Theodore Roosevelt American History Award 2018
It is with great pleasure that the Jury awards the Theodore Roosevelt American History Award, 2018, for the best Dutch university master thesis. This year the Jury was comprised of the following members: Renee de Groot (2017 TRAHA Winner), Dr. Cees Heere (RIAS, Chair), Dr. Roel van den Oever (VU), and Dr. Laura Visser-Maessen (Radboud University Nijmegen).
The winner of 2018 is Megan Griffiths, of University Leiden, for her thesis ‘Radicals, Conservatives, and the Salem Witchcraft Crisis: Exploiting the Fragile Communities of Colonial New England’.
Radicals, Conservatives, and the Salem Witchcraft Crisis brims with ambition, promising to offer a fresh, original take on one of the most famous episodes in the history of colonial New England. Yet this is precisely what Megan Griffiths delivers. Through a close reading of original source material, such as trial transcripts, her thesis shows that performing ‘witchcraft’ – or accusing others of doing so – could represent carefully calibrated acts of rebellion against the social and religious constraints of Puritan society. Her interpretation of the possessed accusers, the accused, and the confessors as “Radicals,” who used the supernatural to liberate themselves from a Puritan system as represented by the non-possessed accusers and the judges (or “Conservatives”), is intriguing, carefully constructed, and ultimately persuasive. It is also an extremely well-written thesis, which sets out its argument with the clarity and conviction of a scholar in complete command of her subject.