Dr. Jeffrey Hamilton

Fall 2010

Faculty Feature

Dr. Jeffrey Hamilton

"Unless it's something that fires your interest, it's going be hard to stay a year with it," Dr. Jeffrey Hamilton, Professor and Chair of History,advises to students interested in undergraduate research, particularly honors theses.

This advice comes from a professor personally familiar with undergraduate research. Dr. Hamilton earned his BA from Tufts where he wrote his own senior thesis about the Peasant's Revolt of 1381. This experience introduced him to "the life of an academic." Afterwards, he earned both his MA and PhD from Emory University. At Baylor, he primarily teaches classes on medievalhistory. Dr. Hamilton's own research focuses on late medieval England. His book The Plantagenets: History of a Dynasty was recently published. He also serves on the editorial board of Fourteenth Century England.

In his upper level history classes, the assigned papers researching scholarly works, historical backgrounds, and sometimes even primary sources. Students learn "what is like to do history." In addition,Dr. Hamilton advises honors theses, which he believesofferan "important opportunity for students to experience sustained research projects, especially if they want to pursue graduate school."

"Sustained" undergraduate research is an important introduction for students to the academic life. Dr. Hamilton believes that students should not go to graduate school solely because they"can't think of anything else to do." Students who are going to graduate school should be enthused about their studies and interests.He enjoys helping students identify these topics about which they are passionate. Dr. Hamilton urgeshis students to use their theses to pose important questions in order to find significant, substantial answers. Beyond becoming familiar with the research process, students develop skills crucial for scholarship. In history, this includes the "ability to synthesize a diverse body of primary source material as well as pose new questions about that material."

Dr. Hamilton acknowledges the limitations of undergraduate research in history, for example, the relative unavailability of primary sourcesfrom the medieval period. However, he insiststs that students can still ask new, important questions. Most of the honors theses that he has directed have been comparative studies, so that the students can examine different perspectives on historical events or figures. Last year, he directedAlexa'jayne Carter's thesis, which compared the treatments of Richard II and Richard III by Shakespeare and by historians.

Early on in the project, when "in a bit of a crisis" Carter realized her initial idea would not work, Hamilton helped her brainstorm new ideas. Throughout the process, he met weekly with Carter in order to check progress and guide research. "Working with Dr. Hamilton was a great experience" for Carter.