History PhD has Bahamian perspective

By Christine Buckley, CLAS Today

In the United States, most people think of colonial history as the chronicles of thirteen colonies struggling for freedom from Great Britain. But history PhD student Chris Curry has a different perspective on colonialism: he grew up in the Bahamas, which were colonized for more than 400 years.

“Caribbean and Bahamian history is an exciting field,” Curry says. “The Bahamas have some unique features that set them apart from other former colonies.”

Curry knew from a young age that he wanted to study history, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history in Canada before returning to the Bahamas. There he taught high school for six years and eventually became a history lecturer at the College of the Bahamas.

“In a way, I took ten years ‘off’ after my master’s degree,” jokes Curry.

When the College of the Bahamas began the process of becoming a fully accredited university and offered to support Curry in getting his PhD in history, he jumped at the chance to go back to school. And, he says, choosing UConn was a no-brainer.

“Coming to UConn exposed me to a broad perspective,” he says, citing the faculty who study the histories of nearby countries: Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Chile, Peru and Bolivia, to name a few. “I learned a lot more about other areas that are connected to the island archipelago.”

Curry’s dissertation research involved the differences in histories between the Bahamas and other colonies in the Caribbean. For example, many Loyalists – citizens loyal to the British crown – fled North America for the Caribbean during the American Revolution. Many historians study this phenomenon, but few, he says, study the black Loyalists who ended up in the Bahamas.

In addition, he has also studied slavery in the country, which, unlike North America, never developed plantation farming.

“My work focuses on these diaspora studies related to the Bahamas,” he says. “I’ve been asking the kinds of questions that other people haven’t asked.”

In 2010, Curry participated in Harvard University’s International Seminar on the History of the Atlantic World, and he also received a Michael J. Hogan Graduate Summer Research Award. Curry’s adviser, assistant professor Melina Pappademos, calls Curry an outstanding example of professional and personal success.

“Chris has been nurtured in a rich and collegial intellectual environment here at UConn and has grown in highly impressive ways,” she says. “Yet he has also reciprocated by making an exceptional contribution to our department and to the broader university community.”

Curry has moved back to the College of the Bahamas with his wife and four-year-old daughter and will visit Storrs in May for graduation. He’s working on publishing his dissertation as his third book, but, he says, he’s also looking forward to contributing in a greater capacity to the growth of his country.

And besides being his top choice graduate school, UConn also turned out to be the right personal choice for Curry.

“My experience of being an international student at UConn was made a lot easier because I had good friends and an environment that was very collegial,” he says. “It was this very collegial and supportive system that allowed me to flourish.”

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