As part of our series on undergraduate research, Jack Mollart-Solity shares his experience of completing his final year History dissertation.
Hi, my name is Jack Mollart-Solity, and I graduated from The University of Manchester with an undergraduate degree in History. In my final year at university, I did a 12,000 word dissertation with my research focusing on Hungarian Refugees in Britain following the failed Hungarian Revolution in 1956; however, it also explored other immigrant and refugee groups who had come to Britain throughout the 20th century.
My researchI chose to focus on this topic for a number of reasons. Partly, the history of Hungarian Refugees had been overlook by historians, so my research was part of uncovering their experiences in Britain and how they adapted to their new surroundings. More broadly though, I wanted to examine the factors that influence both governmental and societal responses to refugees and immigrants, both positive and negative. I believe this is important to investigate these issues as it is extremely relevant to modern society as much political debate is focused on immigration, and its benefits and drawbacks.
In order to investigate these issues, I used a variety of sources. For much of my research, I had to be in the National Archives in London. While there, I examined old government files trying to find the reasons why the government chose to admit Hungarian Refugees. As well as this, I looked through newspaper reports from The Manchester Guardian and The Times between the years of 1955 to 1960; this helped to show me what influenced the public’s response to the incoming Hungarians.
The most difficult aspect of my project was trying to uncover how Hungarian Refugees themselves felt about their experience in Britain: most sources completely overlooked the opinions of Hungarians. However, I was able to build up a limited picture through looking at government files and newspapers. Ideally, I would have liked to have interviewed Hungarian refugees and their decedents but this did not prove possible.
It was hard to draw conclusions about the experience of Hungarian Refugees in Britain from the limited evidence available, particularly as it is likely to be highly individualised for each refugee. However, it appeared that many felt they had been lied to in order to get them to come to Britain, and this cost them a chance to go to America, a location which was for many their preferred destination.
My findings suggested that the government’s principle motivation to admitting Hungarian refugees was both to win favour with and help their potential new ally Austria, the country which the Hungarians had immediately escaped to, as well as filling vacancies in Britain’s labour market.
Finally, the public’s reaction was influenced by ideas of ethnicity; the white Hungarians received a warmer welcome due to their perceived ethnic similarities with the British. Equally, the refugees’ flight from communism enhanced their reputation in capitalist Britain.
I really enjoyed doing my dissertation: it gave me a chance to research a topic I was particularly interested in and gave me a lot of control over the work that I did.
For more information about the History course at the University of Manchester, click here.
Click here for information from the
London School of Economics on why it is beneficial to study History.
website for different documents you can look up: it is free to use the National Archives.
Access to Archives: search archives located near you.