The eighth publication of Davidson History Journal includes work from the Fall 2021 semester. The editorial staff would like to thank Davidson’s History Department and all contributors.
Conceiving Contraception: Birth Control in Early Maoist China by Tindall Adams
Much of the attention given to China’s population concerns centers around the One-Child Policy, neglecting the important and complicated history of contraception under Maoist China. From 1949 until the beginning of the Great Leap Forward, the state implemented inconsistent contraception policies due to opposing concerns about China’s population size. Historians have only briefly examined personal accounts reflecting on contraception during this period; this paper expands on previous analyses to further examine these personal accounts and what they reveal about how age, class, and geography affected women’s experiences with birth control.
Supporting Working-Class Reform: Manipulation of Fin-de-Siècle Discourses and Anxieties by Cecie Bassett
The fin-de-siècle coincided with the development of many new discourses and anxieties, particularly surrounding modernity, including degeneration theory, nationalism, and modern scientific rhetoric. This essay examines the work of E. Jourdet, a French social investigator, who utilized these prevalent fin-de-siècle discourses in his 1906 monograph Les Habitations à Bon Marché to create an artful argument for working-class housing reform in Paris as a solution to many of these anxieties.
Sex, Desire, and Identity: Intersections of Sexuality and Race in Social and Romantic Life at Davidson by Julia Bainum, Ella Nagy-Benson and Emma Shealy
This paper uses oral histories and archival sources to analyze the ways in which race and sexuality intersect to influence Davidson College students’ experiences of sex, desire, and social life throughout the institution’s history. It explores the co-regulation and co-construction of race and sexuality on campus including the lack of institutional support, lack of space for marginalized groups on campus, and the ways that racism and homophobia have existed within affinity spaces. Lastly, it discusses ways that we can reconsider institutional structures of oppression and reallocate space on campus so that Davidson can be more inclusive and intersectional.
America’s Black Eye: The Rise of Slavery and Slave Societies in Colonial America by Michael Callahan by Michael Callahan
Southern Colonial America from the late 1600s to 1750 is defined by its transition from sustenance farming to cash crop agriculture. The labor-intensive nature of growing tobacco, cotton, or indigo coupled with the end of indentured servitude in America led the rise of demand for cheap labor. Due to these circumstances, early colonists decided to turn towards the African slave exchange. However, was slavery in the colonies exclusively motivated by economic factors? This essay examines the difference between economic and political enslavement, as well as how communities in the South with particularly dense slave populations developed into “slave societies.”
Queer Christianity at Davidson College, 1980-2021 by Courtney Clawson, Laura Collins, and Lucy Walton
This piece analyzes the complex (and at times oversimplified) relationship between Christianity and queer identity at Davidson College. Specifically, we analyzed the oral history of a lesbian Davidson alumni couple, Heather McKee and Jane Campbell. Despite documented experiences of Christian hostility towards queer sexual identities during their time on campus in the 1980s, these women went on to become the first lesbian couple married at Davidson College Presbyterian Church in 2013. We aim for this piece to call attention to the complicated relationship between Christianity and queerness, the importance of oral history as a source base for queer history, and the ways in which Davidson, yet still, can promote a safer and more inclusive environment for queer students today.
Aiming for Strategic Effect: A Re-examination of the Allied Assaults on Schweinfurt by Alex Coetzer
This paper examines the Allied offensives against the German ball bearing industry in Schweinfurt during WW2. With particular focus on the American campaign of strategic bombing, this paper challenges the assertion made in previous scholarship that the Allies were erroneous in identifying Schweinfurt as a “strategic target” and endeavors to prove that while the offensive against Germany’s ball bearing industry did not initiate its systematic collapse, its selection as a strategic target warrants more credit. Since the Allies were forced to abandon Schweinfurt, this paper also evaluates the effect of offensives against Germany’s synthetic fuel sources and communication lines.
Political Rituals and Symbolism in Early Ottonian History by Emily Evans
This paper explores an example of an empire writing its own historical narrative in a positive light. Deeds of the Saxons, a 10th-century chronicle, described political rituals and symbols that glorified the Ottonian Empire. I argue that Widukind of Corvey, author of Deeds, carefully chose stories and language that characterized the Ottonian Empire as stable and strong from its origin.
Indian Women in South Africa: From 1904 to the 1950’s by Hana Kamran
This paper takes a circumspect view on the different societal, political, and economic policies that affected the health and wellbeing of Indian Women in South Africa from 1904 to the 1950’s largely utilizing primary source information from the Indian Opinion, a newspaper that was published by prominent members of the Indian community and started by Mahatma Ghandi in 1903. Indian women in South Africa constitute a small minority of the population, but as a group Indians in South Africa shed light on the longstanding history of colonialism and apartheid that maintained its hold over this region and show how marginalized or immigrant communities respond to such a history.
The Power of Fear by Heather Mansell
This paper is an examination of the legal ramifications of the “Black Act” that was passed in England in 1723. It explores the fear of violence that led to the passage of the act in the postwar years of 1713-1723, and the conviction of William “Vulcan” Gates for violating the law. Gates was convicted, sentenced to death, and executed without a trial, and his case exemplifies the injustice that was allowed within the provisions of the “Black Act.”
“You gotta be present, you have to be visible, and you have to be inconvenient”: An Oral History Interview with James G. Pepper ‘65 by Sophia Nissler, Isabel Padalecki, and Grace Payne
Jim Pepper’s oral history interview, conducted by Davidson College students in May of 2021, highlights the tensions and convergence between the values he gained at Davidson and his HIV/AIDS activism in New York City. Furthermore, in analyzing his important post-graduate work in comparison to how he and other alums are frequently remembered for their monetary contributions to Davidson College, we can see the biases present in institutional memories of change.
“Mother as Leader: Gender, Family, and Power in Hagiographic Depictions of Tenth-Century Ottonian Queens” by Isabel Padalecki
In this essay, I analyze hagiographic depictions of tenth-century Ottonian queens Mathilda and Queen Adelheid to investigate gendered power in medieval Germany. I argue that these religious portrayals of queens as powerful mothers and wives who reproduced a pure lineage of kings, provided counsel to the king, and served as mother-like figures to their subjects, created representational sites in which royal women directly exercised political power without controversy. These representations thus reveal that within Ottonian society, royal women were understood by major religious and royal stakeholders as possessing, through their familial labor, broad political authority and influence.