Postgraduate Spotlight: Kevin McNamara

Kevin McNamaraKevin McNamara grew up in the small town of Castlebar in the rural and rugged west of Ireland. One of his earliest memories is of hiding at the back of a Maths class in Primary School, re-reading his history book from cover to cover. Unsurprisingly, this interest led to his first adventure into the world of humanities at the University of Limerick in 2006, focusing on a joint honours degree in English Literature and European History. During his final year, he worked on the development of the German ‘Bewegungskrieg’ concept in the interwar period for his dissertation under the supervision of Dr. Ruan O’Donnell. In 2010, Kevin moved to the University of St Andrews to study for a MLitt in Modern History with a specific focus on the rise of Nazism in the Weimar Republic. Following his dissertation, which examined the issue of whether consent or coercion formed the basis of support for the National Socialist regime, Kevin decided that the University of St Andrews offered the ideal launch pad for an academic career and began his PhD under the watchful eye of Professor Conan Fischer in September 2012.

Kevin’s doctoral project focuses on the network of British consular posts in the Third Reich between 1933 and 1939. This project examines consular despatches relating to anti-Semitic persecution in local and regional sectors of the Third Reich and the influence that these despatches had upon Anglo-German diplomacy during the interwar period. The fact that reports generated by the British Embassy in Berlin were in part derived from consular dispatches allows this project to discern how significant Nazi anti-Semitic persecution was to the British Government and what influence this data had upon Anglo-German diplomacy. The project will therefore go beyond local consular despatches relating to anti-Semitic persecution to establish what the interaction was between the network and the Embassy, and consider how the resulting range of viewpoints influenced British policymaking at key junctures.

A despatch from the Frankfurt Consular District in April 1936 highlighting the atmosphere in the region towards war and peace.

A despatch from the Frankfurt Consular District in April 1936 highlighting the atmosphere in the region towards war and peace.

As the project adopts a thematically-based approach, the deficiencies within any one consular district will be offset by evidence from elsewhere in the network, thus facilitating a balanced and objective study. Kevin’s doctoral project will therefore evaluate the reports on anti-Semitic persecution from six consular districts in Nazi Germany, Austria, Bohemia and Moravia which will be subsequently examined in the wider context of the consular network in the Third Reich. In terms of their scope and range, the consular service offers a wealth of uncensored diplomatic material and must be considered as a fundamental instrument of data-gathering in the Third Reich. In examining reports of anti-Semitism from the local consular officials to the Foreign Office via the Embassy in Berlin, the bottom-top approach will give insights into the context and underlying rationale of British external policy with each new phase of Nazi domestic and foreign policy.

Aside from his doctoral project, Kevin is a fellow of the Leo Baeck Institute in London which has provided a platform from which to present research findings and to engage in current trends in German historiography.  Furthermore, as his doctoral project contains a vast quantity of data from the local regions of the Third Reich, the Fellowship programme has allowed for extensive dialogue with eminent scholars to establish a contextual framework in which consular despatches could be gathered and formulated for the British Government.

Outside of his academic life, Kevin has a keen interest in all types of sports, in particular racquetball. He has represented his club, province and country with a national rank of Number 2 throughout his junior career. In 2004, he won his first and only all-Ireland title and, later that year, a gold medal in the Doubles event at the European Junior Championships in Amsterdam, Holland. For less energetic activities, Kevin loves reading, travelling and watching political dramas, and hopes one day to transform the experiences of a local consular official in the hostile world of the Third Reich into a visual project. Currently on the Erasmus exchange programme with the University of Bonn, Germany, Kevin can be found most days at the History Department on the banks of the Rhine River or trying to speak the native language (with an Irish accent), to the puzzlement of his German counterparts.

Leo Baeck Fellowship awarded to PG Kevin McNamara

Kevin McNamaraThe 2013 Leo Baeck Fellowship, organised by both the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes and the Leo Baeck Institute London, has been awarded to Kevin McNamara of the School of History. Mr McNamara will take up the fellowship to work on the doctoral project “In the Service of His Majesty’s Government: The British Consular Network in the Third Reich between 1935-1939.”

Mr McNamara’s doctoral project will focus on the network of British Consulates in the Third Reich in association with their headquarters at the H.M. Embassy in Berlin. The study will analyse the British consular reports on anti-Semitic persecution during the period 1935-1939 and the influence that the dispatches had upon British Foreign policy towards the National Socialist regime. As the project will focus exclusively on the Jewish population from British consular dispatches, this project will be the first of its kind to analyse the reports from Nazi Germany but also Austria and Czechoslovakia in the interwar period as main targets for repression. The information on anti-Semitic activities retrieved from local and regional consular posts has the ability to indicate a clear line of discourse on British appeasement policy.

The fact that the despatches from the H.M. Embassy were highly influential in the Office of the Prime Minister allows this project to ultimately understand how significant the anti-Semitic persecution in the Third Reich was to the British Government in the interwar period. Thus, this project aims to cast a new light on the ‘history of everyday life’ in the Third Reich and will provide a new interpretation of British appeasement policy based on Nazi domestic strategies to which no firm consensus can be found.

As the international Leo Baeck Fellowship programme is designed for doctoral candidates pursuing research into the history of German-speaking Jewry, the regular workshops and common intranet will provide a platform to present research findings and engage in current trends in German historiography.  Furthermore, as this doctoral project will contain a vast quantity of data from the local regions of the Third Reich, the Fellowship programme will allow extensive dialogue with eminent scholars and establish a contextual framework in which consular despatches could be gathered and formulated for the British Government.

Kevin McNamara’s research is supervised by Prof. Conan Fischer.