This post has been kindly written for us by George Gilbert, currently one of the Scouloudi Fellows at the Institute of Historical Research.
For the beginner, the idea of networking can be a confusing one, and historically hasn’t always been helped by attitudes found in our discipline. Elements of academia have in the past perhaps been slow to catch on to this technique, slower at least than many professions in the city and politics. However, the profession has largely turned round to the idea, and it’s now apparent that developing fruitful links with other researchers, not only outside your home institution, but across countries and continents, is recognized as a central part of the doctoral experience. It is particularly vital for the aspiring researcher who wants to make the most of their abilities and interests in pursuing an academic career. Getting to know senior colleagues can at times seems a daunting experience, and the idea of ‘selling yourself’ might even sound a touch undignified!
However, it’s a good strategy to pursue. Firstly, networking is vital from a career perspective. At an early stage in your doctoral research, continuous and effective networking alerts you to conference opportunities, colloquiums and seminars that allow you to take in new ideas, engage with the latest and most cutting-edge research and, most of all, meet a wide range of characters and come across interesting viewpoints that will help you in your chosen field. Later, you will find out fellowship and job opportunities from helpful and well connected colleagues and friends.
As well as this, it can be very enjoyable. Networking might seem like a sly word to describe the cunning enhancement of an academic CV, but in reality, it’s usually very fun. It rarely goes wrong, and usually promotes rather than damages career development. Possibly one of the main issues for a young researcher is considering who to share your ideas with. If you have what you think might be a new and path breaking idea, a good rule of thumb is that it is best to share it only with those you know best, at least in the earliest stages of development: you don’t want to see your ideas in print before you’ve published them yourself! But most opportunities end positively. For example, I have had much entertainment from seeing different generations of Russianists, with very different questions on the scholarly agenda, productively engaging (and less productively, arguing) with each other over what direction the discipline is (and should be) heading in at various conferences and seminars! It helps develop people skills that are vital when teaching, giving papers, and discussing ideas: basically, anything that involves any level of face to face engagement. No one is out to ‘get you’ and several will probably end up becoming good friends.
Another aspect of engagement worth discussing in this brief post is another side to networking: sharing writing. Once you have got to the stage where you are able to produce significant chunks of written work based on your primary research, it’s a very good idea to share it with experienced professionals and helpful graduate students outside your supervisory team. For me, the feedback I have received from the peer review process, and also academics working in other institutions interested in my research, has been of immense value in helping me hone my ideas and develop my arguments. You must expect some criticisms, but in my own experience, the majority of those who have commented on my work have been very helpful and constructive in letting me know when the work isn’t good enough, as well as praising elements that they particularly liked.
Finally, networking has gone digital. For most sub-disciplines, there are forums, newsletters, websites and discussion blogs all online, many of which are worth reading to familiarize yourself with the latest academic research and where the discipline is going, as well as using those invaluable 40-year old monographs written by pillars of the field. It’s worth getting in touch with colleagues to find out where the best new material is being posted online, and to find out in what direction the field is heading, and perhaps even what your role in that development might be. Even if you aren’t into social networking, finding out where the thought pieces from those actively involved in the discipline are appearing is good practice.
The following digital networking websites, for instance, have proved useful for me:
H-Russia, an online network encouraging scholarly discussion of all matters Russian, featuring a discussion log, forum, and reviews of recent scholarship. The discussion log is good for pulling together panels for conferences.
Finally, twitter offers more than the opportunity to berate minor celebrities. It also contains many targets for the Russianist to follow, for instance: Crossing the Baltic, Russian Universe, and the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies’ research blog, which presents links to the some of the latest papers and talks by those engaged in the field.
This post has been kindly written for us by Zack Dorner, a Junior Research Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research.
I’m Zack Dorner, a fourth year PhD candidate in the History Department at Brown University in the United States. Through the IHR’s Junior Fellowship Program I am living in London for the 2013-14 academic year to pursue my dissertation project.
My dissertation examines the British pharmaceutical trade during the long eighteenth century across Asia, Europe, and North America. Motivating this project are unresolved historical questions about the co-evolution of capitalism, global empire, and science in the eighteenth century. Through examining the business transactions of individuals and firms scattered around the British empire, I am trying to reconstruct the infrastructure through which capital, goods, information, and people traveled across long distances. In particular, my work focuses on the pharmaceutical trade, which allows me to discuss how the intersection of scientific and commercial practices contributed to a larger story of British economic and imperial expansion in an incipient age of global capitalism.
In tracing a global trade, my research thus far has taken me to a range of archives in search of documents such as correspondence, insurance policies, ledgers, shipping receipts, and wills that reveal both the economics of business transactions and the interpersonal negotiations that facilitated them. My research began in New England at a series of historical societies in Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island. From these local repositories I shifted to research at the giant British Library and Wellcome Library in London. I have also been spending time at the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries, a building in a narrow street off Blackfriars rebuilt in 1672 after the Great Fire of London. For a short respite from the London rain, I travelled to Barbados in January to visit the Barbados Department of Archives and follow some leads of individuals purchasing pharmaceutical products from the firms I examined in London archives. Finally, in contrast to the state and private records I have read thus far, I am currently exploring the corporate archives of GlaxoSmithKline, whose eighteenth-century predecessors were active in the British imperial trade.
A closer look at the career of Robert Wigram (1744-1830) hints at some of the larger themes my dissertation engages. Wigram’s first career was as a surgeon, in which he regularly sailed to India and China as a ship’s surgeon for the East India Company in the 1760s. These voyages exposed Wigram to the growing drug trade as many of the products that travelled between Asia and London did so through the private dealings of EIC employees. In 1772 Wigram retired from surgery and reinvented himself as a successful merchant and broker, likely applying what he learned aboard ship. Wigram became a major importer of drugs into England and owned majority shares of several vessels trading to Bengal, Madras, and Bombay. And in 1800 he wrote to an EIC official to argue that high British duties on Asian drugs encouraged competition from Danish, Swedish, and Dutch merchants, limited British merchant stocks, and stunted the British economy. Of course Wigram was hardly the first to consider the political-economic impact of the drug trade; other cases abound in the archives.
Even from this single case it is clear that the pharmaceutical trade was both a public and a private project. State-imposed economic policy influenced the shape of the trade carried out by publicly funded joint-stock companies and private traders. And British political-economic calculations, as evidenced by Wigram’s accusation, often altered the balance of the pharmaceutical trade. Already in 1769 a group of London druggists and drug merchants petitioned to reduce the duty, rate, and drawback on drugs imported into England. The drug and pharmaceutical trade and its participants linked the Indian and Atlantic Ocean trading circuits as London firms exported pharmaceuticals to plantations in Antigua, Barbados, and Jamaica; and provided an influx of capital into provisioning, cotton, and sugar voyages. As I continue to follow the capital, goods, and merchants around the British imperial world of the eighteenth century I increasingly see the informal interactions that made possible the institutional expansion of trade in this period.
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.
With some 600 new History doctoral students graduating from British universities each year, together with strong competition from international students and previous years’ History PhDs, a Fellowships Officer’s work is never done.
The IHR hosts several competitions for one-year and six-month Junior Research Fellowships, intended as writing-up awards for doctoral students or as first postdoctoral positions for recent graduates, as well as several smaller prizes and bursaries in a variety of historical areas.
Currently underway are the Mellon Fellowships in the Humanities, which fund doctoral students at universities in the US and Canada to undertake archival research in the UK. Applications will be sent out to our panel of experts shortly, and applicants will be informed of the outcome by early May.
The end of January sees the opening of all our other doctoral and postdoctoral Fellowships competitions. Applications for Jacobite Studies Trust Fellowships must be in by 28 February, with interviews likely to take place in mid/late April. The deadline for receipt of IHR doctoral Fellowship applications (Scouloudi, Thornley, RHS) is 7 March; interviews will be held at the IHR in early/mid June. The EHS, Past & Present, and Pearsall Fellowship competitions all close on 4 April, with interviews held in late June/July.
In terms of other funding, applications for the Scouloudi Historical Awards in aid of academic publication must be in by 17 March, with decisions made and applicants informed before the end of June. Details of the remaining small awards may be found here, and I would draw special attention to the IHR Bursaries, funded by the IHR Friends, the Alwyn Ruddock Bequest, and by former IHR Director Professor David Bates. These provide £500 for doctoral students not registered at institutions in London to undertake short research trips to the IHR and other archives in the capital. As well as enabling students to access a wider range of resources for their research, these awards very much strengthen early career CVs, by demonstrating to prospective employers and postdoctoral funders that others have deemed their research worthy of financial support.