Historians Receive 2013-14 Hudson Doctoral Fellowship

Rebecca Howard, Matt Parnell
Photos by University Relations

Rebecca Howard, Matt Parnell

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Rebecca Howard wanted to examine the reconciliation of communities in Northwest Arkansas after the Civil War. Matt Parnell was interested in the changing conceptions of youth and youthfulness in 19th-century Egypt under British colonial rule.

Howard and Parnell, who are both doctoral candidates in the department of history, are winners of the 2013-14 James J. Hudson Doctoral Fellowship in the Humanities. The Hudson Fellowship was established in 1986 in memory of Hudson, a longtime professor of history and dean of the Graduate School at the University of Arkansas.

The fellowship is awarded to outstanding doctoral candidates who have completed their coursework and are working on dissertations in history, English, philosophy or comparative literature. The award came with a cash prize of $1,500, which Howard and Parnell used to offset travel costs associated with their dissertation research.

“The Hudson Fellowship has benefited many doctoral students in history as they finish the research and writing of their dissertations,” said Kathryn Sloan, chair of the history department. “It is a significant confirmation of a student’s promise and potential as a scholar, and we are proud to have had two of our historians win the award in the same year.”

Howard’s dissertation, “Brothers of a Common Cause: The Civil War and its Aftermath in Northwest Arkansas,” explores how communities in the northwest corner of the state reconciled and rebuilt after the guerilla war between civilians and soldiers that characterized the Civil War in the region.

“I wanted to find out how those towns recovered from guerilla fighting that was so common in the upland South during the war,” Howard said. “Northwest Arkansas is a great place to do that kind of study because guerilla fighting was prevalent here.”

What she found was not the little-known story of Union involvement of Ozark soldiers — both in terms of military engagement but also in terms of the social history of warfare in Northwest Arkansas — but also substantive evidence that hard feelings associated with the guerilla war in the region dissipated after the war ended in 1865.

“Political divides continued,” she said. “Democrats and Republicans continued to snipe at each other in local newspapers in the years after the war. But at the social and practical level, people got over it. Violence declined, communities rebuilt, and Unionists and Confederate families found themselves linked by marriage and business interests surprisingly quickly once the war was over.”

Howard conducted research at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., where she accessed Civil War and Later Pension Files in the Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs. A Bentonville native, she is a University of Arkansas Doctoral Academy Fellow and winner of various fellowships, including the Diane D. Blair Graduate Fellowship in Southern Social and Political History, the Gordon McNeil Paper Prize, the James J. Hudson Prize in Military History and the Mary Hudgins Research Award for students working in the field of Arkansas History. 

Parnell is completing his dissertation, “Youth…Power…Egypt: The Development of al-Shabab as a Sociopolitical Concept and Force in Egypt, 1805-1923,” in which he focuses on the conception of youth in Egypt within the discourses of modernity, colonialism and nationalism, up to and through the Egyptian revolution in 1919.

“My dissertation project emerged out my interest to examine the changing conceptions of Egyptian youth and youthfulness from the beginnings of Egypt’s modernization under Muhammad ‘Ali through the imposition of British colonial rule to the 1919 revolutionary period,” Parnell said. “These evolving conceptions were closely tied to broader projects of and discourses on Egypt’s modernization, colonialism, and nationalism in the 19th and early 20th century. In so many ways the conception of youth and youthfulness was intertwined with notions and structures of power and hegemony. Therefore as power dynamics transformed within and outside of Egypt, so too did conceptions of Egypt’s youth and youthfulness leading to very ambiguous meanings and definitions.”

Parnell has conducted research at the Egyptian National Archive and Library, the Egyptian Ministry of Education, Special Collections at the American University of Cairo, and the British National Archives at Kew.

Parnell has traveled to Cairo three times since 2009 to conduct dissertation research. He and his family were among the Americans who were forced to leave the country in January 2011 during the Egyptian revolution that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak.

Parnell, who plans to defend his dissertation this year, sees parallels between his dissertation topic and the current situation in Egypt.

“Once again, the Egyptian youth are playing a very large part of challenging the ruling system,” he said. “It is interesting to be studying this movement in history and to also witnessing another revolution.”

Parnell has received several fellowships and prizes at the university, including the American Research Center in Egypt Dissertation Research Fellowship and the George Billingsley Award and Willard B. Gatewood Graduate Fellowship, both given by the U of A department of history. In 2010-11, he was a J. William Fulbright U.S. Student Research Grant and Critical Language Enhancement Award Recipient to Egypt.



Chris Branam, research communications writer/editor
University Relations
479-575-4737, cwbranam@uark.edu


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