Selected Topics

The 2022 National History Day theme is "Debate and Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences." Spencer Research Library is full of written communications between individuals in a variety of formats. Below are some topics that are related to this theme and can be researched using materials at Spencer Research Library.

This list isn't comprehensive. There are many, many other topics and collections you can investigate at Spencer! You can get other ideas for topics by exploring other sections of Spencer's website – including collection overviews and online exhibitions – and KU Libraries digital collections.

If one of the below topics interests you, Spencer librarians can help with locating and interpreting specific primary sources.

The Protestant Reformation and the European Wars of Religion

In the sixteenth century, many people began to raise questions and concerns about the teachings and actions of the Roman Catholic Church – most notably Martin Luther with the publication of his Ninety-five Theses in 1517. Several factions of Christians broke away from Catholicism and the authority of the Papacy over these debates concerning Church doctrine. The rise of Protestantism was met with acceptance by some countries and their leadership but resistance and outright hostility by others – setting off a series of events and conflicts known as the Protestant Reformation and European Wars of Religion.

Spencer's collections include a sizable number of materials related to the people, debates, and conflict associated with the Protestant Reformation. While many of the library's items are not printed in English, the value of these holdings is in their connection to this chaotic time in history and how the Reformation shaped the future of Europe and Christianity. Items include published writings by Martin Luther as well as writings and sermons in defense of both Protestantism and Catholicism. Students interested in this topic may need to choose a specific event or person within this broad time period.

Debate and Diplomacy in Irish History

Spencer Research Library is home to one of the most significant and sizable collections of materials about Irish history, literature, culture, and politics held outside of Ireland. A range of materials within the collection documents various conflicts and compromises throughout Irish history. The bulk of the collection dates from approximately 1700 to 1950; as a result, the period of the Troubles in Northern Ireland (late twentieth century) is not well represented. Learn more about these holdings via the collection description, Library Guide, and online version of the exhibit “Easter 1916: Rebellion and Memory in Ireland.”

Communications Between Indigenous Peoples and American Settlers in Kanas and on the Great Plains

Sources on this topic at Spencer document the interactions between American settlers - including immigrants, government agencies, the military, and railroads - and indigenous peoples in Kansas and the region. Many of these sources document settlers' interactions with - and often violent conquest of - Native Americans. Subtopics include the loss of tribal lands and changes to indigenous education, cultures, languages, and religions. Most sources date from the mid-1800s into the twentieth century. Represented tribes include the Delaware, Wyandot, and Pottawatomie. Also documented is the history of Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence.

Most sources about this topic at Spencer were written by settlers, from their perspective, to and about tribes. Materials at Spencer about this topic include tribal records, government documents and reports, letters, journals, photographs, maps, books, and collections of independent and academic researchers. Notable items about this topic include an 1806 letter from President Thomas Jefferson to tribal leaders from areas that are now part of Kansas and Missouri.

Women's Suffrage

The ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment prohibited the federal government and each state from denying citizens the right to vote on the basis of sex. This victory for women’s rights came after decades of debates, protests, demonstrations, and legislative attempts of varying degrees of success.

Spencer's holdings include perspectives and campaign materials from both the national pro- and anti-suffrage movements. These materials showcase the reasons for and against suffrage and how the two sides countered one another’s various arguments.

The library's collections also document the history of women's suffrage in Kansas, the first state to hold a referendum (when citizens directly vote on an issue) on women’s suffrage in 1867. Although the referendum was defeated, it inspired other western states to hold similar referendums. Kansas recognized a woman’s right to vote in local elections in 1887, a compromise seen elsewhere in the United States as well. In 1912, eight years before the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, Kansas voters approved the Equal Suffrage Amendment to the state constitution. Kansas thus became the eighth state to grant full suffrage to women. Researchers using Spencer's collections will also find materials related to women’s suffrage on an international level.

For more information about Spencer materials related to this topic, see the KU Libraries Women's Suffrage Resource Guide.

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