PhD Induction Day 2018

Blog written by PhD student Daniel Leaver

How do you actually do a PhD?

4703105377_dc2e6a6c7f_o.jpg

Photo attrib. Joanna Paterson, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

This was one of the main questions facing myself and my fellow new PhD students in the School of History who gathered in the grand surroundings of Cambo House, a few miles outside St Andrews in the village of Kingsbarns. For all of us, the end goal is clear; three to four years of study to produce an 80,000 word thesis based on original research, making a contribution to historical scholarship. But how do you actually get the ball rolling along that (at times) bumpy road? And how do you stay sane throughout the process, while living in this charming but often isolated wee town which, as legend has it, St Rule thought looked like the ends of the earth?

Fortunately, the school had prepared a number of engaging sessions throughout the day to help us demystify these questions and many more. We began with an ice-breaker over a cup of coffee, hearing about what we all hoped to do with our time in St Andrews, and the talents and non-academic interests we all have. (Even if the number of musicians I spoke to made my lack of musical talent somewhat embarrassing!) We then turned our attention to the morning session led by Dr Jaqueline Rose, the Director of Research Postgraduates, with Elsie Johnstone, the School’s Postgraduate Secretary. Dr Rose and Elsie introduced us to the School’s key administrative processes and the various sources of support available to us, what we could expect from our supervisors, and gave us an idea of how the School conducts our first-year reviews, our first major progress check.

It was then time for Dr Rose’s enthusiastic troupe of assistants – recent graduates and current PhD students – to help guide us through some group discussion sessions. We considered questions we might want to think about over the course of our studies, and how we are going to approach them. It was interesting to see how the varied fields we are all working in influenced our responses. For example, I am working on post-war Scottish history with mostly printed sources, so translation skills or palaeography training are unlikely to be major aspects of my research. For those who are working on early modern Germany or on medieval Italy, these issues were vital. Other topics ranged from the exact meaning of ‘original research’, or when to publish in an academic journal. The key message from this session was that, although there is no single right way to do a PhD, there are plenty of good habits to cultivate as researchers, and traps we can avoid.

5482946081_92f38665b7_o.jpg

Photo attrib. Maria Keays, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Following this session, we heard from the recent and current PhD students about some of the challenges they had encountered during their own studies. We heard about about different work habits, and how to keep yourself busy when away from your desk. These experiences were used to help us answer some of the questions we had raised during the morning, and to provide some very welcome advice on how to cope with all aspects of life as a PhD student.

After thanking the current students we headed for lunch in Cambo’s grand dining room for more conversation, as well as (in my humble opinion) an excellent pasta bake to fuel the rest of the day! The day concluded with a session on equality and diversity led by Sukhi Bains, the head of Equality and Diversity at St Andrews. His light-hearted presentation made the serious point that there are processes in place, should we need them, to prevent discrimination against any of us regardless of our backgrounds and beliefs.

What did we take away from this day? Ultimately, I think the main lessons Dr Rose and her team imparted were that while doing a PhD is challenging at times, there are people and processes in place to help us throughout our time here. Moreover, while there is not one ‘magic road’ to a completed PhD thesis, there are a number of issues we can think about and plan for that will make the road a lot smoother. As we boarded the coach to return to St Andrews, we all felt that we had enjoyed a helpful and engaging day as the first small step towards that all-important completed thesis!

Postgraduate Spotlight: Jack Abernethy

Blog written by Jack Abernethy

16681587_1267182066650398_6844218243846179756_n

Me on a recent trip to the far north of Scotland. It was in Thurso, near John O’Groats, that several skippers signed an oath of allegiance to the Marquis of Montrose in support of Charles II

My name is Jack, and I am currently a student at St Andrews, studying Scottish History. I was recently awarded the British Commission for Maritime History’s prize for Undergraduate Achievement (a prize given to only six students across Great Britain) for my Honours dissertation, entitled “The Specter at the Feast: The Royalists at Sea in the First Anglo-Dutch War, 1652-1654.” The dissertation aims to correct the long-held notion that Prince Rupert and his privateering fleet of the late 1640s and early 1650s was the only royalist maritime threat to the English Commonwealth after the conclusion of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.

To give some background: after the execution of Charles I in 1649, many royalists fled to the continent, especially to the Dutch Republic. At the same time, Prince Rupert, Charles’ nephew and a royalist commander on land and at sea, was leading a privateering fleet from Ireland to Africa and beyond. In Britain, royalist maritime bases supporting Charles were being dismantled by the Commonwealth. Between 1652 and1654, England went to war with the Dutch over religious, political, and economic issues, and the subsequent war heralded in a new era of naval warfare. Despite the attack on the Netherlands, the royalist threat was not yet finished.

Before I began my deeper exploration of the era, I had found it particularly appealing: I have always had an interest in maritime history and after having done some previous work on the First Dutch War, I wanted to continue to pursue this interest. While I was considering ideas for my thesis, I found words such as “royalists,” “privateers,” and “pirates” arising constantly in scattered sources, such as calendars of state papers and personal papers. However, I found no work that connected them within a coherent narrative. As a result, I began to wonder (with governments in the Netherlands and France hostile to the Commonwealth) whether seaborne royalist endeavors had increased during this time, and sought to answer this question for myself.

IMG_8370.jpg

SRA, Anglica IV, 521. SE/RA/2102/IV/521. The Answer of the CoS, 28 May 1652

Two names in particular began to arise in reference to royalist privateers or pirates: William Balthazar and Richard Beach. The classification of these men has caused confusion. For instance, if they were receiving privateering commissions from a deposed government, were they still valid belligerents, or, as many sources suggest, were they just pirates? Through the collection of sources from both the Commonwealth and royalist exiles, I sought to create a more unbiased and holistic understanding than previously offered. Balthazar and Beach, along with other anonymous privateers, did a shocking amount of damage during the Dutch War. For example, the port of Barnstaple, in Devon was subject to near economic ruin, while captured mariners between England and Brittany were often pressed by royalists or marooned on the French coast. I found this research the most interesting, as it gave me an opportunity to tell the stories of people often ignored, and it was also vastly entertaining because of the swashbuckling characters and sea-battles that were described.

I also began to look for sources farther afield  in both digital and physical archives. My last chapter dealt with British maritime immigration. It was said that during the Dutch War between 5000 and 6000 British sailors were in the Dutch marine. An investigation into Dutch sources became necessary, as well as learning some Dutch language along the way! I did not try to address the contention directly, so instead, I gave several examples of men who definitely served in the Dutch navy. A good example was Robert Callwine, a mariner from Stirling, who along with several Scottish shipmates nearly drowned when he was attacked by the English fleet. Another sailor I encountered was one John Scott, a sailor of local interest, having hailed from our very own St Andrews! I also used my research as an excuse to travel to Edinburgh and to collect as many sources in the NRS as possible, including several I had to transcribe from original Scots language manuscripts. Among other documents of interest I found was one letter I discovered while on a class trip to Sweden: a 1652 letter from the English Commonwealth to Queen Christina in Sweden seeking reassurance that their ships would be mutually entertained in each other’s harbors and protect each other from becoming “infested” by their enemies.

In the future, I hope to publish my dissertation. In the meantime, I will return as a student to St Andrews in January to begin my MRes, continuing my research into Anglo/Scottish-Dutch history, and writing a dissertation on Scottish soldiers in the Dutch Republic between 1600 and 1655. In my free time, I enjoy playing the fiddle, running, and I have also been entering biographies of Scottish immigrants on the Scotland, Scandinavia, and Northern Europe (SSNE) database for Professor Murdoch.

St Andrews Book Conference 2018: Print and Power

DgUGDBxWAAY2sSF.jpg

Dr Alexandra Hill with her book

Blog post written by Dr Nina Lamal

Between June 21 and 23, the Universal Short Title Catalogue team hosted its annual book conference.  This year’s conference theme was Print and Power, organised by Jamie Cumby (University of St Andrews), Nina Lamal (University of Antwerp) and Helmer Helmers (University of Amsterdam) and generously supported by the History Department of the University of Antwerp. Within the scope of the conference theme , scholars from across Europe, the United States, and Canada discussed multiple ways in which civic and ecclesiastical authorities recognized the potential and power of print, and how it was used to govern and communicate with their citizens from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century.

The conference hosted sixty attendees at St Mary’s College where twenty-six papers, spread over two and half days, provided stimulating conversations and discussions. The conference began with a panel on printing for the government with case studies from Germany, the southern Low Countries and Papal Bologna. Later that day, papers discussed printing propaganda and news in papal Rome, France, the Dutch Republic, and the Holy Roman Empire. The day ended with two more papers on the role of  printed books within international relations. On Friday, panels focused on reformation in England and the Holy Roman Empire, as well as the challenging of religious authorities in Milan, Antwerp and London. Other sessions were dedicated to the power of the image within print, and how patronage enabled the tracing of careers of individual printers in Italy and Krakow. The conference ended on Saturday with a panel devoted to printing in the Dutch Republic and a session on the use of print by colonial trading companies and institutions.

20180621_174609During the evening, the conference provided further activities. On Thursday evening, Special Collections exhibited lots of wonderful material related to our participants’ papers. Among the items on display were sixteenth-century Italian ordinances printed in Bologna and Naples. A specific book of interest was an Arabic translation of Euclid’s Elements, which was printed in Rome in 1594 in the Typographia Medicea. This oriental press was a commercial venture, heavily sponsored by Cardinal Ferdinando de Medici, who aimed to sell these Arabic books in the Ottoman Empire. On Friday evening the participants enjoyed a wine and beer reception, which celebrated the launch of St Andrews’ graduate Dr Alexandra Hill’s monograph Lost Books and Printing in London, 1557-1640. An Analysis of the Stationers’ Company Register.

The proceedings of this conference will be published in Brill’s The Library of the Written Word. Next year, another conference will take place, with the theme of  Crisis or Enlightenment? Developments in the Book Trade, 1650-1750. This conference will happen between 20 and 22 June – for more information, please visit http://www.ustc.ac.uk.

 

 

ILCR 2018 Comparative Legal History Workshop

This blog has previously been published on the ILCR website

ilcrOn 11 and 12 May 2018, the St Andrews Institute of Legal and Constitutional Research held a workshop on the theme of comparative legal history. The aim was to explore the ways in which comparative legal history could be approached, and to hear examples of these approaches from the variety of papers delivered throughout the workshop.

The first day began with a keynote paper delivered by Alice Rio (King’s College London) which explored comparative approaches to studying early medieval legal culture. Papers were then given by Susanne Brand (vice-administrator of the Anglo-American Legal Tradition project) on the early history of bills of privilege in the Common Law, and Felicity Hill (Cambridge) on the use of general excommunication of unknown malefactors. This allowed a comparison to be made between the creative use and development of legal process within secular and ecclesiastical spheres.

The afternoon sessions began with papers from Danica Summerlin (Sheffield) and Ashley Hannay (Cambridge) on a panel discussing the nature and emergence of sources of legal authority, from the impetus behind the Statute of Richard III (Hannay) to the emergence of decretal collections in the twelfth century (Summerlin). This was followed by a panel discussing lordship and law in twelfth and thirteenth-century England and Normandy. Hannah Boston (Oxford) gave a paper on private charters and seigneurial courts in twelfth-century England, and Cory Hitt (St Andrews) discussed the nature of twelfth and thirteenth-century Anglo-Norman and Old French legal texts, and what we can learn about their authors through a close reading of the texts.

Next was a panel featuring the postdoctoral researchers on the Civil Law, Common Law, Customary Law project. Each researcher outlined their research and the directions they intend to take during the course of the project. Andrew Cecchinato spoke about Blackstone, English law and Roman law; Sarah White discussed the potential influence of Roman Law on English Common Law through the medium of procedural treatises used in the English church courts; Will Eves spoke about the Roman Law concepts of possession and proprietas in Roman law, and their potential influence on the early English Common Law; Attilio Stella discussed feudal law in twelfth and thirteenth-century Italy and the way in which feudal practices were framed in reference to Roman legal categories.

The day concluded with a roundtable which offered thoughts on comparative methodology and issues emerging from the preceding papers. The panelists were: John Hudson (St Andrews); Thomas Gallanis (Iowa); Jacqueline Rose (St Andrews); and Danica Summerlin (Cambridge). This was then followed by a wine reception at the University of St Andrews Department of Medieval History.

The second day began with a panel discussing various aspects of community involvement in legal process. Anna Peterson (Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, Toronto) discussed procedures concerning corruption in hospitals in Narbonne, 1240-1309. Gwen Seaborne (Bristol) then discussed the role of women as witnesses in medieval English law, with reference to the evidential problems raised by claims to tenancy by curtesy if an infant died shortly after birth.

The second panel of the day compared different types of legal literature in early modern England. Jacqueline Rose (St Andrews) discussed the writing of the English lawyer Bulstrode Whitelocke and his attitude to legal change in seventeenth-century England. Mary Dodd (St Andrews) then discussed pamphlet literature and constituent power in the English Civil Wars.

Following the lunch break, delegates had the opportunity to take a walking tour of St Andrews, kindly offered by medieval historian and expert of the medieval history of the town, Alex Woolf (St Andrews).

There followed two keynote lectures. George Garnett (Oxford) discussed the great English legal historian F. W. Maitland’s approach to legal history, and the nature of legal history as practiced by historians and as practiced by lawyers. The second keynote lecture was given by Magnus Ryan (Cambridge) on the Libri Feodorum and the practice of medieval lawyers in the later middle ages.

The workshop concluded with an interview forming part of the St Andrews Institute of Legal and Constitutional Research’s ‘Law’s Two Bodies’ project. This project investigates the question of ‘what is law’ from the perspective of legal practitioners. As befitting the workshop’s focus on legal history, William I. Miller (Michigan) was interviewed by John Hudson about the nature of law and legal practice in medieval Iceland. The answers were given from the imagined perspective of Njáll Þorgeirsson, a tenth and eleventh-century Icelandic legal expert featured in the eponymous thirteenth-century Njáls Saga.

The workshop organisers are grateful to the European Research Council, whose funding of the Civil Law, Common Law, Customary Law project (Grant agreement number: 740611 CLCLCL) provided the genesis of this workshop. They are also grateful to the St Andrews Institute of Legal and Constitutional Research for the financial support it provided.

The next workshop, Legal History, Legal Historiography, will take place 12 and 13 June, 2020 in St Andrews.

Postgraduate Skills Seminar: Nick Blackbourn, content strategist

Blog written by PhD student Konstantin Wertelecki

15082833932_cbba692490_o.jpg

Photo attrib. Neil Williamson, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

On Thursday April 12, former St Andrews Modern History PhD student Dr Nick Blackbourn, who currently serves as content strategist at FULL CREATIVE, addressed postgraduates on pursuing non-academic careers. This event was hosted under the sponsorship of the University’s Centre for Academic, Professional and Organisational Development (CAPOD) under the Quality Assurance Agency Scotland (QAA) thematic initiative ‘Transitions’. He discussed his own professional path to a non-academic career and offered advice to those unsure whether to remain in academia, or to seek a profession outside their doctoral training.  The central theme of his talk focused on the adoption of preparatory measures to successfully transition to non-academic careers.

Dr Blackbourn opened his talk with an exposition on the job problem, explaining that professional academic applicants grossly outnumber the available research positions. He offered a solution: in order to increase job opportunities for professional academic applicants, jobseekers need to widen the range of industries to which they apply and possess a strong understanding of their skillset and abilities. The discovery of his own skillset enabled Dr Blackbourn to smoothly transition into the non-academic industry. As a doctoral student, he was frequently pressured to raise his profile as a historian, so Dr Blackbourn began an online blog in which he could express much of his unused thesis ideas. As his thesis dealt with historical aspects of the Cold War, this website eventually morphed into a public history blog on the Cold War itself. Since this period was such a popular topic, the blog raised his profile so much that Dr Blackbourn was published on other high-traffic websites. In addition, the BBC found his blog and interviewed him on issues regarding the Brexit.

During this time, Dr Blackbourn also found himself interested in marketing analytics. He began to experiment and learn about how websites attracted specific readers and what variables influenced audience traffic. In addition, he began to outsource his skills to individuals and institutions who wished to create and successfully market their own blog. His growing work experience and marketing proficiency eventually granted him a position as a content strategist at the FULL CREATIVE software company.  He described his role as a liaison between the company and customers, ensuring that FULL CREATIVE understood the audiences’ demands, and never to overpromise the product’s ability . Though the fields of business and academia are vastly different, Dr Blackbourn expressed his enthusiasm for business due to its fast-paced work style. Describing business as pragmatic, Dr Blackbourn noted that he appreciated how business projects took no longer than necessary to complete, and that there was quick turnover time between projects. The contrast with the meticulous research of academia, conducted over long periods of time could not be greater. Dr Blackbourn asserted that holding a doctorate enhanced his position as a businessman, as it projected company credibility.

To PhD students considering a non-academic career, Dr Blackbourn offered three pieces of advice. First, he suggested that students should participate in non-academic events, so that they would begin to recognise outside interests that could potentially be used as a springboard into a different career. Second, he recommended that PhD students apply to all the CV-building opportunities possible, to show off a rich and diverse set of skills. Adding to this, he lastly stressed that PhD students should be thoroughly aware of their own skillset. He explained that companies will hire candidates who can demonstrate how their collected experience and skills that they possess will suit the specific demands of the company role. Despite this rigidity, he also noted that general doctoral skills, like the ability to read extensive amounts of text quickly, to understand and analyse complex ideas, and to produce high volumes of written reports, were valuable as well. Closing his talk, Dr Blackbourn stated that his transition from academia to business was highly rewarding, as it granted appreciation and respect.

Postgraduate Skills seminar: Kate Hammond, Acquisitions Editor, Brill

Blog written by PhD student Konstantin Wertelecki

9509537097_c4bf64637b_o.jpg

Photo attrib. James Stringer, CC-BY-ND-ND 2.0

On Thursday April 19, former PhD student Dr Kate Hammond, who currently serves as publishing editor at Brill Publishing, addressed history postgraduates on pursuing a non-academic career in the publishing industry. This event was sponsored by the Centre for Academic, Professional and Organisational Development (CAPOD) under the Quality Assurance Agency Scotland (QAA) theme ‘Transitions’.  She discussed her own career path and offered valuable insights into the scholarly publishing industry regarding its structure, positions, products, and career opportunities.

Dr Hammond opened her talk with a general overview of the academic publishing industry and its structure. Brill operates with three central divisions: Finance and Operations, Sales and Marketing, and Editorial. In the industry, Finance and Operations not only maintain daily business operations, but also retain sustainable fiscal flow. Employees who work in this department include accountants, finance analysts, IT Support officers, record managers, production editors, and distributors. Sales and Marketing sells the books published. Jobs in this department include marketers, sales representatives, and sales and marketing managers. Dr Hammond noted that academic publishing marketing differ from trade publishing marketing because of the concentrated industry of scholarly publishing. Academic marketers must possess skills to not only to understand the subject of the product they sell, but they must also be able to present these academic books to international customers. The Editorial division lies at the heart of the academic press. Within this department, publishing directors develop company strategies, and project managers, acquisition editors, and assistant editors review incoming proposals to determine if they are appropriate for publication.

Serving as a publishing editor in the Editorial division for Brill Academic Publishing, Dr Hammond, further detailed the diverse duties of her job. Projects are developed based on the demand of the academic market, in accordance with the latest research trends. From this framework, a certain number of books, journals, and other products are published per year, in agreement with expected revenue. Dr Hammond explained that a typical work week consisted of soliciting book submissions, reading and assessing book proposals, maintaining and expanding a published book or journal series, researching topics in her chosen genre of academic publishing, conducting market research, and creating fiscal projections for proposed books and series.

Dr Hammond expressed that despite the seemingly strong differences between the academic publishing business and academia itself, she found her doctoral training extraordinarily useful for her role as an academic publishing editor. As a publishing editor, one maintains their project, just as a scholar maintains their thesis. An editor must understand the market, just like a PhD student must understand a field of research. A publisher must network and market to grow projects, just as an academic must engage with others to further their own project. Both the editor and the academic must have strong organisational skills to balance multiple projects, be they professional duties or research, teaching, and conferences. Furthermore, Dr Hammond explained that her experience in academia serves as an advantage in the academic publishing industry, as she is familiar with the university hierarchy, methods of researchers, and even such matters as the academic calendar, which differ from business culture.

Dr Hammond obtained her position as publishing editor after receiving experience at Brill Publishers through a Marie Curie Initial Training Network,  Power and Institutions in Medieval Islam and Christendom. She asserted that for her, and other PhDs, doctorates may permit quicker ascension through the ranks of the academic industry publishing industry. Though she stressed that such companies are looking for business-minded editors, academic experience is always welcome, as are freelance publishing experience and related internships.

Postgraduate Class Trip: Aberdeen

 

Blog written by Dr Margaret Connolly

 

IMG_2899Students taking palaeography as part of the MLitt programmes in Medieval History and Medieval Studies headed up to Aberdeen last week to see manuscripts at the University Library and to visit the Aberdeen Burgh Records Project.

The St Andrews group led by Dr Margaret Connolly and Mrs Rachel Hart were welcomed to the Special Collections at the Sir Duncan Rice Library by Andrew Macgregor, Deputy Archivist. We spent about an hour browsing a selection of fifteenth-century manuscripts chosen to reflect the wide range of reading material available in the British Isles at the end of the Middle Ages.

These included the first volume of the unique devotional text The Myrrour of Oure Lady which belonged to a nun at Syon Abbey in London (volume two is in Oxford), and a volume of Latin sermons that belonged to Hinton Charterhouse in Somerset; also the popular collection of saints’ lives, Legenda Aurea, and three books of hours – one so tiny it fits into the palm of the hand. By contrast, the copy of John Trevisa’s vernacular translation of Higden’s Polychronicon was a huge volume. Some of the texts, such as the De Cosmographia of Pomponius Mela, and a medical textbook were the type of books that would have been read in universities – the commentary on Aristotle’s Physica that we saw, which was written at Louvain in 1467, was owned in the next century by a member of St Andrews University. Other books, such as the collection of medical recipes, and the miscellany of practical and other texts, were probably used in individual medieval households.

Here are some reactions to what we saw:

IMG_2902.JPG

The ‘twirly thing’: the MS123 volvelle – a rare example with all of its fragile paper pointers intact

‘The manuscripts we looked at in the first half were so amazing, I completely lost track of time when we were looking at them. My favourite was the collection of miscellaneous works, with the clairvoyant dice, the zodiac man, and the twirly thing.’

Before leaving Special Collections we got to see behind the scenes with a tour of the stores where we enjoyed rummaging amongst the early printed books – and of their state-of-the-art conservation suite.

Then in the afternoon we visited Humanity Manse to see the Aberdeen Burgh Records Project, where we were hosted by St Andrews graduate Dr Claire Hawes and Dr William Hepburn. William is a graduate of Glasgow, and had tutored two of our current MLitt students whilst they were undergraduates there – a nice connection. Claire and William explained the work of the project, and demonstrated how joint work with computer scientists had created a programme that supports the transcription of this massive series of records.

They also provided insight into the practical uses of palaeography, and showed what a job that involved palaeography was like, which was arguably the most useful part of the day. It was also great to get to see some of the original records – these have World Heritage Status – thanks to Phil Astley of Aberdeen City Council who brought them along specially for our visit.

Some final thoughts:

‘The trip was so much fun, I really enjoyed how laid back it was. After the busiest two weeks of the whole degree, I found it so relaxing to spend time with some fantastic material just for interest’s sake.’

‘Getting to see all this, without having to worry about how this would relate to your next deadline, was refreshing and has got me thinking about the opportunities for working in this area in the future.’IMG_2912.JPG