Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Postgraduate Training Workshop 'Tracing Lives Beyond Borders'

On Friday 13 May 2016 the Histories of Activism PGR Workshop ‘Tracing Lives Beyond Borders’ took place at Northumbria University. The diverse programme was curated and organised by PhD researchers Jasmine Calver, Lara Green, and Sophie Roberts, kindly assisted by Dr Daniel Laqua. This workshop was the latest in a series of postgraduate-led events hosted by the Histories of Activism group and brought together postgraduate and academics from around the region and beyond to hear examples of exciting new research in the field and reflect on their own research practice. 33 participants and speakers attended (22 postgraduates from four institutions and 11 academic staff from five institutions) and the day offered the opportunity for postgraduates to expand their scholarly networks and to broaden their perspective.

The day began with ‘spotlights’ from Histories of Activism postgraduates Lara Green, Jasmine Calver, and Sophie Roberts based on their own research. The subjects of their short talks were Sergei Stepniak, Gabrielle Duchênne, and Peggy Duff, and the speakers gave interesting insights into how these individuals led lives that crossed borders but their work also had great transnational impact on political, social, and cultural movements.

Next, participants heard from Charlotte Alston (Northumbria University) and Matt Perry (Newcastle University) in conversation on the process of writing and framing a transnational biography for publication. Postgraduates enjoyed the chance to ask questions, particularly about designing a book and pitching it to publishers, using archival material to write biography and responding to gaps in the archive, and

After the first break, participants heard from Niall Whelehan (Edinburgh University) and Brian Ward (Northumbria University) who spoke on their own research showing two fantastic examples of how they combine transnational historical research with new approaches to the study of intellectual history and interdisciplinary research.

Participants then took part in breakout sessions led by André Keil, James Koranyi, and Tom Stammers (all Durham University) who each brought along sources from their own research to prompt discussion in small groups about the process of doing transnational history. Participants discussed a variety of issues, including understanding how archives come to exist in their current form, why they chose a transnational perspective for their own research, and whether or not ‘transnational’ has been overused as a term of reference.

To close the day, keynote speaker Christophe Verbruggen (Universiteit Gent) spoke about the use of digital toools to visualise data and to explore nineteenth century cultural and intellectual connections. One of the most important points Verbruggen made was the importance of transnational collaboration in order to create successful research, challenging postgraduates to think about the wider applications for the findings of their individual research projects.

In all, the day was a great success and the Histories of Activism group looks forward to hosting future postgraduate-led events. Thank you to all of the speakers and participants for their papers and contributions to discussions.

On 7 and 8 June 2016, you are invited to attend the conference ‘Two Centuries of Peacemaking’, to be held at Newcastle University and organised by scholars from Newcastle and Northumbria Universities, including Histories of Activism’s own Sarah Hellawell, Jon Coburn and Daniel Laqua. For more information please see and to sign up please visit:

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