Monthly Archives: February 2022

Graduate profile: George Knight (MA Medieval and Early Modern Studies)

“I loved the passion that was apparent in both the students and staff, and the close working relationships that I could have with my lecturers.”

What are you doing now?

After graduating from my BA in History, I went on to complete an MA in Medieval and Early Modern Studies with the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS) at Kent, which was undertaken with the Centre’s annual scholarship. Through the connections made during my MA, I was able to get onto a training program with Canterbury Archaeological Trust (CAT), where I am currently working as a newly qualified Archaeologist.

Whilst studying for my MA, I helped co-organise ‘MEMS Festival’, an annual academic conference and began working as a co-administrator for ‘MEMSLib’, an initiative that aims to collate digital resources for medieval and early modern study; both projects are hosted by MEMS at Kent. I have also volunteered in Canterbury Cathedral Archive, which has been done in tandem with my MA research on the 13th century manuscripts of Canterbury’s Christ Church Priory.

What attracted you to your course, and to Kent?

When I was applying, I was always advised to prioritise the course content above other factors. I was impressed by Kent’s diverse range of modules, ranging from ancient, to medieval and modern, and since I wanted to get a broad perspective, the course seemed perfect for me. I thoroughly enjoyed honing my interest in the medieval period by experiencing such a diverse curriculum.

In addition, I loved Kent’s campus and community. Being a dyslexic student, the ethos and sense of engagement I felt on the open days was incredibly influential in my final decision. I loved the passion that was apparent in both the students and staff, and the close working relationships that I could have with my lecturers. If you want to learn more about my experience of studying with dyslexia at University, then I encourage you to listen to my article recently recorded for MEMSLib.

Which aspects of your degree did you enjoy the most, and why?

I personally loved the researching and academic communities I found at Kent. I loved the range of materials that were presented to me and the interactions with fellow students; it really felt like I was working in a dynamic learning environment where we could explore the ideas that had formed historical study. As I gained confidence and became more proficient in my work, I found that my lecturers recognized my strengths and encouraged me to go further with my work. It is down to their guidance that I decided to pursue my MA and current job in archaeology.

What impressed you most about our academic staff?

I loved how open, interdisciplinary, and engaging they were. I felt in my classes that I was interacting deeply with the literature presented and I relished the avenues of opportunities and feedback my lecturers gave me. I personally consider Dr Barbara Bombi, Dr Emily Guerry and Dr Edward Roberts as key influences in helping me decide to pursue my passion for history. Their enthusiasm and support were truly inspiring, and especially helpful when my dissertation research was hindered during the pandemic. Having gone on to work with them further in my MA, and now also in Canterbury’s thriving heritage community, I can honestly say I consider them as more than just admired colleagues and mentors, but also as good friends.

Are there any aspects of your degrees which have influenced your career?

If I had to highlight the most crucial skills, they would be the abilities to research, write and critically engage. I have applied these talents in all areas of my professional life, even beyond the heritage sector, and they have benefited me in every project I have been involved with thus far. Most notably, they gave me the ability to write my MA dissertation on Christ Church Priory’s medieval cartulary ‘Register E’ – a project I am especially proud of as it has been recognised by Canterbury Cathedral Archive and which will likely form the basis for my first published academic article.

“These opportunities gave me invaluable insight into the realities of modern industry and helped solidify my desire and confidence to work in the heritage sector.”

Did you undertake any work experience whilst at Kent?

My primary extra-curricular activity alongside my degree was with InQuire Media, Kent’s student publication. I began as a writer and then was subsequently elected as Head of Marketing and then Editor-in-Chief. In these roles, I managed the production of a bi-weekly newspaper and nearly 160 student volunteers. During my tenure, we received numerous awards from the SPA and BBC. Not only did this opportunity develop my writing and management skills, but it also gave me experience with industry standard tools and introduced me to so many amazing people. If you would like to learn more about my time with InQuire at Kent, then please read my profile about my experience with the University.

In addition, I also heavily utilised Kent’s ‘Employability Points Scheme.’ Through the scheme, I undertook an archival work experience with the Royal Engineers Museum (read the case study here) and then two marketing internships, first with a confectionary company, and then with the digital marketing agency Reflect Digital (read the case study here). These opportunities gave me invaluable insight into the realities of modern industry and helped solidify my desire and confidence to work in the heritage sector.

Could you describe a typical day in your current role?

No two days are the same as an archaeologist. I specifically work as a commercial field archaeologist, which means I am one amongst a team assigned to excavate and record any potentially historic features on a site before any development, usually construction, takes place.

Where and what I’ll be doing varies dependent upon each project. I could be assigned to a major development that will require numerous staff for several weeks or months, with potentially thousands of archaeological finds and features; or I could also be assigned to very small projects which could just be myself, a supervisor and external contractors which will only last a few days, and which will have very few finds. In addition, I could also be working in CAT’s offices, either processing (which often means washing and archiving) finds brought from site or aiding with the collation of the paper records, which will often be used for reports, research, or publication.

What is your favourite memory of Kent?

There are honestly too many memories to recount, but if I had to recall some they would be; 1) having a farewell barbeque with my Park Wood house at the end of my first year; 2) the summer balls, both in 2018 and 2019; 3) seeing my own article on the front page of the InQuire newspaper and subsequently discovering it was our most quickly picked up edition within memory.

“Once you’ve arrived, take advantage of every opportunity given.”

What advice would you give to somebody thinking of coming to Kent?

Rigorously investigate all the aspects of the course. Look at who is teaching and what you’ll be learning. Consider if the content and assignments are something you will find engaging and developmental. Take the time to contemplate what it is you want to get out of your degree and apply that in your application. Then, once you’ve arrived, take advantage of every opportunity given and ‘drink deep from the Pierian Spring.’

Also, take the time to properly consider the other aspects of University life. Although your degree should be your top priority, you will also be living and working at Kent. What extra-curricular opportunities do you want to explore? What other skills do you want to develop? The answers to these and other questions will not be immediately apparent, but they are important to think about going forward.

How would you describe your time at Kent in three words?

Inspiring, transformative, unforgettable.

Are you currently working on any interesting projects that you would like to tell us a bit more about?

Personally, I have written an article and filmed a talk for Canterbury Cathedral’s ‘Picture This’ series and MEMS Festival 2021 on a 15th century pilgrim guide. I also an administrator for MEMSLib which I highly recommend to any doing research into medieval and early modern materials, or indeed anyone interested in historical research.

As an employee of CAT, I must highlight their new project ‘Unlocking Our Past’, which has recently been developed with a grant from Historic England. This project showcases numerous historical objects found by the Trust over the last 50 years and gives a detailed, yet accessible insight into the rich history of Kent.

Students join in hybrid field trip in Paris

The Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS) offers its MA students the unique opportunity to study in both Canterbury AND Paris. Some of optional modules, including ‘Gothic Architecture,’ are taught across both sites – the Gothic style emerged in Paris around the mid-twelfth century and continued to develop in Canterbury.

Dr Emily Guerry, module convenor of ‘Gothic Architecture’, is using a Go Pro to help with the delivery of her seminars this term. Due to ongoing public health concerns, the use of a Go Pro enables her to simultaneously live-stream all Gothic site visits for hybrid teaching. This method allows the Gothic field trips to be accessible if anyone needs to shield.

On Monday 31 January, the Gothic MA students enjoyed their first field trip to the basilica of Saint-Denis, built from 1137–1144 under the aegis of Abbot Suger (d.1151). Six staff and students joined in-person and six joined virtually for this exciting examination of the ‘first’ Gothic project.

Lou Docherty, a MA student based in Paris, reports on the experience of visiting this “Gothic masterpiece” in the late January sunshine:

A photograph of

The basilica of Saint-Denis

“We began outside Abbot Suger’s magnificent tripartite doors which, while imposing today, would have originally been made of bronze. The façade of the Basilica had recently been cleaned, giving us the amazing opportunity to see it as it would have been when Abbot Suger oversaw the creation of this Gothic masterpiece in the 12th Century. The central tympanum depicts the Last Judgment, with Christ enthroned in Heaven while bodies resurrect from their graves on the lintel below.

“I particularly enjoyed seeing the image of the resurrection of Suger, the patron, positioned in the lintel as the first to be resurrected (and as the closest to Christ’s nail-wounded foot), alongside an inscription in Latin that calls for his plea to be “numbered among [Christ’s] sheep.

Two photographs of the entrance of the basilica Saint-Denis

The basilica of Saint-Denis’ tripartite doors and tympanum.

“Walking into the church and through the nave, one of my favourite encounters of the day was the sight of the rose windows in the north and south transepts, which have been beautifully restored since 2015 and looked radiant thanks to the winter sunshine! I also enjoyed walking around the Merovingian crypt of the Basilique, where we saw a sea of sarcophagi that once surrounded the martyrium of Saint Denis, the patron saint of the kings of France.

An image of the rose windows and the martyrium of Saint-Denis

The one of the basilica’s rose windows and the martyrium of Saint-Denis.

“We then explored the other major Gothic initiative led by Abbot Suger: The rib-vaulted chevet in the east end, which would have surrounded the new location for the Gothic shrine of Saint Denis. By bringing the martyr’s relics out of the darkness of the crypt and into the light of a new Gothic choir, it glorified the devotional experience. This translatio, according to Suger in his writings On the Administration of the abbey in his time, also accommodated health and safety concerns; he explained that feast days, the small crypt would be so crowded that women would be run on top of men’s heads in attempt to see and touch the sacred relics of Saint Denis.

“Suger’s chevet has elements that typify Gothic architecture, with long, inter-connected, spider-like ribs that lift the weight of the walls and allow for colourful stained glass to fill the surrounding vertical space. In one of the windows, showing the earliest-known representation of the Tree of Jesse in glass, Abbot Suger (once again!) inserted himself into the sacred scene. He appears in the lower right-hand corner of the lancet, holding a miniature version of this very window.

An image of Abbot Suger's chevet, with characteristically Gothic arched vaults and vertical stained-glass windows.

Abbot Suger’s chevet, with characteristically Gothic arched vaults and vertical stained-glass windows.

“Finally, as a lover of royal history, it was amazing to see so many tombs of French kings and queens as Saint-Denis served as the royal necropolis seventh until the nineteenth centuries. The early modern transi cadaver tombs of Henri II and Catherine de Medici and Louis XII and Anne of Brittany were thrilling to see in person. Life-like effigies of their decaying, naked bodies lie in state below idealised statues of the pairs of rulers at prayer, facing the shrine of Saint Denis.

“Overall, it was an enriching visit lead by Dr Guerry, who made the whole tour interesting and even funny in places. If you have the opportunity to visit the Basilique de Saint-Denis I highly recommend it, not just for the history but also for the beauty.”