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William Christman '16

William Christman '16

Honor and Masculinity: The Experiences of German Soldiers during the First World War and the Emergence of Right-Wing Radicalism, 1914-1923

Major/minor: History and German Studies
Hometown: Walnutport, PA
Project mentor: Dr. Heikki Lempa

Project Details:

  1. Briefly describe your SOAR project.
    My project involved historical research on the experiences of German soldiers during World War I and how honor culture changed during the war. I looked at the memoirs of one German soldier, Ernst Jünger, as a window into the thoughts and feelings of German soldiers, especially the elite storm troopers. As I read the memoirs, I looked for cases where practices of honor arose. I then analyzed these cases in relation to the greater historical discussion on honor by using the writings of the main historians in the field. I used the cases to further support my argument that honor transformed during World War I because of the camaraderie that was created in the trenches by the technological destruction of the war. Finally, I briefly linked the honor of the soldiers during the war to the rise of right-wing para-militarism after the war.
  2. What motivated you to participate in SOAR? 
    I saw it to be a great opportunity to experience performing research in my particular field. It allowed me to improve my researching skills which will definitely help in the future.
  3. What are the results of your work on this project? 
    As a result of my work I was able to produce a historical and historiographical paper that I will hopefully have published. I also have many notes and research on Ernst Jünger's memoirs and secondary sources on honor culture.
  4. What are your personal takeaways from the project? And do you plan to continue work on this project after SOAR? 
    My personal takeaways are, of course, improvements to my skills in historical research, along with a taste of doing actual research. I also learned more on how honor culture was so important to German men, such as Jünger, and how World War I changed such culture. I plan on using my SOAR research to move on to further research on the ring-wing paramilitary groups after the war in Germany.

Biographical Information:

  1. What clubs/sports/activities/community service are you involved in? 
    I am the historian of the United Student Government, president of the history honors society Phi Alpha Theta, executive board member of the History Club, and member of the German Club.
  2. Have you received any awards/recognitions here? 
    Besides being inducted into Phi Alpha Theta, I have made the dean's list every semester.
  3. Briefly, what are your future plans and career goals? 
    My future goals involve firstly graduating college, then moving on to graduate school where I hope to earn a PhD and become a history professor.