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Since high school, Marquis Scholar Brian Geraghty ’05 (Hanover, N.H.) has found himself increasingly interested in Asian history and religion. Graduating summa cum laude, he earned honors in history for his yearlong thesis exploring nationalism, modernity, and gender in early 20th-century China, which delved into topics such as foot-binding, arranged marriages, and the keeping of concubines.

“With all the reading that I’ve done on both history and religion, I often got frustrated by the near complete lack of coverage or information on women or women’s issues, and so I was excited about the opportunity to go after those topics directly,” he says.

Geraghty, who also majored in religious studies, researched under the guidance of Paul Barclay, assistant professor of history. He originally planned to research the Chinese May Fourth Movement of 1919, but discovered he was far more interested in the social history of the time, particularly the history of women’s issues.

“I looked specifically at gender issues and how new ideals and programs for women were being introduced,” says Geraghty. “Love versus arranged marriages, foot-binding, widow chastity, prostitution, gender segregation in education and careers, class dignity, and missionary influences are all topics that I researched.”

While he had numerous sources on the topics, including fictional but historically accurate stories by Chinese authors, Geraghty points out that the time period he examined was rife with cultural contrasts.

“By the turn of the 20th century, China was beginning to receive many Western ideas and values from abroad. Western literature was being translated as quickly as people could get their hands on it. And, importantly, literature was being translated into and written in Chinese vernacular, so that the portion of the Chinese population that could actually begin reading was growing rather quickly,” he explains.

He says the fall of the Qing Dynasty in the first three decades of the 20th century, accompanied by violent popular uprisings, brought dramatic change in the social situation.

“While it is easy to find information about U.S. historical government leaders or the dates of particular wars, the social history of different parts of the world is perhaps not as well known,” he says. “I read a good deal of Chinese history, and as with most any type of literary history, it is generally male-dominant.”

Geraghty also worked with Barclay, Joshua Sanborn, associate professor of history, Neil Englehart, assistant professor of government and law, and several other students on the Imperialism Project, part of a Lafayette initiative called Community of Scholars, which is supported by College funding and a $200,000 grant from The Andrew M. Mellon Foundation.

Over the course of the summer, he studied imperialism and colonialism in an effort to begin creating the largest electronic database about the characteristics of empires and colonies throughout the course of history. He and his research partners continued to assemble the database throughout the school year.

Geraghty traveled to Peru and Brazil in January of 2003 and to Russia and Latvia in January 2004 through Lafayette interim session courses.

His senior year activities included serving as managing editor of The Lafayette and belonging to the Phi Beta Kappa academic honors society, Phi Alpha Theta history honors society, College Democrats, History Club, and Lafayette Environmental Awareness and Protection. Geraghty volunteered through Lafayette’s Landis Community Outreach Center with Habitat for Humanity and the environmental clean-up project at Easton’s Hugh Moore Park.

Other student activities in his Lafayette career included serving as sports editor of The Lafayette, volunteering for the Landis Center’s Meals for the Homeless program and ProJeCt of Easton’s Interfaith Emergency Food Pantry, and participating in the AIDS Walk in Philadelphia and the March for Women’s Lives in Washington, D.C. He also belonged to Hispanic Society of Lafayette and the Philosophy Club, and served on the history department’s search committee for a historian of modern Africa. He participated in the Lafayette Leadership Education 2004 Marketing Success conference in spring 2004 and the Student Leaders’ 2002-03 In-Service Training Series through Lafayette Leadership Education.

Geraghty received the Rev. J.W. and R.S. Porter Bible Prize and Lyman Coleman Prize in religious studies and the history department’s Class of 1910 Prize.

Chosen from among Lafayette’s most promising applicants, Marquis Scholars like Geraghty receive special financial aid and distinctive educational experiences and benefits, including a three-week, Lafayette-funded study-abroad course during January’s interim session between semesters. Marquis Scholars also participate in cultural activities in major cities and on campus, and mentoring programs with Lafayette faculty.

Honors thesis projects are among several major opportunities at Lafayette that make the College a national leader in undergraduate research. Lafayette sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year. Thirty-nine students have been accepted to present their work at next annual conference in April.

Categorized in: Academic News