Tag Archives: PhD

PhD student Charlotte Cornell launches fundraising campaign for ‘A is for Aphra’

Medieval and Early Modern Studies PhD student, Charlotte Cornell, is the Chair of ‘A is for Aphra‘, a charity fundraising for a statue of poet, novelist, playwright and spy, Aphra Behn in Canterbury.

Prior to undertaking her PhD research at the University of Kent, Charlotte studied BA English Literature at Durham University, and went onto King’s College London / Royal Academy of Dramatic Art to study an MA in Text and Performance, and holds a MSt in Creative Writing from Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge.

We caught up with Charlotte to find out more about the legendary Aphra Behn and the charity’s fundraising campaign.

Could you please tell us a bit about ‘A is for Aphra’?

We have just launched our fundraising campaign to get Aphra Behn a statue in her home city of Canterbury. We are looking to raise £80k to get a full-life bronze of this amazing glass-ceiling-smashing, feminist / LGBTQ+ icon and serious literary talent in our amazing city – we should be celebrating her incredible life and achievements.

Aphra Behn was the first professional woman writer. She was born just outside of Canterbury in 1640 but her family soon moved to the city and she grew up here. She became a spy for Charles II before becoming the most produced playwright between 1670 and her death in 1689. Her novel ‘Oronooko’ is also claimed by some to be the world’s first novel and it certainly was a key text used by the abolitionist movement, as it exposed the horrors of slavery to a white, London public in a way that art and literature had not done before. In short, she was incredible and the project is a step in honouring and cementing her legacy.

What are the aims of the fundraising mission?

Well, we need to raise a lot of money for a statue but we are starting by asking the public for any donation, however small, to begin us on that path. Please see www.aisforaphra.org to donate.

We have also issued four free lesson plans on Behn’s life and work that can be downloaded and used by any school in the world. We want to educate the public about Aphra Behn, so that she sits firmly in the public consciousness as one of the ‘Grandmothers of English Literature’ and will be running events, fundraisers and issuing more materials that will spread the word about the amazing Aphra Behn.

Could you please tell us a bit about your PhD research?

I’m doing a PhD on the first 20 years of Aphra Behn’s life. Most biographers skim over Behn’s life before her first confirmed spying mission (on the Dutch – at the same time as the Great Plague of 1665/1666). Hopefully my research will correct the early record a little bit.

You can follow A is for Aphra on Twitter @AphraStatue and also keep up with the latest on Charlotte’s work @charlocornell.

Lucy Splarn contributes her PhD research on Thomas Becket for next week’s episode of River Hunters

Medieval and Early Modern Studies PhD student, Lucy Splarn, contributes to research behind the second series of Sky History’s River Hunters and features in the upcoming episode, ‘Canterbury Murders’ on Monday 26 April at 9pm.

The six-part series sees presenter Rick Edwards and YouTube river detectorist, Beau Ouimette, swim in search for historical artefacts across unexplored rivers throughout the UK. Each episode focuses on a significant period of history in a new river, combining underwater archaeological discoveries with a splash of humour along the way.

Keep a close eye out for the Canterbury episode which airs on Monday 26 April at 9pm, where the duo glide along the clear waters of the River Stour which runs through the city centre. The Stour is an important waterway that was crossed by thousands of pilgrims visiting the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral since the late-twelfth century.

We caught up with Lucy to find out a little bit more about her PhD and how she found herself involved in the making of the show. Prior to her PhD, Lucy obtained her MA in Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Kent. Lucy shares, “I went on to work as an Archive and Library Assistant at Canterbury Cathedral, which holds an impressive collection of UNESCO historical documents dating to the 8th century, before undertaking my PhD.”

Could you tell us a little bit about your PhD research?

My research focuses on the art and iconography of medieval pilgrim souvenirs, which are tiny hand-held objects made from lead-alloy. They are usually found in rivers during archaeological excavations and  my research examines how they can provide insights into the ordinary pilgrims who once owned them.

How did your involvement in the second series of River Hunters come about?

I was invited to talk about the local collection of medieval pilgrim badges relating to Saint Thomas Becket for the upcoming Canterbury episode of River Hunters, a historical programme on Sky History where host Rick Edwards, river-searcher expert Beau Ouimette and underwater archaeologist Gary Bankhead dive into unexplored rivers to find treasures from the past. We discussed the importance of Canterbury Cathedral as a World Heritage Site, the brutal martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket, the crowds of pilgrims that travelled to the city and the pilgrim souvenirs they collected along the way.

Do you have any future exciting plans involving your research? 

I plan to work closely with the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge in Canterbury ahead of their upcoming Thomas Becket exhibition due to open on 29 May 2021, where some of the local collection of pilgrim badges will be on display. You can also take a listen to a short discussion I had with Mitch Robertson, Programming & Collections Manager at the Beaney for a new behind-the-scenes feature on BBC Radio Kent with Dominic King. Read about Becket pilgrim souvenirs on Canterbury Cathedral’s Picture This blog series.

Tune in to River Hunters episode 4, ‘Canterbury Murder (Henry II and Thomas Becket)’ on Monday 26th April at 9pm.

If you’re interested in following Lucy’s research, you can find her on Twitter @LucySplarn.

IMAGE: Medieval pilgrim souvenirs. Image reproduced courtesy of Canterbury Museums and Galleries

PhD student, Graeme Millen, contributes to BBC Radio Scotland’s ‘Scotland and the Low Countries’ programme

PhD student, Graeme Millen, has contributed to two upcoming episodes of BBC Radio Scotland’s ‘Scotland and the Low Countries’ programme: ‘Will Ye Go tae Flanders?’ and ‘The Scots Dutchmen’. During the shows, Graeme discusses the Scots-Dutch Brigade and the importance of the Netherlands as a destination for Scottish military migration.

Graeme explains, “It’s long been understood that the Low Countries were an important destination for migrating Scots for all sorts of purposes, from education to economic to religious. We discussed the Brigade not just as a destination for migrants but as an active community of Scots who could and did have impacts upon the homeland. My own research has illustrated that the military migration of Scots was not just a one way street their participation helping to change the country’s political direction in 1689 by acting as the military vanguard of William’s fledgling Government and the Scottish Revolution.”

We caught up with Graeme to find out more about his PhD research and how this opportunity came about.

What is the focus of your PhD research?

My PhD thesis is entitled ‘The Scots-Dutch Brigade and the Highland War, 1689-91’ and examines the return of said Brigade, a unit of Scots in the Dutch Army, to Scotland in 1689. In the aftermath of the Revolution of 1688, divisions over the Royal succession were split between the reigning King James II & VII and his Protestant son-in-law and daughter, Prince William of Orange and Mary Stuart. This tumultuous shift in England, where James was considered to have abdicated the throne by fleeing to France, sparked divisions in Scotland. A constitutional assembly, the Convention of Estates, was elected to decide the issue. However, when James’ supporters realised they had been politically outmanoeuvred, a small group of loyalists led by John Graham 1st Viscount Dundee, took the decision to leave and raise an army from amongst sympathetic Highland Clans. So began the Highland War, or First Jacobite Rising, – a civil war which would only last three years but the impact of which would be felt throughout Scotland for decades to come, with subsequent Jacobite Risings occurring in 1715, 1719 and, most famously, 1745.

Reinvigorating the study of the short, but crucial, war during a tumultuous period of British and European history my thesis examines the Highland War through the eyes of the Scots-Dutch officers centrally involved in combatting the Jacobites. The thesis reappraises the war chronologically examining the different stages of the conflict through the role of the Scots-Dutch Brigade, who provided a nucleus of experienced officers to William’s nascent Scottish Army. Furthermore, I tackle less travelled areas such as the martial identity of the Brigade during the conflict, via the underused memoir of the unit’s commander Major-General Hugh Mackay, and the supply and financing of the war effort.

How did your contribution to the BBC Radio Scotland programme come about?

My contribution came about when I was approached by Scottish broadcaster and cultural commentator, Billy Kay, last August. Having been plugging away at my thesis for the last 3-4 years, I’ve built a small following on Twitter by posting wee tasters of my research for a broader audience. Billy heard about my research, the Brigade having been long neglected in Scottish historiography, from various Scottish early modern historians some of whom also contributed to the programme! Coming from Glasgow, I’ve been able to base myself up here, particularly for the latter half of my PhD, and actively participate in many conferences and events over the years; I guess that’s allowed me to network, making connections and promoting my research here!

If you are interested in following Graeme’s work, you can follow him on Twitter. ‘Will Ye Go tae Flanders?’ will air on 2 April and ‘The Scots Dutchmen’ will air on 5 April.