It also surprised me to discover that I'd read and done more than I thought. I'm considering a regular update of this nature, serving as much as a 'Note to Self' as a report back to Bobby.
This is what I wrote:
Progress July – October
My initial plan was to read as much secondary material as I could, in order to familiarise myself with issues within the range of themes which are covered by this study.
Since July, I have investigated the broader threads surrounding the history of Newton Park. In addition to wide reading, the 'professional responsibilities' surrounding research work and postgraduate status have allowed me to develop in a number of fruitful ways. As a result, I feel I have developed as a student, as a candidate and as a part of the history school.
After the last supervision meeting in June 2013, I identified and documented the following areas for further research:
Women's training colleges & education
Authors: Carol Dyhouse, Elizabeth Edwards, Andrea Jacobs & Camilla Leach, Byrne, Deborah Thom, June Purvis, Sandra Acker, Mary Cathcart Borer, Josephine Kamm, Alison Oram, Myrdal & Klein,
Findings: Themes discuss the promotion of middle class values, respectability, a place for women's rights and ideas of equality to develop but within the perhaps confining themes of respectability and established values. Oral histories of Newton Park would seem to support this, although the pattern these authors discuss was set prior to the Second World War, and was diminishing as a force in the post-war period. At Newton Park, however, it seems to have continued whilst developing and growing as the decades progressed. Did Newton Park embrace change more smoothly? Was the plan always to change or was change forced upon the college? Theories of ‘Cultural Reproduction’ and ‘Social Reproduction’ (Edwards) are very interesting here (Thom) in which a dominant culture seeks to reproduce the next generation in an image of itself, without change, analysis of its own faults or progression to a more enlightened self.
Demographics/the Post-War world/Women's opportunities and expectations
Authors: Lyn Abrams, Linda Eisenmann, (Mary Dawson’s own papers)
Findings: Mary Dawson makes little or no allusion to her single status, and neither does anyone else. In this era she was not unusual. The generation she belonged to, the 'surplus women', are a specific generation who underwent many cultural shifts in the first half of the 20th century. Themes such as trade unionism, the working world, equal pay and equal professional recognition are all featured. This requires more focus. The growth of psychology and its popular application throughout the first few decades of the 20th century is particularly interesting, since Mary Dawson and the students alike mention this frequently. I need to research this from both primary and secondary angles.
The discourse surrounding post-war opportunity supports the oral history evidence that opportunities were limited. This needs more research. Are the opportunities and choices simply realistic, and were the women thinking very long-term, sensibly? Are the oral history statements a self-justification of their choices? How real were the perceived limitations?
Education policies and the expansion of the sector
Authors: Haddow et al, McNair, Robbins, John Newsom, Dent, Silver, Paechter, Felicity Hunt et al, Roy Lowe et al,
Findings: Mary Dawson frequently cites the McNair Report (1944) as inspiration for her own career. Later, the Robbins Report (1963) led to further expansion in the sector. It was this later expansion which coincided with Mary Dawson’s retirement. Each of these was an important aspect of the century-long drive towards provision of mass education. The reports will be analysed more fully once Miss Dawson’s papers have been studied more extensively.
Background of the country house story
Authors: Elizabeth Crawford, Roy Porter et al, J H Plumb, Peter Borsay, Amanda Foreman, David Cannadine, Estate papers, Bath Record Office collections, DW Humphries papers.
Findings: This is the area which has taken much of my focus, as a poster was produced for conference presentation. This proved very useful, as I found out the background of the 18th century estate development, and its eventual transition towards sale and dispersal. A great deal of this information had been ‘missing’ from the Newton Park narrative, and I think I’ll be able to use it within the thesis, to support ideas around the kind of community which Mary Dawson was able to create. I think it will be crucial explain what was there originally, in telling the story of what was made new. The estate history is therefore the underpinning knowledge which informs the Dawson era developments. Alongside the postgraduate study itself, the 18th century and estate sale information is also already feeding into conference papers, articles and collaborative research, and looks likely to provide an area for further development. In relating the private estate era to the College era, it would be interesting to explore themes of ‘open’ and ‘closed’ communities and the democratization of an elite space.
Place and memory
Authors: Maurice Halbwachs, Portelli, Thompson, Thomson, Shelley Trower, Leydesdorff et al, Cohen et al, Steven Rose, Anne Whitehead, Paul Connerton, James Fentress & Chris Wickham, Olick et al, Erll et al, Carter et al, Russell, Schama
Findings: So far, my reading and other discussions at conferences and postgraduate meetings have led me towards strong themes of place and memory, social memory, and the building of communities. Following a discussion with Alison Hems, I had the chance to sit in an MA seminar led by Olivette Otele, on the topic of memory, which enabled me to reconsider the reading I'd carried out on the subject of 'social memory'. This seemed at first a rather slippery concept, but it begins to make more sense to me, and has ever more resonance in relation to the beginnings of Newton Park College. The early cohort of students and staff had a shared social memory of the war, so their determination to build a new community was even more firm. As we move away from the 'century of horrors' identified by Schama's 'Landscape and Memory' it seems even more crucial to recall the manner in which the upheaval experienced in the first half of the 20th century coloured the collective outlook. This feeling in turn affected the psyche of the later generations, seeking to break away from the weight of the past. The transition between these phases was the timescale of Mary Dawson's principalship, and I think they can be traced through her work and writings.
I am still 'saving' the Dawson papers for a time when I can fully focus on them, and think that once the two new students are settled into the archive work, this opportunity will occur. After this, I will be able to go back over the oral history transcriptions, in light of Mary Dawson's words. At that stage, I will begin another period of secondary reading, in order to inform my thoughts at that stage.
Reading Ellie Woodacre’s PhD thesis was very encouraging, as I could imagine a similar style and tone for the Newton Park work. Her style is approachable, clear and informative, and one I would wish to emulate. The more I read, the more I feel frustrated by the style of certain academic writing which seeks to mystify, or at least put barriers in front of the reader through their use of terminology. I feel strongly that learning and research are tools for communication, and began this process of research to make the story of Newton Park better understood. I understand the need to undergo the PhD process intelligently and thoroughly, but hope that the end result is as clear and informative as Ellie’s.
'Professional Responsibilities and Development'
Opportunities for personal and professional development have included:
IHR Summer School – July
Alumni reunions and meetings – July & October
Research at the Duchy Office - September
Georgian Pleasures Conference – September
Meetings with academics – July, August, September, October
Michael Pembroke lecture - September
Postgraduate’s Reception at Newton Park - September
Adrian Tinniswood lectures – September, October
Artists in the Archives Conference – September
Olivette Otele lecture & seminar - October
Postgraduate School workshops – September, October
Postgraduate historians’ group meetings – September, October
Royal Historical Society Symposium at Corsham Court – October
Since the new year began at BSU, the postgraduate historians have been provided with a number of opportunities for networking, training and further professional development. Although not all of these have been specifically tailored to our needs, all have been extremely useful. Professional development comes in many forms, from technical knowledge to improved networking skills, and so I have valued all of the recent events. The opportunity to think more deeply, collaboratively and laterally can occur in many different situations, and all of these occasions have proved fruitful.