Winners of the Loomie Prize

Each year, the History Department recognizes excellence among our graduate students by awarding a prize for the best paper written in a research seminar. The best paper for 2013 was awarded jointly to Hannah Shepard and Louisa Foroughi. We profile their research and the prize winning papers.

ShepardHannah Shepard (left) won for her paper “Vanished in Plain Sight: Scots-Irish Presbyterians in Wisconsin, 1830-1890”. Hannah provided the following abstract for the paper:

Eighteenth century emigration from the Irish province of Ulster to America has been widely studied.  This paper seeks to address a gap in the scholarship by investigating those who left Ulster in the first half of the nineteenth century, specifically Presbyterians of Scots-Irish descent.  This paper chooses to focus on those who bypassed the eastern seaboard cities of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia for the American West, settling in what was in the 1840s the edge of the northwest frontier, the territory, and subsequently new state, of Wisconsin.  This paper examines the reasons these immigrants went west, where they settled and why, and what impact they had on the early religious and political character of the state, specifically their role in the emerging Republican Party, abolitionism, and the establishment of frontier churches.  It argues that Ulster Presbyterians brought their unique brand of political and religious radicalism, with its roots in their Irish experience, with them to Wisconsin, influencing the early character of a state which has been known equally for its progressivism and its evangelicalism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

LForoughiLouisa Foroughi (right) won for her paper “This Was Found in An Olde Written Booke: An Edition of Fols. 1-32 of Columbia University Library Plimpton MS 259, A Late Medieval Miscellany”. Louisa provided this short description

For my MA thesis, I produced a codicological study of Columbia University Library Plimpton MS 259, a fifteenth-century miscellany, and an edition of the first thirty-two folios. These folios contain over two dozen texts, many previously unattested, including two florilegia and a tract advocating English bible translation. The manuscript also includes account records produced by its owners, the Gotteses, a family of yeoman farmers from the rural village of Little Ryburgh, Norfolk. Through a detailed examination of the manuscript and its contents, I was able to shed new light on one medieval family and their complex manuscript.


In their report, the Loomie prize judges acknowledged that:

All of the papers we considered were outstanding in their own ways.

But wrote that

We found that these two, very distinct historical projects in many ways perfectly complemented each other. Both point the way toward the recovery, in future research, of the voices of poorly understood communities- in Shepard’s case the early Scots-Irish immigrants who came to Wisconsin from Ulster and in Foroughi’s case the lower gentry farmers of late medieval Norfolk. Both also note the extraordinary projects of literacy underpinning the creation of their sources. For Shepard, this was the product of a particularly Presbyterian urge to write and reflect, often manifested in the accounts and memoirs of women on the frontier. For Foroughi, the remarkably learned farmers of the Gottes family lay behind her unusually learned collection of religious texts both in English and Latin.
Writing in elegant prose, Shepard demonstrates what an abundant and previously unexploited archive has to offer future studies of religious and cultural identity and the character of the American frontier. Foroughi, by contrast, offers a detailed technical analysis of a single complex medieval manuscript, previously read only piecemeal. By showing how it was written and constructed, Foroughy suggests how in turn we might profitably read it against the larger social, economic, and intellectual backdrop of later medieval England.
Congratulations, Hannah and Louisa!

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