Senior Honors Theses and Awards
The Arthur Kouguell Memorial prize was established by the parents and friends of the late Arthur M. Kouguell ’73. The prize is awarded annually by the Department of History to the senior honors thesis that best represents Arthur Kouguell’s commitment to scholarly and humane values.
2016 Kouguell Prize
The history department would like to congratulate senior Anna Davis on winning the 2016 Kouguell Prize for her senior thesis, “Instrument of Empire: Logwood and the Making and Unmaking of British Imperial Agendas, 1680-1720.”
“Instrument of Empire” examines the colonial logwood trade’s impact on British imperial policy. Native to the Yucatan Peninsula, the logwood tree produced dyes essential to Britain’s textile industry. Englishmen illicitly cut and sold the wood in the Yucatan, heightening Anglo-Spanish tension and complicating Britain’s efforts to regulate its Atlantic holdings. Between 1680 and 1720, in response to military and political pressures, Whitehall successively adopted prohibitive, laissez-faire, and openly permissive logwood policies. Based on government documents, colonial newspapers, and mercantile records, this study argues that these policies reflected the difficulties of balancing the economic and political agendas of the trade’s many interest groups with the imperial goals of developing the domestic textile and shipping industries, undermining or appeasing rival empires, and upholding the integrity of the Navigation Acts.
This thesis weaves together the experiences of over a dozen interest groups, from metropolitan officials to enslaved black loggers, to suggest that London’s imperial project emerged from a web of mutually dependent and antagonistic groups whose members hailed from all social classes, spanned an ocean, and crossed imperial boundaries. In foregrounding these people and their impact on British policy, this paper has broader aims than a commodity study. Rather, it uses logwood as a springboard from which to discuss the workings of Britain’s Atlantic empire. Congratulations, Anna!