College of Humanities and Social Sciences PhD candidate Stephanie Walters took her childhood love for history with her all the way to her dissertation, where she started with a single question: Were there loyalists in Virginia at the time of the Revolutionary War? Modern historians believe that only a few hundred loyalists, then called Tories, existed across the state.
However, after several years of archival research, Walters has identified around 3,000 loyalists who resided in Virginia during the Revolutionary War—and they were not just associated with isolated groups. “They were all a part of like-minded networks and communities that stretched from the Tidewater to the backcountry,” says Walters.
In working on her dissertation, she has built her own datasets and digital networks using archival analysis, newspapers, books, and the Loyalist Claims Commission to identify the role that loyalists played in the Virginia Revolutionary narrative.
After earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from the University of Southern Mississippi, Walters initially came to Mason via a fellowship at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, where she worked with National History Day’s 100 Leaders Project and conducted user testing for histories of the National Mall.
When she is not working on her dissertation, Walters is a digital humanities specialist at the Digital Scholarship Center in Fenwick Library and works on numerous digital history projects.
Walters says her favorite thing about Mason is its location—the university is close to some of the most famous American historical sites, a subject that is deeply personal to her. “History, at its core, is the study of humanity,” she says. “That’s why I love it.”