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Defense Analysis Professor Awarded Oxford Dissertation Prize

28 July 2022

From Matthew Schehl, Naval Postgraduate School Office of University Communications

MONTEREY, Calif. - A Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) professor has been awarded the Society for the History of American Foreign Relation's (SHAFR) Oxford University Press USA Dissertation Prize in International History.

Thomas Jamison, assistant professor in the Defense Analysis Department, received the prestigious biennial award in June for his dissertation exploring limited maritime conflicts in the Pacific and their effects on the creation of the U.S. “New Navy,” the U.S. military’s first substantive peacetime expansion, from 1882 to 1898.

“Given the quality of the work in the field of international and diplomatic history, the recognition is at once gratifying and deeply humbling,” Jamison said. “In 2021, I received the Society for Military History's Coffman Prize for best dissertation in military history; this Oxford University Press prize on top of the Coffman is a better coda for the six years it took me to complete my dissertation than I could have hoped for.”

“It's also a good reminder to get back to work on turning the dissertation into a book,” he added.

The Oxford University Press USA Dissertation Prize in International History recognizes the best dissertation by a rising historian in the field of international history.

The dissertation must have been completed within the previous two calendar years and must be multinational in framing and scope, preferably with a multilingual source base.

“In endowing this prize, Oxford University Press hopes to recognize the stellar work of junior scholars and to highlight works that have not been the focus of area studies and other regional and national approaches,” according to SHAFR’s website.

Jamison’s dissertation, entitled “Pacific Wars: Peripheral Conflict and the Making of the U.S. ‘New Navy,’ 1865-1897,” critically examines the transnational nature of limited maritime conflicts in the Pacific and their impact on U.S. policy.

In approaching the Pacific as a coherent whole rather than through conventional geographic and disciplinary boundaries, the dissertation identifies a nearly continuous series of industrial wars and naval races and their disproportionate influence in the formation of the New Navy.

“It does so in an effort to understand how technological shifts and regional wars created opportunities for competition and exchange between the industrialized ‘core’ of the North Atlantic and the ‘semi-peripheral’ Pacific world,” Jamison wrote.

Jamison’s research for the dissertation required him to study literary Chinese, the classical language used in official circles in Qing China. It took him to four continents and included work in New York, London, Newport, Newcastle, Liverpool, Beijing, Santiago de Chile, Valparaiso, Lima and “a few other places besides.”

He finds his home at NPS, however, and the award is a reflection of the caliber of young scholars joining NPS faculty.

“In the last few years, some of the most promising junior scholars in the fields of history and security studies have found homes at institutions like NPS,” he said. “For folks interested in the intersections of policy and history, it is pretty much ideal.”

 

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