In partnership with the Office of the Dean of the College, the Brown University Library is pleased to announce that Samuel Byker ’10 and Jonathan Hiles '10 are the recipients of the third annual Undergraduate Research Awards. The awards, which confer a $750 prize, recognize excellence in undergraduate research projects that make extensive and creative use of the Brown University Library's collections, including print and primary resources, databases, and materials in all media. A six member review committee of Brown faculty members, librarians, and the Office of the Dean of the College selected this year's winners.
Samuel Byker's research project, " 'Fictitious Finance and Spurious Credit': Paper Money and Political Crisis in Rhode Island, 1786-1790", was a Group Independent Study Project on American Economic History under the supervision of Professor David Weil. His paper analyzes the politics of paper money in Rhode Island in the post-revolutionary period. Samuel worked closely with Scholarly Resources Librarians Holly Snyder, Michael Jackson, and others to utilize primary and secondary sources available in the John Hay, John Carter Brown, and Rockefeller Libraries. As Samuel says, his project took him to places he never knew existed, as he "followed leads from government documents in the Rockefeller Library through antebellum historical tomes in the Hay, centuries-old business records in the John Carter Brown, online statistical databases on early America, and secondary literature found across the Library collections." The result, according to Professor Weil, is a paper that is "simply stunning." One reviewer commented: "Samuel's economic history of Rhode Island is meticulously researched and well written. He appeared to mine print and online resources and to make good use of the research librarians. He also seems to be making an original and compelling argument in a writing style that is engaging." And, as Samuel says, the smartest step he could have taken was consulting with subject librarians.
Jonathan Hiles's paper, "The Dorr Rebellion and the Social Contract of Political Equality," considered a new interpretation of the Dorr Rebellion. Written for Associate Professor Seth Rockman's history course, The Problem of Class in Early America, Jonathan's paper argues that Rhode Island's Dorrite struggle advocated not only for voting rights, but also for a broadly egalitarian society. Jonathan relied heavily on the Dorr Papers Collection in the John Hay Library, as he researched the public discourse surrounding the Dorr Rebellion, as well as the reforms contained in the People's Constitution. Broadsides, from the Dorr Collection, illustrated suffragist grievances, as well as opponents' propaganda, which revealed fear-mongering based on racial, ethnic, and religious stereotypes. One reviewer's comments stated: "Jonathan developed an original interpretation of the Dorr Rebellion, based on thoroughly conducted research of original documents in the John Hay Library" and demonstrated excellent mastery of the materials. Associate Professor Rockman states that Jonathan "makes observations useful to advanced scholars" and his was "some of the finest undergraduate research I've seen in my teaching career." A reception to honor the winners will be held on May 7th.
A reception to honor the winners will be held in early May.