I’m still unsure myself what the title of my postgraduate dissertation will be – but, at the moment, the most enjoyable part of doing a Masters is having the complete freedom, if not infinite time, to decide. My undergraduate degree was English and History, so this year I was really drawn to research an area of History which would make use of the expertise I’ve gained from both subjects.
I decided to focus on travel and colonisation in the early modern period, in particular how these experiences and themes can be explored in popular culture. So far I’ve been making use of the diverse print sources which survive from this period – including published travel accounts written by those that explored the New World, descriptions that survive of court masques which toyed with contemporary ideas of empire, as well as plays about colonisation, such as The Tempest. These sources appeal to me most because I get to further explore my interests in language and literature; which, I’ll admit, is a relic from my undergraduate study that I’m finding hard to give up.
I’m hoping to conclude my research – though I’m far from this point yet – by making light of the ways that ideas about the New World were transported across Europe, as well as how they were consumed and interpreted by contemporaries. For the moment I’m still doing secondary reading to gain a better understanding of the historiography of this field, and also determine whether there are unanswered questions for me to investigate. A good amount of early modern print sources are available online, but I would love to make a trip to the British Library and Museum in the future to paw over original travel accounts, and perhaps even view objects that were collected by travellers from the New World.