. “The Worlds of Monticello Mountain: How Space Reflected Power & Politics on an Eighteenth Century Chesapeake Plantation.”  Prize Citation: This distinguished article reminds us that written texts are not the only historical evidence available to us.   The author makes creative use of visual and archaeological sources in conjunction with cutting-edge theories of space and place to show us how Monticello's architecture reflected the inner workings of its designer's mind.   Thomas Jefferson is among our most important, and hence most thoroughly studied, presidents.  This paper performs the remarkable feat of offering new insights on topics we thought were deeply familiar.  With the rigor and playfulness of a fine art critic, Kayla Pittman makes the familiar strange.  -Raphael Folsom
  2. Nathan Moore. “Who’s the imperialist? American Marxists Respond to the Russo—Finnish War.” Prize Citation:  In this paper, Nathan Moore explores the complicated question of how American communists responded to the Soviet Union’s 1939-1940 invasion of Finland, and reveals its long-lasting consequences in American political discourse. Using clear and concise prose, Moore painstakingly examines the reactions of the Communist Party of the United States, the Socialist Workers Party Majority, and the Socialist Workers Party Minority to the Winter War and argues that each faction’s response depended on how it defined ‘imperialism.’ Drawing on detailed analyses of primary source documents, this paper constitutes an original contribution to the literature on the international impact of the Winter War.  -Meghan Riley
  3. Breanna Edwards. “The Bases: The Story of Norman’s Naval Bases During 1942.” Prize Citation: This paper was selected because it exemplifies good storytelling. The author, Breanna Edwards, traces the establishment of several naval bases in Norman, Oklahoma through reports in the local newspaper in 1942. From the first reports of the coming construction projects, to the Navy Day parade in which the city and its new naval residents celebrated together, Edwards traces the story of the development of the bases and what they meant to the city of Norman at different points. “The Bases” demonstrates that good historical writing does not just point out facts, but connects them into a story that communicates to the reader how people of the day experienced the events and why.  -Tessa Blanchard
  4. Kristina Rosenthal. “Their Clothes Spoke Louder than Their Words: How Three Founding Fathers Used Clothes to Portray their Patriotism.” Prize Citation: Two hundred and thirty-six years after the Declaration of Independence, Americans remain fascinated by the country's founding generation, and the enterprising spirit that motivated them to forge the new nation. History senior Kristina Rosenthal's "Their Clothes Spoke Louder Than Their Words: How Three Founding Fathers Used Clothes to Convey Their Patriotism," explores another aspect of the founders' fight for American liberty – their clothing choices. Showing how their national pride permeated even seemingly trivial aspects of the founders' lives, Ms. Rosenthal's work frames the American Revolution as not only a plight for independence, but the process of inventing a uniquely American national identity."  --Michael L. Carter
  5. Taylor Schmidt. “Famine, Genocide, and memory: Ukranians and the Commemoration of the 1932-33 Holodomor.” Prize Citation: History is political. Never has this been truer than in the former Soviet Union, where the past was subject to incessant ‘revisions.’ Mr. Schmidt takes on the Ukrainian famine, or Holodomor, from an international perspective, and does so quite thoroughly. As the paper unfolds, the reader comes to realize how inextricably entwined Ukranian identity is with this event. Genocide perpetrated on Ukranian people, or unintended pan-Soviet tragedy, the Holodomor’s political implications reach across oceans. The paper distinguishes itself with its in depth research and the author’s acute sensitivity to the gravity of the topic he so brilliantly explores. - Ryan Geary

Honorable Mentions:

Reviews of Books

  • Michael Carter. "The Death Dealer"
  • Tessa Blanchard. "Waverly: A Timeless Product of its Day"

A note on the selection of these papers: Because our student editors are among the best students we have, the faculty advisors of the journal asked them to submit their papers under pseudonyms, such that the editorial board as a whole could consider their work in an unbiased way.  Each of the 39 submissions to the journal was first read by two editors, who ranked them one to ten.  A number one vote was assigned ten points, and a number ten vote was assigned one point.  The points were then aggregated, and the top ten vote-getters were then read by all members of the editorial board, who ranked them 1-10.  The points were then aggregated once again, giving us one winner, five runners up, and two honorable mentions.  Normally, the Griswold Prize winner would receive $300, and the runners-up would receive $100 each.  But in order to avoid giving the impression of self-dealing, we agreed ahead of time that if an editorial board member won a prize, his or her prize money would be divided among the other prize winners.  Since Meghan Riley, who submitted her work under the name Elizabeth Count, ended up winning the Griswold Prize, her winnings were divided among the five runners-up, who have each been awarded $160.