by Rachel Yemm and Abi Dorr / @EM_HistoryNet

As third year PhD students at the University of Lincoln, we have greatly benefitted from many advantages of working at a smaller institution.  However, we felt our experiences as postgraduate researches could be improved with support, advice, and connections from an extended network of students.  We were missing sharing our research and our ideas in an informal atmosphere amongst peers.

This inspired us to create a network aimed at all East Midlands universities in attempt to bring together postgraduate students at regular, friendly meetings to be held at various institutions over the region.  The project aimed to provide an environment to meet new students, practice papers, and discuss any issues and concerns related to PhD life. We developed the East Midlands History Network; creating a social media presence and sending out a call for papers under the theme of ‘Identity and the Other’, which recently took place at the University of Lincoln on the 18th January.  We hoped such a broad theme would appeal to a wide range of historical periods and allow students from all areas of history to be involved.

We applied for funding from the East Midlands Centre for History Teaching and Learning and were fortunate enough to be awarded £800 for the academic year, which will be used to run three events.  The funding enabled us to offer travel reimbursements for speakers and provide catering for all conference delegates.

Initially, we intended to run a half day event but after receiving more abstracts than anticipated and gaining financial support, the conference was extended to a full day. We were really pleased to have gained so much interest, which resulted in students from six out of nine East Midlands Universities submitting abstracts.   Papers ranged from religious identity in post-reformation England, to representations of the mulatto and Native Americans, to race relations in British towns in the 1960s.

The day consisted of three panels; the first, chaired by Lesley Clarke (UoL), was titled ‘Local and National Identities’ and included papers from Jonathan Roche (UoN), David Civil (UoN) and Edward Cheetham (NTU) and Mark Orton (DMU). The second entitled ‘Gender and Identity’ included papers from Bradley Phipps (University of Leicester) and David Robinson (UoN). The final panel, ‘Race and Identity’ included papers from Janet Couloute (University of Leicester), Rachel Yemm (UoL), and Rachel Wilkins (Loughbrough). All panels gave rise to really interesting discussions and we were pleased by how much the group engaged with the research.

We also wanted our events to include discussions on the process of research so organized a roundtable on publishing in academic journals, which gave attendees the opportunity to share experiences, questions and concerns about academic publishing. Our attendees ranged from first year to third year PhD students so it was great to share both positive and negative experiences with peers. The discussion was extremely informative, positive, and encouraging.

We believe the first conference was a huge success and were delighted at the level of engagement seen throughout the course of the day.  It was exactly what we hoped to achieve and more! The next stage is to encourage other institutions to host their own event, with as much or as little guidance as required.  We are pleased to announce that the University of Nottingham has shown interest in organizing the next event, hopefully scheduled for May.  If you are keen to get involved in the East Midlands History Network, we would love to hear from you!