Student Testimony – School of History Internship

In February, I enrolled as a Recruitment, Admissions and Communications Intern for the School of History as part of the Work-Study scheme. The work-study scheme is run by the University’s Career and Employability Service and helps students to undertake part-time work in a range of career pathways.

As I am interested in social media and communications as a career path after I graduate, the e-mail from Work-Study scheme describing this internship was incredibly attractive to me. In particular, the social media focus of the internship was what encouraged me to apply. Even better, the role is located within the School of History, the subject I am currently studying. The role has allowed me to work alongside the very people that organise and administer my course, which has increased my sense of involvement within the History department.

I believe that the experience I have gained during this internship has given me an insight into communications related jobs, and really helped me to understand that this is something that I would like to pursue. The tasks that I have carried out have been wide-ranging. From learning about the School of History’s undergraduate application process to writing content for Twitter, the variety of tasks have been interesting and engaging. I have also been able to develop my editing and creative skills by writing blog posts and newsletter articles. This is something I have never done before, and so, the internship has helped to widen my skill set. It has also been really interesting to learn about the very process that I went through in 2016 when I applied to the University of Kent. Under the ‘admissions’ part of the internship, I have been able to see behind the scenes of undergraduate admissions, by sorting through and organising applications.

For me, working (sensible hours!) alongside my studies has been incredibly valuable. I have always understood the importance of having work experience, as it has employability benefits and can help with career progression after graduation. The Recruitment, Admissions and Communication Internship role has been perfect for me, as it has given me a great opportunity to work flexibly and gain relevant work experience alongside my studies.

I have always struggled with knowing what career path I want to follow, and sometimes it feels as if everyone around you is on track and has a set career plan that they want to follow. If this sounds familiar and relatable, I would strongly encourage trying to gain work experience in areas that you enjoy, and think you might like. There are many opportunities to explore, and you might surprise yourself and find something that you enjoy and want to follow.

Molly – Third Year Undergraduate BA History

Trip to Paris, December 2018

From 11–13 December 2018, Dr. Emily Guerry led a group of twelve third -year students from her Saints, Relics, and Churches and Gothic Art modules on an exciting fieldtrip to Paris. She was joined by two of her PhD students, Mr Noah Smith and Mx Han Tame, who work as GTAs in the School of History and who provided invaluable support throughout the excursion.

Together, they visited the Basilica of Saint-Denis, the cathedrals of Notre -Dame de Paris and Notre-Dame de Chartres, and the Sainte-Chapelle to marvel at medieval design and engineering. They also went to the Musée du Louvre, Musée du Cluny, and the Cité d’Architecture et du Patrimoine to examine dozens of medieval objects crafted in wood, stone, plaster, glass, gems, gold, and ivory.

The fieldtrip was an astonishing success as it enhanced and enriched the students’ understanding of the source material through close encounters with the sites and things we examined in our modules. We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to the School of History and the University of Kent Internationalisation fund for supporting this once-in-a-lifetime educational experience for our third-year students.

Some student reports and testimonies from the trip are below:

Edward Aylott

“At the end of last term, we as a group of third-year history students were given the opportunity to visit many of the cathedrals, abbeys and churches that we have spent the last three months reading and being taught about. It was fantastic, and quite surreal to see these buildings in the flesh, and something I’m quite sure I would not have been able to do without the help of funding from the University. A particular highlight for me was out visit to Cité d’Architecture, which among other things houses a collection of plaster casts of many of France’s finest examples of medieval architecture. Seeing some of these pieces of monumental sculpture up close more than anything gave me a real sense of their truly massive scale; something that could never have been appreciated through the photographs I’d seen in books and on lecture slides. With this in mind, I’d like to thank Dr. Guerry, Rob Brown and the University for organizing this for us. It was a splendid trip that I’ll remember for some time, not to mention the great help it has had to my studies in medieval art history.”

Lydia McCutcheon

“The trip to Paris was an incredible way to end the term of studying the rise of Gothic architecture and medieval belief. Even those who had visited Paris before saw the sculpture. architecture and artwork in a new light due to knowledge acquired during the term. We were so fortunate to have the trip funded by the School of History, allowing everyone to experience medieval Paris.”

Lucy Gwyther

“The Paris trip was an amazing opportunity to experience the art and architecture which I have studied in the Art of Death, Gothic Art, and Saints, Relics and Churches modules, in real life, guided by the expertise of Dr. Emily Guerry. It gave me a clearer understanding of the scale and extraordinary detail of the work, and thus the impression it would have had on those viewing it over 700 years ago. Thank you so much to the School of History and Dr. Guerry for making this once-in-a-lifetime experience possible, and for enriching my understanding of medieval art and architecture.”

Ellen Meade

“I would like to thank the School of History for funding the field trip to Paris. It was a great asset to my studies to view so many artworks that we had studied as the trip helped me to contextualize and view in detail the spaces we have spent so long learning. Being able to visit the sites and view the decorative elements of the Cathedrals up close was a privilege I would not have been able to undertake on my own and I would like to thank the School of History for allowing me to do so.”

Gemma Downing

“The recent trip to Paris was both interesting and very beneficial for my studies. This is not only because it was fascinating to explore and study the different medieval cathedrals and churches, it aided me with my studies on the ‘Saints, Relics and Churches’ module. In particular, it allowed me to visually learn about the building that we had previously looked at in our seminars, such as the Saint-Denis, Chartres, the Notre Dame, and the Sainte-Chapelle. This was very useful to me as prior to studying ‘Saints, Relics and Churches’ I had only studied modern and social history – therefore, I found this module challenging at the start because of it’s medieval nature. Hence, I did not have a clear understanding on the history of these cathedrals, nor did I have a great understanding of their importance in the veneration of saints. Therefore, the trip to Paris allowed me to clarify my understanding of cathedrals such as Saint-Denis and the Sainte-Chapelle and expand my understanding of their importance in medieval Paris. I am very grateful for the School of History for giving us the opportunity to visit Paris, as it provided me with a new experience of Paris. This is because when I have previous visited Paris, I had only visited the Eiffel Tower and the outside of the Notre Dame. The trip therefore provided me with a new understanding of Paris and it’s medieval history.”



History Festival Lecture 2019

The School of History is delighted to invite you to attend our annual History Festival Lecture, which will take place in Darwin Lecture Theatre 1 on Wednesday 13 Februrary at 4PM, to be followed by a wine reception.

Our speaker is Professor Matthew Gabriele, who is the Chair of the Department of Religion and Culture at Viriginia Tech University. His research examines the history of religion and violence in the Middle Ages as well as the modern world. This include events and ideas such as the Crusades, apocalyptic expectation, religion, and politics. He is also a public advocate against the galvanization of Medieval Studies by members of the alt-right in America. He has contibuted a number of articles on this topic in The Washington Post and Forbes.He is also a correspondant for CNN and National Public Radio, where he reports on the interface of fascism and medievalism today.

The title of his paper is:

“’All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of ‘thing’ shall be well’: The Future of Medieval Studies”

All are welcome to attend!


Students visit historical sites in London

Our first stop was the Wellcome Collection where we had the opportunity to visit the library and the museum there. Whilst visiting the library we were given access to a selection of pieces from the Wellcome’s archive. These included medical text books and hand-written lecture notes from students of some of the ‘founding fathers’ of surgery like Joseph Lister. The star piece, however, was a letter from a student surgeon writing home to his father to ask for money, and also to complain of how hard it was becoming for the resurrection men to supply bodies for the student’s anatomical study. Luckily for us, a magnifying glass and transcripts were supplied since the letter showed that doctors’ handwriting had a long history of being awful.

The Wellcome’s museum held several exhibitions all related to medicine and the understanding of our bodies. These exhibitions demonstrated that the Wellcome’s claim to be a space for the ‘incurably curious’ didn’t lie. From a slice of a human body to a skeleton with its pelvis replaced by its skull, one exhibition provided an artistic interpretation of modern medicine. The Wellcome’s real highlight however was the ‘Medicine Man’ exhibition, displaying parts of Henry Wellcome’s collection of curiosities concerning medicine, health and the body. We were half way through our module on the history of surgery and finally the objects allowed us to see the transformation of the rough barber-surgeon to the nineteenth-century refined and professional man of surgery that we had been studying. Rows of amputation saws, forceps and enema syringes suddenly made the pre-anaesthetic operations that we had been reading about feel very close and real. Beyond surgery, the exhibition also satisfied our human fascination for all things weird. Using objects like phallic amulets with horse legs (…really) and male anti-masturbation instruments, the exhibit demonstrated that the need to understand the body from its birth to its death transcends cultures and ages. 

Our day got even stranger when, to get to our next destination, we were led through a tiny door and up flights of a tiny, wooden spiral staircase. In the attic at the top of the stairs we found the Old Operating Theatre. Part museum, part cabinet of curiosities, the Old Operating Theatre was really unique. Then, we were led into what resembled a lecture hall made entirely of wood and filed into rows looking down on to a wooden table. From the gouges in the wood it was clear that this was an operating table and that we were standing in a nineteenth-century operating theatre. It was even more clear that this was the case during the talk we were given on nineteenth century surgery. During the talk our speaker revealed that when the theatre was rediscovered underneath the floorboards workers also found a thick layer of blood-soaked sawdust. When we were told this we quickly volunteered a member of our group -Marissa- to go down to the operating table and help give a demonstration of how an amputation procedure would have been carried out before the introduction of anaesthetic and development of antisepsis. During this talk we also got the chance to handle a few surgical instruments. The lithotomy scoop in particular showed us why it was that patients preferred the fastest surgeons.

Following the talk we were able to explore the rest of the museum which included collections of surgical equipment, human remains and medicinal herbs giving us an idea of how medicine and illness had been understood in the past. By this time our day was ending and after finding out that the operating theatre and museum were in the attic of the church of the old St. Thomas’ Hospital this suddenly wasn’t a place that you wanted to be left alone in the dark in.

History at Kent Day 2018: Essay Competition

Thanks to everyone that entered our essay competition following our recent History at Kent Day. Entrants were required to write 200 words on ‘Who do you think is the most influential figure in history?’, and we received some fantastic entries!

We very much enjoyed reading all the essays, and found it very difficult to select our winners, who are listed below:

1st prize, £100 Amazon vouchers

Emily Chambers who wrote about Alice Milliat

2nd prize, £50 Amazon vouchers

William Piercy who wrote about Gavrilo Princip

3rd prize, £25 Amazon vouchers

Adam Tobin who wrote about Admiral Raymond A Spruance

Congratulations! The prizes are in the post now.

Dr Loop to lead team of professors in €10M project


The School of History’s Dr Jan Loop is set to led a team of researchers in a new project made possible by a €10 million grant from the European Research Council (ERC).

The project will investigate the impact the Qur’an had on cultural, religious and intellectual history from 1150-1850, and will produce ground-breaking research in collaboration with the universities of Madrid, Nantes and Naples.

The outcome will be academic conferences, books and a multimedia exhibition demonstrating the place the Qur’an has within European cultural history.

Dr Loop explained: ‘The Qur’an is deeply imbedded in the political and religious thought of Europe and is part of the intellectual repertoire of Medieval and Early Modern Europeans. As such, this research will question the belief that Islam is ‘foreign’ to Europe but also challenge certain Islamic fundamentalist views about the Qur’an.’

Student Blog

History student Mary Sullivan recently completed some research as part of our recent Beyond the Barricades Exhibition, which is bringing together artists from various nations, looking at different dimensions of a revolution by focusing on the concept of Barricade.


The Swing Riots

According to E. P. Thompson (1963), the wholesale enclosure of common land between 1760 and 1820 and the loss of the rights to cultivate it led to the impoverishment of the landless labourer, (especially in the south of England) who was left to ‘support the tenant-farmer, the landowner, and the tithes of the Church’.[1]  However, poor harvests, low wages and high unemployment between 1829 and 1830, led to hunger among poor agricultural workers and their families.  To add to their troubles, the Agricultural Revolution had introduced new technology such as the threshing machine which separated the grain from the stalks by beating it and thus dispensed with the need of workers to perform this task. This situation resulted in protests that started in Kent and later spread to surrounding counties and further.  They were called the Swing riots after the eponymous Captain Swing. The made-up name symbolised or represented the anger of the poor labourers in rural England who wanted a return to the pre-machine days when human labour was used. The threatening letters were sent to farmers and landowners which demanded that wages increase and which often told farmers to desist in their employment of threshing machines. Landowners and farmers also had their farm buildings and hayricks set alight.  According to Carl Griffin, who recently reassessed the origins of the disturbances in Kent, Swing first put his name to a threatening letter addressed to a farmer in Dover in early October 1830: ‘you are advised that if you doant put away your thrashing machine against Munday next you shall have a SWING’[2](on the gallows). According to Hobsbawm and Rude̒, the first of the Swing riots occurred on the night of the 28th May 1830, with the destruction of a threshing machine in Lower Hardres, near Canterbury.[3] Hobsbawm argued that in Kent, where the movement started and persisted the longest, there were five phases of action: Continue reading

Research Prize awarded to PhD student Daniel Belteki

Congratulations to PhD student Daniel Belteki, who has been awarded the Humanities Postgraduate Research Prize 2018.

The prize is based on his track record of achievements while at Kent, which includes completing a student internship at the Royal Museums Greenwich, providing assistance with research projects such as Dr Rebekah Higgitt’s Transit of Venus 1874 digitization project, organising the School’s Postgraduate Research Seminar Series this year, and his role as assistant to the Book Reviews Editor for The British Journal for the History of Science, amongst other achievements.

Daniel studies as part of The Centre for the History of the Science (CHOTS). His research focuses on the history of the Airy Transit Circle of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich – the astronomical instrument that defined the Greenwich Prime Meridian. Congratulations Daniel!

Read all about the prizes here: