The Centre for Medieval Studies: Examining the Past into the Future

The Centre for Medieval Studies is a leading centre for research and training in all aspects of medieval studies, providing an ideal research environment for staff and graduate students in an area that is inherently interdisciplinary. With more than 30 Centre staff members from across the Faculty of Arts and beyond, we have an exceptionally broad range of specialists learning from the different methodologies of our individual disciplines. 

Internally, the Centre nourishes excellence in research, promoting interdisciplinary research and training in medieval studies, facilitating grant capture, and providing a network for mutual support and exchange of knowledge and expertise. Lecturer, Dr Steve Bull, comments: 

‘As an ECR still finding my place in the wider academic community, the advice, support, and connections that I have gained through the CMS have been invaluable. There is a genuine feeling of collegiality amongst the centre’s members.’

We are raising the profile of Bristol’s medieval research community nationally and internationally. We have an extensive network of partners, including local heritage organisations, facilitating impact, and offering student placements (e.g., Bristol Cathedral and Berkeley Castle), and national and international research partners. Professor David Wallace (University of Pennsylvania), a frequent visitor to the Centre, comments:  

‘Bristol’s Centre for Medieval Studies has great medievalists across the range to sift the secrets of Bristol (a great medieval city), of Europe, and of the global Middle Ages.  A truly exceptional centre for student education and international scholarly collaboration.’

We lead several externally-funded projects. A recent project we initiated is the Marie-Curie Doctoral Training Network ‘Re-mediating the Early Book: Pasts and Futures’ (REBPAF); it will support 13 PhD researchers at the universities of Bristol, Galway, Antwerp, Alicante, Vienna and Zürich, enhancing our already strong postgraduate cohort and international reach. PhD applications for the REBPAF project close on 10 January.

We offer exceptional support to our postgraduates, integrating them into our research community with regular social events and research seminars, some tailored to meet their needs, including seminars on ‘what every medievalist needs to know about…’ (useful for us all, but especially early career researchers) and an annual ‘student choice’ seminar with a speaker nominated by the students. We also host on our Blackboard site a constantly upgraded ‘training hub’ with online resources and run a range of reading groups, notably for medieval languages, such as Old French and medieval Latin. Our successful MA in Medieval Studies, with its unique placement unit, attracts students from different disciplines and diverse backgrounds with a high conversion rate to postgraduate research, here and elsewhere. 

A highlight is the annual postgraduate conference, the longest-running of its kind; this brings to Bristol, and now also online, an international group of postgraduates. PhD student Maria Rupprecht, from Germany, who chaired last year’s organising committee, notes: 

‘It is the perfect environment for postgraduates to present their research in progress and connect with medievalist peers and leading scholars from Bristol and beyond in a most benevolent, constructive, and supportive framework. The conference is an absolute highlight in the CMS. It is conceptualised, organised, and managed by Bristol’s postgrads and with this approach allows for discovering and developing organisational and managerial skills as well as teamwork in a committed and friendly environment.’

In the year ahead, in addition to our regular programme, we look forward to strengthening local ties through the research of our BA Global Professor, working with Bristol Central Library on their early books, including a planned public workshop. Visiting professors enrich our research environment: we are currently hosting a specialist in Old French from Stockholm, and we look forward to welcoming a Newton International Fellow next year. Our research into the past always looks to the future. 

Professor Ad Putter and Professor Kathleen Kennedy, Co-Directors, and Professor Marianne Ailes, former Co-Director, Centre for Medieval Studies

Supporting digital literacies in Brazil through videogame design

From digital inclusion to digital literacies

Associate Professor Ed King tells us about his latest project to develop a science-fiction videogame to raise awareness of the dangers of social media disinformation in Brazil. To do this, he’s been working with local Brazilian organisations. It is an example of how arts research can address societal challenges. The project has recently received an AHRC Impact Acceleration Account award.

With help from the AHRC Impact Acceleration Account, I am currently collaborating with artists and non-profit organisations in Brazil to develop a videogame which will improve digital literacies. Our videogame will raise awareness about the dangers of disinformation by providing them with an accessible, engaging, free and enjoyable educational resource which will encourage young people to think critically about these issues through the medium of digital play.

In the early 2000s, during the first administration of the left-wing Worker’s Party President Lula da Silva, the Brazilian government invested heavily in ‘digital inclusion’ initiatives as a way of reducing social inequalities in the country. The ‘Pontos de Cultura’ project, for example, which funded media centres based in community spaces across the country, including in favelas and socially deprived neighbourhoods, became a model for approaches to free software among policy makers in Europe and North America.

‘Future calls’ by Rafael Coutinho, Cachalote Produções

However, now that there are extremely high levels of smartphone ownership and social media usage in Brazil, it has become clear that access to digital networks is not a guarantee of social inclusion but can entail exposure to manipulation and data surveillance. As a result, the focus among governmental and non-profit organisations working in this area has shifted from increasing digital inclusion to supporting digital literacies across the social spectrum.

Why is this research important?

Through my research, it has become evident that a digital literacy skill in need of particularly urgent support is the identification of disinformation online. This emerged as an important issue during the last presidential elections in Brazil in 2018 and was cited by many reports as a key factor in the rise to power of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro (who is seeking re-election in October 2022). It was also an important factor in the consolidation of cultures of denial during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, government and non-governmental organisations (such as Global Network Initiative and Direitos na Rede) have been attempting to tackle the issue at the levels of policy and law, including through the regulation of content.

Over the last few years, I have been working with a network of organisations that have been working with communities across Brazil to develop digital literacies as a way of expanding social inclusion.

  • In 2020-21, with support from an ESRC-IAA grant, I collaborated with the Ubatuba-based Instituto Neos to produce the ID21 report, which provides a survey of the major challenges facing these organisations.
  • With funding from a Bristol Digital Futures Seed Corn grant and the Participatory Research Fund, we used this report as the basis for developing an online repository of educational resources to be used in constructing new community digital inclusion initiatives and policies.
‘Future calls’ by Rafael Coutinho, Cachalote Produções

What does the research project involve?

Our project aims to support those organisations looking to tackle disinformation at the level of its reception, particularly among marginalised communities. ‘Futuro Chama’ is a videogame that uses a science fiction plot to encourage young people to think critically about the spread of disinformation through social media. It was developed in collaboration with a group of digital artists led by Rafael Coutinho and members of non-profit organisations based across Brazil that contributed to the ID21 report. These include: Instituto Neos (Ubatuba); Instituto Procomum (Santos); Coletivo Digital (São Paulo); Casa de Cultura Tainã (Campinas); and Associação Thydewá (Olivença).

We developed a prototype of the game with ESRC-IAA funding and have recently received AHRC-IAA ‘Proof of Concept’ funding to complete the game’s development and carry out beta testing. We will also start looking for potential users of the game beyond Brazil. This will involve translating the game into English and approaching organisations that support creative technological approaches to the challenges of democratisation.

Who will the game’s initial users be?

The first users will be the same organisations that contributed to the ID21 report and collaborated in the development of the game. They will use ‘Futuro Chama’ during the digital literacy workshops they run to support the development of digital literacies among marginalised communities. However, we will also distribute the game more widely through the same social media networks that the game critically engages. The aim here will be to raise public awareness of the dangers of misinformation, particularly in a context of social upheaval such as the current political crisis in Brazil.

The Centre for Black Humanities: Who we are and future directions

The Centre for Black Humanities is an international hub for Black Humanities research in the heart of Bristol. The Centre aims to foster the broad range of research currently being done at the University of Bristol around the artistic and intellectual work of people of African descent. Some of our current interdisciplinary projects include Dr Josie Gill’s research on ‘Black Health and the Humanities’, Dr Elizabeth Robles’ work on Black British Art, and Dr Justin William’s project on UK Hip-Hop. Other research projects include those relating to ethics and social justice, literary activism, and slavery and its legacies.

The Centre is committed to reaching audiences outside the traditional university through a diverse programme of film screenings, reading groups, performances, and research collaborations with local communities. Such activities enable our research to generate impact in other areas including the cultural industries and higher education policy.

Our main priorities as a Centre are: collaboration, interdisciplinarity, engagement, exchange, and internationalism. The Centre works with academics, artists and practitioners – nationally and internationally –  to produce world-leading research in Black Humanities. We work across disciplines in the Arts and Humanities but also beyond, with researchers in the Sciences and Social Sciences. Centre members also facilitate a wide range of public engagement activities based on our research in local, national and international settings, working with museums, charities and other organisations to deliver high-quality, non-academic outputs.

Additionally, we have active research partnerships with local writers, artists and grassroots organisations in Bristol. These help create high-profile opportunities for mutual exchange and collaboration on issues of local and national importance. We also have academic and creative partners in Uganda, Ghana, Senegal, Angola, Portugal, Brazil, and the US, amongst others. A list of our international board members can be found on our website.

The Centre has had a series of visiting scholars join us. In 2021, we were delighted to host Professor Nicola Aljoe. Professor Aljoe’s research is on Black Atlantic and Caribbean literature with a specialisation on the slave narrative and early novels. She described her time in Bristol:

‘Despite the ongoing COVID pandemic, my sojourn at the Centre for Black Humanities in Bristol during the fall term of 2021 was an incredibly productive and intellectually engaging experience. I conducted research in the Bristol archives on two related projects. The first was the creation of a digital map of the various locations associated with Black people in 18th – century London through the lens of Ignatius Sancho. The second project was my book manuscript on representations of women of colour from the Caribbean in fictional European texts between 1790 and 1830. Such data productively challenges notions of absence of Black people in the archives of Britain at this time, and provides more details about the complexities of their lives.’

The Centre offers exciting opportunities for our early career and postgraduate community, through cutting-edge research and dialogue with arts and community activists. This year, Adriel Miles, Alice Kinghorn and Francis Asante are coordinating a programme of events. Francis explained:

‘The Centre plans to organise a number of postgraduate research (PGR) seminars and reading groups. Two seminars are planned for the first teaching block on topics related to the exploration of racial communities in online spaces, and the relationship between race, music, and cultural politics. These events are designed to encourage a sense of community in the Centre, and to provide a space for learning and socialising. Preparations for the seminars are still ongoing, and further information about them will be shared soon.’

Dr Saima Nasar and Professor Madhu Krishnan

(Centre Co-Directors)

Introducing the Faculty Research Centres

By Hilary Carey, Faculty Research Director

We are delighted to launch five Faculty Research Centres (FRC) for a new cycle of five years of funding at the University of Bristol. They are:

  • Black Humanities
  • Creative Technologies
  • Environmental Humanities
  • Health, Humanities and Science
  • Medieval Studies

We like to think of the FRCs as the crown jewels in the Faculty’s glittering treasure chest of activist, interdisciplinary research. The five Centres showcase arts and humanities research at the cutting edge of new knowledge, asking key questions about themes and issues critical to the city of Bristol, the people of the West of England, and the world.

Each Centre has developed a diverse programme of activity including public lectures and debates, workshops and seminars, conferences and collaborations that engage colleagues and the public beyond the University.

Here is a sneak preview of some of the many Centre activities and opportunities that we can look forward to this academic year:

  1. The Centre for Black Humanities has a postgraduate research (PGR) group planning a series of seminars, reading groups and away days.
  2. The Centre for Creative Technologies will co-design sandbox events (isolated testing environments) with civic partners – the Pervasive Media Studio and Knowle West Media Centre – to explore social applications of arts and technologies.
  3. As part of the Centre for Creative Technologies, Bristol Common Press will host a global summer school on Technologies of the Book, which will run for three weeks in summer 2023.
  4. The Centre for Environmental Humanities has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the environmental humanities ‘Greenhouse’ at the University of Stavanger, demonstrating the positive potential for partnership working.
  5. The Centre for Environmental Humanities plans to host a ‘Future of the Environmental Humanities’ workshop that will bring together researchers to think about the question of what comes next for the field of environmental humanities.
  6. The Centre for Medieval Studies (CMS) has a regular seminar series including one session on ‘What every medievalist should know…’.
  7. The Medieval Studies Global Professor, Kathleen Kennedy, has developed links with the Bristol Central Library, and is planning an ambitious exhibition of medieval manuscripts in Bristol libraries and archives.
  8. The Centre for Health, Humanities and Science plans a symposium on ‘Hoarding’, convened by Andrew Blades.
  9. The Centre for Health, Humanities and Science is planning its first collaborative book, Key Concepts in Medical Humanities (Bloomsbury Academic), to be published in 2023.
  10. Each Centre will have its own site on the Bristol Blogs platform through which they can showcase their research and activities.

There is a lot more to look forward to, so find out more about our five fantastic Faculty Research Centres.

The entrance lobby and hallway in the Faculty of Arts, with pillars, brick wall and red furniture
The Faculty of Arts. Photo by Nick Smith.

Found an untranslatable word? I bet you haven’t…

On International Translation Day, Dr Christophe Fricker, Programme Director of our master’s degree in Translation here at Bristol, reflects on the nuances of language and how the art of translation relies on understanding your audience.

Headshot of Dr Christophe Fricker. Christophe is wearing a blue-and-white-checked shirt, a v-neck jumper and glasses, and is smiling at the camera.It’s International Translation Day, and I’m a translator. When I tell people, they pause and then they look at me triumphantly, saying that, surely, this particular foreign word they know could not possibly be translated into English. In a way, they’re right, but in practical terms, they’re not. Here’s why.

Take Energiewende, the German term for the political process facilitating the transition towards a zero-carbon economy. And now look back at the previous sentence. What you see is a German term and an English translation. There are three things to say about that translation, all of which are characteristic of what we do as translators – and what you do in your everyday life:

First, the translation serves a particular purpose and a particular audience – you! This is true of literally every translation ever produced. No translation is produced in the void. It is commissioned by someone, carried out by someone, and addressed and perceived by someone with specific interests and skills. The translation reflects and addresses them. This is not a weakness. In fact, it’s the unique strength of translation that it can – and will inevitably – be calibrated to meet a particular need. Yes, that means there will be a need for a new translation at some point, but that is true for the original utterance as well. There are no final words, in any language.

Secondly, my translation of Energiewende is different in length compared to the original. It would be quite unrealistic to expect otherwise. Different languages form their words and their sentences in different ways. A text you translate from English into German will end up being 10% longer in terms of characters but 10% shorter in terms of its word count. I am saying this because translators translate texts, not words. I have worked in this profession for a decade and a half and I have never been asked to translate a word. My clients come to me because they want an advertising slogan or a travel essay or a children’s book translated. When they are looking for a word in another language, they will turn to a dictionary rather than a translator.

What all of this tells us, thirdly and inevitably, is that no two statements map neatly onto each other, between any two languages. The beautiful thing is this, though: the same is also true for any two statements in the same language, and even the same statement in the same language uttered by different people or in different situations. When you say the words ‘I love you’ to your partner, they mean something different from when you say them to your son. When, in response, your partner asks: ‘Where have you been?’, the potential for misunderstanding may be so big that you wish a translator were at hand. Translation is not something that only happens between different languages; wherever we understand each other, we deliver a successful translation.

I get a sense, here, that you are intrigued but perhaps not entirely convinced. Let me give you a little homework – I am a teacher, after all. Imagine you live in an apartment block with people who speak lots of different languages, but the fire safety information sheet is only available in French. You are asked to translate it into English. What would be your first priority? That everybody who walks past appreciates the original French via your translation, or that they know where to go when their pants are on fire? I doubt they have time to worry about untranslatable French words at that point.

Debates about untranslatable words are fireside chat (for which there is definitely a place!). In the meantime, translators like so many of my wonderful colleagues make sure people are safe around the world, and today is the day we celebrate them!

Credit: iStock SDenisov

The MA Translation programme at Bristol combines language-specific practice with training in translation theory and translation technologies. To find out more about this online programme, go to the MA Translation web page or come and see us at one of our Postgraduate visits and open days.

International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

Today, 9 August, marks the United Nations’ International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, raising awareness of the needs of indigenous people across the globe.

Dr Camilla Morelli, a lecturer in social anthropology here at the University of Bristol, has been working with indigenous communities in Amazonian Peru for over a decade. Here we learn more about her most recent piece of research.

Amazonimations – co-producing animated films with indigenous people in Amazonia

Amazonimations is a collection of three animated films produced collaboratively with the indigenous Matses people of the Amazon rainforest. The films are the outcome of a research project (funded by the British Academy) that brought together academic research, art and animation with the objective of using collaborative film production as a means through which people living at the margins of technological and economic inclusion can find forms of self-representation and gain a sense of wider recognition.

Like many other indigenous societies, Matses people had no contact with outsiders until fairly recently, and they are now dealing with the challenges of urbanisation, socioeconomic change, and the impact of globalised media and markets. Amidst the difficulties they face, a key issue is the feeling of being largely unheard and cut out from wider society; their goal, as they phrased it, is for the world to know who they are. In each animated short, a different generation of Matses tells a story: the elderly talk about the traditional ritual of ‘acate’, an intoxicating substance that is said to create a connection between people and the forest; Matses children tell a story about rainforest animals and spirits; and young Matses who migrated from the forest to the city discuss their experiences of adjusting to urban life.

This work is quintessentially collaborative – the films have been scripted, narrated and illustrated by Matses people themselves, and the overall goal of this is to disseminate the animations widely in order to raise awareness about threatened indigenous lives and their precarious futures. Learn more about the Matses people and their culture by watching Amazonimations on Vimeo.

Celebrating Pride Month

We’d like to wish all members of the LGBT+ community a very Happy Pride Month! We caught up with Dr Jamie Lawson, a queer anthropologist whose major research interest is in sex and sexuality, to find out more about his research, Pride, and the path to equality for all.

What was it that first drew you into the exciting world of anthropology?

It was a lucky accident really – I got very bored at school, so come university application time I felt a strong urge to study something new. Archaeology and Anthropology was the first thing in the UCAS course book that fit the bill. I fell in love with anthropology quite quickly, though – I enjoy the freedom of the discipline, and felt a strong pull towards an intellectual tradition that resists being pinned down. It’s a big, sprawling subject with as many definitions and angles as there are practitioners, which is what you might expect from a discipline that’s focussed on understanding people; we’re complicated things, after all. There’s a very thin line between anthropology and activism as well – I think I always found the political engagement of the discipline really exciting.

What was it about sexual minorities and human sexuality in particular that led you to pursue a research career in this area?

I developed an interest in sex and sexuality towards the end of my undergraduate degree, and followed it through to master’s and eventually PhD level. Initially I adopted an evolutionary perspective on the topic, but found that a little too heteronormative for my tastes, and have drifted over the years towards a more phenomenological position, focussed on queer identities and subcultures. This led me to my recent work on the puppy play community. It’s no coincidence that over the same time, I became properly politically engaged with my identity as a gay man, and got involved with activist work, including organising the first Pride up in Durham, and eventually writing my book. I think it’s important to challenge the dominant structures of society which act to marginalise and oppress anyone who doesn’t fit in with the trans- and homophobic, racist and patriarchal norms.

You were involved in the Art of Relationships project at the Open University, which was designed to explore the power of art to engage members of the public with social science research – can you tell us more about that?

That was a lot of fun. The project involved screening a set of short films that had been made to communicate research findings from a large, nationwide project on love and relationships called ‘Enduring Love’. In order to evaluate the impact those films had, I ran a reflexive group exercise called a visual matrix (based on a social dreaming matrix, for anyone who has encountered one of those). The method is designed to tap into group-level, collective ideas and feelings rather than individual, to see what the audience collectively had taken from the films. A visual matrix is a wonderfully egalitarian method which breaks down the distinction, to some extent, between researcher and informants. We used it to see what sorts of ideas had made their way from the films to the audience, to see if it was possible to communicate research findings through art (in this case, films).

June is Pride month here in the UK – what does Pride mean to you?

This is a favourite question to ask queer people around Pride time – I’m never really sure how to answer it. Pride is about visibility, community and celebration, sure, but we should never forget that it was born out of anger. The rights that the LGBTQ+ community has fought for and gained, the space it carved out for itself – that was all the result of anger, focussed against oppression. Pride this year comes at a scary time – the world is in the grip of a pandemic, and the hard right have risen in political power. The protests that are currently sweeping the world as a result of systemic racism and anti-Black violence in the United States are also an expression of anger, deeply and collectively felt. My hope is that we can all come together around that anger and push back against those who want to strip minorities of their rights and turn us against each other. I am a very angry queer, and very proud of that anger.

Last year you released your first book – Rainbow Revolutions: Power, Pride and Protest in the Fight for Queer Rights – which is aimed at children aged 12 and over. What inspired you to write specifically for this age group?

The opportunity landed squarely in my lap. I was approached by the publisher off the back of some consulting work I had done for them on another project, and they asked if I would like to write a book on queer history for children. I said yes almost immediately. The mainstream, cishet world does everything it can to stop queer people feeling connected with each other, including dismissing the idea of there being such a thing as queer history. Being disconnected from your own history makes growing up queer a very isolating thing – you feel lost, untethered in a society that only begrudgingly makes space for you. Knowing that you have ancestors, traditions, that you belong to a group of people who learned lessons collectively and had an impact on the world, that’s empowering and important. I wrote the book for young queers, hoping I might help them feel a little bit less lost.

What is the key message you hope young people will take away from your book, and what impact do you hope it will have?

I wanted the readers of Rainbow Revolutions to understand that queer rights were fought for and won – not given – and that the community has a history of its own , and perhaps most importantly that Black and trans voices inside the LGBTQ+ community have been some of the most important and most powerful we’ve had. As trans people are having their rights stripped away and their lives endangered around the world, and as the Black Lives Matter protests sweep the globe, it’s hugely important that the readers of my book understand how connected we all are, and that none of us are free until all of us are free. I tried to reinforce an idea that collective action that visibility en masse is key to liberation and safety. Most of all I wanted them to know that they are not alone.

What societal changes do you think are required to get to a point where we can ensure young members of the LGBT+ community are fully supported, included, and safe from discrimination?

That’s a big question, and there are a lot of moving parts, but if I could wave a magic wand and make one big change (and if I knew there were others out there with their own magic wands) I would disconnect the idea of sex from the idea of reproduction. The idea that “sex is for making babies” is at the absolute core of the oppression of queer people, and the oppression of women (queer or not), around the world. It’s dangerous most of all because it feels like such a self-evident fact, and is so deeply embedded in Western cultures. Alongside that, I’d make white people around the world turn to face the evils of colonialism, and engage with our collective responsibility to dismantle the structures that supported it, of which trans- and homophobia are important components. Big aims, both, but I have to believe they’re possible.

What more do you think could be done as a Faculty – and more widely across the University – to support the LGBT+ community and ensure equality for all?

I think the higher education sector is starting to shift in really interesting and quite radical directions, and that’s what we need here: radical change. If we don’t make active decisions to disrupt colonialist, oppressive structures then they persist. I think the pandemic has forced us to start to think properly about what universities could and should be and how they could and should work, and to confront difficult facts about access and inclusion. Finding new ways to imagine the University will be key to equality for staff and students alike.

Third Year History with Innovation student Jasmine Smellie on making the right choice studying an Arts degree

Third year History with Innovation student Jasmine Smellie talks to us about her degree, studying Innovation and why she made the right choice.

Before joining University, every time I mentioned I wanted to do an arts degree, the question that very quickly followed on was “what can you do with an arts degree?” In reply I would say “well what can you not do,” because I was confident in the skills I would acquire through university would set me with a range of understanding that could be moulded into any job position.

“I realise now how much I underestimated the true breadth of skills an arts degree could bring”

However, admittedly I remained secretly sceptical about what career it was, exactly, I was wishing to pursue. Since actually now studying History with Innovation, my perception has only got stronger. I realise now how much I underestimated the true breadth of skills an arts degree could bring, from analytical and comparative studies into textual information, to improved communication skills and learning how to work in teams.

“Some advice I would give to a new starter of an arts degree at University is to really have faith and belief in your own decisions and that you have chosen the right course for you”

Through Innovation, I have learnt skills that I have been able to apply during the summer whilst working at a cloud software based company, an internal communications design agency, and a variety of creative studios around Bristol. Which truly highlighted to me that when applied, the skills you acquire (sometimes unintentionally) through an arts based subject really can put you in good stead for any career area.

Some advice I would give to a new starter of an Arts degree at university is to really have faith and belief in your own decisions and that you have chosen the right course for you. Be confident to throw yourself into as many things you can, from drama and music, to working with the engineering and computer science based societies. The key is to explore all different areas, get to know what you like and dislike and where your strengths lie, but also see which areas you require people to work with you in order to create something.

Follow Jasmine’s blog on Linkedin for more information on studying Innovation and her internship experience at Home design studio in Bristol.

History PhD student, Chris Wemyss, tells us about his research and why Arts Matter

People often talk about the creative aspects of Arts and Humanities, but I was drawn towards studying History because I enjoyed the idea of challenging established facts and ideas. This has only grown through my Bachelors and Masters degrees, and now at PhD level I get the chance to design the questions I want to answer, and work out how to answer them.

My PhD research looks at the British community in Hong Kong from 1980 to 2000, tracking how it changed in preparation for the handover of the territory to China in 1997. Researching for this has taken me all over the UK, to the US, and to Hong Kong, allowing me to collect a variety of sources and interview many different people. Now in the final stages of my PhD, I am weaving these sources together to form a narrative that hopefully gives a unique insight into a relative recently period of history.

The Arts and Humanities have a reputation for exclusivity, and distance from the ‘real world’, but I have found this to be patently untrue during my studies. The stories I uncover on a daily basis, through newspapers, diaries, oral histories, letters, and other countless sources, put ordinary people at the centre of the historical narrative. They often have similar hopes and fears as people do today, and provide us with valuable insight into their period, and how it relates to today’s events.

History is also about developing skills that we sometimes take for granted. During my years of study I have learned how to research and find information quickly, comprehend the meaning of documents, and synthesise these into a narrative that can be written up. These skills are useful in everyday life, and I have used them extensively in jobs I have held during my studies.

The best thing about studying History, and the Arts and Humanities, is discovering the links between the city and country you live in, and much wider narratives. It helps give meaning to the streets you walk down everyday, and things we take for granted in everyday life, especially in a deeply historical city like Bristol. It also means that people here are interested in and care about the Arts and Humanities, and the times I have interacted with them at talks, debates, and exhibits have been the most rewarding of my time at university and remind me that arts matter outside the university just as much as inside.