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History

Publication Trends in the Enlightenment

Eliana Merle (2014); Mentor(s): Gary Kates

Abstract: In 1761 Diderot venerated Richardson's writing by saying, "he has not demonstrated this truth; he has made us feel it." This process of evoking feeling within the reader was key to how Enlightenment writers sought to galvanize reform-not only with abstruse philosophical works, but also through tales that made the need for social and political change 'felt.' While literary scholars and political theorists paint a picture of the ideas elicited by these books, the question remains for historians of the Enlightenment about how these books were received by the unique culture of the Enlightenment period. That is, who read these books? In societies rife with government and church censorship, how did readers gain access to these books? To study the influence of the many great works during the Enlightenment, we collected data from international databases and tracked the number of different editions of individual books published in the 1700s. Next, we examined the publication trends of many of the Enlightenment's most influential books, written by authors such as Montesquieu, Voltaire and Hume. The publication patterns we observed were eclectic - where as the popularity of Montesquieu's Persian Letters peaked nearly 40 years after its first publication, the popularity of others, such as Montesquieu's Spirit of the Laws peaked only 10 years after its initial publication. Such trends provide insight into how the books were, in Diderot's words, 'felt' in the 18th century.
Funding Provided by: Pomona College SURP

Journeys By Sea to a Shore of White: Italian Migration to the Dominican Republic

Sarai Jimenez (2014); Student Collaborator(s): Jessica Peña (2014); Mentor(s): April Mayes

Abstract: This poster analyzes Italian migration to the Dominican Republic in the post-WWII period to assess the idea of their "success" in a new country. Unlike contemporary Haitian migration, the Dominican state facilitated Italian settlement and their integration into Dominican society. I argue that several factors affected the experiences of Italian immigrants to the Dominican Republic until the mid-1900s. For example, most Italian immigrants during this period belonged to a business class demographic, and were part of larger pre- and post-WWII waves of migration. As a result of their class status and their color, Italians were soon incorporated within the Dominican elite and, over time, became a powerful and wealthy sector of the population. Significantly, Italians and Dominicans of Italian descent, continue to hold their place in wealthy Dominican society, while other immigrant groups, in particular Haitians, continue to experience alienation and discrimination.
Funding Provided by: Aubrey H. and Eileen J. Seed Student Research Fund (SJ); Pomona College SURP (JP); David L. Hirsch III and Susan H. Hirsch Research Initiation Grant

Colonial America and the Slow Revolution of Harmony

Sam Levy (2013); Mentor(s): Helena Wall

Abstract: This project began in a research seminar examining Puritan turmoil in 17th century New England. The economic change and internal religious strife that consumed the Puritans had me speculating that commerce and religion were inherently at odds not only in New England, but also across the entire colonial American landscape. This was not really the case for the Puritans or in my broader study of 18th century America. Instead, this misconception only guided me through my research of seemingly disparate themes: enlightenment thinkers, sermon literature, and economic concerns of the period, such as the debt crisis. Simply put, the notion of tension between economic and religious ideals was overstated. Instead, the sources became an entangled, ever-advancing harmonization of intellectual thought, centered on the problem encountering religious, political, and economic thinkers alike – how can individual liberty in its various forms be reconciled with its dangerous, but natural inclinations towards moral and political corruption? This is not a true question so much as it is a paradoxical problem best represented by Adam Smith’s highly debated use of the invisible hand, and my belief – courtesy of historian Emma Rothschild – that he used it ironically. With this interpretation, the irony of the invisible hand illuminates both the scope of the critical question I presented, and – in his three actual uses – the harmony of its religious, political and economic qualities.
Funding Provided by: Hart Institute for American History Research

Luke Willert (2013); Mentor(s): Helena Wall

Excavating Deep History in Early America

Abstract: Ancient burial mounds have dotted the American landscape for a thousand years. The largest rise one hundred feet into the air, but by the Revolutionary era no American Indian could say much about them. Since the de Soto expedition, Europeans had speculated about the curious structures, but until Thomas Jefferson no scientist had ever excavated to reveal their skeletal contents. For this, Jefferson has been called the father of American archaeology. Although he followed a blossoming European archaeological tradition which had sprung from the rediscovery of Pompeii, Jefferson’s digging was motivated as much by the pursuit of cataloguing racial difference as it was by the Enlightenment project of disinterested natural history. It thus resembles Samuel Morton’s phrenology more than the Smithsonian Institution's famed scientific expeditions. In the decades following Jefferson, protoethnology became a central project of the early republic, as scientific circles and provincial newspapers debated the question of Indian origins. The savage tribes were too primitive to have ever constructed the enormous mounds, Americans believed, but had they invaded an advanced race centuries earlier? Were Indians a lost tribe of Israel wandering east from Asia? Depending on the theory, the imagination of American deep history could legitimize American antiquity as equaling Europe's or deny Indians the legitimacy of naturally belonging to the New World.
Funding Provided by: Hart Institute for American History Research

Food, Culture, and Social Mobility: Immigrants in the Chinese Restaurant Business

Hong Deng Gao (2015); Mentor(s): Samuel Yamashita

Abstract: Chinese restaurants have been crucial for the development of Chinese-American communities. However, whether they have had an overall positive impact is debatable. Studies from the 1970s and early 1980s depict American Chinatowns’ restaurant-based economy as a trap, which offered immigrant workers few chances for social mobility. In contrast, works from the late 1980s and onwards extend their study beyond the American coasts, and highlight Chinese restaurants as a positive agent of change for both immigrant Chinese and their neighbors. Scholars from the latter period agree with the earlier analyses that the restaurant-based economy in coastal Chinatowns has limited possibilities for unskilled Chinese workers. However, ethnographic findings show that, for a sizable number of immigrant Chinese, working at Chinese restaurants have served as a chance to rise out of poverty, a tool for interethnic exchange, and a path to unfold their American Dream. Combining extensive field work and ethnographic findings with official data, recent scholars offer a more thorough understanding of the Chinese ethnic community; they listen to immigrants’ own perspectives and go beyond the traditional topics of immigration and assimilation to mainstream norms.
Funding Provided by: Pomona College Dean's Fund; Pomona College SURP

Research at Pomona