Historical Themes

One of the main themes I find interesting in history is to examine events through the lens of gender. The experiences of women throughout the ages, crossing centuries and countries and boundaries of language is, in my opinion, one of the most fascinating areas of study, and one that has been grossly understudied. This lens colors all of my interests, some of which are listed below, and how

Last year, I took Dr. Poska’s European Women’s History class, and it was by far my favorite class I’ve taken in college thus far.  It helped to open my eyes to another historical narrative that is often forgotten or deliberately pushed to the side.

I’ve also noticed that as I continue my studies at UMW, my interests have changed. I came in as a freshman focused on European history, with a special interest in the middle ages and Rennaissance. I was utterly uninterested in American history, having been oversaturated with it throughout my public school k-12 education. (Glossing over racism, genocide, and slavery to support a narrative of American exceptionalism didn’t help.) Now, I have made a slight concession: I enjoy and am interested in American history… up until the point we become an actual country. I love the mixture of old-world and new-world that is American colonial history (more about that below), but that all dries up for me when we become an actual governing entity.

One thing that hasn’t changed is my distaste for military history! I hate how dry and technical it is, how concerned it is with battles and dates and troop movements. In addition to being a History major, I am also pursuing a degree in English, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the things that interests me is a good story. I love to hear about the human side of things, the “small” tales that you’d only get by zooming into the minutiae of an event, such as the American Revolution. My Favorite quote of all time is “The universe is not made of atoms, it is made of tiny stories.” For a very long time, I didn’t understand the meaning– until I began to delve into my studies of English, and history, in particular. The more I study, the more I find it to be true.

  • witches & witch trials (Europe and the US)

This is an interest of mine that has stuck around the longest. It also dovetails slightly with my interest in gender studies and (see below) folklore.

  • American Revolution (not military history)

Stories like that of Abraham Woodhull, Sybil Ludington, Molly Pitcher, and so many others can become lost in the overwhelming narrative of the American Revolution. In my studies, I like to bring things back to a more human, individual level, to try to understand the people of the time.

  • origins of folklore in colonial America

I love how human folklore is, how we can trace back some archetypal tales back thousands of years. In colonial America, this strange new world to the settlers bred new mythologies and superstitions, telling us about their beliefs, traditions, hopes, and fears.

When it comes down to it, I realize how easy it is to make historical figures and events into something much bigger and less approachable, and I’m just seeking to see these people for who they are, as humans just like the rest of us, trying to make our impression on the world in some way.

Introductory Blog Post

Hello, all! I’m Shawnya Peterson, junior History & English major. I’m so excited to get into the weeds of my history degree. For the intro blog post, I decided to take the opportunity to tell about myself just a bit.

My first image was chosen to represent the fact that I love literature, and Shakespeare in particular, with Macbeth being my favorite play. It is closely tied with Romeo and Juliet, which is a good way to sum up the dueling sides of my personality/interests: light and emotional and romantic, versus somewhat “darker interests”, my favorite of which being true crime.

The second image I chose because Shenandoah National Park is my favorite place on earth, especially in the fall (which is also my favorite season). I’m a Virginia native, and I’m in love with so much of what our state has to offer—from beaches to mountains to cities, there’s so much amazing local history and beautiful scenery to explore.

The last image I chose not only because coffee is my favorite beverage, but also because of what it represents in a sense: I love to use coffee/mealtimes as a way to spend quality time with friends and family, while also enjoying a nice hot beverage. We could also talk about my coffee consumption when it comes to finals week and deadlines, but maybe that’s something for another blog post!

Image Citations

Chung, I. (2010). Macbeth. [image] Available at: https://flic.kr/p/9czRu3 [Accessed 7 Sep. 2017].


Gruber, J. (2014). Sunset over Shenandoah National Park. [image] Available at: https://flic.kr/p/pKp92t [Accessed 7 Sep. 2017].


Keays, M. (2012). coffees. [image] Available at: https://flic.kr/p/dTyJuW [Accessed 8 Sep. 2017].