Postgraduate Spotlight: Daniel Leaver

Daniel Leaver is a second year PhD student. His research focuses on the politics of North Sea oil in post-war Britain.

Originally from the great city of Newcastle upon Tyne just south of the border, I first came to St Andrews as an undergraduate in 2010, graduating in Modern History in 2014. A two-year venture into the real world convinced me it was not a place I wanted to spend much time, and I therefore returned to St Andrews for an MLitt in Scottish Historical Studies in 2016. Following this I began a PhD in 2018, working under the supervision of Dr Malcolm Petrie and generously funded by the Strathmartine Trust for Scottish History.

My doctoral studies examine the politics of North Sea oil in Britain during the sixties and seventies. As my PhD has progressed, I have increasingly realised that there are many important debates about this generally unloved period of post-war history where the topic can act as a fascinating case study.  For example, interest in the potential riches of the North Sea during Harold Wilson’s 1964-70 government is, I believe, an under-appreciated element in that government’s interest in new technologies and the modernisation of British industry. I am currently researching the extent to which Edward Heath’s government realised that North Sea oil offered a potential solution to the ‘energy crisis’ of the early seventies, particularly within the context of prolonged industrial disputes with the National Union of Mineworkers. And while the familiar issue of oil invigorating the cause of Scottish nationalism during the 1970s is an important element of the subject, my thesis is an opportunity to consider the extent to which the arrival of oil played a role in the other great constitutional change of the decade, namely Britain’s entry into the European Community. The ultimate aim is to try and provide a new perspective on a period of political, constitutional, and industrial change which puts the arrival of a new, indigenous source of energy at its centre.

Something I have relished about the St Andrews PhD experience is the opportunity to build a rounded academic CV and to engage in collaborative work. I am a PG Teaching Assistant on the MO2008: Scotland, Britain and Empire module offered by the School, something I thoroughly enjoy and would encourage all new PhD students to involve themselves in if they can. I am also a Research Assistant on the Bibliography for British and Irish History project with fellow PhD student Chelsea Reutcke, and last August co-organised a successful one-day conference on the theme of ‘Ideology and Identity in Post-War Scotland’ with Sarah Leith. This year I am the intern for the Institute of Scottish Historical Research, the main duty of which is organising our ever-popular annual Reading Weekend at the Burn, Edzell.

Away from my work I play for the University Pool and Cue Sports club and have served as Men’s Captain this year. My ‘career’ highlight thus far has been representing Scotland at last year’s Student Home Internationals in Dublin. The trip, of course, included an historical morning before the flight home visiting the General Post Office museum! In the summer months I can regularly be found (much to my supervisor’s disapproval) enjoying a round of golf on the Links. Sadly, sharing a flat with a scratch handicapper has not led to any magical improvements in my game. When not working, or on the table or the golf course, I can usually be found at home cooking or in one of St Andrews’ many pubs, following the highs and (mostly) lows of Newcastle United.

About standrewshistory
With over forty fulltime members of staff researching and teaching on European, American and Asian history from the dawn of the Middle Ages to the present day, the School of History at the University of St Andrews has one of the finest faculty and diverse teaching programmes of any School of History in the English speaking world. The School boasts expertise in Mediaeval and Modern History, from Scotland to Byzantium and the Americas to South Asia. Thematic interests include religious history, urban history, transnationalism, historiography and nationalism. The School of History prides itself on small group teaching, allowing for in-depth study and supervision tailored to secure the best from each student. Cutting edge research combined with teaching excellence offer a dynamic and intellectually stimulating environment for the study of History.

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