Stonehill’s Steven Weber ‘15 has been awarded the eighth annual D’Agostino Prize for Excellence in History by the College’s History Department for his senior thesis, “Beyond Propaganda: The Ideological Underpinnings of the 1762-1763 Newspaper Debate over the Earl of Bute,” advised by Professor Amy Houston.
Drawing on research he completed at Oxford’s Bodleian Library, Weber offered a compelling reassessment of the lively newspaper debate surrounding William Pitt’s 1761 resignation as Prime Minister, and George III’s decision to replace Pitt with his former royal tutor, the Earl of Bute.
While other scholars had largely dismissed these writings as petty, thoughtless vitriol, Weber demonstrated that this debate arose from two distinct, fundamentally opposed Enlightenment ideologies.
Bute’s supporters, representatives of a more moderate Enlightenment, defended the king’s prerogative to appoint ministers as he wished, and dismissed Pitt’s popularity among a British public they saw as capricious and uninformed.
Conversely, Bute’s more radically-Enlightened attackers saw him as neglecting the duty of his office: to represent the will of the British people to their king.
Ultimately, Weber concluded, the debate over the earl of Bute represents the clash of two fundamentally different worldviews concerning central questions of Enlightenment discourse: the nature and function of Britain’s constitutional monarchy, whether popular opinion should be trusted or dismissed, and the very nature of political authority.
The Peter R. D’Agostino Prize was created to honor the memory of Peter D’Agostino, a member of the Stonehill College History and Religious Studies Departments from 1995 to 2001, who died tragically in June 2005.
In addition to receiving the D’Agostino Prize, Weber also recently received the Robert E. Reardon Award from the Stonehill’s Political Science Department. The departmental awards are given to the top students in each of the school’s academic departments.
Weber, a political science and international studies and history major, received his degree from Stonehill on May 17th.