Former PhD students

The Alps from Natural Border to Transnational Space: National constructions and cross-border interactions in the Alpine region (1750-1830)
Jordan Girardin |

This doctoral project aims at analysing the emergence of the Alps as a transnational space from 1750 to 1830. It highlights that this period witnessed a major shift in the perception of the mountains, firstly seen as a rigid natural border but then becoming an open, consistent space at the heart of Europe. It will address the dramatic increase of cross-border interactions within the alpine region, and will argue the emergence of a mental

Jordan Girardin - presenting on The Alps and Alpine travel, Sep 2016

Jordan Girardin – presenting on The Alps and Alpine travel, Sep 2016

perception of the Alps in a non-nation-centred way. This Sattelzeit period introduced by Reinhart Koselleck, where representations and language shifted into the modern mind-set that we are nowadays familiar with, is often seen as the rise of the nation-state, and in the case of certain Western European countries such as France, that of the concept of natural borders too.

To work on the Alps as a transnational space is a way to open new historical discussions around the Enlightenment and on the creation of networks in Europe and, equally, to criticise certain nation-centred assumptions. It would indeed offer a further development of spatial language through the case study of the Alps. Through the study of national cartography, travel accounts and political discourse, this project will carefully highlight the articulation between the transnational opportunities offered by the Alps and their appropriation by national identities and political discourse (for instance, in the Swiss identity or Napoleonic myths).

Like Clockwork: The Development of the Modern Perception of Time in Industrial Britain (1753-1914)
Marie Ventura |

The story of time and temporal perception flows through modern history like a subconscious current, always present yet rarely addressed as a topic in and of itself.  Instead, it has been studied piecemeal, across a spectrum of disciplines for a variety of purposes.  As a result, the history of the development of our modern understanding of time piggybacks rather than propels most studies of British society since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

This study aims to integrate the scattered story of Britain’s 19th Century temporal revolution into a cohesive analysis.  The gradual evolution of modern temporal perception is the overarching theme, pinned down at key transitional points by case studies: for example, the influence of the maritime chronometer.  Each case is a lens, revealing catalysts that promoted the internalization of abstract, measured time.

Spurred by scientific study, empire, economic competition, and the propagation of mechanical clocks, industrial time trickled through the classes, riding trains to rural areas until it saturated the perceptions of every British citizen.  By 1914, the world largely ran on standard time, based at Greenwich Observatory, London.  The changing perception of time in industrial Britain is, therefore, a world-embracing subject, making this study a relevant contribution to modern history.

Landscapes of the Mind: Early Modern Reactions to Mountains and Mountain-Climbing
Dawn Jackson Williams |

Within the relatively short span of geological time covered by the historical record, the natural landscape (barring natural disasters and, of course, human interference) could be viewed as an unchanging fact of life. The mountain ranges which criss-cross Europe and, in many instances, provide borders for her countries, were as much in existence in the

Dawn Hollis presenting on Mountains and early modern mountain travel, Sep 2016

Dawn Hollis presenting on Mountains and early modern mountain travel, Sep 2016

sixteenth century as they are in the twenty-first. However, the ways in which people interact with, think about, and describe the landscapes in which they live and travel has changed over the centuries.

My PhD research will focus on a single element of the landscape – mountains – and will seek to discover how they were viewed, and what activities took place on or around them, in early modern Europe. Were the early modern Europeans afraid of mountains, as many twentieth-century scholars have claimed? Or if they appreciated them, how did the terms by which they judged the landscape differ from those of later generations? Into what wider understandings of the world were (and are) reactions to mountains embedded, and how and why have they changed over time? My research will set out to reconstruct these reactions to the physical landscape and, in so doing, begin to map a small corner of the mental landscape of early modern Europeans.

The Return of the Nation-State? German Political Culture in Transition, 1985-1998
Andrew Dodd |

Recent historiography has convincingly argued that in the 1980s the Federal Republic of Germany had undergone a process of “self-recognition”, moving past its old self-conception as a partial, provisional state with increasing confidence and fashioning a post-national identity. Then, in 1989/90, the Federal Republic opted for a quick and complete national reunification. The conflict between these two developments lays at the centre of the study: just how far beneath the surface did ‘the nation’ lurk?

The study aims to shed further light on this complex and critical era in German history by moving beyond a recounting of political developments and intellectual debates and examining the media reception of these very same problems and debates. To what degree was this “post-national consensus” a reality outside of elite intellectual circles in the wider public consciousness? When the potential and eventual reality of reunification emerged, what were the anticipations and expectations? What was the reception of alternative views to the process of national reunification as it occurred? How were the realities of the reunified German nation-state received in the years following and what changes in self-conception did the “return of the nation-state” bring? Overarching themes include the role played by generation in changing identities, the idea of a “return to normality”, the position of media as both mirror and shaper of public opinion, and the perception of 1989/90 as a a decisive caesura between a “Bonn Republic” and a “Berlin Republic”.


Cultural criticism and catholic conservatism: an intellectual biography of Dietrich von Hildebrand
Denis Kitzinger |

The PhD thesis is an intellectual biography of the conservative Catholic philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand. Specifically, I examine Hildebrand’s response to the historical and intellectual challenges of the twentieth century, for example National Socialism, the Second Vatican Council, relativism and historism. I intentionally focus on Hildebrand’s non-academic writings and lectures in the popular and explicitly Catholic press as I also seek to establish Hildebrand’s popular influence, in other words the popularity of his ideas, and ask the question to what degree Hildebrand’s position was representative of the ‘polymorphic’ (Heinz Huerten) Catholic milieu. Because I analyze Hildebrand as anintellectual, i.e. someone who addresses a public other than that at which his scholarly activity is aimed and on issues dissimilar to this scholarly activity but of public concern and for this purpose he makes use of available media channels that reach these non-specialist publics, my thesis is set apart from existing scholarship. With my project, which is situated at the intersection of intellectual and social history, I contribute to the study of Catholic history in the twentieth century.


Economic and financial strategies of the British Catholic community during the early Atlantic world

Giada Pizzoni |

My interest on Catholicism as a religious minority, I suppose, has started when as an undergraduate I studied the Roman Inquisition. The extreme power of the Church made me wonder what the Catholics’ experience would be in Protestant countries. Therefore, as Master student I focused on Dutch Catholicism and the practice of Dutch tolerance. I researched on the peculiar situation of Dutch Catholics towards whom there was an attitude of public suppression, but private connivance. This research led me then to wonder if British Catholics were undergoing the same experience.

Currently, the aim of my research, conducted at the Arundel Archive in Sussex, is to offer a new insight, which dispels the stereotype of a marginalised social group. Instead, I conclude that the British Catholic community was a body of merchants and businessmen merged with ‘the middling sort’ of people, eventually becoming a part of the aristocracy. They built coherent trading zones, and through a broad range of Atlantic connections, moved beyond the national borders of the European Empires. They disregarded religious affiliation and nationalities; Catholic merchants – as anyone else – acted out of economic interests.

Recent scholarship has extensively researched late seventeenth-century mercantile communities across the Atlantic and British Catholicism, offering two separate narratives. Catholicism, for example, has been associated with political and civic impairment. However, evidence suggests it paradoxically secured safer economic strategies in times of international warfare and political turmoil. My research hopes to shed new light on the Atlantic trade, which argues that one narrative is possible. Catholicism coalesced with enterprise and the spirit of capitalism, contributing to the development of Great Britain and of the British Empire.