Literatures, Languages & Cultures

Breathing new life into Early Modern research

Literature and History PhD student, Thom Pritchard, talks to us about the student-run Edinburgh Early Modern Network of postgraduate students and staff.

Photo of Thom Pritchard
Thom Pritchard is a second year Literature and History PhD student

Thom Pritchard is set for a very busy year. Having just started the second year of his PhD at the University of Edinburgh, on the Caroline British Isles and the Thirty Years War, he is also celebrating the first birthday of the Edinburgh Early Modern Network which he established in the autumn of 2018.

Explaining why he started the Network, Thom says “The period roughly defined as 1453-1789 is vast and rich, and requires interdisciplinary perspectives. What better way to explore this period than through a community where ideas can be shared and friendships can be formed?!”

Having been involved in similar initiatives like the Cabinet of Curiosities at the University of York, Thom’s aim in building the Network was to foster an academic and social community of postgraduate students and staff at Edinburgh.

Developing new skills and communities

Starting a new Network is a huge undertaking, and Thom quickly realised that the administrative and creative aspects were too much for one person.

“With this in mind, I formed a committee of postgraduate students. We all have different tasks which is essential to the running of the network, for example, Julia Smith (Edinburgh College of Art) runs our Twitter feed, and Ciaran Jones (School of History, Classics and Archaeology) our Facebook page.”

“With the advice of our wider committee, I organised talks from various academics, and made sure that after these fabulous events there was the option of a wine reception, all of which was generously funded by the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.”

“Delegation and communication - including liaising with the wider postgraduate community, academics and departments to access expertise that far surpasses your own - are essential.”

A richer research experience

Asked what the Network has added to his study experience, Thom emphasises how it has expanded his horizons in and beyond the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC), enabling him to “meet brilliant students and staff, not only from LLC, but from across the wider university”.

“My own research is far richer from the conversations and recommendations I have had, indeed, I have made some amazing friends along the way.”

“Establishing the Network has been a learning curve, and although there have been natural growing pains, its development has been very rewarding.”

“In this coming year, we hope to continue to grow. We have already expanded our committee with fresh talent, and are planning more academic talks and a postgraduate conference, as well as socials such as film screenings and pub crawls of Early Modern Edinburgh pubs.”

The city of Edinburgh is steeped in Early Modern history, from the Palace of Holyrood that witnessed the bloody intrigues of the Tudors, to the University itself, founded in 1582, to name but two examples. The University's Special Collections and the resources of the National Library of Scotland offer a unique opportunity to experience documents from this fascinating period.

Thom PritchardFounder of the Edinburgh Early Modern Network

The Edinburgh Early Modern Network is an academic and social community open to postgraduate students and staff from the University of Edinburgh and beyond. Other Committee members from LLC include Eleonora Calviello and Jillian Luke, while the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies is now under the direction of Dr Fionnuala Sinclair in LLC. The Network's first event of the 2019/20 academic year is a social at Bacco Wine on Friday 20th September 2019, shortly followed by a seminar on ‘Republicanism in Mid-Sixteenth Century Italy’ by Lucinda Byatt on Wednesday 9th October 2019. If you would like to find out more about the Network's other events in 2019/20 please email the Network with your name and academic affiliation. 

Are you interested in a PhD in English Literature?

Our students benefit from a wide range of reading and discussion groups (a number of which are student led), papers by visiting speakers, ‘work-in-progress’ seminars and conferences. Our doctoral candidates also contribute to, and edit, the journal Forum.

Find out more about doing a PhD with us

Related links

Follow the Edinburgh Early Modern Network on Twitter

Like and follow the Edinburgh Early Modern Network on Facebook