An Epistle to my Dear Readers concerning some matters personal and professional

My Dearest Readers,

Perhaps an explanation for my long absence is necessary.

The final few months of grad school were pretty intense and I worked extremely hard. My academic internship was over and I let the blog slide into near oblivion as I focused on my dissertation. I was examining disputes among medical professionals at the end of the eighteenth century, and through these disputes was attempting to understand the conflicting cultures of medicine in London and Edinburgh during that time. I traveled across the UK to do research, I spent ages with secondary sources, I was in contact with scholars on two continents, I located untapped primary sources, and I studied sociological aspects of business and the professions and incorporated ideas from that into what I considered to be a pretty great dissertation. I got up early and stayed up late and I really did enjoy the entire experience. However, despite the amount of effort I put into that final piece of work – the dissertation – I still managed to come out just under the requirements for a Distinction, while certain among my classmates simply sat down a day or two before it was due, typed something up, and were rewarded with a Distinction. Ouch.

And so, after finishing my MSc with less than glowing marks (marks that included a scathing review from one of the graders), I was extremely disappointed in myself and spent a few months really not getting anything accomplished. I still haunted my favourite places in Edinburgh: dozens of hours were spent in the National Library of Scotland (NLS), my favourite coffee shop always knew what I was going to order as soon as I walked in the door, the Portrait Gallery and National Museum of Scotland became a sort of haven in which I could wander around my favourite collections, worrying about everything without the danger of bumping into anyone I knew. I applied for about 50 jobs, not a single one of which even led to an interview, had to move house twice, had a medical crisis that landed me in the hospital and then on a month of heavy antibiotics, and somehow still managed to drink a bottle (or so) of wine several times a week. And then, in deep, damp, dark, dreary, bitter December, on top of everything else, I got my heart completely and totally broken.

Needless to say, none of this helped with the self-loathing I was experiencing.

This was the point at which I realised I had to do something or risk the distinct possibility that I might never stop crying. I find that I am happiest when neck-deep in a research project, and I really needed to do something to make myself happy, so I decided to do two things: 1) ask my teacher turned colleague (and friend!) Adam if I could be a part of the amazing project on Andrew Millar that he is undertaking, and 2) apply for a PhD. Asking Adam was the easy part. He agreed wholeheartedly and I just had to figure a way to acquire a new visa. This isn’t an easy task but I happened upon a 6 month visa that I qualified for and so began that interminably long, tedious, and expensive process of getting a visa. But that was almost an aside, the PhD application was my main focus. As with the dissertation, I put everything into the PhD application. I contacted old teachers at Edinburgh to see if they had leads on projects that I might apply specifically to, or who I might talk to about my particular interests. I eventually ended up, via a rather circuitous trail of people, in Steve Sturdy’s office in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, talking about eighteenth and nineteenth century medical education in Britain. It was fantastic. He happily agreed to support me and take me on as a potential student, and recommended a couple different paths my research might take. So I applied. Applying for a PhD is a bit like writing a dissertation combined with a business proposal, and I spent the majority of my time in NLS scouring resources, making timetables, and daydreaming about all the fun and amazing things I could organise through the University.

Meanwhile, my visa and passport were both expiring so I had to head back to Colorado. This departure coincided (coincidentally) with the day that my PhD application and several funding applications were due. Although it was a tight schedule I managed to submit everything on time and board my flight to Colorado, where I spend a pleasant, if incredibly snowy, couple of months at home in the Rocky Mountains. During this time I simply waited for all these various things to either come through or not as pretty much everything was out of my hands. This is a frustratingly helpless position to be in but I was happy for the time with my family and old friends and I spent a great deal of time in front of the fireplace with my Kindle and crossword puzzles (an addiction I indulge in from time to time). The new passport was the first thing to come through, followed by a letter of acceptance for the PhD programme (eek!!), and finally my new UK visa.

I was back in Edinburgh and working on the Millar Project within 3 weeks.


From this point on the blog will be mostly about my work as Research Assistant on the AHRC funded Millar Project. I promise you will hear plenty about the project, but as this is my blog, and I was absent from it for so long, I wanted to lay out what had happened in the interim. As much for my own sake as yours, dear reader.

Fondly, and with kindest regards to your well being and unending happiness,

The Tagalong Historian


One comment

  1. I’m certainly very pleased that you’re back in Blighty and being so positive about Adam’s project. You’ve clearly had a few little hurdles en route but these are firmly in the past. I’m delighted that your PhD proposal has been accepted. You’re now back in an environment which you enjoy and working on a fascinating project. This is wonderful news. All Best Wishes for your new academic life, Alastair

    PS It’s funny, but totally unsurprising that my disapproving spell check doesn’t recognise “Blighty”. Very “de nos jours”! Nor does it recognise “de nos jours”!

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