In the latest in our #PhDone series, we caught up with Dr. Callum Smith.
Callum was an AHRC funded SWW DTP PhD student at the University of Bristol, originally from Wales. He has been studying visual political culture for the past seven years and recently completed his doctoral studies at Bristol. He is a first generation political and social historian of eighteenth and nineteenth century Britain. His interests focus on visual political culture and its relationship to lower order political participation, radicalism and sociability. Though he has a firm grounding in the practice of history, given the often-visual nature of his research interests he is a proponent of interdisciplinary approaches and methodologies, drawing often from the fields of Art History, Semiotics, and English Literature.
Hi, Callum! First of all, congratulations on your successful viva! Can you tell us a bit about what your doctoral research was about?
Thank you! My thesis: ‘Radical socialites or Sociable Radicals? The Foxite Whigs in Caricature, 1780 – 1810’ charts the Foxites’ previously understudied political career through the lens of visual culture and is organized thematically based on the distinct strains of Foxite radicalism spanning from Fox’s first forays into office in the 1780s; through the radicalism of the French Revolution, Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars; up until Fox’s death and the demise of his faction by the early nineteenth century. Sociability, and its tactical use by Fox’s faction in both ‘insular’ and ‘porous’ modes was also a key focus of my research, and it remains a key feature of modern British politics. Insular ‘Downing Street’ sociability came under the spotlight during the Covid-19 pandemic and visual political satire remined a key feature of political debate.
Let’s talk about the viva itself. What would you advise someone who is preparing for their own viva?
I think preparation is key – when it comes to your thesis read, read, and read it again! Preparing for the worst-case questions and summarizing your main argument in a few sentences was also very useful.
It is also worth remembering that nobody knows your thesis as well as you do! Expect corrections and take on board the advice of your examiners – it can also not hurt to research your examiners and their research interests beforehand.
What’s next for you? Where can we find your research and/or writing now?
I have a busy year ahead! I am currently teaching part-time at the Universities of Bristol and Bath. I am also working on turning my thesis into a book.
I recently published an article on the 18th c. publican and Foxite campaigner Sam House in Parliamentary History. Beyond House and lower order political contribution, I have also submitted a chapter to an upcoming collection on political drinking in northern Europe (edited by Rémy Duthille and Martyn Powell) on the practice, rituals, and radical connotations of Foxite drinking and sociability.
The Foxites’ relationship with Irish radicalism and radicals, namely the United Irishman, Arthur O’Connor, and his depictions in visual culture, also based on my thesis research will form the basis for a future co-authored article with Professor Martyn Powell.
In 2024, European Comic Art will also be publishing my article on the political works of Thomas Rowlandson, whilst my article on political sleaze and the practices of bribery and ‘treating’ will form part of a special journal edition associated with the AHRC funded: ‘Eighteenth Century Political Participation and Electoral Culture’ project.
I am also very much looking forward to presenting a paper in March 2023 at the LAPASEC conference: ‘Conviviality and Sociability in the Long Eighteenth Century: Restoration to Romanticism’, in Essen, Germany.
Thanks for joining us, Callum!