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Published on November 17, 2018

History Majors at the AHA

Two current Eastern History majors, Cassie Epes and Dana Meyer, are on the program for the 2019 annual meeting of the American Historical Association in Chicago in January. Dana will share the results of a recent digital history project that examines desertion in Revolutionary Connecticut and Cassie will present her work on conspiracy theories in Nazi Germany. You can find full descriptions from the AHA Program below.

Dana Meyer and Cassie Epes during the recent History Department trip to Gettysburg
Dana Meyer and Cassie Epes during the recent History Department trip to Gettysburg

As poster presenters, Cassie and Dana will each participate in the premier national convention for historians as two of a very select group of undergraduate researchers.

For more on the AHA, check out

(From the AHA Program)

A Willing Audience: The Brown Book of the Reichstag Fire and Hitler Terror and the Enduring Power of Conspiracy Theory

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Stevens C Prefunction (Hilton Chicago)

Cassie Epes, Eastern Connecticut State University

Cassie Epes

Eastern Connecticut State University

October 22, 2018

A Willing Audience:

The Brown Book and the Enduring Power of Conspiracy Theory

On February 27, 1933, the German parliamentary building known as the Reichstag, went up in flames in Berlin. The fire, which was almost immediately determined to be arson, is widely considered to be one of the pivotal moments of the Nazi party’s rise to power. In August of the same year, a book was published in Paris by a group of communist writers that had fled from Germany fearing political persecution. The book, The Brown Book of the Reichstag Fire and Hitler Terror, weaved an intricate web of political conspirators, sex, drugs, and treason. Based almost entirely on forged documents and conjectures, the Brown Book, as it became known, was more than just a book. It was a skillfully orchestrated and persuasively written counterconspiracy that incriminated the Nazis as the party responsible for the arson. The focus of this poster is not on the Nazi rise to power or the fire that preceded it, rather it demonstrates the innate power of conspiracy theory and its ability to influence public opinion and historical memory, despite a palpable absence of logic and truth.

This poster addresses the effects that the Brown Book had on the concept of Nazism and Hitler’s rise to power throughout the pre-and post-war period. It also examines the dangers of widely circulated unsourced information and propaganda, as well as the effects of foreign involvement in sensitive political affairs. This project draws upon newspaper articles and trial transcripts printed in the United States as well as Great Britain to demonstrate how the Reichstag fire was presented to people around the world. The book was exceptionally compelling to international populations, but no country appreciated the value of the fiction turned truth more than the Germans themselves. While the Brown Bookconceptualized the Germans as victims of political terror, the reality was that popular support had put the Nazi’s into a position of power, not the Reichstag fire. Translated into over twenty languages and published in more than fifty editions, the erroneous information presented in the Brown Book became dangerously influential both inside and outside of Germany, shaping the way that the world viewed Nazism for over thirty years.

Connecticut Revolutionary War Deserters: An Experiment in Digital History

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Stevens C Prefunction (Hilton Chicago)

Dana Meyer, Eastern Connecticut State University

Desertion is commonplace in war. Historians have tried to ascertain motive and estimate how many soldiers deserted during any given war. However, the numbers used to document desertion rates in secondary studies are often faulty, incomplete, or unsubstantiated. Applying digital tools to Connecticut Revolutionary War desertion provides a preliminary answer to this question. The combination of Muster Roll records along with transcribed newspaper Desertion Ads humanizes the individual deserter, while providing answers to quantifiable inquiries and exposing new research questions.

Until now, the newspaper ads and the Muster Rolls have remained independent primary sources for Revolutionary War desertion. Muster Rolls from the Adjunct Generals Office provided the raw data required to validate my statistical findings. Using the Record of Service of Connecticut Men in the I. War of the Revolution, II. War of 1812, III. Mexican War, I compiled a list of Deserters from 1775-1783. This list formed the foundation of my relational database which includes approximately 1400 deserters, and more than 50 searchable attribute fields to analyze historical queries. Combining this with the Deserter Advertisements adds a new dimension to understanding desertion rates. The collation of Deserter Ads allows a quantitative method of counting soldiers from each individual ad and adding them to the Muster Roll total. Most significant of the findings, are the additional names of soldiers not included in the Muster Roll. The discrepancies between the Deserter Ads and the Muster Roll leaves many research questions to be answered.

The lack of a dedicated historical study to Revolutionary War desertion in Connecticut incited my interest in compiling a database to explain a history that is incomprehensible without the tools of digital history. I have been able to help clarify and identify who the Connecticut deserters were and discover why they left the military. My research and methodology represent a step toward combining the quantitative and the qualitative approach needed to offer a new vantage point to contextualize the written material historians rely indiscriminately upon. This poster will explain the digital methods used, the sources consulted, and the conclusions reached.

Written by Bradley Davis