Coffee with the Georgian Papers Programme

by Jaclyn Shankel, Early Modern MA student, King’s College London

Introduction by Angel-Luke O’Donnell, Liberal Arts Early Career Development Fellow in History, King’s College London

As part of the GPP, we regularly host coffee mornings for incoming fellows and other researchers intending to work in the Windsor archives. Coffee mornings are informal events that bring together colleagues from King’s College London, the Royal Archives, King’s Friends, and the numerous fellowship schemes. Over tea, coffee, and biscuits, incoming fellows present short ten-minute overviews of their GPP projects as a prompt to a broader conversation. Our intention is to hear more about the ongoing research associated with the programme; stay up-to-date with the progress on cataloguing and digitisation; share scholarship from different fields and disciplines; and suggest potentially interesting material, either in the Royal Archives themselves or else to be found further afield in other archives, published collections, and digital repositories.

As a member of the team, the coffee mornings are fantastic opportunities to learn more about the new knowledge emerging out of the GPP. I hear about pioneering new methods and techniques. I meet with colleagues from across the world, who bring diverse perspectives on the Georgian period, yet all still united in the purpose of understanding more about the material in the Royal Archive.

Ultimately though, we hope the coffee mornings will help researchers make the most of their time at Windsor. Jaclyn Shankel, an MA student here at King’s College London enrolled on the Early Modern MA programme, has generously shared her experience of attending a GPP coffee morning on 7 June 2018.

When I was first asked to present at a GPP Coffee Morning, my initial reaction was one of both pleasure and anxiety. As an MA student, it appeared quite daunting to present unformed research to a roomful of experts on the Georgian period. However, the experience had several surprises in store for me.

The first surprise came before the coffee morning ever arrived. My dissertation will look at ideas of providence in England, as understood through the lens of three earthquakes in the 1750s. While I was not sure what connections would exist between my research and the Georgian papers, I was quickly astonished by the breadth and depth of materials in the collection. There were few direct references to the earthquakes themselves; instead, I found essays, letters, account books, and more indicating beliefs in providence, benevolence, natural philosophy, and ideas of statecraft. Such material expanded the context of my subject and created a new lens through which to approach it.

The coffee morning itself proved my nerves groundless – it was a friendly, collegial environment with fascinating discussion, in which the participants sought to understand and aid new research being conducted. The morning consisted of two presentations, GPP Fellow Dr. Carolyn Day and myself, followed by presentations on a number of projects on the cataloguing and digitization of the papers. The cumulative effect of these presentations created an environment of curiosity.

The presentation itself further provided new insights and approaches to eighteenth century providence, through the feedback and questions I received from our group. I left the room with pages of notes and book suggestions I am continuing to read. Such questions I was left to consider and pursue ranged from the relationship clergy have with the monarchy, to the ways in which people try to control the risk inherent in natural disaster (and providence). I was challenged to consider the implications of providence across the Atlantic in the American colonies, and in other, more personal, forms of disaster. While these topics may or may not make an appearance in my final project, the exercise in thought was worth the effort. Ultimately, it highlighted the advantage of conversing with fellow academics throughout the research process.

I would like to thank Samantha Callaghan for introducing me to the GPP, and Dr. Angel-Luke O’Donnell for inviting me to present at the coffee morning. I also extend a thank you to all present for your encouragement and advice. Such an event was a perfect setting for expanding research and building community.

[Editor’s note: The coffee mornings are open to all researchers interested in the Georgian Papers – to be notified of the next coffee morning or other GPP events please join the King’s Friends Network.]

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