March 20, 2017 Leave a comment
In fall 2016, I had the pleasure of spending a semester as a joint visiting fellow with the Institute of Scottish Historical Research and Reformation Studies Institute at the University of St Andrews. This was an amazing opportunity and experience, both professionally and personally. To state the obvious, S. Andrews is a beautiful historic town with a vibrant intellectual community centered around the university. Here, I was able to pursue my work on a project on sermon-going in early modern Scotland with a huge array of resources at my disposal. The special collections reading room at the Martyr’s Kirk provided a lovely space to dig through manuscripts related to Scotland during the Reformation. The main library at St. Andrews gave me access to many printed and electronic secondary sources. St. Katherine’s Lodge was a warm and scenic place for my office, where I passed many hours working and socializing with staff in the School of History. Living in Fife, I was also only an hour’s journey away from Edinburgh, where I travelled a few times a month for research in the archives or professional meetings.
The most important resources, however, were the wonderful staff and students of the Institute of Scottish Historical Research and the Reformation Studies Institute. During my time as an ISHR fellow, I benefited from invaluable conversations with a wide range of scholars, all of whom were incredibly welcoming to me and encouraging of my work. From my seminar presentation on a mass confession in Ayr in 1647 to the informal weekly gatherings over coffee and cake in St. Kat’s, the members of the ISHR helped shape my thinking about my new research. Coming from a small liberal arts college where I am the only historian of Scotland, early modern Britain, or the Protestant Reformation, being surrounded by colleagues working on similar topics was a revelation that pushed me to reframe my research questions in very helpful ways. Equally important, I made not only new scholarly connections, but also wonderful friends while in St Andrews.
Both professionally and personally, my time as a joint ISHR-RSI fellow was thus invaluable. I look forward to seeing everyone again on future trips to Fife!
I was based at the Institute of Scottish Historical Research as a visiting fellow in the second half of 2016. It was a tremendously enriching experience. Ensconced in Professor Michael Brown’s office (thank you to him!) on The Scores with a view out over the sea, I was able to complete a book manuscript (provisionally) entitled Empire of Dissent: Scottish Presbyterianism and Reform Politics in the British World, c. 1820-c.1850. I presented a chapter on Samuel McDonald Martin, a politician in New Zealand, to the Scottish History seminar and a chapter on Thomas Pringle, a poet in South Africa, to a symposium on Presbyterianism and Scottish Literature. It was rewarding to receive feedback on each of these chapters from an audience so informed about Scotland’s political, religious and literary history.
My visit had many highlights: utilising the university’s special collections in the beautiful Martyrs Kirk on North Street; tea and cake with the School’s congenial academic staff on Tuesday mornings; procrastinating with my fellow fellows Mikki Brock and Steve Boardman; and chatting to and learning from ISHR’s wonderfully engaged postgraduate students. Most of all I think I’ll miss the hospitality of the Strathmartine Centre for Scottish History on Kinburn Place, whose library and kitchen kept me well-nourished throughout my stay.