Writing a Senior Thesis

Each year, seniors must decide whether to write a senior thesis. The year-long course (History 99) requires intensive research in primary sources and culminates in a major piece of writing (usually 60 to 100 pages). It is a significant investment of time and energy, and typically attracts only a small percentage of graduating seniors.

If you are interested, you should seek out a thesis adviser (usually someone in the geographic or chronological speciality of interest to you), go through the mechanics of formal registration and begin designing a strategy to choose an important, feasible topic.

Why Should You Write a Thesis?

  1. It provides an essential experience for those planning to do graduate work, especially in history. A senior thesis means "doing" history, not just learning it; it helps you to discover how the historian conducts research and transforms that raw information into a coherent story and analysis.
  2. You can explore in great depth a subject that is of great interest to you, but only tangentially (if at all) broached in the general curriculum.
  3. If your research requires the use of non-English sources, you can improve your reading skills to the level expected in graduate work.
  4. The thesis is a major writing experience: with the help of your adviser, you will learn how to structure a large piece of writing and in the process of writing, have an opportunity to refine your style and to internalize the conventions and mechanics of academic prose.

Guidelines and Topics

What kind of topics are appropriate? It should be a subject in which you have a particular interest; it should also be one for which there exists a substantial and accessible base of primary documentation. While you probably have some idea of the topic that interests you, the adviser can help you link that interest to a set of primary sources (whether printed or archival), most of which are available on campus or at least in the Boston area.

Download the Honors Thesis Guidelines

Timeline

Normally, you should complete most of your research by the beginning of the second semester, and then use February and March to write and revise. The final thesis is due in April (on a specific date set by the department, normally after the second spring vacation). The thesis is then discussed at a formal defense attended by the adviser, another member of the history department and one reader from outside.

Previous Senior Thesis Topics

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2016

Aliya Bean, "These Girlish Devotions: Women's Colleges, the Evolution of Female Friendship and the Development of Lesbian Identity (1890-1939)"

Noah Coolidge, "Profit and Power: The Revolutionary Forces Behind American Middle Class Ideology"

Nathan Goldwag, "When the West Looked East: British Observations on the Russo-Japanese"

Arielle Gordon, "The Woman with a Gun: A History of the Iranian Revolution's Most Famous Icon"

Catherine Rosch, "Irish Blood, American Heart, The Development of the Irish-American Political Identity and Political Power and its Effect on the Good Friday Agreement"

Veronica Saltzman, "Breaking Through the Red Line: The NAACP'S Litigation Strategy for Combating Housing Discrimination Between 1909-1948"

Robert Santamaria, "The Imperial Russian Navy in the First World War: The Myth and the Reality"

Zoe Waldman, "Toward the Heart of America: The Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the Development of American Identity"

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2015

Michael Abrams, "What the Land and People Have Been Devastated For: The Civilian Experience During the Thirty Years' War"

Jason Desimone, "The Illegitimacy of Sterilization: the Merging of Welfare and Eugenics in North Carolina, 1929-2015"

Ryan Kacani, "Ragnar Lothbrok and the Semi-Legendary History of Denmark"

Jordan Roth, "Heterodoxy and Orthodox Conceptions of the Good Life: Egyptian Monasticism in the Fourth and Fifth Centuries"

Danielle Stubbe, "Articulating Relativism: An Intellectual History of Relativist Anthropology in the Work of Franz Boas, 1883-1928"

Zi Jing Teoh, "The Chinese Business: A History of Chinese Immigration to the Northeastern United States through the U.S.-Canadian Border in the Early Chinese Exclusion Era, 1882-1910"

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2014

Dustin Aaron, "Coffrets Composites: Trade, Craft and Interpretation of Gothic Ivory Caskets in Northern Europe"

Katherine Doody, "The Roots of Radicalism: How Brandeis in the 1950s Helped Spark the Movements of the 1960s"

Jonathan Epstein, "Congressional Voting on the Underwood Tariff of 1913: An Econometric Analysis"

Malorie Letcavage, "Masculine Star Personas as Historical Product: History's Influence on the Legendary Figures of Bogart, Dean and Wayne"

Omri Nimni, "From Red Crests to Frontier Wolves: The Passage of Britain from Rome to the Anglo-Saxons"

Lee Nisson, "Acknowledging Plunder: The Consequences of How the United States Acquired Japanese and German Technological Secrets After WWII"

Benjamin Schmidt, "The Fate of Henry I's 'New Men' and Inheritance Rights in Anglo-Norman England from 1120-1154"

Xiaoyi Yu, "Idealistic or Practical: Maoist Ideology in the PRC before 1978"

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2013

Marc Alsina, "Argentine Political Law and the Recurring Breakdown of Democracy"

Alexis Brooks, "Victors' Justice Robert Jackson, the American Press and the Nuremberg Trials"

Debra Friedmann, "The Success of Antipater and Herod as Intermediaries Between Rome and Judea"

Max Goldstein, "A New Elizabethan England: The Golden Age of Barbary Pirates"

Jonathan Ostrowsky, "Evolving Public Attitudes: The Rise and Fall of Compulsory Sterilization of The Intellectually Disabled in the United States"

Alex Self, "The Rise and Fall of the Bloody Code"

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2012

Marc Eder, "A Survey of Factors Leading to the 1882 British Invasion of Egypt"

Adam Cohen, "Consequences for Our Actions: American Decision Makers and U.S. Policy Towards Afghanistan from the Soviet Invasion to the Rise of the Taliban"

Alexander Katz, "The Cousins' War"

Jonathan Megerian, "His Wisdom Resulted in Peace: The Norman Conquest of 1066 and the Birth of the General Eyre"

Dina Nathanson, "When It Plagues It Pours: Alternative Perspectives on the Virulence of the Black Death"

Felege-Selam Yirga, "Byzantine Mentalities: An Examination of the Social and Cultural Factors of the 1204 Conquest of Constantinople"