What topic should my first blog post explore? It’s quite a conundrum; do I introduce myself and my rationale for beginning a blog, or post something immediately to grab readers’ attentions? I’ve decided to start with the former and hope the words will flow. I studied history at Kingston University as a mature student, and gained a first-class degree, followed by a Master’s. But do I have a specialism? Possibly the eighteenth century; although the parameters of my studies have seen me study events in the sixteenth century through to the late twentieth century. The long eighteenth century excites me for several reasons and I’m sure I will explore those further. Criminal history excites me too, so much so, that both my dissertations, at undergraduate and Master’s levels, were based on criminality. My undergraduate dissertation was a study of the Old Bailey’s poisoning cases entitled, ‘The Female Poisoner: a Gender or Class Specific Crime in Nineteenth Century London?’ My Master’s dissertation examined ‘Disorderly Children and the Philanthropic Society’s Attempts to Reform them, 1788-1820’. Further forays into historic criminality has led me to produce work on infanticide, and whilst a distressing subject, it illuminates an otherwise undisclosed history, revealing the tribulations of the women from the lower orders who were hidden from the historical record. This is something that I will return to time and again, if I hadn’t studied history, I would have studied criminology.
The history of the British monarchy is a perennial favourite of mine, as is social history, but I also enjoy women’s history, gender history and public history, however, the catalyst for my academic career was ten years’ research into my family history. I frequently visited record offices and archives in London, Liverpool and Dublin, and used the information learned to extend the generations on my tree. The experience gained visiting archives and scrutinising documents and sources, helped me immensely when I was expected to add primary literature to my academic bibliographies.
Sixteen years on from beginning my family tree, it still has the potential to expand my historical research, albeit tangentially. Wandering around the older part of a cemetery after placing flowers on a family grave, an elaborate tombstone piqued my interest. Standing there, I had an idea that I have not yet acted upon. I aim to find ‘interesting’ gravestones in cemeteries and research what I can about the person buried there. The term ‘interesting’ is highly subjective and what fascinates one may repel another, however, there are enough stories out there waiting to be told, to hopefully inform, fascinate and inspire those that seek history for knowledge and entertainment. The narrative may develop from a visit to a cemetery and the discovery of a gem of monument, or separate archival research might lead me to someone’s final resting place.
I think blogging is the perfect medium for disseminating the shorter results of my research. However, this blog won’t just be biographies of long dead people buried into obscurity. I hope to offer the reader original research from archives that will provoke thoughts, conversation or further academic scrutiny, but whether the post is in the shorter form, or a longer essay, I cannot guarantee the subject or era of study, for as listed above, I have too many historical interests to pin down, but I think it’ll be fun trying!