MA History, 2016
“Coming back to further study meant that I got the chance to study areas of History that were not part of the university curriculum at that time.”
Jane came to the MA History course as a mature student with several qualifications, including an MSc from Oxford. She particularly enjoyed the option to study part-time and choose topics that fed into her interest in developing the use of visual sources in history teaching.
My route to an MA at Brookes was not a conventional one. I had originally been looking for a part-time MA in Art History or Visual Culture, but I found that many courses had been cut, didn’t have the topics I wanted to study, or were just too expensive! I decided to write to Oxford Brookes personally to find out more as I knew their course was flexible and allowed you the option of an independent study unit. An independent study unit allows you to design your own study piece, based upon the specialty of the research staff in the department. Not only were Brookes fully supportive of my desire to study visual culture under the aegis of an MA in History, but they were also incredibly friendly and welcoming- not only that, but they offered me the chance to study part-time!
In 1969 I got a first in Medieval and Modern History at Nottingham University, then qualified as a teacher and taught for 36 years in the state sector. Coming back to further study meant that I got the chance to study areas of History that were not part of the university curriculum at that time.
Understanding that historians interpret evidence differently in different periods (historical interpretation) is part of the school curriculum. I have found using visual sources as historical evidence helps pupils to understand how historians work and is particularly useful for showing how opinions on historical characters and issues are viewed differently at different times. My prime interest in taking the MA course was to develop ways of helping secondary school teachers to use this as a resource.
Images in history are a form of historical interpretation, and I enjoy looking at how images made from one period of history will differ from images made in another. One example of this is how portraits of Queen Elizabeth I differed over the centuries based on her popularity. My MA research focused on how the Norman role in English history from 1066 was represented by nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century cartoonists and illustrators. This highlighted how interpretations of the actions of the Normans grew less unfavourable as the century progressed, and seemed to rise alongside the growth of the British Empire.
I found I was able to choose topics very useful for my purposes and in the process I met some really interesting people, both staff and students alike. There were even students older than me on the course and I definitely commend the mix of age and nationalities at Brookes!
I now intend to write some more articles, and perhaps a second book focusing on using visuals in the teaching of historical interpretation in schools.