This post has been kindly written for us by Dr. David Parrish, a Junior Research Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research.
After three years of research and writing, I submitted a PhD thesis and passed my viva in September 2013 (probably the most nerve-racking experience of my life). I absolutely loved working on my thesis and (as crazy as this might sound) I found the independent, flexible atmosphere to be fairly low-stress.
Imagine, then, my excitement at having been awarded a Jacobite Studies Trust Junior Research Fellowship at the IHR. Six more months of research! The only problem: I was not entirely sure what my next project would be. That’s not to say I didn’t have ideas. I had too many ideas. Ideas were literally falling out of my books (I had copious amounts of post-it notes with half-baked, hastily-scribbled ideas representing potential future projects strewn about the inside of my books and notebooks), but nothing remotely concrete. While digging through sources for the thesis I had thought about what my next article/book project was going to be, but having been consumed by the need to finish the thesis, the idea of a fully conceptualizing a second project seem laughable.
However, as I made the required revisions to the thesis and read over many of my notes, one idea struck me as particularly interesting. I stumbled across a very short article reprinted from a London print in the Boston newspaper, the New England Courant, stating that debates about small-pox inoculation in 1722 had become a party controversy in Britain. This short article raised two significant questions. Were the inoculation debates a party controversy in Britain and, if so, why was this deemed newsworthy in colonial Boston? My project undertaken during my time as a junior fellow, therefore, began as attempt to explain the background and significance of this short article. This examination, in turn, raises larger questions about the extent of a transatlantic public sphere and the significance of the ‘rage of party’, Jacobitism, and anti-Jacobitism within the British Atlantic World.
The IHR fellowship program has provided me the means to pursue this article-length research project from conception, to research, to writing. Moreover, the time to research provided by the fellowship has provided me both the opportunity to begin revising my thesis for publication and also the means to begin research for a second monograph project. Perhaps more importantly, it provided a platform from which to pursue a career in academia. It has sustained me, financially and mentally, through what academics in the US know is a grueling job market, and helped me secure a full-time position at a small liberal arts college in Missouri, USA.