Collaborating Couples: Love and Work in Britain and North America, c. 1870-1970

Undergraduate Research Scholarship project 2020

Department of History

Project academic: Dr Zoe Thomas

Project summary 

You will work with tutor Zoe Thomas who is researching the untold histories of romantically-attached couples who collaborated in their professional lives in Britain and North America, c. 1870-1970. Little attention has been paid to the collaborative efforts of historical couples, be they doctors, writers, politicians, or those working in other fields.

This project considers the impact of collaborating couples on changing understandings of work, gender, sexuality and marriage/relationships at a critical moment in the making of modern society.

You will analyse newspapers, magazines, and visual and material culture, alongside digitally-available letters, diaries, photographs, and scrapbooks the tutor has photographed in archives across England, Greece, and North America. You are welcome to pick from a range of couples, date ranges, or themes you are interested in (through consultation with the tutor), perhaps exploring specific questions of race, ethnicity, or queer sexualities, or focusing on relationships in one field of work.

What you will do  

  • Week 1: You will read a small number of key publications the tutor will recommend to you to enable you to get up to speed with the topic. You will then compile a bibliography which surveys the project in greater detail which you will organise into key themes and briefly annotate.
  • Weeks 2-3: You will catalogue and transcribe a range of digitalised letters, diaries, photographs, and scrapbooks. These have already been photographed by the tutor at archives such as the Schlesinger Library, Harvard University, and the John Rylands Library, Manchester University.  You will annotate the sources you think are most exciting and relevant and write a short overall summary of your findings.
  • Weeks 4-5: You will word-search digitalised newspapers, magazines, memoirs, and visual and material culture and catalogue and organise relevant materials and extracts. You will annotate the sources you think are most exciting and relevant and write a short overall summary of your findings.

Skills required 

  • Enthusiasm for women’s and gender studies and nineteenth- and twentieth-century British and / or North American history. (Substantial knowledge is not necessary).
  • A willingness to learn how to read and transcribe nineteenth-century handwriting.
  • A good level of organisation.
  • An ability to work independently.
  • No foreign language skills are required.

How will the project benefit you?

  • You will gain valuable first-hand experience of undertaking archival research and develop your ‘project management’ skills by cataloguing and analysing a wide range of different primary sources, databases, and historical collections. This will be excellent practice for future undergraduate/and or MA work or in the workplace.
  • You will learn the highly transferrable skills of reading and transcribing historical handwriting.
  • The project will enable you the time and space to grow your critical thinking and writing skills.
  • The tutor will be able to offer you one-to-one guidance and practical advice through regular weekly meetings (in person or via Skype) about how to successfully undertake archival research and write up your findings.
  • The student researcher will be credited in any future development of this work and in the book.
  • If desired, there is the potential to focus on specifically honing your skills at analysing particular primary sources, such as material and visual culture, or on a specific theme, such as the history of sexuality.

Where now?


Professional Services