The SUNY Plattsburgh chapter of the history honors society Phi Alpha Theta is proud to present the proceedings of the 2016 Phi Alpha Theta Upper New York Regional Conference. Hosted by the SUNY Plattsburgh Phi Alpha Theta chapter and held on the Plattsburgh campus on April 30, 2016, undergraduates from Castleton University, Hartwick College, Keene State College, Marist College, SUNY New Paltz, SUNY Plattsburgh, Saint Anslem College, and United States Military Academy West Point presented their original research. Based on primary source analysis and engagement with the relevant historiography, their papers covered a range of fascinating historical topics. All demonstrated the intellectual curiosity and academic professionalism that distinguishes members of Phi Alpha Theta. We offer our sincere thanks to all the presenters, panel moderators and commentators, chapter advisors, participants, and supporters.

Jessamyn Neuhaus, SUNY Plattsburgh Phi Alpha Theta Co-Faculty Advisor
Connie Shemo, SUNY Plattsburgh Phi Alpha Theta Co-Faculty Advisor
Mikayla Ploof, SUNY Plattsburgh Phi Alpha Theta President

Recent Submissions

  • Death is the Beginning of Infamy: Robespierre and a Legacy of Misconceptions

    Irizarry, Estrella (2016-04-30)
    This paper seeks to explain and dismantle the negative reputation French Revolutionary Maximilien Robespierre has accrued over the last three hundred years. Though considerable efforts have been made to improve his legacy since his execution in 1794, stereotypical portrait of Robespierre as an unfeeling dictator has maintained popularity for centuries. Historians hostile to Robespierre have routinely relied upon dubious sources and political bias in order to justify their depictions of Robespierre as everything from a bloodthirsty murderer to an unfeeling ideologue. This paper reexamines and critiques these representations, as well as the gendered ways in which Robespierre is often interpreted in academic and popular history. Largely ignored by even his greatest supporters, the persistent portrayal of Robespierre as abnormally effeminate has allowed historians to reimagine his revolutionary worth in ahistoric and homophobic ways detrimental to the study of the French Revolution.
  • Economic, Strategic, and Rhetorical: Justifications for U. S. Hegemony in Cuba

    Reagan, Ben (2016-04-30)
    "Economic, Strategic, and Rhetorical: Justifications for U.S. Hegemony in Cuba" is about the depictions of Cubans in American popular culture before the Spanish-American War to after the First World War. Cuba has been seen in a number of ways including a market and a potential addition to the United States. The depictions of Cuba are very important. To justify its economic control over Cuba, the United States used the rhetoric and representation of race, culture and gender to control Cuba and ensure it was firmly within the American sphere of influence. Not only is this important from the historical perspective but also from the perspective of current politics. Some of the depictions of Cubans continued to be used when Castro took power in Cuba. That means that while many Americans may have forgotten that part of history, Cuba's leadership has not. One of the most prolific writers on the topic is Louis A. Perez. His book, "Cuba in the American Imagination: Metaphor and the Imperial Ethos", was a valuable source for this project. The book is about the evolution of the perceptions of Cuba in the United States. It also talks about the goals the United States had in the country and how they changed.
  • Gloriana's First Scandal: The Thomas Seymour Incident

    Doren, Anna (2016-04-30)
    As a young princess, Elizabeth Tudor had a precarious position at court. Elizabeth was on her own in defending her honor when her position was put in jeopardy by rumors surrounding her and Thomas Seymour. Their relationship was questioned because of stories that circulated publicly and privately. These stories cast doubt on the character of the teenage Elizabeth and the investigations that followed looked at the involvement she and her household had in Thomas Seymour's plans to marry the princess and her encouragement of his flirtatious advances. Kat Ashley provided accounts that suggested she had been plotting with Seymour on her lady's behalf, and these same accounts show how Elizabeth discouraged his advances. Elizabeth vehemently denied her part in any marriage plans that Seymour may have concocted, though admits her governess's part in the gossip. "Kat. Aschlylye tolde me, after that my Lord Admiralde was married to the Quene, that if my Lorde might have his owne Wil, he wolde haue me " . Historians examine this scandal as a key part of Elizabeth's formative years. Some more speculative than others, such as Gregorio Leti who, in 1693, recorded inaccurate details of the scandal that have been often mistaken for fact. The accounts of William Cecil, Lord Burghley in the state papers detail a princess who was abused by those in power who wanted to remove her from the succession. With the support of her household, Elizabeth defended herself well and maintained her honorable reputation.
  • The white inhabitants wished relief from the horrors of continual alarms...: The British Empire, Planter Politics, and the Agency of Jamaican Slaves and Maroons

    Adams, Alex (2016-04-30)
    Although agency is generally depicted as local actions triggering local results, fears caused by the agency of slaves and Maroons in Jamaica influenced the policies of the British empire by affecting the agendas of worried planter politicians. As the British invaded Jamaica in 1655, slaves who were laboring on Spanish plantations fled to the mountains and formed Maroon colonies. Jamaica was officially ceded to the British in 1670, but Maroons continued to prove problematic by raiding plantations, providing refuge to escaped slaves, and by orchestrating slave revolts. The very knowledge of their presence was enough to gamer inspiration for rebellion among those still enslaved, and to incite anxiety among individuals with financial interests on the island. These examples of slave and Maroon agency are often cited for the ways in which they prompted action from the Jamaican Assembly, but prior analyses fall short of highlighting how the practice of absenteeism allowed concerns to travel overseas, and manifest into political influence. Bryan Edwards, Edward Long, Stephen Fuller, and other influential figures in British politics also held fiscal interests in Jamaica. Letters of correspondence and other works written by these men demonstrate how their multifaceted positions provided a bridge for concerns provoked by the actions of slaves and Maroons to cross the Atlantic, and compel British Parliamentarians to regulate the slave trade - a remarkable example of how agency helped steer the British towards abolition.
  • Ideologically Driven Loyalists: The Values that Defined Loyal Colonists in the American Revolution

    Cloutier, Cassandra (2016-04-30)
    The American Revolution is typically viewed as a war for independence between two groups, the revolutionaries and their oppressors, the British. Little is known about another party: the Loyalists. This group of people was set apart from the other players in the Revolution. They were men, and supporting women, who opposed the Revolution, unified by their politics and paternalistic values. These ideologies appealed to a wide array of people. Liberal constitutionalism, a political ideology in which one is open to change within the law of the constitution, generated a population of Loyalists who were white males that had held these views prior to the Revolution. Paternalism ushered in a vast range of other Loyalists, such as women and African Americans, because of their adherence to following the male authority, which in this case was the king. Using evidence from Peter Oliver's manuscript and accounts from various secondary sources, this paper argues that Loyalists were a group defined by their politically moderate and paternalistic values.
  • Out of the Lager and Into the Gulag: Romanian Foreign Relations Before and After King Michael's Coup

    Van Uden, Kristen (2016-04-30)
    I explore the external and internal factors that led to Romania joining the Axis during World War Two, the circumstances and negotiations that surrounded King Michael's coup, and the effects the coup had on the armistice terms proffered by the Allies. The bulk of my analysis focuses on the development of the armistice terms from those of total surrender to more beneficial terms that protected Romanian sovereignty. I argue that the coup played an integral role in securing these more favorable terms for Romania. I use declassified telegrams and documents between the Allies and King Michael's shadow government as my main primary sources. I refer to these documents as they appear in the 1944 and 1945 editions of the State Department's Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS).</p> <p>I analyze the differing motives of the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union in accepting the Romanian surrender, and discuss each of the separate visions the "Big Three" had for post-war Romania. I then examine the almost immediate Soviet violation of the armistice terms. Using this Soviet behavior as evidence, I finally argue that the Cold War began during 1944 as the Allied powers clashed over how to restructure post-war Romania. I again rely on declassified material from FRUS. My secondary sources include biographies of King Michael, analyses of the surrender in book and article form by primary witnesses to the events as well as period scholars, and books that complete the historical narrative and place these events in context.
  • The Role of Propaganda in Destabilizing the Directory and Securing Napoleon's Power

    Lavelle, James (2016-04-30)
    Since the end of the French Revolution historians have constantly debated the reasons why the Coup de Brumaire and Napoleon's rise to power was so successful. Napoleon's control and manipulation of propaganda allowed him to develop a cult of personality, that in its most organic form, dictated the mindset and opinion of the people of France during his Italian and Egyptian campaigns. Napoleon's control of media outlets, the creation of his own glorified dispatches, and the formation of six newspapers catering to his every will helped build up the media empire that would aid him in his rise to power. This article details the ineffective use of propaganda by the Directory, the government that ruled France before the Coup de Brumaire, but also shines light on the accomplishments of the governing body during its time in power. In this paper the Directory and Napoleon are analyzed through various historical lens by authors from both the Marxist and Revisionist side of the historiography surrounding the French Revolution. I conclude that it was Napoleon's effective use of his skills as a propagandist, along with the Directory's ineffective use of propaganda, that would eventually allow him to seize power in 1799.
  • Seen, But Now Heard: How Increased LGBT Visibility Contributed to Cultural Acceptance of Gay Marriage

    Milone, Abigail (2016-04-30)
    With the Supreme Court's ruling in Oberfegell v. Hodges on June 26 of this past year, the long-standing fight for gay rights finally reached its peak with the national legalization of gay marriage. In comparison to the shift favoring the women's rights and civil rights movements, which happened gradually over nearly two hundred years, public opinion and legal opinion on gay rights reversed in an historical instant in the 35 years since 1980, and even grew to include mass support of gay marriage, a concept that had never even been seriously considered prior to this period. How did this change happen so rapidly? As an analysis of polling data, news articles and government documents demonstrates, no singular event, court case, or public policy was fully responsible; rather it was any event that made the LGBT population more visible and therefore more widely understood and tolerated, beginning with the AIDS crisis and extending to legal and non-legal actions. More hidden than other previously marginalized groups, the gay marriage movement gained momentum so quickly because it was launched into public consciousness through the forced unmasking and voluntary coming out of LGBT people. The act of distinguishing themselves through coming out gave LGBT people a continuous way to assert their identity and keep gay rights, including gay marriage, in the news and in people's minds.
  • Eugenics and Xenophobic Sentiments during the Prohibition Era

    Estrella, Robert (2016-04-30)
    Throughout the 1920s, the war on alcohol between the "drys" and "wets" was the prominent subject of concern in the United States. By prohibiting "the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors" the 18th amendment was designed to affect every person living in the United States, however the law strategically targeted the new immigrants and those in the working class, as Lisa McGirr explains in "The War on Alcohol". Ethnocultural superiority in native-born Americans lead groups such as the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, Anti-Saloon League, and the Ku Klux Klan to enforce the law and argued that immigrants were the problem. This paper will explore the anti-immigration laws and eugenic thought that targeted immigrants during Prohibition.
  • Women in Combat: A Historical Perspective

    Student, United States Military Academy; Streatfield, Samir (2014-04-30)
    This paper seeks to provide a general template for determining the nature of, and reasons behind, the employment of women in warfare. I focus on groups of women who fought as formal combat components of historical military forces in order to explain the general socio-cultural, military, and situational factors that led to the employment of women in combat. My conclusions are that two factors: societal license to fight and the presence of battlefield roles with able women to fill them, were necessary for the regular employment of women in combat. However, I also found that under desperate circumstances in existential conflicts, societies, regardless of their disposition towards women or traditional battlefield roles, would employ women in combat to stave off destruction. My sources are drawn from a wide variety of historical records of women in combat, including writings of Plutarch and Appian, and modern analyses of archeological findings that suggest martial roles for women. The scope of this paper is from the 6th Century BCE to 1900 CE.
  • Religious Resistance: Imperialism and the Militarization of the Cao Dai, 1924-1954

    Schaeffer, Joy (2016-04-30)
    Founded in 1924 by Ngo Van Chieu, Caodaism is a syncretic mix of Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, ancestor worship, Christianity and other western religions. This paper focuses on its connection to nationalist resistance against French imperialism during the thirty years after its founding. The religion grew to become both a political and military force up to and during the Second World War. Such militancy was the product of individual responses to the French imperialism, popular support for the nationalist flavor of the religion, the politicizing nature of the inadequate French administrative system, and support provided by the occupying Japanese during World War II. Sources for this paper include Smith's Pre-­Communist Indochina, Victor's Cao Dai Spiritism, Dutton's Sources of Vietnamese Tradition, a many other studies on the Cao Dai religion.
  • A Strange Liberation: Women and Male Continence in the Oneida Community

    Monteleone, Andrea (2016-04-30)
    During the religious revival of the nineteenth-century, known as the Second Great Awakening, several Perfectionist communitarian societies were established in the United States. One such society was the Oneida Community, founded by leader John Humphrey Noyes and his followers in Oneida, New York, in March of 1848. Contemporaries and historians alike have debated the unique and controversial practices of the Community members. The members lived in what they called "complex marriage," where all Community members were married to each other, and sexual activity between all men and women was encouraged to promote bonding, pleasure, and a strong sense of community. However, this broad sexual activity was not meant to lead to indiscriminate pregnancies. To prevent such pregnancies, Noyes adopted a practice called coitus reservatus, or male continence, which required men to control their ejaculation during and after sexual intercourse. For many outside the community, this practice was seen as strange and unnatural. Contrary to this belief, members of the community, in their own words, reveal that this practice actually removed many problematic elements placed on women during the nineteenth century, such as anxiety about pregnancy and childbirth, ridicule for various birth control methods, shaming for sexual activity, and even the erasure of components of female sexuality. Therefore, one might argue that male continence actually did achieve progress for Oneida Community women, including preventing unwanted pregnancies, providing for a full, pleasurable sexual experience, as well as an appreciation of the realities of female sexuality. Their contemporaries struggled to gain these liberations, and they remain goals of present-day American women.
  • The House Always Wins (Except When It Doesn't): Billy Wilkerson, Bugsy Siegel, and the Elusive Dream of Las Vegas

    MacMahon, Brianna (2016-04-30)
    This paper focuses upon the Flamingo, a 1940's casino and hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada that was imagined by Hollywood restaurant owner Billy Wilkerson and realized by mobster Bugsy Siegel. Using newspaper articles, FBI files, advertisements, and other such primary sources, the paper traces Wilkerson's involvement with the Flamingo, as well as Siegel's eventual rise as the project's head. Three main secondary sources were examined in order to provide historical context for the Flamingo, Wilkerson, and Siegel. Firstly, Wallace Turner's 1965 work Gamblers' Money: The New Force in American Life</em> examines Las Vegas's economy and the rise of the casino hotels. Secondly, John L. Smith's 1997 essay "The Ghost of Ben Siegel" focuses upon Siegel's evolving image and his lasting hold on Las Vegas folklore. Lastly, Larry Gragg's 2015 biography, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel: The Gangster, the Flamingo, and the Making of Modern Las Vegas, explores Siegel as both a mobster and a businessman, concluding that he was much better suited for the former. Both Wilkerson and Siegel were intoxicated by Las Vegas's corrupting allure of wealth; the city simultaneously entranced and destroyed them. Yet, although they both ultimately failed in their roles as Las Vegas capitalists, I argue that the Flamingo paved the way for future casinos and hotels on the Strip, thus inaugurating modern-day Las Vegas.
  • The Unknown History of New York City's Chinatown: A Story of Crime During the Years of American Prohibition

    Christensen, Kathryn (2016-04-30)
    During Prohibition immigrants were often made into scapegoats for the rise in illegal activity. The increase in crime was blamed on the rising immigrant population creating an intense fear of immigrants coming into the United States. Popular interpretations have looked at this through the lens of European immigrants coming to the United States. Groups such as the Italian Mafia, and Irish gangs in New York City are a well-rehearsed story within the history of Prohibition. However, Europeans were not the only immigrants that began to flood into the ports of New York City, and they were not the only groups of immigrants to get entangled with the 18th amendment. Within New York City's Chinatown there were various raids revealing rice wine moonshine, secret speakeasies, and crime leading to the formation of gangs just like their European counterparts. New York City's Chinatown quickly gained the reputation of being shady and crime ridden, and going into its midst was called popularly referred to as "slumming". This paper explores the nature of Chinatown during the years of Prohibition and how Prohibition affected the Chinese immigrants. It also examines the ways in which the media of the time contributed to the rising fear of Chinese immigrants' crime, and how it contributed to the idea of the " yellow peril".
  • Survival of the Lucky: Foundling Children in the Ospedale degli Innocenti

    Cernik, Laura (2016-04-30)
    The Ospedale degli Innocenti, a foundling hospital, was built during the Florentine Renaissance to fill a vital need to house the large amount of foundlings. However, once within institutional walls, these children were often the victims of malnutrition and died. If they survived, however, these children may have faced abuse as cheap labor through Innocenti contracts. Despite the death and abuse that was rampant in the Innocenti, it was not the intent or purpose of the hospital; rather, it was the flawed methods they used that led to death and abuse.
  • "A new Champion in the Ranks of Freedom": Vermont's Whigs React to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850

    Begin, Amanda (2016-04-30)
    Vermont abolitionist and anti-slavery Whig newspapers in 1851 contain many articles denouncing the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Through an analysis of Vermont abolitionist newspapers, this paper will trace the several main arguments given by the State's abolitionist and anti-slavery Whig population against the act and the reasoning behind them. These arguments include that the Fugitive Slave Act was unconstitutional because it took away basic human rights, such as a trial by jury, and the argument that Congress had no power to pass such a law or dictate whether or not a state could issue writs of habeas corpus and provide a trial for the accused fugitive. Vermont's most infamous reaction was the passage of their very own Habeas Corpus Act to modify the actions made by state officials in the occurrence of the use of the Fugitive Slave Act within Vermont. These arguments against the Fugitive Slave Act and the growing abolitionist movement widened the divide between anti-slavery Whigs and the rest of the Whig population. This eventually led to the fall of the Whig party and the convergence of the anti-slavery Whigs and other anti-slavery parties to create the new Republican Party.