TUGSA’s January ‘Topics on Tap’ speaker series
Researching Abroad and Thinking about Research
BY JOSHUA TAVENOR
Travelling to research is often a key component of completing a dissertation, particularly in history. While digitization has made a wealth of material available on the internet, much of the meat and potatoes of historical research, primary sources, are only available in archives and libraries, necessitating travel. In June 2014 I travelled to the United Kingdom to access five archives to do just this. Over the month I collected some 12,800 documents by photograph and took 100 pages of transcripts and notes, creating the source base for my dissertation. This was made possible by funding from the Lorimer Travel Scholarship, a Faculty of Graduate and Post-Doctoral Studies research scholarship and employment as a Research Assistant. In addition to collecting data, researching abroad was also a chance to think about my work and the importance of place for historical research and writing.
Preparing for the trip was an enormous task in and of itself. On top of practical concerns, understanding what and where sources were available, what I would need to access them, and how best to use my time was a major consideration. Sorting out these research issues made up the majority of my preparation with emailing archivists, comparing archival holdings and digital collections in Canada, and exploring the holdings of different archives across the United Kingdom becoming a daily task. I eventually narrowed down to the National Archives and British Library in London, the University of Nottingham’s archives, the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office and the Devon Record Office in Exeter. Each of these archives held different types of materials, such as government records at the National Archives and business correspondence at Nottingham, allowing me to collect both a significant quantity and breadth of sources.
My main method of collecting archival material was photographing documents using a Canon point-and-shoot with no flash. I found that black and white photography on a low ISO setting (80-200) produced the best results. This method not only allowed me to collect an enormous amount of material, it also gave me the opportunity to explore documents that I would not have had the time to look at without the use of a camera. The results of this flexibility were significant; I was able to follow up on a series of documents leading to interesting and unexpected finds that I would have not had the time to investigate otherwise.
While gathering primary sources was the main goal of the trip, it was certainly not the only benefit. Visiting archives, particularly town record offices, was an excellent opportunity to experience the places central to my research. By coincidence, my time researching in Plymouth coincided with Lord Mayor’s Day, a holiday marking the merger of Plymouth with Stonehouse and Devonport as well as celebrating Plymouth’s place as a hub for English and Atlantic history. This was a great opportunity to see the city and learn more about it beyond the scope of my own research. Seeing how important this history was to locals helped me to view my own research as part of a broader cultural narrative, rather than just a historical question I am attempting to answer.
Plymouth: a combination of industrial fishing port, vacation spot and military base tied together by a history of exploration and trade.
My Term Abroad, Or, Adjusting My Great Expectations – By Alice Glaze
Hello fellow Tri-U Historians! I am a third-year PhD student at University of Guelph studying 17th-century Scottish women’s history, and I am spending a research term in Scotland from September to December. I’ve been asked to write a bit about what my experience has been like so far, and I have to say that the biggest challenge has been tempering my (let’s say… overly ambitious) expectations as to what I could get done this term. I expected to barrel through all of my primary source research (all of it! Oh, Alice) and enter it into my newly created database; to design the course I’ll be teaching next term and write up most of the lectures (in the evenings, presumably, after a day of data entry); to meet with the ‘big names’ in my field and discuss my project; and to maybe see a couple of castles (because hey, it’s Scotland).
My actual experience here has been very different, and far richer. Besides some data entry and lecture prep (a decent but not superhuman amount in both cases), I’ve also been able to attend lectures in my field, explore new ideas and even develop the ghost of a social life. Meeting with professors and students who work on similar topics has helped me question and re-frame my dissertation, and to realize what drives my curiosity of the subject; in a few instances the meetings even turned into opportunities to present my work at seminars, which, although they sucked up time I had expected to spend with my database, were far more helpful (and social). Being able to walk around the town that I study (now a neighbourhood of Edinburgh) has also helped me conceptualize the space in a way that hours of staring at the one relevant extant map could not (believe me – I have tried the latter option). Being here for the Scottish referendum allowed me to see how Scottish people interpret their past and their present, which informs my work and identity as a Scottish historian as well. So perhaps I have not been productive in the ways that my naïve former self desired. But I’m reminding myself that in these few months I’ve come a long way in understanding both the metaphorical lay of the land of my topic and the literal lay of the land of the town I study, and in the end these are far more useful than my original, narrow expectations.
TUGSA Topics on Tap
The Tri-University Graduate Students’ Association (TUGSA) “Topics on Tap” speaker series continues this Wednesday, November 5th, at 4:30pm in Veritas Cafe at Wilfrid Laurier University.
The speakers are:
Anne Vermeyden (UG), “Flexibility and Success: Belly Dance in Toronto, 1960-1990.”
Our first meeting this term occurred on October 1st, and featured the research of MA student Jack Mallon, and PhD Candidate Josh Tavenor. Synopsis of both are provided below:
Title: The Medieval Monastic Family
Description: The traditional medieval family, centered on the union of man and woman for the purpose of reproduction, has been an object of much scholarly attention in the social history of the Middle Ages. However, the study of the medieval European family has placed emphasis on the experience of the biological family (those related through blood or marriage). The medieval monastery was a same-sex community that was structurally and experientially familial in nature. Analysis of monastic life, from late Antiquity to the late Middle Ages, demonstrates that the medieval monastic family offered its members a familial experience comparable to that of the biological family. As the modern definition of family becomes more fluid, it is necessary to unearth historical examples of unconventional, non-heterosexual family structures and experiences.
Bio: Jack Mallon is currently writing his MA thesis at the University of Guelph, examining the familial experience of monasticism in the Middle Ages.
“Re-branding Newfoundland: the necessity of settlement in seventeenth-century promotional literature”
English expansionists saw Newfoundland both as a key land and a backwater, with investors and government officials using it as a strategic defensive and supply point while focusing development on more the more attractive lands of New England and the West Indies. However, within England a series of writers leveraged their experience and expertise not only to promote settlement, but to reshape England economically and socially around a vision of empire beginning with the habitation of Newfoundland.
Joshua Tavenor is a PhD candidate at Wilfrid Laurier University. He is studying seventeenth-century English perceptions of Newfoundland’s environment.
TUGSA invites all intersted to join this Wednesday, November 5th for more engaging research!
5th Canadian Business History Workshop
The Canadian Business History Workshops have become a regular meeting of the network of Canadian scholars working on varied aspects of business history, and new participants are welcomed!
The fall 2014 workshop will be held at Wilfrid Laurier University on Friday November 14th in the Ernst & Yonge Boardroom (Room 3220 in the School of Business and Economics Building).
The workshop will commence with a lunch, kindly offered by the Wilfrid Laurier University School of Business and Economics, and the Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Arts.
An emphasis will placed on teaching business history. Information is being compiled on existing programs in Canada, and this workshop aims to contribute to the sharing of ideas and resources, and the promotion of the field as a teaching area. A survey is available below to facilitate this process at the conference:
The information gained from this survey will be distributed and presented at the workshop.
The schedule of the Canadian Business History Workshop is:
12:00-12:45 pm LUNCH
12.45-1.45 pm Keith Neilson (Royal Military College), “The Imperial Munitions Board (IMB) in the First World War”
1.45-2.00 pm COFFEE BREAK
2.00-3.00 Mark Sholdice (University of Guelph), “The Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario and Conservation Debates in the United States, 1911-1921”
3:00-4:00 Teaching Business History, Matthias Kipping (Schulich School of Business, York University), Joe Martin (Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto), David Smith (Wilfrid Laurier University)
To facilitate planning, please confirm your attendance by sending an email to David Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org) by November 1st, 2014. Early notice would be appreciated.
2014-2015 Medieval Lecture Series – University of Waterloo
The Medieval Studies program at St. Jerome’s University in the University of Waterloo has released its upcoming lecture series.
The initial event will also represent the launch of Dr. Steven Bednarski’s new book, A Poised Past. All are welcome to attend on Thursday October 23 at 4:30pm in the University of Waterloo bookstore. A selection of refreshments will be available during this riveting look back at 14th century medieval women, female agency, kin networks, solidarity, sex, sickness, medicine, and law.
Future events include:
- Thurs. Nov. 13, 4:30-6:00 – Dr. Isabelle Cochelin from the University of Toronto, “New Perspectives on the History of Medieval Western Monasticism.” SJU 3027
- Thurs. Feb. 5, 4:30-6:00 – Dr. Richard Greenfield from Queen’s University, “Maxing the Sanctity: Maximos Kavsokalyvites and his Fourteenth-Century Athonite Hagiographers.” Location TBA
- Thurs. Mar. 12, 4:30-6:00 – Dr. Sara M. Butler from Loyola University, New Orleans, “Anatomy of a Crime: Death Investigation in Medieval England.” Location TBA
Welcome, from your Tri-University Graduate Student Association
Hello Tri-University Community!
Welcome to the Tri-University Blog. As the TUGSA executive, we are excited by this move and hope that it will improve communication about what is happening in the Tri-University community.
TUGSA was created in 2008 to help bring together the graduate students from the three universities of the Tri-U. We have three goals for our organization: foster the student community, maintain communication between the three departments and their students, and strengthen the connections between the three universities. We hold a variety of different social and academic events throughout the year. The events rotate Waterloo and Guelph so that every student has an equal opportunity to attend.
We have one Co-President from each university. Joseph A. Buscemi is the representative for Waterloo, Marjorie Hopkins is the representative for Guelph, and Matt Wiseman is the representative for Wilfrid Laurier. Together we form the TUGSA Executive. TUGSA also works with the Tri-University Director, Dr. Linda Mahood, to improve the student experience as well as relaying any student issues about the Tri-University program.
If you wish to contact us, please email us at email@example.com. If you have any issues or questions about the program, or if you want to get more involved with TUGSA, please let us know.
Upcoming TUGSA Events
November 5 – Topics on Tap – WLU
December 4 – Holiday Event – Waterloo
Jan 21 – Topics on Tap – Guelph
TBA – Curling – Details coming soon
March 18 – Topics on Tap and TUGSA Elections – UW
April 24 – Year End Event – Guelph
Welcome to the Triumvirate Blog!
This space will regularly feature the experiences, achievements, and perspectives of the graduate students and faculty of the Tri-University Graduate Program in History. The blog will also be a great source of information for upcoming events and conferences. Stay tuned!
Please contact Ian Muller at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any content you would like featured on the Triumvirate Blog. Examples include:
•News and updates about faculty members and graduate students
•Any other relevant or notable information