When did you first become interested in history and why?
Well, I guess growing up I was always very interested in history. I used to visit my grandparents in Wales and we used to often go to the castles and get read stories about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. So growing up I was quite interested in medieval history. But obviously now I’m a modernist – I don’t know when that interest started really; but yes, from an early age.
What brought you to Manchester?
Well I already lived in Manchester before I started my job. The opportunity came up and it’s a great university, a great department, and it was a good fit with my research interests and my background. I was fortunate enough to get the job so I’m very happy to be here. I was in the right place at the right time I think.
What is your current research on and what modules will you be teaching this year?
I’m teaching a number of courses, mostly about modern British history: social, cultural and economic. I am teaching ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ for second years. I’m also teaching a first year course about modern British economic history, a number of MA courses as well, and my new third year special module will be about Victorian print culture and politics, which is my main research interest. I’ve just completed a book, coming out with Manchester University Press next year, about how portraiture and visual imagery was used by political movements, parties and politicians.
If you could offer some advice to early career postgraduates looking to work in academia, what would it be?
I gave a talk about this last year at my old college, Queen Mary in London, and there were a number of things really. One is to be positive, but also to think of a way you can sell your research in a couple of sentences to show why it’s important. I think if you can do that, it can help.
Also, don’t be afraid to approach people who you might not know personally. If there’s someone whose work you admire I think you should e-mail them, and perhaps try to arrange to meet them. That’s a good way of making contacts. Obviously there are also various academic social media things now: acadmia.edu and so on. Sometimes those people are very busy, like these big professors, but they’re often happy to see you, or to meet up, or to share ideas if you give them a bit of time. They could even read some of your work. I think that’s something I did, and it is worth doing.