Perspectives on the Past conference

Students at the Postgraduate perspectives on the past conference Pictured (left to right) at the conference are Sarah Taylor, Nicole Harding and Hannah Rogers

Thu, 07 Jul 2016 13:10:00 BST

The internal conference welcomed 18 papers from MA and PhD students

Joe HopkinsonJoe Hopkinson during his presentation

A CONFERENCE at the University of Huddersfield featured two days of presentations that came up with fresh interpretations of the distant and the recent past.  It also broke new ground by programming a 50-minute session that discussed the stresses and strains that can afflict hard-working postgraduate researchers, and how mental health problems can be avoided during the years of study.

The event was named Perspectives on the Past: Heritage, Identity and Practice, and it featured papers by MA and PhD students from Huddersfield and other universities around the UK.  It was the latest in a sequence of postgraduate history conferences at Huddersfield, although it is now open to researchers using disciplines such as archaeology and heritage studies to investigate the past.

Michael Nolan Michael Nolan questions the panel

The final session of the conference – which took place at the University of Huddersfield’s Heritage Quay archives centre – covered the subjects of disability and mental health.  There were academic papers from Huddersfield MA student Amelia Sceats on Tudor perceptions of mental illness, plus PhD researcher Andrew Holroyd on the changing face of disability employment between the 1940s and 1970s.

Then came a session led by Andrew Holroyde and conference co-organiser Nicole Harding – also a PhD student at the University of Huddersfield – which recounted personal experiences of disability and mental health in Higher Education.  It led to a wide-ranging discussion among conference delegates.

“Andy and I had talked about how mental health is a big issue facing everybody in Higher Education, no matter what their subject,” said Nicole.  “We agreed that it would be good to talk about this a lot more and realised that with this conference we had the opportunity to do so.  We could be bold and start the conversation.”

Students at the conference talked about different mental health conditions and the strategies they had developed to deal with them.  Nicole herself counters anxiety by ensuring that she follows a good diet and takes regular exercise.

Research can be an isolated task, she said, often involving long solitary hours.

“There is no switching off.  You don’t leave the office at 5pm,” said Nicole, adding that it was important students set themselves a timetable and remember that at their university they belonged to a supportive community of researchers.

Postgraduate perspectives on the past conference Martyn Richardson presenting on mining community heritage and representation in the Yorkshire coalfield

The Perspectives on the Past conference included 18 papers, presented in panels that had themes including cultural identity inside and outside the UK; local histories; heritage in practice; medieval histories; disability and metal health; plus “history from below”.

Among the contribution by University of Huddersfield Master’s and PhD students were:

  • Adam West’s analysis of Holocaust memorialisation
  • Martyn Richardson on mining community heritage and representation in the Yorkshire coalfield
  • Andrew Holroyde on Remploy and disability employment in post-war Britain
  • Dave Halloran on gender identities in the twelfth century
  • Amelia Sceats on Tudor perceptions of mental illness
  • Daniel Greenwood on medieval masculinity and kingship
  • Eve Hartley on provincial mechanics’ institutes and early public heritage engagement
  • Nicole Harding on the Gott Collection and the rejection of industrialism


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