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Congratulations to our Dissertation and Thesis Prize Winners!


The faculty and staff of the Department of History want to extend a heartfelt congratulations to this year’s PhD dissertation and MA thesis prize winners: Dr. Claire Litt (PhD, 2022), Shaelyn Ryan (MA, 2023), and Josh Weisenberg-Vincent (MA, 2022)!

Dr. Claire Litt’s dissertation, entitled “Le Gioie Della Vita: The Gemstones, Health, and Beauty of the Medici Women” analyzes the use of gemstones in the health and beauty practices of the Grand Duchess Christine of Lorraine (1565-1637) and her female family members at the Medici Court in Florence at the turn of the seventeenth century. It studies how precious stones were a medium of aristocratic female agency and used as ornaments that signaled familial bonds and social status, accessible repositories of wealth, ingredients in cosmetic and medicinal products, and protective pregnancy amulets. Dr. Litt's work demonstrates how noblewomen in early modern Italy skillfully deployed the monetary, cosmetic, medicinal and symbolic values of these stones to protect and promote their interests. The faith these women placed in the potency of these materials reflected the pervasive belief in natural magic in the late Renaissance and demonstrated the women’s personal engagement in the latest developments in natural science. Her award-winning work was completed under the supervision of Dr. Anthony D’Elia and Dr. Una D’Elia (Art History).

Shaelyn Ryan’s Master's thesis, “Missing Parts: A Critical Analysis of Amputees and Disability History in Three Canadian Archives and Museums” examines the ways that disability history in Canada—specifically amputee history—is constructed and presented in different museums and archives through three case studies: The Middleville and District Museum, the Museum of Health Care at Kingston, and Library and Archives Canada. Through the lens of critical disability studies, she investigates the narratives and conceptions of disability within each of these institutions and brings disability into conversation with archival studies in order to recommend ways that disability history might be made more discoverable, accessible, and equitable. Completed under the supervision of Dr. Steven Maynard, Shaelyn’s impressive study recognizes the importance of examining the processes and systems at play in museums and archives and argues that these construct particular views of disability history.

Co-winner Josh Weisenberg-Vincent’s thesis, “The evils of slavery cannot be mitigated”: The Amelioration and Emancipation of Slavery in the British Empire, 1785-1865,” illustrates that amelioration stalled, postponed, and often blocked the general movement towards emancipation in the British Empire during the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. It challenges the predominant notion among historians that there was an automatic sequence from amelioration—the act of improving conditions of slavery—to emancipation—the act of freeing enslaved people. As he shows, no matter how Britons used the idea of amelioration, the result remained the same: slavery was strengthened through amelioration. Josh’s superlative study was completed under the direction of Dr. Amitava Chowdhury, with whom he is continuing his doctoral research at Queen’s.

Congratulations all!

Department of History, Queen's University

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Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.