My experience of the History PG conference
Last week, I attended and presented a paper at the History department’s postgraduate conference. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a long-standing annual event where the department’s MA and PhD students can present their work.
I signed up to present my paper, which focused on one of the chapters of my dissertation – which is about the visual representations of the General Strike of 1926. I was part of the first panel of the conference, which was on popular politics in late nineteenth and twentieth-century Britain, and presented alongside a recently-completed PhD student and one of my fellow MA students. Each of us gave a twenty-minute long presentation of our work, and then there was a 30 minute question and answer session after we’d all spoken. Twenty minutes felt like a very long time to talk for until I started making my presentation – once I’d explained the context of my paper and the theoretical approach that I’m using to interpret the visual sources I’m using in my dissertation, I was already half way through the time – which is why I chose to focus on one chapter rather than do a run-through of the whole dissertation.
I was a little bit nervous beforehand as I hadn’t presented my work to a group outside of the MA cohort nor taken questions on a piece of work before, so this was a completely new experience for me. I really enjoyed it, though – it was fun to discuss my project in-depth. I found that the Q&A session was the best part of the panel, as it allowed for us to discuss the connections between each of our projects. I also found the questions incredibly helpful – the audience asked some questions which helped me to look aspects of my project that I hadn’t thought about before. Participating in the conference has definitely reignited my interest in the project, and I’m sure that the research I do to find out the answers to the questions I wasn’t so sure of will improve my dissertation!
The conference ran from Wednesday afternoon, when I presented, until Friday afternoon, and the panels ranged from discussions on material culture to the issues with using certain sources and methodologies. Between each of the sessions, all of the attendees had the opportunity to network with each other and enjoy the snacks provided! The chance to speak to the PhD students was great for me – there aren’t many times that MA and PhD students have been able to spend time together, so I really enjoyed meeting other PG students, talking about their experiences of doing a PhD, and getting a few tips!
I think the PG conference was a really valuable experience for me – it was an opportunity to gain experience in public speaking, networking, and to learn something new! If you’re considering presenting a paper at the PG conference, I’d definitely encourage you to go for it, as it’s an incredibly friendly, supportive, and familiar atmosphere – ideal for a first experience of an academic conference.
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions about the conference or life as a History PG student in general, feel free to comment or drop me a direct message!