Paul Nyhus Travel Grants

Professor Paul Nyhus (1935-2005) These travel grants are established in the name of Professor Paul Nyhus (1935-2005), a member of the Department of History from 1966 to 2004. Professor Nyhus served as Acting Dean of Students in 1969, Dean of Students from 1970 to 1975 and Dean of the College from 1975 to 1980. These grants are intended to facilitate primary research in either an advanced seminar, an advanced independent study or an honors project in history. There are three types of grants.

Mini Nyhus Research Grants

Small Nyhus Travel Grants

Large Nyhus Travel Grants

Nyhus proposals will be reviewed by members of the history department, and in most cases, applicants are notified of the committee’s decision within three weeks.

Mini Nyhus Research Grants

The history department offers Nyhus mini-grants to fund research expenses, normally capped at $250. These may include such expenses as access to online journals, travel to archives, or attending applicable conferences; mini-grants will not be awarded for regular expenses that may accompany any course, such as photocopying materials or purchasing books.

Mini Nyhus Application Deadline: Applications will be considered in three rounds, with deadlines of November 2, 2018; February 15, 2019; and April 5, 2019. Applications must be submitted via email to Rebecca Banks ( no later than 12pm on each of these days.

Application Materials: 1) Application letter that briefly states the grant’s purpose, 2) estimated budget of expenses

Small Nyhus Travel Grants

The Department offers grants normally capped at $500 each, for travel to archival collections, microfilm, conducting or transcribing interviews, or copying archival materials.

Small Nyhus Application Deadline: Applications will be considered in three rounds, with deadlines of November 2, 2018; February 15, 2019; and April 5, 2019. Applications must be submitted via email to Rebecca Banks ( no later than 12pm on each of these days.

Application Materials: 1) Application letter that briefly states the grant’s purpose, 2) estimated budget of expenses

Large Nyhus Travel Grants

Professor Paul Nyhus (1935-2005) Bowdoin CollegeThis grant, normally capped at $4000, is for travel, lodging and research expenses related to an honors project. Each year, the Department will grant awards in two rounds: November and April.

Large Nyhus Application Deadline:Applications will be considered in two rounds, with deadlines of November 2, 2018 and April 5, 2019. Applications must be submitted via email to Rebecca Banks ( no later than 12pm on each of these days.

Application Materials:
1) Narrative proposal of at least 500 words and no more than 1000 in length, submitted as word or PDF document, explaining the topic to be researched, the student's background relative to the proposal, the method and sources to be used, and any contacts already established with other scholars, interviewees or archives;
2) tentative budget, as detailed as possible, for how the grant would be used;
3) Bowdoin transcript.


Past Nyhus Small Grant Awards

Amy Collier '12

During my senior year at Bowdoin, I completed an honors thesis with Professor Connie Chiang. My project examined how the emerging philanthropic and conservation movements, as well as the rise of tourism, contributed to the creation of Acadia National Park and complicated the relationship between year-round and summer residents on Mount Desert Island. I was fortunate enough to receive a Nyhus Travel Grant, which I used to travel to the Rockefeller Archive Center in Sleepy Hollow, New York, and to the Harvard University Libraries, as well as to various archives and historical societies around Maine.  I read through speeches, newspaper articles, donation receipts, pamphlets, and, most importantly, original correspondence between park founders, contributors, and critics.  Because of the lack of scholarly work on my topic, these primary sources were the foundation of my thesis and largely shaped the development of my project.

Molly Porcher '13
For my thesis, I am researching the way the way African history has been taught in American public schools. In particular, I am looking at the way Africa and African history have been represented in the history curriculum over the past half century and how changes in these representations are related to the American political and social environment. In conducting my research, I wanted to analyze primary sources like textbooks and curriculum barometer of how the treatment of African history in schools has developed.

Thanks to the resources provided by the Nyhus travel grant, I was able to travel the education archives located at Stanford University’s Cubberley library to explore these materials. The experienced was fantastic and rewarding, and the primary sources I was able to access were phenomenal! With the help of the friendly and resourceful library staff, I found and studied a variety of curricular materials, dating from the mid-1940s to the early 1970s. These included outlines of world history curricula, as well as units and courses designed specifically to address African history. The Cubberley library also has a fantastic collection of historical textbooks—the earliest are from the 19th century!—that allowed me to study the transformations in the way school texts presented Africa continent and African history. My research trip was a memorable and meaningful experience that, most importantly, allowed me to conduct the breadth and depth of research I imagined when I first undertook this project.

Previous Nyhus Travel Grant Recipients 

Past Nyhus Large Grant Awards

Ethan Barkalow

In 1869, the new Meiji government of Japan declared Hokkaido, an island just north of Japan’s main island of Honshu, a colony and established Sapporo as the capital and regional center for the island’s development. The Meiji government established a colonization office and began to send settlers to Hokkaido, which they claimed to be an open frontier, despite the indigenous Ainu population living there. Although today Sapporo is Japan’s fifth largest city and boasts some two million residents, it was hardly a major urban center at the time of colonial development. While government officials prioritized improving regional infrastructure to gain access to important industrial resources such as coal, the residents of Sapporo itself struggled to settle themselves and establish basic urban infrastructure, including canals, bridges, and a sewage system. At the same time, Sapporo was a location of global exchange, in which Japan’s colonization department contracted foreign experts, with a particular focus on recording the agricultural and geological characteristics of Hokkaido. These foreigners, most of whom were Americans, however, lived and worked in Sapporo and contributed to its urban development.

The Nyhus Travel Grant allowed me to travel to libraries at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Yale University, which house the archives of these foreign advisors who went to Hokkaido in the early Meiji period and were mainly active roughly from 1873 to 1888. I looked at official correspondence between the foreign contractors and their supervisors in the Meiji government’s colonization department as well as with their families in the United States. These included descriptions of bridge construction and canal surveys in Sapporo. At the archives I was able to compare what I learned from a previous research trip in Japan, and to bolster my source material from the American advisors who came from New England. The archival research at UMass Amherst and Yale will contribute towards my history honors project on the environmental influence of urban growth in Sapporo in Meiji Japan.

Studying Meiji Sapporo highlights conversations of colonial, environmental, and urban forces during the period of Japan’s early imperial growth. As Japan sought to lay the framework of a Pacific empire through industrialization and the consolidation of power, Hokkaido served as a first attempt at colonization. Likewise, Sapporo, as a planned city, served as a model for future colonial cities of Imperial Japan. The construction and survey projects of foreign advisors in Sapporo, whose archives I accessed at UMass and Yale, displayed Japan’s drive to impose early imperial power on Hokkaido through constructing an orderly city. The primary struggle of foreign engineers and Japanese colonial planners alike, however, was establishing urban infrastructure despite environmental forces such as flooding and the cold climate, which slowed progress on developing Sapporo. This research project ultimately attempts to show the early roots of urban environmental management in Imperial Japan.

Emma Moesswilde

With the support of a Large Nyhus Travel Grant, I traveled to London for a week to use sources at the British Library that will be an invaluable part of the third chapter of my honors project. The primary purpose of my research was to learn more about how Scottish agriculture in the eighteenth century – the focus of my honors project – fit in with broader British trends of thinking about the landscape and how it should be used for agriculture. Spending time at the British Library allowed me to put my understanding of Scottish history in context of the politics and ideologies of British attitudes towards the environment. Being in the British Library, with its wealth of information, and in London itself, was very helpful in situating my research and writing within this larger scale.

I focused on the correspondence of British agriculturalists, such as Sir John Sinclair and Arthur Young. My honors project, which focuses on the changing views and practices of agriculture in the latter half of the eighteenth century, benefited greatly from the opportunity to view these primary sources that revealed a great deal about well-known practitioners of agriculture. Seeing the letters written between Sinclair, Young and others, such as Joseph Banks helped me to recognize the breadth and depth of knowledge that was communicated during this period. The correspondence of these men helped me to visualize the webs of agricultural knowledge that were created during this period, and to understand how information and ideas about the environment were shared and used to implement agricultural change.

I was also able to examine various agricultural journals and documents that revealed the extent of ecological change in Britain during the latter half of the eighteenth century. The writings and images describing specific crops, uses of agricultural produce, and implements such as the plough demonstrated the extent to which land use changed throughout Britain. I was specifically interested in the changing role of certain crops, such as the potato, within common agricultural practice. Additionally, the role of sheep in the Scottish Highlands grew exponentially during this period as the Board of Agriculture, founded by Sir John Sinclair, advocated for new methods of farming. All of the information I gathered about changing land use through different crops and livestock demonstrated the important role of agriculture in Enlightenment attitudes towards the environment and the alterations humans created in the landscape during this time.

My research in London was essential for my continued work on my honors project, which examines changing agricultural practices in Scotland. The primary source material I encountered in the library helped to deepen my understanding of agriculture as a whole in Enlightenment Britain, and offered perspective on how Scottish agriculture fits into this larger picture. Additionally, the opportunity to immerse myself in an archive for a week helped me to further hone my skills of primary source analysis and work with manuscript material, which will hopefully remain a part of my life after Bowdoin. I am immensely grateful for the resources and support that helped me to visit the British Library, which was an important part of my honors work and a personal and academic inspiration. 

Caroline Rosen

Thanks to the Paul Nyhus Large Travel Grant, I had the opportunity to spend the summer in Maine researching the English aristocracy during the 14th and 15th centuries, particularly focusing on how they used visual markers, including behavior and material goods, to define both self and group. This grant enabled me to spend six weeks at Bowdoin conducting my research through the library’s extensive resources and meetings with professors from multiple departments. Having spent the previous semester in Bath, England studying English nobility, I was especially excited to continue my examination of the subject through an academic research fellowship in preparation for my honors project.

Through this grant, I studied how the English aristocracy created a framework for what it meant to be a member of the nobility during the Late Middle Ages. When I began the summer I was interested in ideas of identity. As I read numerous primary and secondary sources, I tailored this interest towards a focus on conceptions of self and the ways that elites performed roles in both courtly and everyday life. I found these ideas of presentation intricately connected to ideas of identity, because the aristocracy dressed, acted, and spoke in a way that aligned them with notions of what it meant to be a noble. During my time at Bowdoin this summer I read many manner books from the 14th and 15th centuries, which were etiquette guides for young aristocrats on how to act and present themselves in a proper way. In order to be a member of this exclusive group, an individual had to appear according to certain standards of behavior and dress.

Over the course of the summer I examined both primary and secondary sources in order to provide myself with a solid basis upon which I could build my research project. Along with the manner books, I read English nobles’ letters, 14th and 15th century laws dictating dress codes for English men and women based on income and status, and, of course, Geoffrey Chaucer. Becoming familiar with these primary sources was crucial to narrowing my research topic and to allowing me to generate my own ideas and examinations of elite life during this time. Because my research dealt with ideas of how people portrayed and thought of themselves, I also read a great deal of theory on the self and the performance of self throughout different historical eras. The concept of people participating in the cultivation and display of a particular character based on societal norms seemed to me especially relevant to the Late Middle Ages, which was a highly elaborate and ostentatious culture. Consequently, I had to study the theories and arguments surrounding how people from various times conceived of the “self,” before beginning to make my own claims and analysis. The research I conducted this summer provided me with a solid foundation for my honors project this coming year, and it would not have been possible without receiving the Large Nyhus Grant. 

Shea Necheles

When India banned surrogacy in 2015, the implications were far reaching. Commercial surrogacy was only legalized in India in 2002, but by 2012 it was generating $2.3 billion US dollars annually. Yet more than 50% of the industry was comprised of international actors. I set out this summer to gain a better understanding of the technology of surrogacy, the development and rise of surrogacy in India, who and what matters to the Indian surrogacy industry, and what the future looks like now that it is banned. The work I started this summer will be directly applied to my history honors project that will explore the same subject.

My research started at the British Library in London. Using the extensive collection of Indian materials available there, I began to develop a strong understanding of the background of surrogacy. This background was imperative to my later research. The British Library’s catalogue was an invaluable resource for my research and I found many books and articles in the collection that I hadn’t found elsewhere.

While the British Library provided me with the necessary basic information, such as the logistics of surrogacy in India, I was able to use my time in London to speak with various people who have stakes in the international industry. These interviews are crucial for my honors project because they provide the primary evidence that is required to write an original honors paper. I spoke with Dharshi Kiruba, the patient and egg donation coordinator for the Harley Street Fertility Clinic, Richard Westoby, an international surrogacy expert, and Puchka Sahay, a family friend whose sister currently is having a child through surrogacy in India currently. These interviews all provided me with similar understanding: that the situation in India is not as clear-cut as academia, the media, and laws would suggest. Speaking with the Harley Street Fertility Clinic, I was able to gain insight into the process from a client’s perspective. I also learn about what the effect of the new surrogacy laws had on clinics at the time when they occurred. Puchka Sahay offered the most insight into the complicated industry. Her sister’s current experience with surrogacy means that while commercial surrogacy is illegal in India, it still exists— and more importantly, people are not hiding it. These revelations that I made while doing research in India will be the foundation for my honors project.

Sophie Binenfeld

Thanks to a Large Nyhus Travel Grant, I spent five days at the end of winter break this January at the Yale University Library Manuscripts and Archives looking through the Benjamin Pogrund Papers for my Honors Project in African History. My thesis analyzes the career and writings of Benjamin Pogrund, from the Rand Daily Mail in Johannesburg to the Center for Social Concern in Israel. The Benjamin Pogrund Papers provided inviable primary sources for my thesis because it contains correspondences and writing from throughout his career not available anywhere else.

During my time at the archives, I sorted through many folders that became the substance of the second chapter of my project, detailing the relationship between Benjamin Pogrund and Pan Africanist Congress leader Robert Sobukwe. Some of the most valuable and exciting papers to find were his original letters between Pogrund and Sobukwe between 1964-1967 while Sobukwe was imprisoned on Robben Island. In addition to the letters, there are also many notes authored by Pogrund as well as transcripts of speeches he gave throughout the United States, Britain, and South Africa in the late 1970s and early 1980s which I am using in the third chapter of my project. I am so thankful for the opportunity to have traveled to Yale and am happy to say that it has enriched greatly enriched my thesis.

Elizabeth Tarbell

Near the city of Kunming in southwestern China lies Dianchi: a 115-square-mile lake. The body of water is central to to the city--and region's--past and present identities. Having inspired Qing Dynasty poets to write vivid couplets about its pristine qualities and grandeur, the lake's ecosystem was altered in wake of Mao's Great Leap Forward beginning on New Year's Day in 1970, and during Kunming's rapid industrialization at the turn of this century. Today, Yunnan Province is a burgeoning hub of global environmentalism (Hathaway, 2013), yet its centerpiece, Dianchi, is currently classified as Grade V water quality (not fit for industrial or agricultural use) according to  the Ministry of Environmental Protection of the People's Republic of China. Still, the lake is steeped in the vibrant cultures of Yunnan Province's diverse population, which includes 26 of China's 56 ethnic minority groups.

This past August, building off my coursework in History, Environmental Studies and Chinese, I traveled to Kunming using two research grants from Bowdoin, including a Paul C. Nyhus Large Travel Grant, to produce a preliminary historiography of Dianchi, which will be the focus of my senior honors project. I gathered existing data on Dianchi from both the Yunnan Provincial Library and the Yunnan Provincial Archives; I performed site visits to the lake itself and the Yunnan Nationalities Village. I also informally spoke with locals during my stay. My extensive study of Chinese language allowed me to grow my network on the ground and will continue to be crucial to my project in the future as I continue to read primary and secondary sources throughout my final year at Bowdoin.

I had three main objectives for my research: grasping a sense of the site, understanding the historical context of Dianchi, and learning where to look for more information. As my research continues this year and possibly with a Fulbright grant next year, I intend to be able to describe and write about the site visit with accuracy, as well as understand the local perspective of Dianchi's role in regional identity, having completed my fieldwork in Kunming this summer. Experiencing the place firsthand was an imperative component of beginning to write this environmental history.

Because Dianchi represents the intersection of culture and environment at a pressing time in Kunming and greater China's history, I hope my research will provide a case study for others to address the question in this age of globalization: how can nations negotiate economic pressures and the preservation of nature and culture? I also hope to contribute by building bridges through the interdisciplinary lens of environmental history. In China, environmental history is under researched and I hope to contribute to this growing field, like scholars Judith Shapiro and Mark Elvin, whom have spearheaded such work.

Patrick Toomey

The Nyhus Travel Grant allowed me to live in Johannesburg, South Africa for three weeks, where I did research at Wits University's GALA archive, the only archive of gay and lesbian history in all of Africa. The research I did there is forming the basis of my honors project this year, which focuses on the gay rights movement in South Africa during the height of the apartheid government's power.

Most of my research was on a man named Simon Nkoli, a black South African who combined his fight for gay rights with the struggle against the racist apartheid regime. I was able to comb through documents from various gay rights groups of the 1970s and 1980s, most of which were based in Johannesburg, as well as the personal letters of Simon Nkoli. Most of these letters were written between Nkoli and his lover while Nkoli was in prison for "treason," and they gave me a fascinating insight into this period of his life.

The opportunity to travel to South Africa and perform research in the GALA archives has already proven integral to my honors project, and I am excited to build upon this research in the coming months. Living and working in South Africa was a life-changing experience, and I hope to be able to return sometime soon.

Martin Krzywy

Thanks to a Nyhus Travel Grant, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, DC and conduct research for my honors project on the city's failed midcentury highway program. Over the course of a week, I was able to access primary source documents at the DC Public Library and the Historical Society of Washington, DC that would prove instrumental to my project. Additionally, having time to walk through the city and see where these roads might have been built helped me to better conceptualize the issues at play in the freeway fight.

As this was my first real experience with archival research, the amount of material I had to dig through was a little overwhelming. My two main resources were court documents related to the lawsuits brought by community members in order to halt highway construction, as well as the collected papers of several local community organizations involved in the anti-highway movement. While not all of the briefs, newsletters, correspondences, flyers, and newspaper clippings I found were directly relevant to the scope of my project, they were crucial in helping me learn more about the people involved in this fight over the nation's capital.

Having access to documents from different groups involved in the same fight allowed me to parse out the different reasons Washingtonians had for opposing the roads, as well as the different methods they used to push back against government initiatives. While much of my earlier research was based in secondary accounts of the story or in newspaper coverage of the events, being able to read the words of the citizens fighting to protect their neighborhoods helped me add a level of intellectual nuance to my project that I could not have achieved without the assistance of the Nyhus Grant.

Lucy Knowlton

Thanks to the Nyhus Travel Grant, I was able to live and research in New York City for the summer. I completed my work at the Margaret Sanger Papers Project, a document collection at New York University. Being in the city where Sanger began her activism and gained fame made the experience all the more exciting. This research was the base for an honors project about Margaret Sanger and the birth control movement as a case study for the changing perceptions/definitions of public and private in 20th century America.

I looked mostly at documents on micro-film- a challenging task which I had never done before- from the Library of Congress and Smith College collections of Sanger's papers. This included both published works, pamphlets, memos, personal letters, diary entries, newspaper clippings, and a whole host of other documents. The variety was initially very overwhelming but gave me a diverse range of sources to use for my writing. It was incredible to follow historical events and intra-movement goings-on through the papers, and fortunately I had the help of the director (Esther Katz) and assistant director (Cathy Hajo) in deciphering handwritten sources and giving advice on where to look.

I hope to look at the primary sources I gathered, along with a host of information sheets compiled by the MSPP, through the lens of public/private discourse. Sanger's letters to a group of prominent scientists and physicians will be especially illuminating as I study how the support of eugenics and applying science to society developed and changed over the first half of the 1900s. I definitely understand the movement and my goals for my honors project more fully thanks to my immersion in the document collection.

Leo Shaw '15

Thanks to a Nyhus Travel Grant, I traveled to Buenos Aires this summer to research the practice of architecture and urban planning in that city and in Argentina in the early twentieth century. Through an independent study this semester, I am exploring the cultural history of architecture in Argentine society as it came under influence from a wider current of nationalism that bridged fields from literature to politics.

By examining a large body of professional architectural journals from the first three decades of the twentieth century in the collection of the Central Society of Architects, I was able to gather the perspectives of designers, critics and politicians whose arguments shaped the built environment of the city in response to the prevailing cultural attitudes of the day. I also got to see the key cultural functions of design reflected in the documentation of two specific projects: the records of the Ministry of Public Works on the historical preservation of Buenos Aires’ cabildo, or original town hall, and the letters and unpublished monographs relating to the house of Ricardo Rojas, the principal nationalist cultural thinker of the time in Argentina.

As an aspiring architect and a history major, my academic interests have focused on questions of how aesthetic culture assimilates and produces change, especially in cities. This project has helped me better understand the cultural impact of design in public space by tracing the connections between the construction of the city and the construction of a complex national identity.

Previous Nyhus Grant Recipients


Campus News: Travel Grants Established Honoring Paul Nyhus (March 10, 2005)