A New Year

by Prof. Tim Cole

This year it feels like a perfect storm. Two things have come together at the same time. On Friday, we had the deadline for the final internal review of the materials related to the ref – an exercise that assesses the research undertaken in the department. On Monday, several hundred undergraduate and postgraduate students started arriving in the department to begin their studies with us.

There is often debate within universities about what the relationship between research and teaching is. One thing that I love about the department is the way that these two aspects of what we do feel like they do genuinely fit together and work together. We are unusual as a history department in putting research into the heart of the undergraduate experience from the very beginning. Our first year students will be undertaking group research projects working with objects and places in Bristol in the first teaching block as part of ‘Approaching the Past’. In the second teaching block they will have chosen a Special Topic from a very long list that covers the research interests of colleagues that range from c. 1000 to the present.

As well as working with primary sources in small-group seminars, they will also have a chance to write a research project based on sources they identify out of those classes. That same story of research being at the core could be repeated for our second years or third years – the latter starting out on their dissertations. And of course it carries through to MA students starting to think about their dissertations, the new intake of PhD students joining a thriving postgraduate research community as well as all of the academic colleagues in the department who are researching and writing.

Placing research at the heart of everything we do, Bristol is a department that invites students to join us as fellow historians within a community of scholars intrigued by the past in all its variety and complexity.