Department of History

Student Spotlight: Peder Schaefer '22.5

In this brief interview, Peder delves into his senior thesis topic: the Burning of the Gaspee.

"I'm writing about Aaron Briggs, a mixed-race teenager who was coerced by Rhode Island colonists into a raid to burn the HMS Gaspee in Narragansett Bay in 1772, only a few years before the Revolutionary War.

Growing up in Rhode Island, I had learned about the Gaspee Affair before (it's Rhode Island's Boston Massacre) but had never learned about Briggs. Briggs fled his indenture master on Prudence Island a few weeks after the raid, and became the key witness for the British Empire in their trial against the Rhode Island colonists who had burned the HMS Gaspee.

I love Briggs' story because of what it can tell us about the development of liberty in early America. In the 2020s, we've had serious conversations about race, American history, and what freedom really means. Telling Briggs' story in Rhode Island is important to keep having critical conversations about race, freedom, and Rhode Island history too."

Read Peder's article on Briggs for a local media outlet