Postgraduate Spotlight: Samuel Huckleberry

Blog written by Samuel Huckleberry. Sam is currently in the second year of his research for a co-tutelle/joint PhD in Middle East Studies between the University of St Andrews and the University of Bonn, Germany. His research focuses on comparative approaches intersecting dependency, religion, rulership, and slavery in late medieval and ‘early modern’ Islamic empires. Connect with Sam via email (sh350@st-andrews.ac.uk) or follow him on Twitter (@SamHuckleberry).

My journey to the so-called ‘Middle East’ began by accident almost a decade after 9/11. Nearly a high school dropout from a working-class family, I enrolled for an Associates of Arts from San Antonio College, an affiliate of the Alamo Community Colleges District. It was there that I discovered that I liked learning – especially when it was on my terms. In my last year, I wrote a research paper comparing the British occupation of Iraq after World War I and the US one after 2003.

When I transferred to the University of Texas at Austin (UT) the following year, I thought I had a clear mission: I needed to understand why we would make similar mistakes. The Arab Spring had already swept across the region by the time I started learning Arabic. Thinking I would study the modern ‘Arab world’, I accidentally found a mentor in Dr Azfar Moin, who introduced me to the uses of anthropology in conceptualising premodern Islamic dynastic empires such as the Ottomans, the Mughals in what is now India and Pakistan, and the Safavids in Iran. Their fixation on marrying esotericism with kingship hooked me. Ultimately, I wrote a thesis which focused on institutional shifts and changing Ottoman elites serving at sea in the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; especially elaborating tensions between the old guard, maritime ‘gazi’ or corsairs, and the new ones, palace-trained bureaucrat-servants.

After graduating, I spent time in Turkey teaching English and improving my language skills before I moved to Budapest, Hungary for an MA in Comparative History at Central European University (CEU). Embroiled in a fight with the country’s ‘illiberal’-minded leader, Victor Orbán, CEU had become a global symbol in the fight for academic freedom by the time I arrived. My studies were greatly informed by the heady experience of political oppression. The thesis, which was supervised by Dr Tijana Krstić, focused on revisionist readings of Safavid chronicles and sacred texts of the Safavids’ disciples, the Qizilbash (‘red-head’; so termed for a red hat or ‘crown’ they wore). In it, I argued against their presupposed marginalisation in Iran during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. So invested had I become in their story that I learned to play the bağlama or saz and sing the poetry (deyiş) of the Qizilbash’s descendants, the Alevis – now Turkey’s largest religious minority. This intense time was compounded by the pandemic, during which I wrote the thesis, graduated, and eventually returned to Texas.

That is, until I got an email from Professors Andrew Peacock (St Andrews) and Stephan Conermann (Bonn), my current supervisors, offering me a fully-funded opportunity to continue my studies. Being the inaugural Global PhD Scholar in History between St Andrews and Bonn affords me the chance to merge new thematic interests in dependency/slavery while deepening those I’ve learned about religion and rulership in my current work. Diachronic in nature, my thesis asks why the Ottomans and Safavids relied on military slavery while the Mughals did not. Looking at this question comparatively through an anthropological lens, the thesis brings together the cultural and political factors which led to the institution’s emergence – or its absence – in each realm.

My favourite memory so far from the PhD has been driving around Nevşehir (home to the natural spires and unnatural hot-air balloons of Cappadocia), Aksaray, and back to Ankara over the past summer. I drove around visiting historical and sacred sites scattered across the gorgeous scenery of central Turkey/Türkiye (İçAnadolu) in my trusty blue-colored rental car. I named it “Thunderbolt” (Yıldırım) in honor of my comparatively modest speed next to the hearty trucks whose rear-ends were plastered with bold-font slogans like ALLAH KORUSUN! (May God Protect!).

2022: A Year in Review

2022 was another excellent year for the School of History. Staff and students fully returned to the classroom in person as the final Covid restrictions were relaxed. This round-up will briefly touch on a few achievements of the previous year. They are a testament to the ongoing dedication of those working and studying in the department throughout these difficult times. 

Once again, the School was honoured to take the top spot in subject-specific national university league tables. The School was ranked first in two of the UK’s three league tables, the Guardian University Guide 2023 and The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023The former also awarded the entire University first place overall. These successes built upon the School’s success in the Research Excellence Framework (REF). The REF found 90% of the research conducted either ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’.

In January, Professor Elena Marushiakova and Professor Veselin Popov were presented with the ROMANIPE award for their contribution to the research of the Roma community in Bulgaria and the world. February was LGBT+ History Month. The School marked this by hosting a workshop on ‘Transgender Cultures in Modern History’. This workshop brought together scholars of transgender histories from across the world to identify shared themes, situate local and/or temporal specificities and explore related historiographical, theoretical and methodological questions.

March saw Professor Aileen Fyfe elected as one of eighty researchers, thinkers and practitioners to the Royal Society of Edinburgh. In addition, she received a major research fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust for 2022-2024. In April, Dr Milinda Banerjee was awarded one of the University’s six Teaching Excellence Awards for 2021-22 for his coordination of the MLitt in Global Political Thought. The award recognised his ‘vision for interdisciplinarity’, and his dedication to supporting students throughout their studies.

East Sands at St Andrews, by William Starkey

June saw two colleagues receive well-deserved news that they were to be promoted to Professor. Professor Justine Firnhaber-Baker was rewarded for her invaluable work on France between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. Professor Kate Ferris was recognised for her research on Modern Italy and Spain, as well as for her role as Principal Investigator on the research project, ‘Dictatorship as experience: a comparative history of everyday life and ‘lived experience’ of dictatorship in Mediterranean Europe (1922-1975)’. Many congratulations to both!

In July, Professor Andrew Peacock was elected as a fellow of the British Academy in recognition of his work on the cultures, history and languages of the pre-modern Islamic world. July also saw the Universal Short Title Catalogue’s latest conference, co-organised by Jacob Baxter (PhD student in Book History) and Dr Falk Eisermann. The conference, on the theme of ‘Print and Manuscript’, hosted papers from thirty-six scholars online and in person. 

In August, Dr Nikolaos Papadogiannis and Dr Rachel Love organised another fascinating conference in St Andrews. The conference focussed on ‘Reactions to HIV/AIDS since the 1980s: Transnational and Comparative History Perspectives’. The conference featured papers and panel discussions by a wide range of British and International scholars over two days.

In September, Dr Malcolm Petrie & Dr Paul Corthorn (Queen’s University Belfast) received funding from the AHRC for a three-year project which will chart the historical relationship between Conservatism and Unionism throughout the UK between 1968 and 1997. Professor Andrew Pettegree was honoured with a two-volume festschrift on his sixty-fifth birthday. The collections of essays were published by Brill and edited by Dr Arthur der Weduwen and Professor Malcolm Walsby (Enssib, Lyon).

October was Black History Month, which members of the School of history marked by contributing to an online exhibition, ‘Encounters with Black History’. Colleagues used the opportunity to showcase some of the objects, photographs and texts they use for teaching and research. The exhibition features thought-provoking sources, including ‘modern historical writing… photos and stamps, nineteenth-century letters and drawings… early printed books, medieval paintings, late antique manuscripts and inscriptions’.

In November, Dr Tim Greenwood was elected as a ‘Correspondant étranger’ of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres (part of the Institut de France). Correspondants étrangers are elected for life for their contribution to the fields of archaeology, history, philology, and their multiple divisions and specialist areas. There are only ever fifty at any one time. Dr Greenwood’s work focuses on the history of Armenia between 400 and 1100 CE.

To round out the year, the School of History received news that three colleagues were named in King Charles’s first New Year Honours list. The awards recognise their service to the nation in the fields of history, culture, politics and higher education. Professor Colin Kidd received an OBE for services to history, culture and politics. Emeritus Professor of Modern History Rab Houston received an MBE for services to higher education and Honorary Senior Lecturer of Medieval History Lorna Walker also received an MBE for services to higher education.

Semester Roundup: Martinmas Semester 2022

Photo: University of St Andrews

Staff News

Congratulations to Dr Diana Lemberg on receiving Honorable Mention for the Stuart L. Bernath Scholarly Article Prize.

Congratulations to Tim Greenwood! Dr Greenwood has been elected as a ‘Correspondant étranger’ of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres (part of the Institut de France). There are only ever 50 correspondants étrangers in the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres at any one time.

Congratulations to Milinda Banerjee for winning two grants this summer! The first is for the project Community Priorities in the Creation of Sustainable Futures: An Exploration of Community-led Decision Making in Peatland Restoration Projects in Rural Scotland, and the second is for the project For Freedom: Scotland and the Making of a Decolonized World.

On 5 May, Alex Woolf was on the podcast In Our Time for the episode ‘The Davidian Revolution’.

On 9 May, Aileen Fyfe was a panellist at a roundtable discussion organised by the American Council of Learned Societies, ‘A Healthy Ecosystem for Humanities Scholarship: The Evolving Role of Open Access’. On 18 May, she discussed ‘The history of science publishing’ at the ‘ECR Wednesdays Webinar’ organised by eLife (a non-profit platform for research communication in the biosciences). 

On 19 July, Milinda Banerjee gave a talk entitled ‘Against the Capitalocene: From Subaltern Community to Multispecies Democracy’ at Diamond Harbour Women’s University. On 6 August, he gave a talk at Banaras Hindu University. On 9 September, he co-organised the conference ‘Citizen/Stateless Person/Cosmopolitan: Refugee Selfhood in Global Intellectual and Legal History’ with Kerstin von Lingen (University of Vienna), generously supported by the University of Vienna and the Institute of Legal and Constitutional Research, University of St Andrews.

On 2 September, Guy Rowlands gave a paper entitled ‘Financing War in Louis XIV’s France: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly Aspects’ at New College, Oxford in the conference ‘Financing War: The Changing Role of State and Non-State Actors from Classical Greece to Nineteenth-Century Eurasia’. He also spoke on 1 October alongside Professor Piotr Wilczek (Ambassador of Poland to the UK) and Professor Michael Brown (Aberdeen) on the roundtable panel ending the conference ‘Natural Law, Religious Conflict, and the Problem of War and Peace in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Europe’ at the University of Aberdeen.

In October Thomasz Kamusella gave an interview to Channel 24 News Ukraine on language politics and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. You can watch it in English here.

On 2 October, Derek Patrick spoke at the Words of War Book Festival in conversation with Victoria Schofield.

On 6 October, Angus Stewart gave the talk ‘Fortresses and Frontiers: Castles and Northern Syria in the Sultanate of Cairo’ for the Institute of Muslim Civilisations, Aga Khan University.

On 6 October, Malcolm Petrie gave a talk on ‘Scottish Politics since 1945’ for the Edinburgh North and Leith Constituency Labour Party.

On 6 October, James Palmer gave the public lecture ‘Wilfrid, Willibrord and the Expansion of Christian Europe’ as part of the 1350th anniversary of the building of the Ripon Cathedral’s crypt.

On 22 October, Derek Patrick gave the talk ‘The battle which is to begin will be one of the decisive battles of history: El Alamein and the 5th Black Watch’ at the The Black Watch Association (Angus Branch) El Alamein Dinner.

On 31 October, Rory Cox spoke on a roundtable ‘The Civil Condition in World Politics’ for the British International Studies Association (BISA), University of St Andrews.

On 9 November, Derek Patrick gave a talk entitled ‘”Dundee’s Own”: The 4th Black Watch and the Great War’ at the Abertay Probus Club.

Staff Publications

Armstrong, Daniel, ‘Rethinking Anglo-Papal Relations: Royal Reactions to the Receipt of Papal Letters’Blog of the Royal Historical Society, 20 June 2022.

Banerjee, Milinda, ‘A Non-Eurocentric Genealogy of Indian Democracy: Tripura in History of Political Thought’, in Jelle J.P. Wouters (ed.), Vernacular Politics in Northeast India (OUP, 2022).

Banerjee, Milinda, Political Theology and Democracy: Perspectives from South Asia, West Asia, and North Africa’, Political Theology (July 2022, e-pub).

Banerjee, Milinda, ‘The Partition of India, Bengali “New Jews”, and Refugee Democracy: Transnational Horizons of Indian RefugeePolitical Discourse’Itinerario (2022, e-pub).

Bavaj, RiccardoCold War liberalism in West Germany: Richard Löwenthal and ‘Western civilization’History of European Ideas (2022, e-pub).

Bavaj, Riccardo, ‘Religious Re-anchoring (through Lots of Books): Heinrich August Winkler, Germany, and “the West”‘, in Arthur der Weduwen and Malcolm Walsby (eds), Reformation, Religious Culture and Print in Early Modern Europe: Essays in Honour of Andrew Pettegree, Volume 1 (Brill, 2022), pp. 116-127.

Blakeway, AmyParliament and Convention in the Personal Rule of James V of Scotland, 1528-1542 (Palgrave MacMillan, 2022).

Boyd, Sarah LouiseTimothy KinnairdAayush Srivastava, J. Whitaker, and C. Richard BatesInvestigation of coastal environmental change at Ruddons Point, Fife, SE Scotland’Scottish Journal of Geography, 58:2 (2022, e-pub). 

Chakrabarty, Dipesh, Alapan Bandyopadhyay, and Milinda Banerjee, ‘”There is Grief, There is Death…”: Mourning in the Wake of COVID-19’Political Theology, 23:3 (2022), pp. 175-183.

Cox, Rory, Faye Donnelly, Anthony F. Lang, Jr. (eds),  Contesting Torture: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (Routledge, 2022).

Cox, Rory, ‘Torturing the New Barbarians’, in Rory Cox, Faye Donnelly, Anthony F. Lang, Jr. (eds), Contesting Torture: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (Routledge, 2022), pp. 38-58.

Cox, Rory, Faye Donnelly, and Anthony F. Lang, Jr. ‘Contesting Torture: Continuing Debates, Questions, and Reflections’, in Rory Cox, Faye Donnelly, Anthony F. Lang, Jr. (eds), Contesting Torture: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (Routledge, 2022), pp. 1-15.

Fyfe, Aileen, Noah Moxham, Julie McDougall-Waters, and Camilla Morok RostvikA history of scientific journals: publishing at the Royal Society, 1665-2015 (UCL Press, 2022).

Fyfe, AileenFrom philanthropy to business: the economics of Royal Society journal publishing in the twentieth century’Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science (2022, e-pub ahead of print).

Fyfe, Aileen‘Self-help for learned journals: scientific societies and the commerce of publishing in the 1950s’History of Science, 60:2 (2022), pp. 255-279.

Garrett, Natalee, ‘Albion’s Queen by All Admir’d”: Reassessing the Public Reputation of Queen Charlotte, 1761-1818′Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 45:3 (2022), pp. 351-370.

Greenwood, Timothy, ‘Adontz, Armenia and Iran in Late Antiquity’, in Mary Whitby and Philip Booth (eds), Travaux et Mémoires, 26 (2022), pp. 59-81.

Greenwood, Timothy, ‘Composing World History at the Margins of Empire: Armenian and Byzantine Traditions in Comparative Perspective’, in Leslie Brubaker, Rebecca Darley, and Dan Reynolds (eds), Global Byzantium: Papers from the Fiftieth Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies (Routledge, 2022), pp. 87-107.

Greenwood, Tim, ‘Negotiating the North: Armenian perspectives on the Conquest era’, in Letizia Osti and Maaike van Berkel (eds), The Islamic Historian at Work: Essays in Honour of Hugh N. Kennedy (Brill, 2022), pp. 591-613.

Gregory, David, Tom Dawson, Dolores Elkin, Hans Van Tilburg, Chris Underwood, Vicki Richards, Andrew Viduka, Kieran Westley, Jeneva Wright, Jørgen Hollesen. ‘Of time and tide: the complex impacts of climate change on coastal and underwater cultural heritageAntiquity (2 Nov 2022, e-pub ahead of print).

Halstead, Huw‘”Two homelands and none”: belonging, alienation, and everyday citizenship with the expatriated Greeks of Turkey’Journal of Migration History 8:3 (2022), pp. 432-456.

Hill, FelicityExcommunication in Thirteenth-Century England: Communities, Politics, and Publicity (OUP, 2022).

Kamusella, Tomasz‘Mariupol and the Warsaw Ghetto’New Eastern Europe, 9 August 2022.

Kamusella, Tomasz‘Mysteries of “Great Russian Literature”‘New Eastern European, 21 October 2022.

Kamusella, Tomasz‘Premonition: the Kremlin’s quest to destroy Ukrainian language and culture’New Eastern Europe, 22 July 2022.

Kamusella, Tomasz, ‘Rusia, koloni kineze?’Dielli (5 Nov 2022).

Kamusella, Tomasz, ‘Rusishtja, një gjuhë vrasësish’Drini (2 Nov 2022).

Kamusella, Tomasz‘Russian and Rashism: are Russian language and literature really so great?’, Wachtryz.eu, 7 June 2022.

Kamusella, Tomasz‘The Imperial mentality of unapologetic Russian oppositionists’New Eastern Europe, 26 August 2022.

Kelley, Anna, ‘Movement and mobility: cotton and the visibility of trade networks across the Saharan Desert’, in Leslie Brubaker, Rebecca Darley, and Dan Reynolds (eds), Global Byzantium: Papers from the Fiftieth Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies (Routledge, 2022).

Kelley, Anna‘Searching for Professional Women in the Mid to Late Roman Textile Industry’Past & Present (2022, e-pub).

Kelley, Anna, Leslie Brubaker, Daniel Reynolds, ‘Byzantium from below: the archive of David Talbot Rice and the unearthing of Constantinople’, in Olivier Delouis and Brigitte Pitarakis (eds), Discovering Byzantium in Istanbul (Istanbul Research Institute, 2022), pp. 277-300.

Kreklau, Claudia ‘The Gender Anxiety of Otto von Bismarck, 1866–1898*’German History, 40:2 (April/June 2022), pp. 171-196.

Lawrence, Tanya‘An Ottoman mission to Tehran: Mehmed Tahir Münif Paşa’s second ambassadorship to Tehran and the re-making of Perso-Ottoman relations (1876-1897)’British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, (2022, e-pub).

MacLean, Simon‘Royal adultery, biblical history and political conflict in Tenth Century Francia: the Lothar Crystal reconsidered’Francia 49 (2022), pp. 1-25.

Mariushkova, Elena and Veselin PopovRoma Portaits in History (Brill, 2022).

Michelson, EmilyCatholic Spectacle and Rome’s Jews: Early Modern Conversion and Resistance (Princeton, 2022).

Miyandazi, Victoria‘Setting the Record Straight on Socio-Economic Rights Adjudication: The Mitu-Bell Supreme Court Judgment’Kabarak Journal of Law and Ethics, 6:1(Sep 2022), pp. 33-56.

Müller, Frank, ‘Die Hohenzollern-Legende. Dynastie und Geschichtspolitik im Kaiserreich’, in Birgit Aschmann and Monika Wienfort (eds), Zwischen Licht und Schatten: Das Kaiserreich (1871-1914) und seine neuen Kontroversen (Campus Verlag, 2022), pp. 315-340.

Müller, Frank, ‘Liberalismus und Monarchie im Europa des 19. Jahrhunderts’, in Eckart Conce, Dominik Geppert, Ewald Grothe, Wolther von Kieseritzky, Anne Christina Nagel, Joachim Scholtyseck, Elke Seefried (eds), Jahrbuch zur Liberalismus-Forschung (Nomos, 2022), pp. 129-144.

Nethercott, Frances‘The intelligentsia is dead, long live the intelligentsia! Alexander Solzhenitsyn on soviet dissidence and a new spiritual elite’Russian Literature, 130 (2022), pp. 29-50.

Papadogiannis, Nikolaus‘An uneven internationalism? West German youth and organised travel to Israel, c. 1958–c. 1967’Social History (2022).

Papadogiannis, Nikolaus‘Greek trans women selling sex, spaces and mobilities, 1960s-1980s’European Review of History, 29:2 (2022), pp. 331-362.

Papadogiannis, Nikolaus and Daniel Laqua, ‘Youth and internationalism in the twentieth century: An introduction’Social History (2022).

Petrie, MalcolmPolitics and the People: Scotland, 1945-1979 (Edinburgh University Press, 2022).

Randjbar-Daemi, SiavushThe Tudeh Party of Iran and the land reform initiatives of the Pahlavi state, 1958–1964′Middle Eastern Studies, 58:4 (2022), pp. 617-635.

Stella, Attilio, The Libri Feudorum (the ‘Books of Fiefs’): an annotated English translation of the Vulgata recension with Latin text (Brill, 2022).

Stewart, Angus, ‘”One of the Most Glorious Fortresses”: Rum Kale in the Sultanate of Cairo’, in Scott Redford (ed), Ortaçağ’dan Günümüze Rumkale (Institute of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology, Gaziantep, 2022).

Thakkar, Mark‘A note on equiprobability prior to 1500’Early Science and Medicine, 27:2 (2022), pp. 225-231.

Thakkar, Mark, ‘Wyclif, the Black Sheep of the Oxford Calculators’, in Daniel Di Liscia and Edith Sylla (eds), Quantifying Aristotle: The Impact, Spread and Decline of the Calculatores Tradition (Brill, 2022), pp. 186-214.

Watson, Elise‘Education in partibus infidelium: Catholic catechisms and controversy in the Dutch Republic’Jaarboek voor Nederlandse Boekgeschiedenis, 29:1(Sep 2022), pp. 4-31. 

Watson, Elise‘Lost saints: printed catholic ephemera in the Dutch republic’, in Arthur der Weduwen and Malcolm Walsby (eds), The Book World of Early Modern Europe: Essays in Honour of Andrew Pettegree (Brill, 2022), pp. 215-234.

Ylitalo, Matthew and Sarah Easterby-Smith, ‘Ships, space and sources: heterotopia on the high seas’, in Riccardo Bavaj, Konrad Lawson, and Bernhard Struck (eds), Doing Spatial History (Routledge, 2022), pp. 121-138.

Student Publications

Abernethy, John‘Sir William Brog’Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 14 July 2022.

Baxter, Jacob,  ‘Admiration, anger and envy: descriptions of the Dutch golden age in English print’, in Arthur der Weduwen and Malcolm Walsby (eds), The Book World of Early Modern Europe: Essays in Honour of Andrew Pettegree (Brill, 2022), pp. 182-210.

Betz, Emily‘A Sixteenth-Century Clergyman and Physician: Timothy Bright’s Dual Approach to Melancholia’Studies in Church History, 58 (2022), pp. 112-133.

Collett, Jessica‘Bede on bodily sickness, episcopal identity and monastic asceticism’Studies in Church History, 58 (2022), pp. 28-45.

Fox, James‘Numeracy and popular culture: Cocker’s Arithmetick and the market for cheap arithmetical books, 1678–1787‘, Cultural and Social History (2022, e-pub).

Grobien, Philip‘The origins and intentions of the Anglo-Persian Agreement 1919: a reassessment’Journal of the British Institute of Persian Studies (2022, e-pub).

Mattioli, IrinaL’entretien d’un animal essentiel : rapports entre les traités et la pratique dans l’hippiatrie italienne du 13e siècle’Travailler les animaux. L’exploitation animale, de l’Antiquité à nos joursCahiers d’histoire. Revue d’histoire critique, 153 (2022), pp. 33-53.

McArthur, Euan David‘Theological Counsel in the Early Quaker Movement’The Journal of Ecclesiastical History (2022), pp. 1-22. 

McWilliams, Caroline, ‘A chip on his shoulder: The diaries of Chips Channon’The Critic, 3 October 2022. 

Meades, Nathan‘Transitions and Tribulations: The City of Lyon and the Capetians, c.1271-c.1292’Question. Essays & Art from the Humanities (October 2022).

School News

For Black History Month this October, colleagues in the School of History created an exhibition describing some of the images, texts and objects they teach and research. These range from modern historical writing to photos and stamps, nineteenth-century letters and drawings to early printed books, medieval paintings, late antique manuscripts and inscriptions. You can view the exhibition here.

Blogs

A St Andrews Tradition: The Origins of the May Dip

Postgraduate Spotlight: Agata Piotrowska

Postgraduate Spotlight: Lili Scott Lintott

Dr Tim Greenwood Elected as ‘Correspondant étranger’ of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres

Staff Spotlight: Andrew Edwards

Staff Spotlight: Guilherme Fians

Postgraduate Spotlight: Hebah Alheem

Staff Spotlight: Rachel Love

Print and Manuscript: USTC Conference 2022

Postgraduate Spotlight: Nathan Meades

Parliament and Convention in the Personal Rule of James V, 1528-1542

Postgraduate Spotlight: Jessica Secmezsoy-Urquhart

Blog post by Jessica Secmezsoy-Urquhart. Jessica is currently in the fourth year of their PhD on the history of Renaissance disability at the University of St Andrews. Their thesis focuses on the royal court roles of neurodiverse fools and bodilydiverse dwarfs and giants with a court history and disability studies approach.  They have written for or contributed videos on history, disability. and similar topics and issues to The Skinny, Film Stories, BBC Social, and BBC Scotland among others and are writing a novel, Life Goes On, about their Dede’s childhood in 1940-50s Istanbul they hope to publish after graduation. They can be contacted as a PhD Historian at jyesu@st-andrews.ac.uk , online as JessicaAKA., and as a writer at Bookseeker Agency. 

Jessica Secmezsoy-Urquhart is a Scottish/Turkish, LGBT, autistic, disabled, and chronically ill working-class person near the end of a PhD in History at the University of St. Andrews. Leaving John Ogilvie High School at 16, the impact of their conditions on their studies at Langside college left the University of Glasgow admissions team unconvinced they could achieve the Higher grades (3 As) set as a conditional offer to get into the University of Glasgow to do an undergraduate degree in History/English. They did not achieve 3 As. They received an A, two A*s and an A in Advanced Higher English. They developed a firm interest in royal court, social, and cultural histories, especially of marginalised groups. However, it was their passion for disability activism and studies, hearing a story concerning a Plantagenet jester (who were usually disabled), and their love of the varied poor and rich disabled characters like Tyrion Lannister explored in A Song of Ice and Fire which finally made them to decide to focus specifically on the still understudied history of disabled court fools, giants, and dwarfs at European royal courts in the 1400s-1600s for their MA (Hons) thesis. Jessica achieved a First-Class Honours Degree in 2016 and was awarded the prize for best Medieval Dissertation of their graduating year. 

A one year taught degree at Glasgow saw them submit a thesis on the animal history of vermin and parasites but following rejection for funding they were unable to take up their PhD in 2017 and had to take a year out. This was an unexpected blessing as they wrote, directed, and produced their first short film, Constant Companion, a surreal exploration of intrusive thoughts, trauma, and abuse. This gave them experience collaborating on work with others in a new medium and gave them the chance to take up a contributor role for BBC Social which made them committed to making history more accessible via tv, podcasts, film, and internet content. At this time in late 2018, they took up a place for MScR History with Dr Cordelia Beatie and Dr Jill Burke supervising on Jessica’s thesis which they achieved a Distinction for and involved a deeper study into how Scotland’s royal court use of fools and wonders was both unique to its own culture but also part of a wider European trend. The work in particular made clear how under-utilised yet insightful Scottish archival accounts tied to the court are for Renaissance disabled history. 

Since 2019, Jessica has pursued a PhD at St Andrews entitled ‘The Book of the Disabled Courtier’ under (now retired) Professor Rab Houston, Dr Amy Blakeway, Dr Ana Del Campo, and Dr Sarah Carpenter. It looks at the royal court roles of neurodiverse fools and bodilydiverse dwarfs and giants with a court history, disability studies, and comparative focus on Renaissance England, Scotland, and Britain. It was after returning to uni following their first research trip to London that Britain entered lockdown. Working remotely with a shielding parent and disabled themselves, Jessica was forced to confront that ableism is so prevalent in modern Britain that the lives of the disabled were viewed less worthy during the pandemic and still are in this time only ‘post-pandemic’ for those who are low risk, despite what government policies might suggest. Such events have greatly increased Jessica’s existing commitment to telling good histories of Renaissance disability through a truly disability studies approach.  During PhD they have tried to make videos and appear on podcasts to make disabled history as accessible as possible. They also hope to pursue teaching or a postdoc on the topic of how modern ableism found its origin in early modern imperial Britain between 1666-1800, which led roles like court fool and dwarf to disappear in a very different Britain and world. 

Dr Tim Greenwood Elected as ‘Correspondant étranger’ of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres

Congratulations to Dr Tim Greenwood! He has been elected as a ‘Correspondant étranger’ of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres (part of the Institut de France).

The Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres was founded in 1663 and ‘brings together individuals of exceptional qualification, representative of many walks of life. Academicians are scholars elected to the Academy for life by their peers, in recognition of their work in fields lying within the sphere of the Academy’s competence (archaeology, history, philology and their multiple divisions and specialist areas), of their high level of commitment and in respect to their international standing’. There are only ever 50 correspondants étrangers at any one time.

Dr Greenwood is a Reader in the School of History. His research is centred upon the history and culture of medieval Armenia between 400 and 1100 CE, analysing and exploiting literary, epigraphic and architectural sources as well as exploring Persian, Byzantine and Islamic perspectives and contexts. He has also published on 16th and 17th century Armenian manuscript illumination. The author of numerous publications, his most recent article is ‘Negotiating the North: Armenian perspectives on the Conquest era’, in L Osti & M van Berkel (eds), The Islamic Historian at Work: Essays in Honour of Hugh N. Kennedy. Islamic History and Civilization (Leiden, 2022), pp. 591-613.

Postgraduate Spotlight: Lili Scott Lintott

Blog written by Lili Scott Lintott. Lili is currently a third-year PhD student in the School of History, where her research focuses on the history of medieval grief.

Born and raised in Cambridge, England, Lili stayed close to home when she went on to study History at Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge. There, Lili was fortunate enough to be taught by Professor Elisabeth van Houts, Dr Julie Barrau, and Dr Sarah Pearsall (among many others), an experience that inspired her to pursue research beyond her undergraduate degree. It was also during that time that Lili discovered her interest in the history of medieval emotion, and, in particular, the history of grief. She completed her undergraduate dissertation on the grief of Henry II of England (1154-1189), the subject which eventually formed the basis of her doctoral study.

After finishing her BA, Lili stayed at Cambridge to undertake a fully-funded master’s degree in American History. During her rogue detour into the world of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century America, Lili studied the ways in which schoolbooks taught children about gender and citizenship in the nascent republic. Though this was an immensely rewarding experience, the discovery that antipopes, tournaments, and meddlesome priests were far less common in this era quickly led Lili to reconsider her research interests.

Taking time out from study, Lili then spent two years working as a content developer at a museum design consultancy. Here she advised on interpretation strategies for a wide range of projects such as an exhibition for the Tokyo Olympics, the masterplan for the National Mining Museum of Scotland, and a campaign to move the stone of Scone back to Perth. On her two-hour daily commute, Lili’s mind couldn’t help but wander back to the subject of her undergraduate research; she eventually succumbed to the temptation to apply for PhDs.  

Lili secured a SGSAH-funded PhD to study the grief of the kings of England (1154 – 1216) at the University of St Andrews (finally making the leap to a university more than a mile from her childhood home). Lili was drawn to St Andrews by the large community of medieval historians, the possibility of office space, and the joint supervision of Professor John Hudson at St Andrews and Professor Matthew Strickland at Glasgow. 

Whilst at St Andrews, she has come to appreciate that descriptions of the grief of the Angevin kings are marked by their colour. Contemporary chronicles contain a number of fascinating accounts of kings experiencing intense, overwhelming, and sometimes even fatal emotion. In her thesis, Lili hopes to explore what these descriptions can tell us about the meaning and boundaries of grief, the role displays of emotion played in the operation of kingly power, and the relationship between grief and status during the period.

In her free time, going against the grain, Lili waited until the country was out of lockdown before embarking upon an odyssey of passable baking. An ambitious sort, she eschewed the ubiquitous banana bread of her contemporaries and instead dove right in to the noble art of babka making. A number of esteemed colleagues have commented that her Victoria sponge is in fact ‘actually okay’ (Grundmann, C., Kecskés, Á., Rohn, J., et al).  

Staff Spotlight: Dr Andrew Edwards

Blog written by Dr Andrew David Edwards. Dr Edwards is a historian of Early America, capitalism, and money, focusing on the American Revolution. 

During my first week of graduate school, one of my professors asked the class to explain on a single sheet of paper why we wanted to study history and make a life out of it. I don’t remember what I wrote. But I do remember what Joppan George, a second-year student (and now a postdoc at the University of Leiden), told me he had written the previous year: “I write history because history writes me.”

And that’s the truth. I became interested in writing American history, in studying the past, because of the way the history of the United States shaped my own life. I am not from a college family. But I was interested from the beginning in understanding the world around me. That interest led to several questionable decisions. I dropped out of college twice before I was 21. First, to travel to Europe, and second, to take a full-time job at a local newspaper. There, I became interested in the financial institutions driving change in both my seemingly idyllic redwood-clad county and the wider American West. The place to learn more, I thought, was New York. I bought a one-way round-the-world ticket from San Francisco to New York via Hongkong, Bangkok, New Delhi, and Paris, only to get stranded two months into the journey, passport and plane ticket stolen, in the eastern foothills of the Himalayas. I decided to stay.

I ended up spending the better part of a year in Nanjing, in the Yangtze valley near Shanghai. My apartment overlooked the long-flooded drydocks used six centuries earlier to build the fleet Zheng He took to East Africa. The air was thick with construction debris. Beyond the canal, high rises topped with neon-lit neoclassical temples leaned slightly off vertical. More were rising. Across the street, a factory closed, its workers fighting for space on the bus meant to take them back to villages outside the city, hanging out of the windows as it pulled away. The factory was demolished. A lakeside park replaced it. The park was torn up and replaced by a big-box department store. All in a matter of months. China’s imperial history was everywhere. Uighur children sold snacks in a lakeside park. An old man who remembered the aftermath of the Japanese army’s atrocities in Nanjing in the 1930s told me about how he was glad that America had dropped the atom bomb because it meant a wealthy, powerful China didn’t have to.

After an eye-opening year, I arrived in New York in 2003 and began a three-year round of baking, alternative-press internships, freelance gigs, and event production that culminated, finally, in a reporting job at the heart of global financial journalism in time for the 2008 financial crisis. Reporting on that crisis was my awakening to history. I wondered why it had happened and where the system that caused it had come from, all questions that could only be answered in History. I began taking night classes at Columbia University and finished my undergraduate degree in American History at 29. Six years later, I completed a doctorate at Princeton University, and, this January, started a job at St. Andrews.

I write history because history wrote me. My work on the history of money, the American Revolution, and now my teaching at St Andrews, is focused on how we can explore the past to understand how history is still writing today. 

Staff Spotlight: Guilherme Fians

Dr Guilherme Fians is a Leverhulme Research Fellow working on the interdisciplinary project ‘Sharing knowledge in Esperanto: From expert to participatory cultures, 1900/2000’. His research focuses on how languages and media have been mobilised throughout history for the (re)production of certain viewpoints about political and scientific issues. You can follow Guilherme on Twitter @guilhermefians.

In my first year as a young and hopeful BA student in Rio de Janeiro, a friend gave me a collection of books written in Esperanto. Puzzled, I found on Google that Esperanto is a constructed language designed in the late nineteenth-century Russian Empire to enable mutual understanding among people from different national and linguistic backgrounds. Interested in knowing what the books I had received were about, I enrolled in an Esperanto course near my university campus. As I made friends with my course mates, I came to hear about the wonders of the World Congresses of Esperanto and about anarchist groups who used it as a revolutionary language in Western Europe since the 1920s. But why would people hold annual gatherings just for the sake of speaking this language? Also, why would this language be more ‘revolutionary’ than any other? As I asked people these questions, read about the topic, and failed miserably to find a satisfactory explanation, I decided to look for answers myself.

Years later, during my PhD in Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester, I tried to learn more about how this once ‘revolutionary’ language kept its political relevance (or not) 100 years on, in the early twenty-first century. And this is the history I narrate in Esperanto Revolutionaries and Geeks: Language Politics, Digital Media and the Making of an International Community (2021).

After some detours to Copenhagen, Amsterdam, São Paulo and Brasília, I am currently working with Dr Bernhard Struck, taking Esperanto as an entryway to exploring international communication, translation, and knowledge exchange from the perspectives of digital anthropology, prefigurative politics, and transnational history. My current work develops in two complementary directions.

Firstly, I have been analysing the records of the first translation of the Bible into Esperanto. In the late 1910s, while Zamenhof (Esperanto’s initiator) referred to both Elohim and Jehovah as ‘Dio’ (God) in his translation of the Old Testament, the British Esperanto-speaking priests who translated the New Testament criticised how such terminology would be utterly incompatible with Christianity. Between the words of the Lord and the word choice of the language’s master, who would win the disputes around how to coin Esperanto terms for ‘grace’, ‘forgiveness’, and ‘God’ at a time when the language was still developing its vocabulary?

Secondly – luckily my curiosity prevents me from becoming a fully-fledged ‘Esperanto guy’ – I am leaning towards my background in digital anthropology to look at controversies related to the do-it-yourself approach that sustains the so-called ‘edit wars’ on Wikipedia. In this ‘free encyclopedia that anyone can edit’, how collaborative is knowledge production carried out by voluntary editors who work individually and barely collaborate directly? Exploring Wikipedia’s authorship issues, I analyse the tensions between technoliberalism and the participatory cultures that allegedly feed the internet.

Multilingualism in academia is also key to me. While producing books and articles in English (as expected in a UK university), I also value publishing in other languages as a way of communicating my findings to/with my research participants and non-English-speaking colleagues (in Portuguese, French, German, and Esperanto).

Beyond my academic work, I am passionate about music, cinema, and long walks. Perhaps surprisingly, I do not particularly enjoy learning languages. Due to family commitments – a.k.a. my wife – I have been studying Vietnamese, but language learning reminds me of how communication sometimes involves more miscommunication than actual understanding. At the same time, looking on the bright side, what matters – in academia, as well as in life and in the encounters we have along the way – is to keep the conversation going.

Postgraduate Spotlight: Hebah Alheem

Blog written by Hebah Alheem. Hebah is currently in her second year of PhD in Middle East Studies at the University of St Andrews. Her research revolves around Abbasid poetry, focusing on the zuhdiyyāt of Abū al-ʿAtāhiya. She is a wife and a mother to two wonderful children.

Hebah was born and raised in Kuwait but moved to the UK with her family three years ago. Her keen interest in Arabic language and literature began early and never stopped growing. She started building her own library in primary school and has been filling it with Arabic stories and poetry ever since. Hebah completed her undergraduate degree in Arabic language and literature at the College of Art of Kuwait University, graduating in 2012. Her graduation project centred on Nubāḥ, a novel by Saudi author ʿAbduh Khāl.

After graduating, Hebah was first employed as an Arabic proof-reader at the Ministry of Awqaf in Kuwait, where her duties also included working in the library and transcribing text from audio recordings. After three years in that position, Hebah successfully applied for a job in education, teaching Arabic to non-native Arabic speakers, a role that allowed her to teach students from around the globe and build great friendships with them. She also taught Arabic literature, grammar, reading and speaking at several levels at the ICU centre in Kuwait, where she worked for another three years. Following that, she transferred to another centre to explore other teaching methods and enrolled on a grammar course, ranking first in the final exam.

A year later, Hebah applied for and was awarded a scholarship from Kuwait University and moved to the UK soon after, completing a Master’s degree in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the University of Leeds, an experience she found very rewarding. Her MA dissertation focused on free Arab women’s ability to compose ghazal poetry during the first Abbasid era. Hebah has always been interested in the evolution of genres in Arabic poetry, especially those of the Abbasid era.

Hebah’s PhD journey started at the University of St Andrews in May 2021, where she is supervised by Prof Andrew Peacock and Dr Kirill Dmitriev.  Her research centres on the zuhd poetry of Abū al-ʿAtāhiya and aims to trace its evolution during the Abbasid era. This project is very close to Hebah’s heart as she has been aiming to explore this genre since her undergraduate years, having cultivated a very special interest in this particular field.

At the start of her PhD, Hebah moved with her family to Edinburgh.  Since then, they have all harboured great admiration for the wonders of Scottish culture and have made many friends. From the outset of her postgraduate journey, Hebah’s husband and parents have been constantly supportive and helped her get through the pandemic and stressful deadlines, for which she is very grateful.

Outside of academia, Hebah loves to volunteer in different fields, such as translating and teaching Arabic. She greatly enjoys cooking and loves trying out recipes from different cultures and cuisines; her favourite is Japanese cuisine. Hebah has been very enthusiastic about exploring Scotland and is particularly fond of Fife. She enjoys taking long walks in her current hometown of Edinburgh. In 2015, Hebah adopted a minimalist lifestyle and her interest in minimalism is still growing. Her other interests include reading Arabic poetry and novels, and modest fashion; she has designed many of her outfits herself.

Staff Spotlight: Rachel Love

Blog written by Dr Rachel Love. Dr Love is a Research Fellow currently working on the AHRC-funded project ‘Transnational sexual health activism and Aids in Western Europe, 1980s-1990s’.

Dr Rachel Love

When an activist asks you, as they pass you a dusty box filled with homemade fliers and letters that they’ve been storing in some shed where swallows might also be nesting, how on earth you, an American, ended up here in rural Italy—or when you’ve been asked to write an autobiographical blog for the St Andrews School of History—you’ll need a narrative that makes sense of your life so far. The story I tell is this: one night in 2007, as a study-abroad student wandering around Florence’s Piazza della Signoria, I stumbled on street musicians armed with a megaphone and an accordion performing ‘La lega’, a women’s labor song from the early 1900s. Sebben che siamo donne/paura non abbiamo/Abbiam delle belle buone lingue/e ben ci difendiamo (Although we are women/we are not afraid/We have beautiful sharp tongues/and we defend ourselves well). Once I heard that song, I wanted more: to understand popular music, political protest and the stories they tell about modern Italy. After finishing university, teaching English in Milan and waiting tables in Ohio, I earned a PhD from New York University and wrote my small part on Italian protest culture.

As a scholar, I want to tell the histories on the margins that inform and complicate narratives about the past, and I use the lens of media and cultural studies to analyze Italian twentieth-century history. In the School of History, I am working with Nikolaos Papadogiannis on an AHRC-funded project about transnational AIDS activism in Western Europe in the 1980s-1990s. More specifically, I conduct oral history interviews and comb through newsletters, fliers and boxes of condoms to examine how, while confronting deadly disease, violent stigma and the absence of effective state intervention, Italian activists fostered international connections, translated essential information and practiced mutual aid and harm reduction.

I’m also working on my book project, Songbook for a Revolution: Popular Culture and the New Left in 1960s Italy, which is a critical history of an Italian leftist musical collective in the 1960s, the Nuovo Canzoniere Italiano. Through scandalous performances like Bella ciao at the 1964 Spoleto Festival, recorded albums and an influential journal, this group argued that working-class voices offered a potent form of political and cultural expression. In addition to this project, I’ve also published articles on the intersection of Italian anti-Fascism and anti-colonialism as well as folk music as transatlantic exchange in the journals Popular Music, Modern Italy, and Interventions.

I’m delighted to be a part of the School of History community and to participate in its dynamic conversations about the past. I am also delighted that St Andrews (and Edinburgh and Dundee) are much sunnier than I expected, with a golden light at sunset that makes my jaw drop. I even enjoy the near constant yelling of the seagulls, especially the babies nesting on my neighbour’s roof. I’m looking forward to the conference Nikos and I are organizing in August, ‘Reactions to HIV/AIDS since the 1980s: Transnational and comparative history perspectives’, and to exploring more of Scotland while it’s still light out.