Undergraduate Dissertation Showcase (2021)

Friday 11 June: 10am-4.15pm

In June 2021 the East Midlands Centre for Learning and Teaching ran the annual dissertation showcase. This event brings together students from across the East Midlands to present their findings from their undergraduate dissertations.  This event enables our students to share their research with a wider audience and to give them an experience of speaking at an academic conference. Due to ongoing restrictions, the event was virtual, but this did not limit engagement with the showcase – we had over twenty speakers covering topics from the eighth century to the present day. The quality of the papers was excellent and reflects the hard work that History students put into their individual research projects.  Below some of the speakers reflect on their experience of speaking at the event:

Elizabeth Reilly (University of Nottingham)  A Fourteenth Century Theatre State? Politics, Performance, and Power in the Reign of Richard II.

In June 2021 I was fortunate to be amongst several students selected by the East Midlands Centre for History Learning and Teaching to present the findings of my undergraduate dissertation, ‘A Fourteenth Century Theatre State? Politics, Performance, and Power in the Reign of Richard II’. My interdisciplinary study focused upon the revision of an anthropological model posited by Clifford Geertz in 1980, and its application to the crucial moments of the king’s reign. The forum provided a rare opportunity to share the resonance of my work and the possibilities for future research with a group of other undergraduate students and academics from across the East Midlands. In turn, I also had the pleasure of witnessing some fascinating presentations on a whole host of topics from sodomy in eighteenth century literature to the connection between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and the 1960s comedic scene. The event was one of vibrant and varied discussion that not only gave me the chance to develop my own rhetorical and presentational skills, but an exciting insight into the future of historical research in the region. 

James Adams (University of Leicester) ‘That abominable Vice’: Popular Literature and Perceptions of Sodomy in the Long Eighteenth Century.

My paper, ‘That abominable Vice’: Popular Literature and Perceptions of Sodomy in the Long Eighteenth Century’, focusses on perspectives of same-sex intercourse through the lens of eighteenth-century popular literature. It explores how language was utilised to articulate hostility and to affirm the restrictions society placed on sexual and gender non-conformity. It illustrates that language was a key part in expressing views of sodomy at this time, and that its use changed and evolved as sensibilities themselves developed.

The opportunity to present my findings was an invaluable experience. It helped me to further develop important academic skills that I hope to further add to in the future. Speaking to an audience helped to boost my confidence, and also gave me the opportunity to get to know the process of preparing a talk and other professional interactions.

The Q&A session at the end, although daunting, really tested my knowledge and gave me a great opportunity to put all that I’ve learned over my three years at university into practice. It really was a great way of allowing my enthusiasm for my research to come out, and to try and share this enthusiasm to other academics and students.

James Smith (University of Derby) ‘Crisis, What Crisis?’ The Callaghan government and the rod to Thatcherism.

My paper formed a study of the James Callaghan government, arguing that the project known as Thatcherism was launched in primitive form by her Prime Ministerial predecessor, and at a time of necessary modernisation the failure of the Labour Party to develop a compelling vision for the future cleared the stage for Margaret Thatcher and her New Right agenda.  My arguments were contextualised primarily against the IMF crisis and the Winter of Discontent which contributed significantly to the decline of Labour’s political capital and created an environment in which Thatcherism was reluctantly adopted by the electorate as the only viable approach. 

The opportunity to present my paper was an overwhelmingly positive experience. I was able to discuss the main themes of the paper and received a number of insightful questions and discussion points that lent fresh perspective to my project. It also served as a chance to build confidence and experience of speaking publicly within an academic forum. An additional benefit was the exposure to the fantastic work produced by others. Hugely impressive papers were showcased and the range of varied themes and approaches served as a reminder of the diversity and richness of the historical discipline.

Bilaal Takoliya (University of Leicester) The responses of Sayyed Ahmed Khan and Muhammad Iqbal to western modernity and their solutions for the Muslim community of colonial India.

The British Empire brought the waves of western modernity to Colonial India. With it, she brought huge epistemological, social and political challenges, and it was the Muslim community who suffered most with her arrival. In 1869, the Muslim Scholar, Sayyed Ahmed Khan, travelled to England to analyse this new world power. In 1905, another, Muhammed Iqbal, did the same. This dissertation looked to analyse the responses of both scholars to western modernity and identify their solutions for the Muslim community. Upon doing so, it looked to go further, analysing how and why each scholar came to their conclusion. My research found that Khan was mostly accepting of western modernity calling for the Muslim community to emulate the British. Iqbal, however, was more sceptical, espousing and excoriating the west in equal measure. I argued that the meaning and manifestation of modernity in Khan’s time and in Iqbal’s time were distinctly different having considerable influence on their responses. 

I thoroughly enjoyed presenting my dissertation to the East Midlands Centre for Teaching and Learning. It refined my ability to communicate, verbally and non-verbally, academic content to a varied audience. It also allowed me to express and discuss my findings with colleagues and professors throughout the Midlands who are specialists in their respective fields. 

Megan Stacey (University of Lincoln) ‘You are dealing with a very insecure, sensitive man with a huge ego’: The Impact of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Emotional Capacity from 1937-1973

I recently took part in the East Midlands Dissertation Showcase where I learnt about the dissertations of other History undergraduates and presented my own research. Particularly as I feel that my presentation skills could use improvement, this was a chance to put them into practice by discussing a topic I had a keen interest in.

The topic I chose was centred around the presidency of Lyndon Baines Johnson. I drew attention to the significance of Johnson’s volatile emotional capacity and how this governed his actions, both favourably and adversely, using an emotional history method. This demonstrated that Johnson was an emotionally tremulous individual whose shifting emotional capacity heavily influenced not only his political decisions, but his overall life.

Having the opportunity to deliver these findings to a group of fellow history enthusiasts was a brilliant opportunity. I really enjoyed discussing my dissertation and then hearing about the variety of other subjects that had been researched. I would like to thank all the organisers of the East Midlands Dissertation Showcase and to all of those who attended for such a fantastic day.

Megan Stacey’s dissertation on The Impact of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Emotional Capacity from 1937-1973.

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