Grove City College history major Benjamin V. Allison ’18 is the winner of the Nels Andrew Cleven Founder’s Prize in the 2017 Phi Alpha Theta National Paper competition.
Allison, of Newton, N.J., won the national history honorary society award for “The Nucleus of the Arab Peoples’ Struggle: Relations of the Soviet Union and the Steadfastness and Confrontation Front.” In the paper, Allison assesses the Front, which was formed in response to the beginnings of Egyptian-Israeli peace discussions, and its relationship with the Soviet Union.
“This award is a great honor and a sign of the quality of Ben’s work,” said Dr. Robert Clemm, associate professor of History and advisor to the Phi Alpha Theta chapter at Grove City College. “Such a recognition places him among the brightest history students in the country while also emphasizing the rigorous training he received within our department and the college,” Clemm noted.
“Shockingly little has been written in English about the Steadfastness and Confrontation Front,” Allison said. When it came to researching the topic, Allison’s analysis relied on an interesting source base: U.S. diplomatic cables from the era, made available by WikiLeaks’ Public Library of U.S. Diplomacy.
In the paper, Allison argues that the symbiotic relationship between the Front and the USSR highlights the Soviets’ dependence upon, and need for, the Front’s cooperation as a proxy in the Middle East, just as the Front needed Soviet support to legitimize and sustain its efforts. The Front’s gradual drift from its original purpose could have been avoided had the Soviets exercised their considerable influence over the Front's member states to keep them focused on stopping the Camp David talks, Allison contends.
Originally written for a class at Grove City College, the paper was further developed through presentation at an Alpha Theta Regional Conference at Thiel College, where it won an award for the best paper in the panel.
Phi Alpha Theta’s purpose is to promote the study of history and to encourage good research, teaching, and publication. The College’s Alpha-Alpha-Lambda chapter, has been in existence since 1982 and will host the organization’s regional conference in spring 2018.