Award for Academic Excellence
From 1995 onwards, the RSC has presented the Theodore Roosevelt American History Award (TRAHA) for the best Master thesis written by a graduate student at a Dutch university on an American history topic. This year will mark the first year the award is presented under the banners of the Roosevelt Institute for American Studies and sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation, the TRAHA is designed to stimulate the study of United States history and culture. The award also encourages students to use the unique RIAS archival resources.
Since the establishment of the award in 1987 (called the Lawrence J. Saunders Award from 1987-1994 and from 1995 on to the present the TRAHA) the Dutch universities with American History / American Studies or History programs (Amsterdam, Groningen, Leiden, Nijmegen, Utrecht, and Rotterdam) have nominated over 210 masters theses for the Award.
On 20 April 2017 the TRAHA was awarded to Renee de Groot, a graduate student of the University of Amsterdam, for her thesis The Rewritten War: Alternate Histories of the American Civil War. She has won a trip to North Dakota where she will be hosted by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation and the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University in the summer of 2017. What follows is an abstract of her thesis:
The American Civil War (1861-1865) has provided food for counterfactual speculation for historians, journalists, critics, and writers of all stripes for over a century. What if the Confederacy had won? What if the South had abolished slavery? What if Lincoln had lived? What if…? This thesis offers an anatomy of Civil War alternate history as a distinct though eclectic cultural form. It takes apart the most interesting manifestations and reassembles them to show four intriguing functions of this form: as a platform for challenges to narratives of Civil War memory, for counterintuitive socio-economic criticism, for intricate reflections on history writing and on historical consciousness. It shows the many paradoxes that rule that rule Civil War alternate history: its insularity and global outlook, its essential un-creativity, its ability to attract strange bedfellows and to prod the boundaries between fact and fiction. Most importantly, this thesis demonstrates the marriage of sophistication and banality that characterizes this form that is ultimately the domain of history’s winners.
For those interested in reading the jury report, click here.