From the AHA Activities column in the September 2001 Perspectives
Jameson and NASA Fellowships Awarded
AHA Staff, September 2001
Jameson Fellowship won by Jeremy Bonner
Jeremy Bonner, who has been awarded the Jameson Fellowship received his BA from the University of Durham in England, and his MA and PhD from the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. His doctoral dissertation, "Faith of Our Fathers: Religion, Politics and Social Change in the Trans-Mississippi West, 1924–1940," explored the response of three rural communities to the social and economic changes effected by the Great Depression and the New Deal. Bonner's areas of research interest include the American West, the process of expansion and contraction of the American state since 1890, and the changing role of American religion in the public sphere during the 20th century. It is this latter aspect that he seeks to explore through the Jameson fellowship, with a study of the papers of Episcopal priest turned political activist, Mercer Green Johnston (1868–1954), and the active Episcopalist scion of a distinguished political dynasty, Charles Phelps Taft (1897–1983). From such materials, he hopes to examine the manner in which religious belief and state activism interacted during the first half of the 20th
Historians usually depict frontiers as lines on maps. David Courtwright, recipient of the AHA/NASA Fellowship in Aerospace History for 2001–02, thinks that frontiers exist in four dimensions rather than two. The night, for example, is a temporal frontier whose "colonization" was made possible by cars and electric lights. In all his decades of flying, Charles Lindbergh wrote, the most spectacular change he had seen in the earth's surface was the sprinkling of myriad lights across the United States on a clear night.
Lindbergh's aerial domain was also a frontier, at least until the mid-twentieth century. What happened in the sky exemplifies the social and demographic normalization of a newly settled space. Early aviation was a pioneering activity. It was difficult and dangerous, but held out the promise of fame, fortune, freedom, and adventure for young men and a handful of young women who ventured aloft. But the inexorable drive to turn flying into a safe and economical form of mass transportation turned it into an antiadventure, a routinized experience for millions of persons of all ages and walks of life.
Courtwright will be researching the origins of aviation as a mass experience, as well as the social and environmental consequences of the expanding aviation frontier. "At least I won't get into trouble," he says, "for suggesting that this frontier was initially empty." A professor at the University of North Florida, Courtwright has described the social dynamics of earthbound frontiers in Violent Land (Harvard Univ. Press, 1996). His most recent book is Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World (Harvard Univ. Press, 2001).