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We all have the power, it starts with an idea

by YPU Admin on October 24, 2014, Comments. Tags: black, blackhistorymonth, BME, celebration, diversity, equality, ethnicity, history, and month


Black History Month UK was put into October to empower students to start the academic year as they wish to end it – successfully. Unfortunately, many institutions fail to directly engage students during this vital month. It is an opportunity to reach out to those students whose ancestry does not lie in the UK and demonstrate the success of their culture. Similarly, it is an opportunity to teach their peers to appreciate the diverse world we live in and just how closely connected we all are – whether that be sharing resources, cultural practices or swapping cooking tips. Where one has the resources and ability to do so, we should reach out to the student community and work to bring it together to empower, enlighten and celebrate the Black cultures. As BME Student Officer, this is what I have been working towards – cohesion among the BME communities in Manchester.

There is often confusion when we use the term Black, BME and even BAME in our daily lives – which is politically correct? Which do you fit into? If you do not self define as Caucasian, then you fit into them all as they are all used interchangeably across different organisations. This then leaves the question of what does this make of Black History Month which traditionally works around the history of African and Caribbean cultures; that choice is left down to you. There is no right or wrong answer. This year with Black History Month, I used it as an opportunity to unite as many different cultures across Manchester as possible under the theme of empowering, enlightening and celebrating. Working with a number of supportive students, we were able to employ the plan that has led to a month of celebration and education for staff, students and local community groups.

There are some individuals such as Morgan Freeman, who believe that Black history should not be confined to one month but incorporated into the mainstream archives. Although I understand his purpose, I disagree. Within the current way of the world we are living in, we need a period of time to focus attention on BME history. All cultures, including the English, have contributed to the world in their own way and no matter where you are in the world, this should be recognised. Black history (and BME history), will not be confined into one month forever, but for the time being we need to utilise it and educate ourselves as well as those around us in order to move forward, together into a future of diversity and equal opportunity.

Written by Tanisha Douglas.

 

Undergraduate Research

by YPU Admin on December 2, 2013, Comments. Tags: history and undergraduate research

As part of our series on undergraduate research, Jack Mollart-Solity shares his experience of completing his final year History dissertation. 


Introduction 

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 research

I 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.

Conclusion

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.

Going further...

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.

The Guardian recently ran a feature about how to plan and write a dissertation.

Search the National Archives website for different documents you can look up: it is free to use the National Archives.

Access to Archives: search archives located near you.

 

Back to the Old Grind Stone

by YPU Admin on May 27, 2013, Comments. Tags: archaeology, history, pre-history, and tools

Introduction

Imagine life before a word was ever written down, before the Romans marched to war and the Victorians marched on their promenades, before cars, running water, electricity, telephones, and computers, before the internet. People's lives were structured by the needs of the animals that they kept and the crops they grew. Like today, they made friends, had families, grew old and explained the world around them through their beliefs. Prehistoric Archaeology, the study of people before they wrote their thoughts down, aims to imagine what these lives were like.

My name is Ellon Souter and I am a first year PhD student in Archaeology at the University of Manchester. I have finished my Undergraduate and Masters degrees and am now doing my own research on how people used stone tools thousands of years ago in Cyprus. I am studying my PhD part-time, which means that I can work and earn money to support me in my studies. I work as Widening Participation Fellow, which allows me to design and run workshops in Archaeology for secondary students. I am also kept busy round the Department, assisting with teaching, running the Postgraduate Research Seminars and being involved with the Archaeology Society.


In Depth...

I grew up in Northern Scotland, surrounded by castles, hillforts, museums and monuments. I felt that wherever I went, I could see my past stretching back around me and I wanted more and more to know that past. I chose to do an Archaeology BSc at the University of Liverpool and then went on to a Masters at Cambridge. Over the years, Archaeology has taken me on some fantastic adventures, working with human skeletons in the basements of the British Museum, making prehistoric boats and houses in northern Scotland, excavating castles in Latvia, caves in Wales, the earliest houses in Cyprus and even had a go at Stonehenge!

The stone tools that I will be looking at for my PhD come from two sites in the village of Kissonerga, southwest Cyprus. They are next to each other and are thought to represent continuous occupation between 5500-1500B.C. The tools consist of beautifully polished axes, figurines and games. However, the majority of items are equivalent to our kitchen utensils, DIY equipment and other household tools (grinding, hammering stones). I believe that these are the most interesting items to look at as they are integral to everyday work hence inform us about daily life. I will be using a scientific technique called X-Ray Fluorescence to find out where the stones were collected. I hope that this will be useful in finding out how people moved around their environments and communicated with each other. I will be figuring out exactly how these stones were made and used by experimenting with working stone and recording my observations. I will investigate whether these technologies change through time, across the Island and between particular activity areas within my case studies. I hope to show how important these everyday items were and what they might have meant to the prehistoric inhabitants of Cyprus.

When I tell people I’m an Archaeologist, they often ask ‘What’s the best thing you’ve ever found?’ They expect me to tell them about gold and riches. To me, it is about that moment when you suddenly realise that the patch in the dirt you’ve been staring at all day is a flue for a prehistoric oven and our understanding of past technologies changes forever.


Going Further…

If you are interested in finding out more about Archaeology, here are a few links:

University of Manchester Archaeology: Manchester Archaeology is a small friendly department. This will give you an idea of what you could be studying if you came to Manchester.

UCAS: If you are thinking seriously about going to University and studying Archaeology, this site lists all Archaeology courses in the UK and will also give you information (e.g. entry requirements, course details, etc).

Whitworth Park Community Archaeology: An excavation run by the University of Manchester in June 2013 that thrives on community involvement. If you are local, go along and catch a glance into the past of your city.

YAC:  The Young Archaeologists Club runs a range of activities and operates in most areas of Britain.

Television:

BBC History

Archaeology at the BBC: a collection of programmes dating back to the 1950s, available to watch in full. 

http://www.timeteamdigital.com/

Time Team

 

Focus On...Archaeology

by YPU Admin on May 20, 2013, Comments. Tags: archaeology, careers, history, pathways, and study


Archaeology: Digging Up the Past

Have you ever wanted to discover ancient remains in a distant land? Do you feel excitement when watching a team of archaeologists on TV reveal human bones, bronze tools, gold jewellery and pottery? Are you riveted by the details of how a Roman bathhouse worked or how an Iron Age roundhouse was built? If your answer is yes, then archaeology might just be the thing for you.


What is archaeology?

Archaeology is the scientific study and interpretation of past peoples and their lives through studying the material remains they left behind. Archaeologists look at a wide range of artefacts from large buildings and colourfully painted graves down to small clay pots, paintings, stone arrowheads, bone fragments and even pollen and seeds.

The most common way to find past artefacts is by excavating, or by doing a field survery where you collect remains that are visible on the surface. As these activities destroy the precise locations and context of the artefacts, archaeologists record, draw and photograph all information accurately for future generations. All finds are then washed, analysed and interpreted. Finally, the artefacts need to be preserved, possibly reconstructed and stored – frequently in a nearby local museum. All of this work is rarely done by archaeologists alone, but requires a team of specialists, such as geologists, botanists, osteologists, computer specialists, and conservators. Once the analysis has been completed, the findings are published in articles, books or magazines.


Studying archaeology

In order to get expertise in archaeology, an undergraduate degree is the best way to go. Here at Manchester, we offer both single honours and joint honours degrees (with Ancient History, Anthropology or History of Art). With our teaching stretching from the Neanderthals through to modern day and our research areas ranging from Europe, the Near East, Africa through to Australia, the UK and the Pacific, we offer a truly global introduction to the discipline. Our main focus at Manchester is on exploring the social dimension of the past human experience. We offer a unique combination of theoretical enquiry, a concern with the contemporary social context, and a commitment to practical field work (You can watch a video of Manchester's archaeologists here). In addition, we have strong links to the archaeological sciences at the university and to the Manchester Museum whose collections we are able to make use of in our teaching and whose staff members regularly contribute specialist lectures.


Career paths

Archaeology is one of the most varied careers as it draws on the sciences, social sciences and arts. It is also one of the most diverse subjects as it combines activity out in the field with intellectual study and scientific analysis in the laboratory. Archaeologists can be found in the private, public and academic sectors: You could find yourself working at the shovel’s edge in charge of uncovering new sites and finds. Alternatively, you might be working in a museum, designing exhibitions, talking to the public and looking after the collections. Maybe you are employed by the council in charge of providing guidance to developers. Or possibly you are working as a lecturer at university and are undertaking your own research projects throughout the year. Depending on your interests, you might find yourself working at home in Britain, on a hot island in the Mediterranean, on a lone mountain in South America or the cold expanses of Siberia. One thing is for sure: it’s a hugely rewarding career that combines painstaking discovery with stimulating interpretations about past people’s lives.

Even if you don’t see yourself pursuing archaeology as a career, it is an excellent foundation for your future that will serve you well in a wide variety of interesting careers: studying archaeology alerts you to the great diversity between people and social practices; it provides a rigorous training in evaluating evidence and ideas; it encourages the development of creative and critical thinking, verbal and written communication, and a wealth of practical and team working skills that are sought after by employers. As a subject it is challenging, intriguing, satisfying and hugely enjoyable.


The Archaeology of beer!

One recent project carried out by archaeologists (with the help of archaeology students) at Manchester has been the excavation of a Bronze Age beer production installation on Cyprus. A two by two metre domed mud-plaster structure (shown in the picture) was used as a kiln to dry malt for the production of beer three-and-a half-thousand years ago. The beers were brewed from malted barley, and fermented with yeasts produced from fruits such as grape or fig. All the ingredients have been found as carbonised seeds at the site, along with stone tools for grinding the grains and pots for heating the mixture.


Additional clues on beer production on Cyprus come from large decorated pottery bowls like the one shown in the image. You can see people grinding grain and a couple sitting relaxing drinking beer from bowls!



Find out more about archaeology…

To check out Archaeology at Manchester, go to the department's webpage

The Council for British Archaeology supports archaeology across the UK and you can find out about the latest finds, excavations and the Young Archaeologists’ Club from their website.

For up-to-date news about archaeology as well as articles about different topics, go to: http://archaeology.about.com

A recent BBC series uses planes to detect archaeology. Find out more with the ‘flying archaeologist’ blog.

BBC History has excellent website about archaeology (and some self-test quizzes).