A research paper by Rick Smallshaw ’24, a history major and Westover Honors Fellow at the University of Lynchburg, placed second this spring in the regional Phi Alpha Theta National History Honor Society paper competition.
The paper, “A Continental Approach to the Trans-Atlantic Dye Trade,” stood up against papers written by college and university students from across Virginia. For his placement, Smallshaw received a cash award.
Smallshaw first became interested in the trans-Atlantic dye trade after reading “A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and a Quest for the Color of Desire,” a monograph by Amy Butler Greenfield.
“It was a fascinating read dealing with the artistic and historical implications of the trade of cochineal, a Latin American insect exploited by the Spanish for the production of red dye,” the transfer student with minors in medieval and Renaissance studies, art history, and German said.
“I’m interested in art history, particularly that of medieval Europe, the Renaissance, and the Baroque period. My paper gave me the opportunity to explore multiple areas of global art history, as well as general Atlantic history — a quite contentious topic!
“I’m fascinated by the visual evolution of artistic style and interpretation and its reflection of the political and social evolution of great historical empires, as well as the physical evolution of art as new mediums, dyes, colors, and techniques were introduced through imperialism and the creation of global connections, like the trans-Atlantic trade network.”
Smallshaw added that he would like to thank Dr. Lisa Crutchfield, assistant professor of history and Phi Alpha Theta advisor, for her “encouragement during the research- and paper-construction processes. Her passion for Atlantic history and for inspiring undergraduate research have been invaluable to my development as a historian.
“I would also like to thank my advisor and professor, Dr. Scott Amos, whose classes have inspired me to narrow and further develop my historical interests.”
Conference organizers reported that the judges gave Smallshaw “top marks for originality of topic, wide range of bibliographic sources, and effective/correct use of citations. He also scored very well on articulate and engaging prose style, innovative and well-argued thesis, and strength of evidence in support of his thesis.”
The virtual paper competition, which replaced the honor society’s annual conference this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was hosted by Virginia Wesleyan University. The papers were judged by three out-of-state history professors. Smallshaw’s paper was one of eight submitted by University of Lynchburg students.
“To have that large of a contingent representing the University of Lynchburg showcases not only the impressive work our students are doing but also their high level of engagement in their studies and in their discipline,” Crutchfield said.
“In a year where it would have been easy to disengage due to COVID, these students not only committed to producing quality history projects but remained persistent and enthusiastic in their involvement in the competition. I am proud of their work and their dedication.”
In addition to Smallshaw, the following Lynchburg students submitted papers, which were nominated for the competition by their professors:
- Christopher Buntin ’21, “The Aftermath of Innovation: Great War Inventions and their Impacts on WWII”
- Andrew Johnson ’21, “The Deadly Diseases of Lynchburg: Then and Now”
- Sam Lipert ’23, “Insanity: The Effect of the Scientific Revolution on the Treatment of Mental Illness”
- Maddie Miller ’23, “Revere the Emperor, Banish the Barbarians: How European and American Influence Destroyed the Japanese Shogun during the 19th Century”
- Hayden Moore ’23, “Reproving Jazz: Why Jazz Was Condemned in the Early 20th Century”
- A.J. Nieves ’21, “Catholicism’s Role in The Pueblo Revolt of 1680”
- Clint Turbeville ’21, “The Inevitable Revolution: An Analysis on the Causes of the Russian Revolution”