HANNAH PARKER and LAURA DOAK
History: The Journal of the Historical Association is currently looking for a new ECR Editorial Intern to maintain this site and develop the journal’s online presence. Here, Hannah Parker (intern for 2019-2020) and Laura Doak (current intern) discuss their time with History. If you are an early career historian and would like to apply for this year’s internship, you can find full details by visiting the position description page of our website. The intern will receive a £2000 stipend, generously provided by the Historical Association.
Laura: So, it seems like the pressure is now on for me to hand over all of the History website admin in as organised a way as you did for me!
Hannah: I am not sure if it was ‘organised’ as much as ‘a rambling collection of how-tos’ but I’m glad you found it helpful! It is nerve-wracking handing everything over when you’ve taken such care over it. You did a great job this year though – really glad the handover has put us in touch!
Laura: I know I still have a few months left, but this year has absolutely flown by. I have loved working so closely with the journal and I’m really glad to stay on as a member of the ECR Editorial Board. What did you enjoy about your time as History intern?
Hannah: The time really does move quickly! Building and launching the website was a real highlight – it was great to be able to make something out of nothing, and the reception was great. I really liked working with so many interesting people too, and learning more about what everyone’s been working on. I also really appreciated the balance of autonomy and support that the Journal offered – Becky Taylor (as Editor-in-Chief) and the ECR board.
I felt a real sense of ownership over what I was able to do with the website, whilst also being able to contact any of the Board for advice or practical support. I think this is quite rare! And it’s meant that we’ve all stayed in touch quite naturally after my fellowship ended. And while the PhD and ECR experience can cause you to second-guess yourself, being part of the journal and ECR board definitely helped me build confidence in what I was doing. What about you, what did you like the most?
Laura: Something I’ve really enjoyed is getting to dip into so many different areas – I’ve been able to work alongside and have great conversations with people from all over the world studying so many different places, periods, approaches… Being able to find common methodological or thematic ground with those working on subjects so different from my own has been great. It takes you back to some of the bigger questions about history as a discipline – and I think I really needed that after narrowing down so much to get my PhD thesis finished!
Hannah: Yeah that’s a great point! I really learnt a lot from everyone else’s work, which was a lot of fun, and I really liked curating the site and finding common threads between work on vastly different times and places. In the same vein, though, trying to balance the thematic and chronological arrangement of work to showcase was pretty tricky, as life means that it’s not always possible to predict when pieces come in. Which is often great, because someone will get in touch out of the blue with a fantastic idea, which was really exciting! Another thing I really enjoyed about the role was when people got in touch with the seeds of ideas, and being able to help them work it up into a full piece.
Laura: The way submission dates move about can be a bit challenging! But even that can also be nice, it’s good to be reminded that history as a discipline is something that’s ongoing, “alive” if you will; something always being written and better understood rather than something already written down and ‘final’.
Hannah: Yeah definitely. And now that you mention it, having the independence to reach out to authors and suspend deadlines once the pandemic hit was very important to me. I think also the flexibility in the schedule actually encouraged me to make new connections between the pieces being published alongside each other, and probably sparked some new ideas for me.
Laura: I know that both our tenures with the journal were also affected by Covid-19, was there anything particularly cool you wanted to do but didn’t get round to because of the knock-on chaos? But which might still be good for the next intern?
Hannah: If you’d asked me a year ago I would have said launching the podcast – so I’m really pleased and grateful that we could work together on launching that! You’ve done an excellent job getting that off the ground. I was able to work with a few historians beyond the university, such as Jonathan Waterlow, and Lucy Jane Santos, but I’d have liked to expand these connections further. I also wanted to publish more exhibition/site/new historical film reviews, but covid did make this quite tricky… Likewise, building the website’s connections beyond the UK slowed down quite a bit as we all adjusted to the conditions of the pandemic.
Laura: I’m definitely sad I couldn’t get more podcast episodes done… with people’s time strained and everyone working from dodgy home WiFi or (like me!) alongside small kids trying to do their schoolwork, it certainly got much more complicated than I anticipated!
But, I do have two more episodes coming for June and July. They’ve been well received and it was a good experiment to see what would and wouldn’t work using the journal platform. So, the podcast might be a project that the new intern might like to step it up a gear with…
Hannah: One thing I’d wanted to do ‘behind-the-scenes’ was a calendar of anniversaries, key dates etc, to arrange the schedule of blogs and establish some more opportunities to highlight and circulate some of the work being showcased. This takes a lot of forward-planning, though, as it’s not great to ask people to write something up for a historical anniversary without giving them a decent amount of notice. With sustained strike action and the pandemic on the heels of that, it just wasn’t something I was able to devise and execute as one person, and without breaking the strike or applying undue pressure!
Laura: Well, we’ve both been able to work on the public history themed special issue of History, which is an opportunity I didn’t expect when I started work with the journal.
Hannah: Yes! I’ve really been enjoying this, and working with the team of editors we have! It’s been really enriching to work on something new out of sheer interest, and for its own sake. I’ve really learnt a lot about the practice of history from the contributors, and I’m excited to apply this to my own work, and develop new projects informed by what I have learnt from them. Can’t wait to share this special issue!
Laura: Again, thinking more deeply and reading so many amazing pieces on public history has taken me back out of my ‘PhD thesis bubble’ to think about history as a bigger discipline – and practice – and why I loved it so much in the first place. Also getting to learn (hands on!) about the editorial process whilst thinking about all this has just been fantastic!
Hannah: Definitely. In particular the focus on public history completely reinforced for me the ‘point’ of doing history, and encouraged me to consider how I can confront the currents of hyper-competition in academia, and centre community moving forward. And as you say, it has reinvigorated my interest in history as a result.
Hannah Parker is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield. Her current research interests focus on gender, emotion, work, and selfhood, as well as letter-writing and materiality, in the early Soviet Union. She has work forthcoming on Soviet librarians’ emotions about their educational work, and on the articulation of grief in letters to Soviet power from mothers bereaved of their children.
Laura Doak completed their PhD at the University of Glasgow in 2020 with a thesis titled: ‘On Street and Scaffold: The People and Political Culture in Restoration Scotland, 1678 – 1685’. Her publications include work on public execution of female militants and the use print and performance during the 1679-1682 ‘Exclusion Crisis’. Specialising in popular political engagement and political communication, Laura’s current project considers rebel depositions. In August 2021, Laura will start work as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Scottish Privy Council Project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust. Twitter: @lauraidoak.