Ph.D. student in History, Princeton University
Thesis title: River of Living Water: The Croton System and the Transformation of Westchester, 1841-1896
What Now: Ph.D. student in History at Princeton University
What Next: Braving the academic job market, I guess!
Follow Me: @msilber6 (Twitter)
I've recently returned from Oxford, England, where I did a master's in history on a Rhodes Scholarship. Though I was in Hist & Lit's "American" field, my studies in the U.K. took me to British and South African history. My master's thesis, "Terms of Service: British Domestic Workers in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony, 1902-1914," examined a colonial program that facilitated the immigration of British women to Southern Africa's formerly Dutch colonies as part of an effort to increase the settler population and secure its political loyalty. Though it failed to achieve those goals, I argued that the program offered working-class women a means of social advancement--social advancement that they often achieved at a cost to the black men who lived and worked alongside them in South African households.
In many ways, my master's thesis was a departure from the topics, themes, and methodologies that I explored as an undergraduate. It even had a large quantitative component that would have terrified the freshman-year me who dropped out of my first and only college math class after two weeks. But in many ways, it represented an interest I first developed in my sophomore tutorial, and that has obsessed me since. I'm fascinated by the relationship between propaganda and social practice, the way that political and cultural narratives alternately reflect, distort and shape the realities of individual lives. I guess that's one way of understanding that ampersand between "hist" and "lit."
Next year, I'm starting a history PhD at Princeton, still not quite sure whether I'm an Americanist, a Europeanist, or an Africanist. For now, I'm looking forward to diving back into classes and readings, and continuing to investigate the ampersand.