Earlier this summer, eight Lawrentians spent two weeks on campus taking part in the Heely Scholars Program. Rising Fifth Formers Sam Cabot, Sophia Cai, Krissy Daisak, Maia Johngren, Michael Knowles, Injil Muhammad, Panos Vandris, and Cathy Wu studied World War II and Lawrenceville’s place in the conflict using the School’s Stephan Archives under the guidance of program director and History Master Anne Louise Smit and the Bunn Library’s archivists.
The students spent the first week reading about and discussing techniques for the telling of history, examining World Wars I and II from a global perspective, and learning archival research practices. The students also read chapters from “In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing the Second World War” by David Reynolds, a book that covers Winston Churchill’s role not only as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the war but later as its foremost historian. Using Churchill as a model, the Scholars examined the politics of writing history, particularly the significance of an author’s being the “first to print” after a historical event.
Now equipped with an understanding of the war period and the techniques historians use to analyze and present archival documents, the Scholars delved into the Stephan Archives to investigate Lawrenceville prior to and during the war. The students looked at The Lawrence, Olla Podrida, The Lit, Board of Trustees records, speeches delivered by Head Master Allan Heely H’97 ’27, and correspondence between his wife Pattie Heely and Lawrenceville alumni serving in the military.
These letters were particularly illuminating, providing glimpses into the minds of former students involved in the deadliest war in history. Some wrote of the tedium of military life; some of the horrors they witnessed on the battlefield; some of nostalgia for their old school. The Scholars used these firsthand accounts to guide their thinking about the period, opening themselves up to a multitude of voices without narrowing their exploration down to specific topics yet. Each Scholar crafted a “nugget” presentation to examine and annotate a specific document that piqued his or her interest during this process.
After gaining a better understanding of Lawrentians’ experiences during the war through personal correspondence and School documents, the Scholars began to focus in on particular areas of study that interested them, conducting more directed research in the archives to learn specific details and then finding external sources, both primary and secondary, that covered each topic from beyond Lawrenceville’s gates.
By the end of the two weeks, each Scholar produced a Document-Based Question (DBQ) that included background information about his or her topic and a set of 10 to 14 primary sources drawn from the Stephan Archives and additional online archives. Students taking the DBQ would use these documents to answer the historical question posed by the Scholar who wrote it. These DBQs will be available for use in Lawrenceville U.S. history classes.
In addition to on-campus research, the Scholars visited the Princeton Battlefield, where they viewed the site of a key battle in the American Revolutionary War, and Morven Museum & Garden, where they explored an exhibit about famous aviators Charles and Anne Lindbergh. Both of these excursions gave the Scholars an opportunity to consider the need of preserving history, especially as a nation’s common memory is molded by shifting generational values.
During Fall Term, the Scholars will refine their nuggets and DBQs in Advanced Research Seminar, an elective course taught by Smit. Each Scholar will then engage in a lengthy research process culminating in a thesis paper, building on his or her DBQ topic or setting off in a new direction. Later in the year, the Scholars will create a project such as an exhibit to showcase their research to the School community as well as travel to England and France over Spring Break.
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