Tom Hulme, BA MA PhD (2005-2014)

Tom HulmeI studied for an MA and PhD at the Centre for Urban History from 2008-2013, first lured to the Friday afternoon seminar as a final-year undergraduate. My work on citizenship and civic culture has been shaped totally by the formal and informal experiences that the Centre provides. It’s an often spouted maxim but, to successfully complete a PhD (without going mad at least), a vibrant and supportive research community is vital. The Mark Fitch House operates as a hub for teaching, research, and socialising, with stuffy distinctions of student and teacher momentarily forgotten over cups of tea and homemade cake. Researchers of esteemed institutions from all over the world are frequently invited for the Friday seminar, as well as for one-off special talks, and the cosy environment of the common room means you can run into these professors as well as your own peers. From bicycles in Beijing to space in Manchester’s gay village, these talks are almost always informative and often entertaining as well, drawing on specialist urban studies research.

Before starting the MA however I was a newcomer to the discipline. The extensive and intensive modules however provided a useful way to become immersed in the subject. A mix of small seminar classes, focused on discussion, along with short and long assignments, both historiographical and original research, meant we covered an extensive syllabus without sacrificing depth. It’s a cliché, but there’s something for everyone. A final lengthy dissertation, written (perhaps a little frantically) over the summer, rounded off the MA with the first real taste of what researching and writing a PhD might be like.  It is, without doubt, a demanding year. But there are plenty of communal distractions. The New History Lab, set up and still run by postgraduate students, stages regular events that nicely bridge the scholarly and social gap, while the annual Christmas Party was a great way to meet CUH alumni as well as get-to-know your peers better.

When I finished my undergraduate degree in History in 2008 I was mostly directionless, the severity of the job market having also finally dawned. The CUH ignited my passion for research, equipped me with the right learning tools, and made me realise that my vocation was as a historian. I learned to present my ideas confidently and convincingly, both orally and in written work; to engage in debate while being open to other ways of thinking; to manage both small and large projects; and to collaborate with other students to create better work. After receiving my doctorate in October 2013 I began a three-year position as a Research Associate at King’s College London on a project covering historical pageants – a topic that had been part of my PhD research – where I now put those tools to good use.

To find out more about my work you can visit https://kcl.academia.edu/TomHulme or http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/, where I frequently blog, or follow me on Twitter https://twitter.com/TomHulme87

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