History Symposium– What makes a good 485 presentation

Today I attended three sessions of the history symposium and watched nine different students present their History 485 projects. During this event I saw many effective aspects of these presentations, and a few things that were less effective. I learned that in order to give a good 485 presentation, you need to know your topic inside and out, anticipate the questions that might be asked, and not try to put your entire paper into this presentation. A few speakers could have done better in certain areas, and I learned from them what mistakes not to make. It is important to make sure the words on your slides stand out from the background, and that your slides are not too word heavy. It is also important to keep an eye on the moderator so they don’t have to flag you down when you are reaching your time limit. Overall, I was impressed by all of the presenters I saw.

Academic Research Databases

When I do research, the main databases I find most helpful are JSTOR and Quest through the UMW Library page. JSTOR is a staple for any history major because of the vast amount of easily accessible academic sources. I like to use the Quest page because it is something that I am familiar and comfortable with, but I have to be more careful about the quality of the sources I find there. I would like to explore more databases that are specific for history research so I can have more variety when searching for the perfect sources.

Cohen Reflection

How do Cohen’s last chapters of the book, in Part 3 “The Boxers as Myth,” answer different kinds of historical questions than those Part 1 (“Boxers as Event”) and Part 2 (“Boxers as Experience”)? What do these chapters reveal about how history itself is constructed? What questions might they raise for our own process of writing history?

Cohen’s last chapters tell a different historical story than his first two sections. The sections about the historical events and the experiences of the participants are about the type of subjects historians intentionally focus on, but the final section on myth discusses an area of history that many historians don’t intentionally include in their histories. In this third section, Cohen discusses how historians and other people who have told of the Boxer Uprising have been influenced by the myth of the uprising and how they have continued to mold their tellings along with myth. Cohen is very self aware as a historian in this chapter and he tries to explain many of the interpretations that may be found when researching this subject. This section challenges the reader to think critically of the sources they read, even from historians. Cohen shows how easy it is to fall into the trap of myth rather than using the whole truth and all facts of an event. It also can make the reader into a more self aware historical writer. Knowing that mythologizing history is easy when trying to make a point helps keep from doing it. This section makes me question, when I am writing, what my personal biases are and what my intentions of my writings are. Am I writing to try to understand and explain a historical event? Or am I writing to prove a point or to follow an agenda? This section brings around a very important self awareness for historical writing.

Cohen Mythology Outline


  • Cohen compares the differences between historians and mythologizers.
  • He explains how mythology often takes select truths to tell about the past, and uses them to their advantage.
  • They often use partial and/or distorted facts, but it always contains some sense of truthfulness.
  • “‘Myth,’ in everyday parlance, often implies something ‘fabricated’ or ‘not true.’ My use of the term here, although not excluding this connotation, is broader, more ambiguous, and focused somewhat on a different set of concerns.” (211-212)
  • What people believe has a heavy influence on what people think and their behavior, whether or not it is true. (212)
  • There are many forms of mythologization of the past: “everyday” mythologization, autobiographical mythologization, local boosterism, and mythologization found in poetry, drama, literature, art, and film.
  • Boxers were mythologized in each of these ways.

Chapter 8- Anti-Imperialism and the Recasting of the Boxer Myth:

  • There was a major cultural transformation in China in the 1920s. This caused new positive mythologization of the Boxers.
  • “Not only among conservatives but among reformers and revolutionaries as well there were, from the outset, those who discerned in the Boxer experience at least some redeeming qualities.” (239)
  • It was easy for patriotic Chinese to draw inspiration from the memory of the Boxer uprising, leading to mythologizing of these memories.
  • Chen Duxiu wrote an article on the 7 year anniversary of the Boxer Protocol about how he believed that the Boxer uprising “was no less important an event in modern Chinese history than the 1911 revolution.” (241) He argued that there were two major misconceptions. The first was “the tendency to loathe the Boxers for their ‘barbarous antiforeignism.’”(241) The second was the view that “since the Boxer affair was the crime of a minority, the powers should not, on this account, have punished the entire Chinese people with a huge indemnity.” (244)
  • Chen spent his article explaining why this misconceptions were false, and positively mythologizing the Boxers.
  • There were people in this time who negatively mythologized the Boxers for their own uses. “Local Chinese authorities were not averse, on occasion, to raising the specter of Boxerism, in the sense of unruly mob behavior (“turmoil”), to justify their suppression of anti-imperialist political activity.” (251-252)
  • Boxer symbolism was also used to discredit Chinese nationalism.
  • Efforts to demythologize the Boxers backfired and often added to the myths.

Literature Review Topics Brainstorm

I have been thinking about what themes interest me for the upcoming literature review assignment, and I have a few basic ideas. In general, I am very interested in the history of gender roles in different areas of the world. I don’t know much about China at the time of the Boxer uprising, except for what we are learning in this class, so I would be interested in learning more about how women were seen in Chinese society at this time.

Another idea I have is inspired by the Intro to Theater course I am taking this semester. I have been involved in and studying theater my entire life, so this course is a bit of a refresher for me, but recently we have looked at the history of theater in classical and medieval eras in Greece, Rome, China, Japan, and India. Studying these topics of theater while also reading Cohen’s chapters on Boxer spirit possession has me curious on the influence that the spread of Boxer spirit possession had on theater in China.

These are the thoughts I have had on topics for the upcoming literature review assignment.

Carolyn Stough At A Glance

Hello! My name is Carolyn Stough and I am a sophomore History major at the University of Mary Washington. I was born and raised in Richmond Virginia. I grew up in a suburb just south of the James River, close enough to be in downtown Richmond in 15 minutes or less. I grew up learning the rich history of my hometown, always visiting museums and historical sights. There are so many interesting parts of Richmond that I still haven’t seen all of them. My love of living in a historic city made my choice to attend the University of Mary Washington much easier.

Unknown. Under Manchester Bridge. Richmond, 20 Feb. 2012.

I grew up in a very musical family. My mom plays guitar and sings, my sister played in marching band in high school, and my brother played guitar in a few bands in the Richmond punk scene. It is easy to see how music and performance became such an important part of my life. I branched out especially into theatre and musical theatre. Ever since the first time I was on a stage in third grade, I have been in love with performance. I have tried all sorts of forms of performance (singing, piano, ukulele, dance, theatre) many of which I am still involved with today. I can’t imagine my life without these creative outlets in it.

Unknown. City Theatre. Amsterdam, 1935.

I attended public school my entire childhood, all the way up through 10th grade. During my 10th grade year I felt like I wasn’t getting the kind of education that I wanted at my school, and I became tired with the structure of a normal high school. I researched my options and presented my parents with the idea of being homeschooled for my last years of high school. My parents thought it would be worth a shot, so the next two years I took half of my classes at a small homeschool academy, and half at the local community college. This change made my last two years of high school much more beneficial than they would have been had I stayed in public school. Taking charge of my own education was the best decision I have made this far in my life, and I am proud of myself for it.

Södergran, Edith. The Cat Is Back Once Again. 1920.

My life today involves a strong focus on school and gaining my history degree with hopes of attending law school afterword. I am involved in clubs on campus, including being the historian of a club I helped found, as well as being in the honors program. Besides academics, I still love to dance and sing, and spend weekends from time to time back home with my family and cats, whom I miss very much. I especially miss my two Maine Coon cats, Ellie and Thomas O’Malley. They along with the rest of my family are very supportive of my goals and I am thankful for them. I’m excited to see where the rest of my academic career takes me.