Spotlight on Michael Brown

Michael BrownBorn and raised as a man of Kent but with mixed Scottish and New Zealand parentage, Michael Brown first came to the University of St Andrews as an undergraduate in 1983.  After taking his MA (1987) and PhD (1991) at this hallowed institution he was released into the community and embarked upon a tour of the British Isles.  He held posts at the University of Aberystwyth (1993), Strathclyde (1994), University College Dublin (1995) and Aberdeen University (1996) moving on before he could do too much damage.  Whilst employed by Aberdeen, Michael resided in Cork, which is perhaps the longest possible academic commute in these islands.  He returned to St Andrews in 1997 as a lecturer in Scottish History, was made reader in 2004 and professor in 2014.

Michael’s research interests reflect the itinerant nature of his career path.  After his PhD on crown-magnate relations in the personal reign of James I of Scotland (1424-1437), which he turned into a political biography of the same pivotal, if unpleasant, ruler, James I, published in 1994. Michael next wrote a study of The Black Douglases: War and Lordship in Scotland 1306-1455 in 1998.  He then published The Wars of Scotland 1214-1371, volume four of the New Edinburgh History of Scotland in 2004.  His recent publications have encompassed a wider geographical perspective.  His book, Bannockburn: The Scottish Wars and the British Isles (2008) sought to demonstrate that the battle was an event of significance well beyond Scotland.  This work linked in with interests which had begun when Michael worked at Aberystwyth on fourteenth-century Wales and on his awareness of Ireland as a distinct but related model for comparison with late medieval Scotland which developed from his spell living and teaching in the Irish Republic.  Ultimately these strands came together in his recent book, Disunited Kingdoms: Peoples and Politics in the British Isles 1280-1460 (2013).  This is a study of the way in which trends towards the creation of a single political hierarchy in the isles were reversed in the later middle ages and the distinct character of the four lands was entrenched in this period.  After the activities of June, he is currently Bannockburned out.

Michael’s teaching reflects this interest in late Medieval Scotland and the British Isles.  His module The Castle in Medieval Scotland 1100-1550 (ME3142) has long been popular, particularly for its away day which ploughs across central Scotland in search of majestic (and not so majestic) sites.  He also teaches Age of Conquest: Edward I, Scotland and Wales (ME3304) and is launching a new module Kings and Rebels: Realms and Borderlands in the British Isles 1360-1420 (ME3312) which aims to bring out the contrast between arty kings and hairy wild men in far-flung parts of the isles.  Michael is currently part of the Medieval St Andrews project which is creating an app which will allow visitors to navigate and obtain information the medieval sites of the city.  Michael’s involvement in this is a matter of hilarity to those who know his inability to deal with anything more advanced than a tin opener and his role is solely on the information side of the project.

Michael lives in rural Fife with his wife, Margaret Connolly, who teaches in English and History, and their two children.  His hobbies include looking for his errant border terrier, Archie, and driving his children around.

Spotlight on William Knox

William (Bill) KnoxBill Knox, Senior Lecturer, joined the School of History in 1990, although back then there was no School, but rather separate departments for the different areas of history. He came to St Andrews to teach on the degree of Social and Economic History, but that was disbanded and he moved over to Scottish History which was just beginning to take off. Prior to St Andrews he had completed a Ph.D at the University of Edinburgh and assisted Professor T.C. Smout in a research project that led to his first book – Scottish Labour Leaders, 1918-1939 (1984). On the strength of that book he was appointed to a lectureship in the Department of Economics and Government at Heriot-Watt University. Having taught there for a few years he was invited to join the staff at St Andrews.

Bill has published extensively in number of areas, including economic, labour, social and women’s history. After Labour Leaders, he wrote a political biography of James Maxton, then published a study of the Scottish Cotton Industry, and followed this up with his most important book – Industrial Nation: Work, Culture and Society in Scotland, 1800-Present (1999). The new millennium heralded a collaborative project with Professor Rab Houston of the School of History, and that led to the The New Penguin History of Scotland (2001). From there Bill decided to change tack completely and began research into the much neglected area of women’s history in late modern Scotland, which became the basis not only of aScottish women third level module – ‘The Weaker Sex? Women and Scottish Society 1800-1970’ (MO3660) – but also a book – Lives of Scottish Women: Women and Scottish Society in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (2006). In another change of tack he is currently researching inter-personal violence in Scotland 1700-1850, with particular reference to homicide. Although a pretty gruesome subject, homicide has interesting things to tell us about society: it throws light on gender and class, ethnicity, family life and the structures of power and punishment. His task at the moment is to build a database of murders covering one and half centuries containing information on variables such as age, occupation, nationality and weapon. When completed it will be the only national dataset on the subject as all the others are regional or city studies. However, it seems as if Bill – a noted late modernist – is regressing back in time. Who knows that at this rate he might become a medievalist!

Beyond this world of murders and executions Bill has written around 30 peer reviewed articles for historical journals and important collections such as People and Society in Scotland, II, 1830-1914, on a wide variety of subjects from American multi-nationals in post-1945 Scotland to crime, protest and policing in nineteenth-century Scotland. He has also over the years proved himself a committed and versatile teacher having taught courses on France and Italy, British Social Policy, Work and Politics in Scotland and others mentioned above.

Outside the academy Bill has a wide set of interests from sport to music to film and theatre. In spite of his advancing years he can still be seen on Wednesday afternoons strutting his stuff at the Sports Centre with younger colleagues on the seven-a-side football pitches. But he also plays with various groups on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays – exhausting! If he has any time outside of football  (oh, and golf…) for recreation he can be found frequently in any of the cinemas and theatres, not to mention the pubs, in Edinburgh where now lives.

Three St Andrews History students shortlisted in The Undergraduate Awards

Undergraduate Awards logoThree St Andrews History undergraduates have been given awards in the highly commended category of the Undergraduate Awards and have been shortlisted for the overall 2013 Undergraduate Award. The School of History congratulates Nadia Knifton (Mediaeval History), James McDonald (Scottish History) and Peter O’Boyle (Mediaeval History) on their achievements.

The Undergraduate Awards is a prestigious and international academic awards programme, which is wholly pan-discipline. It aims to celebrate and support the world’s brightest and most innovative undergraduate students by recognising their best coursework and projects.

Winning a place on the shortlist means that Nadia, James and Peter were in the top 10% of all entrants to the Historical Studies category, which received 3,771 submissions from 182 institutions across 25 countries. The winner of the category will be announced on 20 September and will be flown to Dublin to receive their prize from the Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny.

We wish Nadia, James and Peter the best of luck!