CAL UGRS projects: SHAC

Here you can find out about the UG Research Scholarship projects that are being offered by academics in the School of History and Cultures in summer 2019.

Non-finalist UG students in CAL can apply to any project that is running. However, you can only apply for one project. So, please make sure you read the project summaries and ‘skills required’ sections carefully before applying.

Student applications open at the beginning of February, the deadline for applications is Friday 29 March 2019. We aim to inform all applicants whether their application is successful in early May.

Projects: 

Family Chapels in Post-Reformation England

Project Proposer/s: Richard Cust

Project Summary

This is the start of a new research project I am undertaking on the hitherto unexplored subject of family chapels in English parish churches c.1560-1660. This will combine the study of texts, architecture, funeral sculpture and material artefacts to establish

why so many of these chapels were built, how they were furnished and what they were for. This will help us to address important questions about the honour culture and the religious imperatives of the gentry who commissioned them. What does it tell us about the protestantising of church interiors at this time, or the ways the gentry sought to establish enduring dynastic identities.

What the researcher will do 

  • Preliminary survey in Pevsner volumes for Midland counties to identify these chapels
  • Work on local history journals and county histories to find what has been written about them already
  • Fieldwork visiting and documenting a couple of these chapels with myself

Skills required by the Scholarship holder

No language or palaeographical skills required; all the basic work can be down in the university library. A familiarity with the history of the English Reformation an advantage.

How will your Project benefit the Scholarship holder?

  • introduce the scholarship holder to issues relating to research on material culture
  • familiarise them with the ways in which basic bibliographic and source searches can be built up for a project
  • understand how fieldwork and photography are important to researching past cultures

A History of CAHA's Archaeology Museum

Project Proposer/s: Dr Maeve McHugh

Project Summary

CAHA’s collection of antiquities have been central to teaching in the department since the beginning of the 20th century. The material culture on display allows students to gain a unique understanding and perspective of the ancient world by viewing and handling ancient objects. The collection is composed of objects acquired by the university for teaching purposes along with objects on loan from the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and the Ashmolean, Oxford.

The aim of this project is to digitise the collection of 19th century slides of archaeological sites, collate the existing documents relating to the acquisition (sales and loans) of cultural material for the museum in order to produce a report of the history of the collection, and mount a display on the collection’s history. The creation of these resources will increase academic and student awareness and engagement with the collection within the university and beyond.

What the researcher will do 

The scholar will work closely with CAHA’s academic curator and the university’s curators in the Research and Cultural Collections (RCC). The scholar will use the RCC’s archives along with the Cadbury Research Library’s archives to compile a dossier of existing documents relating to the acquisition of the cultural material for the museum. From this source material, they will write a report detailing the history of the collection from its initial inception. This report will be made available online via the museum’s webpage. They will also undertake the digitisation of paper documents and glass slides of archaeological sites used in teaching during the early 20th century.  The aim of this will be to better enable engagement with the collection by researchers who plan to use the collection in their research and teaching. The final part of this project will focus on writing and creating a display celebrating the history of the collection to be mounted in CAHA.

Skills required by the Scholarship holder

Essential:

  • Passion/interest in museums and heritage management.
  • Excellent communication skills including the ability to write engaging copy for different purposes (e.g. social media, publication and collections database) as well as verbal communication and presentation skills
  • Excellent organisational skills and attention to detail in order to assess and collate information with a high level of accuracy and precision
  • Proficient IT user including all Microsoft Office programmes
  • Inquisitiveness  and willingness to carry out independent research
  • Happy to work through original documents and records to extract relevant information 
  • A willingness to work both within CAHA’s department, the RCC archives, and Cadbury Research Library.
  • Desirable:
  • CAHA student with an interest in a subject (Archaeology, Classics, Ancient History) relevant to the collection
  • An understanding/experience of requirements of museum practice (training will be provided) such as collections management and digitisation

How will your Project benefit the Scholarship holder?

The scholarship will provide the scholar with first-hand experience working within a museum/heritage environment. They will gain insight into how cultural collections are managed and maintained. They will also have the opportunity to consolidate their organisational and collaborative skills by giving them an opportunity to conduct independent research with advice and assistance from specialists in their field. The scholar will gain essential experience in finding and interpreting primary sources, and producing a written report and display on their findings. 

Ladies of London: Social Life in the 1780s and 1790s

Project Proposer/s: Tom Cutterham

Project Summary

Parties, gossip, taste, money, and power… At the end of the eighteenth century, an age of political revolution coincided with a high-point of elite society in cities like London, Philadelphia, and New York. Women with access to money and connections exercised significant agency in the construction of their own social worlds, and their behaviour helped reshape class and social structure in this radical era. I am writing a book about one of these women, Angelica Schuyler Church, who lived in London between 1784 and 1797, and I need help gathering evidence and ideas about women’s social and domestic lives during that period. My research scholar will use the novels, plays, advice manuals and periodicals of the period—especially those written by women themselves—to build a detailed archival picture of wealthy women’s lifestyles, which we can then match to Angelica’s own story through her letters, bringing her to life.

What the researcher will do

  • Become familiar with the secondary literature on elite women in the period, to help guide primary source investigation.
  • Read influential novels and plays from the period looking for examples and illustrations of women’s social world.
  • Systematically analyse periodicals such as The Lady’s Magazine to gather evidence of elite social life and expectations.
  • Create a database of examples and descriptions based on this research, cross-referenced to secondary literature.
  • Contribute to writing a short article for a popular audience about Angelica’s London life during the 1790s.

Skills required by the Scholarship holder

Some knowledge or understanding of the late eighteenth century, and/or of women’s history, would be helpful. Experience reading pre-1830 printed texts, perhaps including a familiarity with Jane Austen, is desirable. No special skills are necessary.

English is sufficient, but any kind of reading proficiency in French and/or Italian would be a bonus.

How will your Project benefit the Scholarship holder?

You’ll gain skills in primary and secondary historical research that will be useful to working on your dissertation, as well as a much deeper knowledge of the late eighteenth-century and women’s history. You will gain experience with database design and management. And you’ll also learn about how to communicate historical research to different audiences, working with me through the process of pitching and writing an article for the general public.

Decolonizing British Heritage

Project Proposer/s: Dr Sadiah Qureshi and Dr Kate Smith

Project Summary

Many visitors to heritage sites, from country houses to castles, learn relatively little about imperial history; yet, these sites often have important colonial connections such as being built on wealth amassed during colonial careers. Researchers at the University of Birmingham have been working with the National Trust and Dr Corinne Fowler, director of an Arts Council England funded project on the ‘Colonial Countryside’, to tackle such erasure. Together, we are reconsidering how heritage organizations narrate and display histories of empire in an effort to decolonize British heritage. As part of this project, students will help create a MOOC on the history of the British Empire that will be specifically tailored towards helping curators showcase histories of empire sensitively at heritage sites across Britain. We are confident that the MOOC will run on the Future Learn platform. However, if this is not possible for any reasons, the resources created through this scholarship will be used for a website as an alternative. 

The scholarship suits students interested in heritage, imperial history, debates about decolonising British history and potentially a future career in the heritage sector. 

What the researcher will do

  1. Interview property curators about their particular needs when looking for resources on the British Empire, under the guidance of the academic supervisors.
  2. Use the National Trust online catalogue to identify artefacts commonly found in heritage sites to use as case studies for displaying connections to empire. Potential options will include spices, punch bowls, and fabrics using colonially sourced dyes.
  3. Help develop artefact biographies of objects identified through research on the National Trust online catalogue for the MOOC. The aim would be reinterpret these objects with greater historical nuance and sensitivity under the guidance of the academic supervisors.

Skills required by the Scholarship holder

  1. Candidate should have an active interest in heritage and imperial history. This post would be well suited to someone studying history, but is open to all students in CAL with historical interests.
  2. Candidates should have a willingness to learn how to produce online content, and any experience of online platforms would be of significant advantage.
  3. A willingness to read nineteenth-century handwriting.

How will your Project benefit the Scholarship holder?

  1. The post provides excellent training in writing for a broader audience.
  2. The post provides excellent training in transferable skills such as online content creation.
  3. The post provides opportunities to develop skills in interviewing techniques.
  4. This post will provide excellent research skills that will be of benefit to the final year dissertation.
  5. The successful candidate will be part of a network of academics working with the heritage sector and so will gain invaluable experience of impactful research whilst also building up their own networks.

Old Age, Alms Houses and Birmingham’s Lench’s Trust

Project Proposer/s: Prof Nick Crowson

Project Summary

What happened to the elderly of Birmingham before the welfare state was created? The purpose of this project is to explore the life stories of those elderly, at the dawn of the 20th century, who benefitted from the charitable support of Birmingham’s Lench’s Trust. Through a network of sheltered houses (almshouses) and stipend payments (pensions) Lench’s Trust sought to support the elderly poor. But who were the beneficiaries of this charity? How were they chosen for support? Using genealogical methods, and the Trust’s archive, this project will seek to learn more about the lives of some of Birmingham’s most vulnerable residents. The results from this project will feed into a new history of the Lench’s Trust, and a series of public engagement activities, as the organisation prepares to commemorate it’s 500th foundation anniversary in 2025.

What the researcher will do

  1. Use genealogical resources (ancestry and findmypast) to research the residents of the Lench’s almshouses at dawn 20th century.
  2. Undertake preliminary research in the Lench’s Trust archive held by the Library of Birmingham.
  3. Generate a series of case studies of the elderly that Lench’s Trust can utilise in further public engagement activities.
  4. Liaise with the Lench’s Trust project team who are currently engaged in an Arts project about the lives of today’s residents.

Skills required by the Scholarship holder 

This post would suit individuals interested in the history of housing and old age and/or socio-political activism movements in the UK.

The candidate will be expected to have an appropriate IT skill-set, as well as good inter-personal skills.

How will your Project benefit the Scholarship holder?

They will develop important skills in undertaking primary research and the interrogation of the materials found that they can directly translate to their studies (whether dissertation or special subject). They will also gain transferable database skills. The experience would be useful training for future MA studies.

Bang!: The City and Westminster in the 1980s

Project Proposer/s: Matthew Francis 

Project Summary

Whether you love her or hate her, there is no doubt that Margaret Thatcher had a transformative effect on the British economy, shifting it in a free market, pro-business direction. Yet while historians have written about her policies, and about their impact, the ways in which business influenced Thatcher’s governments remains poorly understood.

You will continue the work of our 2017 and 2018 Scholars by working to digitize the private archive of Douglas French. A special advisor to the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, Geoffrey Howe, French has an extensive (and hitherto unseen) private archive of material which documents the interactions between politicians and businessmen, which has been made available to historians at the University of Birmingham. You will be one of the first people to work with this material and will help to make it available to researchers for the very first time. 

What the researcher will do

The role of the researcher will be:

  • to identify and prioritize key audio recordings in the existing collection;
  • to lead the process of transferring the audio recordings from cassette/CD to digital formats; and
  • to produce a research report detailing the scope and content of the material in the digitized cassettes. 

Skills required by the Scholarship holder 

The Scholarship holder must have basic IT skills (familiarity with Microsoft Word, Excel, etc. or equivalent) and in particular must be comfortable working with audio software and equipment. However, the project team will provide guidance on how to use the hardware and software used on the project. Some background knowledge of the historical period would be useful. Some prior experience of working with archival material would be desirable but is not essential.

How will your Project benefit the Scholarship holder?

The project will give the Scholarship holder the holder the opportunity to work with a hitherto unexamined set of primary sources which promise to throw new light on an important moment in the course of contemporary political history. The project will also give the Scholarship holder the opportunity to develop archiving and cataloguing skills, and to practice different genres of historical writing.

At the Crossroads of Empires: the Longobard Church of Sant'Ambrogio at Montecorvino Rovella (Salerno), Italy

Project Proposer/s: Dr Daniel Reynolds

Project Summary

The church of Sant’ Ambrogio in Salerno (Italy) is one of the best preserved examples of Lombard church architecture in southern Italy and contains some of the finest examples of ninth-century fresco work in western Europe.

The Crossroads of Empires project aims to offer a preliminary investigation of the site’s archaeological and documented history, which will culminate in an application to have the site formally recognised by the European cultural commission ‘Nostra Europa’ and a conference designed to promote awareness of the site among the academic community and general public.  The project is a collaborative venture between scholars based at the Universities of Birmingham and Salerno (Italy), and will feature a team of specialists and students from both institutions working alongside one another to reconstruct the history of the site and explore ways in which we might promote its historical value to a wider audience. 

What the researcher will do

There are 2 positions available for this project (both for 2.5 weeks which will run concurrently).

You will join the archaeological team, headed by the Università di Salerno, helping in the excavation and recording of the church site’s surrounding features and its possible its cemetery.  You will also assist in the excavation of the site and cleaning and recording of finds, as well as filling in site reports and other documentation association with the project. You will also assist with the recording of the standing features of the building. This will include working alongside a team of experts recording the medieval fresco schemes and other standing features in the church building.   Both candidates will also have the opportunity to present their research findings and experiences at academic meetings in the UK.  

Skills required by the Scholarship holder

Essential

  • An enthusiasm for all things ‘medieval’.
  • A willingness to collaborate as part of a team
  • A willingness to travel and reside in Italy for a period of (2 weeks)
  • Good organisational skills
  • Good communication skills
  • A willingness to work with human remains (if found)

Desirable (but not compulsory)

  • Knowledge of Italian
  • Previous archaeological/museum experience

How will your Project benefit the Scholarship holder?

The scholarship will provide students with first-hand experience of working as part of a large international team, which will serve to consolidate their organisational and collaborative skills as well as provide them with significant networking opportunities with leading scholars in the field. Students involved in the project will also gain practical experience in archaeological excavation and technique, which will offer invaluable skills to those seeking careers or post-graduate study in a history/archaeology related discipline.   In addition, students will attain vital skills in the management and conservation of historical sites, including experience in curating and disseminating research findings to public and scholarly audiences and engaging with leading heritage bodies such as the European Commission.