History Honors Thesis
Students who would like to experience the rigors of doing historical research using primary source materials on a topic of their own choosing can pursue a year-long independent project under the guidance of a department faculty member. This page should provide all the information you need, but for further information please contact Jamie Pietruska, History Department Undergraduate Vice Chair.
Application: In order to take part in this program, students must submit an application by Friday, November 22, 2019 to the History Department undergraduate office. Acceptance is subject to the approval of the chair.
- Participants must be declared History majors
- They must have a minimum 3.2 GPA overall
- They must have a minimum of 3.5 in their History Courses
- They must have a supervising professor with whom to work
- DUE FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2019.
* Please note that this two semester program counts only once towards your upper level courses within your History major.
Coursework: Once admitted Honors students must enroll in the two-semester Honors Program in History course 506: 495, 496. Students who aspire to write a major research paper of approximately 100 pages may register for up to 6 credits for the Honors Program course each semester, 3 of which can be counted towards the major requirements. Students who aspire to write a more modest thesis of around 50 pages may register for 3 credits each semester for the Honors Program course, which can be counted towards the major requirements.
Students accepted into the program each December will take 506:495 the following Spring. This course will guide them through the stages of finding a thesis topic, seeking out secondary and primary sources, and developing a research strategy. In consultation with their thesis supervisors students will apply these lessons to their own research topics. During the summer of the same year they will conduct the bulk of their primary source research in archives suited to the topics they have chosen. In the following Fall semester they will take 506:496. Here they will produce the first drafts of their manuscripts, obtain feedback on the draft from their supervisors, and find a second reader to serve as thesis examiner. Students in the course will also provide feedback to one another. The most important work of the semester will be the revision in light of that feedback.
The grade for these courses will be determined in light of the student's paper and his or her participation in the honors seminar.
Research: Much of the actual research will be conducted during the Summer. Students will identify appropriate archives and frame research questions in the Spring Semester. They will complete the drafting and revision of their theses in the Fall semester.
Oral Examination: Each thesis will be read and evaluated by the supervising professor and by the second reader. Each student will be examined orally by the two professors on the argument of the thesis, the kinds of sources used, and the implications of the research.
Honors Conference: Each student will make a public presentation of his or her thesis at the annual Honors Conference, to be held in the Spring semester after the thesis has been submitted and the oral examination has been completed. Winners of Honors awards will be presented with their prizes at the same event; the top prizes include the Harold Poor Memorial Prize, the Ceil Parker Lawson Memorial Prize, the Margaret Atwood Judson Prize, and the James Reed Award (see below)
Honors Recommendations: An Honors Committee, chaired by the Vice Chair for Undergraduate Education, will make the final determination of the level of honors (honors, high honors, highest honors) to be awarded based upon the recommendations of the examining professors and upon the thesis itself. Only history majors will receive the designation of honors in history on their transcripts.
For a glimpse of a finished thesis, please read: "Raiders of the Lost Past: Nineteenth-Century Archaeology and French Imperialism in the Near East 1798-1914," by Andrew H. Bellisari, RC 2010.
The department offers prizes to its best honors students, which are awarded at the History Honors Conference. The top prizes include the Harold Poor Memorial Prize, the Ceil Parker Lawson Memorial Prize, the Margaret Atwood Judson Prize, and the James Reed Award.
Harold L. Poor Memorial Fund Undergraduate History Prize
The Harold Poor Prize is given annually to the best, second best, and third best honors theses overall in the History Department. The department, with the support of Professor Philip Greven, established the Prize in the early 1990s, and it has been given every year since.
Harold Poor came to the Rutgers College History Department in 1966 where he continued to teach and administer until his premature retirement in 1991 on disability because of AIDS. He died on January 24, 1992. He was one of the most gifted and charismatic teachers in the History Department. His courses ranged widely over German and European history. He pioneered in the teaching of gay history with his course on "History and the Homosexual" in the fall of 1984. For the History Department, Harold served as Undergraduate Chairperson from 1989 to 1991 and was the Director of the Rutgers Junior Year Abroad Program in Germany from 1985 to 1987.
2018 Prize Winners:
- First Place: Michael Antosiewicz: "Disputed Dicing: Kuboi, Astragaloi, and the Cultural Contestations around Dice Games in Classical Greece"
- Second Place: Joseph Westendorf: "The Culture of Secession: New York City, New Jersey, and the Secessionist Movement in the North During the Secession Crisis 1860-1861"
- Third Place: Katherine Mitchell: "The Indian Man’s Burden: The British Women’s Suffrage Movement and Westernization in Indian Nationalist Rhetoric"
James Reed Prize
The James Reed Prize is awarded annually for the best student presentation given at the annual history honors conference. It is given in honor of Professor James Reed, one of our most outstanding teachers at Rutgers since he joined the faculty at Rutgers College in 1975.
James Reed has professed history at Rutgers since 1975. He got his B.A. at Louisiana State University and his A.M. and Ph.D. at Harvard. Among historians he is best known for a book titled
From Private Vice to Public Virtue (1978), which is a history of birth control in the U.S. He served as Dean of Rutgers College from 1985 to 1994. His current writing project is a history of biomedical sex research, working title—“Sex Research in America: From Social Hygiene to Liberation Science.”
2018 Prize Winner:
- Christopher Kay: "Shifting perceptions of bishops and their rights in Parliament between 1640-1642 and 1679-1682"
Margaret Atwood Judson Prize
The Margaret Atwood Judson Prize is awarded to the best honors thesis written by a woman. Born in 1899 Margaret Atwood Judson received her Ph.D. from Radcliffe College in 1933. She joined the History department at Douglass College in 1928 and went on to chair the History and Political Science departments at Douglass and to serve as acting dean of Douglass College. She was a widely-respected scholar who wrote on English constitutional thought.
Long before the second-wave women’s movement of the 1960s, Margaret Atwood Judson was pushing through boundaries and limitations on women’s lives and showing that women could excel at the highest level of professional scholarship, administration and college teaching.
2018 Prize Winner:
- Katherine Mitchell: "The Indian Man’s Burden: The British Women’s Suffrage Movement and Westernization in Indian Nationalist Rhetoric"