MLitt Modern History Away Weekend
June 11, 2014 Leave a comment
The M.Litt programme in Modern History recently hosted a retreat to Pitlochry. One member of the cohort, Tom Sojka, reports below on the trip that provided a forum for discussing the development of dissertation projects in their early stages.
A group of eight M.Litt students in Modern History recently journeyed to Dunfallandy House near Pitlochry to present preliminary research findings and receive feedback on their dissertation plans. The M.Litts were joined by PhD candidate Jordan Girardin, Dr Nikos Papadogiannis, a visiting scholar at St Andrews, Dr Sarah Easterby-Smith, Dr Riccardo Bavaj, and Dr Bernhard Struck. The location, a beautiful mansion house built in the early nineteenth century, was the ancestral home of the Fergussons of Dunfallandy and has connections to the East India Company.
The cohort arrived in the late afternoon on 27 May and immediately dove in to a research presentation by Dr Papadogiannis on youth travel from West Germany to Israel between the 1950s-1980s. As the clouds had cleared, the group moved into the garden for the first round of dissertation presentations, with topics including dance hall culture in Edinburgh, a World War I-era libel trial, the role of conscientious objectors during World War II, and British soldier reading experience in the trenches. Following a lovely dinner, Jordan Giradin led a round table discussion on successful dissertation writing, having completed his own M.Litt dissertation last year, which moved into a further discourse on the uses of spatial history and Levebvre’s tripartite conceptualisation of space.
The following morning began with further dissertation presentations on the relationship between the London elite and white Kenyan settlers, Rhodesia and the U.D.I., the politicisation language in Malta, and Catharine Macaulay’s ‘Ideal Republic.’ The group then set off for the nearly Blair Castle, the seat of the Dukes and Earls of Atholl. The castle is home to Europe’s last remaining private army and boasts a beautiful nine-acre walled garden. When the group returned to Dunfallandy House, rain had damped their hopes for an afternoon garden party, so an informal indoor picnic was the best compromise.
In no rush to end the away days by returning to St Andrews, the group had a leisurely walk along Queens View the next morning and enjoyed the spectacular panorama of Loch Tummel and the mountains around Glencoe. While Queen Victoria did indeed visit in 1866, the site is more likely named for Queen Isabella, wife of Robert the Bruce. Finally, the group drove to the House of Bruar, the ‘Harrods of the Highlands’, to enjoy some lunch and window-shopping before returning to St Andrews. Over the course of the three day excursion, the M.Litts were able to socialise in a refreshing, relaxing environment and also gained useful insight on how to successfully go about organising and writing their dissertations through the feedback of their peers and tutors.