October 2011

Well, probably not the best week ever.  Discovering that someone else is allegedly working on pretty much the same topic that you were going to investigate isn’t ideal.  In fact, it’s something of a body blow.  It shows, I suppose, that the topic was worth investigating.  It seems that  in terms of the work, my supervisors happened to be right to have their doubts, but they had the wrong ones!  But the upshot is the same:  I am almost certainly left with no PhD topic to work on…   I need to find something else.  So somewhere along the way, you can expect this blog to morph into that something else, whatever it may turn out to be.

This afternoon I spent looking through the catalogues of local archive collections, and trawling around EEBO and Electronic Enlightenment in the hope of finding something to hang my PhD round.

More successful things to report are the fact that I’ve managed to get myself onto a Spanish course, for three hours weekly on a Tuesday evening.  It was good fun, and a bit more of it came back to me than I was expecting, so hopefully I might make a bit more progress this time.  Also, this morning I went on the library’s Endnote course.  Endnote is referencing software.   It looks as if it, or something like it, might be quite useful.  If I ever find a topic to write about.

Before I discovered yesterday about the huge problem with my topic, I had read Judith Richards’s article on ‘Gendering Tudor Monarchy’ and John Edwards’s book Mary I.  Neither did I find wholly satisfactory.  Not as unsatisfactory, however, as finding a dead mouse under my desk at the course this morning.

…and this is them:

This is me:



The Dynamics of Persecution Under King Philip and Queen Mary was intended to take the burning of protestant martyrs in their reign as a whole, but from the point of view of the martyrs really, rather than the state.  I would argue that the research so far in this area has been state-centred, looking at the persecution in terms of what it did for the state; how it reflected the monarchy’s aims. I wanted to look in more depth at whether the majority of the burnings were initiated from the bottom up, as I suspect.  Only a few of the martyrs were major players in the Edwardine church.  What about the rest of them?  There’s no denying that they must have held fast to their beliefs, which basically meant for most of them that they refused to accept the catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.  But why were people in certain areas burned and other areas not?

The thesis was also intended to look at the restoration of the medieval heresy laws, the show trials of Cranmer and the other protestant leaders, and the influence of the Spanish contingent at court.

Why are they the ‘Marian Martyrs’?  Why is she ‘Bloody Mary’ when there is never any mention of Philip?  How has Philip been written out of our consciousness so that if we know him at all, we only know him as the man who launched the Armada against Elizabeth I?

And why ‘Under King Philip and Queen Mary’?  Because that’s how they referred to themselves.

Well, that’s certainly a good question.  Today does feel like it’s been a waste of time: a couple of emails sent; a couple of books ordered through inter-library loans; tracing some documents to the British Library; reading (well, skimming) a couple of hundred pages on early modern class and hierarchy for a seminar on Tuesday; re-doing a palaeography exercise on the National Archives website that I did about 6 months ago.  All a bit soul destroying really, when what I want to do is get on with my secondary reading for my project itself.

On Tuesday I attended the tutorial on early modern economic history, then a training course on planning my research (during which I probably did as much planning as I’m ever going to do), then I went and did an hour’s reading before heading off to the postgraduate seminar, this week on the Quaker ambulances in the Second World War.    Wednesday and Monday I spent at home reading, and yesterday I had my first official supervision meeting.  I tried to explain my research project to my two supervisors but I’m not convinced that they are fully behind the idea.  I had planned to use HGIS to map the distribution of the burnings, and to help plot any hot spots and investigate their connexions, but my new supervisors think that it’s likely to be a distraction rather than a help.  I’d intended to look at the Spanish influence, but I think my supervisors think that it doesn’t fit with the rest of the project and they are worried about the availability of source material.  To be frank, they think there might not be any.  They’ve got other ideas I could look into, but in the first instance I’m going to try to pursue what I first intended to, which means I have to locate the sources to convince them that the project is achievable.


So the plan for today is to prepare for a seminar on Tuesday, do a bit of singing, have a(nother) look at the National Archive palaeography exercises and start the background reading that my new supervisor has set.  I have to email a contact about the location of some of my source material too.  Oh, and I must not to panic about fitting everything in around my son’s birthday on Sunday and birthday party on Monday.

This PhD has been a long time coming.  I started thinking about it two years ago, when my youngest son started pre-school.  I suppose I should make it clear right from the start that I’m not your average twenty-something graduate student.  I’m in my mid-thirties (‘an early-summer chicken’ was how a friend recently described me), I graduated 15 years ago and after a few different jobs, I spent 8 years at home looking after my children.  Eight years ago, there was only one; now there are three.  Nor do I have the MA that most people seem to think is the only legitimate way onto a PhD course.

And this PhD, when I started thinking about it two years ago, wasn’t going to be this PhD.  It wasn’t going to be Philip and Mary.  It was going to be something entirely different.  I’m not sure what, exactly, but without the help of the man who was going to be my supervisor, it wouldn’t have happened in any shape or form, and certainly not in the shape it is supposed to be taking now.

I’m supposed to be studying ‘The Dynamics of Religious Persecution Under King Philip and Queen Mary’.  That’s the Spanish Philip who (later) launched the Armada against Elizabeth I, and Elizabeth’s elder sister, Mary Tudor, who was the daughter of Catherine of Aragon and became known as Bloody Mary.  I’m intending to look at the way the persecution of protestants took off in their short reign.  A bit like the witch trials.  Anyway, there’s plenty of time to say more about that later.

But, as usual in my life, things haven’t gone exactly according to plan.  I arrived for my induction day, full of enthusiasm, to find that my supervisor is on medical leave, and frantic arrangements had to be made to find me a replacement.  As there is no-one in the same field at my university, they’ve had to look externally, which I have come to terms with although it was something of a surprise.  I’ve known my intended supervisor since I was an undergraduate, and really my main concern is that he recovers fully, but nevertheless, it’s left me in a slightly awkward place.

I had my first meeting with my supervisory team today, and I think it would be fair to say that they have misgivings about the research proposal that I had developed with my intended supervisor and are quietly trying to prepare me for possible changes.  Oh well.  One way or the other I’ll get there.