Congratulations to Cora Salkovskis and Anna Clark, who both received first class honours in their MSt History degrees. Anna achieved the first highest mark of the University’s entire MSt British and European History cohort and Cora came second. Both of the postgraduate students were awarded Principal’s Prizes and Archibald Jackson Prizes in recognition of their excellent performances.
Cora’s research centres on psychiatric health in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, looking specifically at the body and gender history. Her postgraduate thesis built upon her undergraduate, wherein she looked at psychiatric photography at the Holloway Sanatorium in the late 19th century and focused on the presentation of the body and patient agency.
For her master’s dissertation she used a similar source base, focusing on the same asylum in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Alongside photographs from the time period, Cora looked at case notes and limited the source base to patients with post-partem disorders.
Cora, who did her undergraduate degree at Corpus Christi College, has kept the same supervisor throughout, Dr Jane Garnett, who is principally a Modern and Art Historian.
‘Oxford is great because it’s freeform in the way that you approach your research, which is incredibly invaluable, particularly when you want to look at interdisciplinary work. My supervisor was absolutely fantastic right the way through. It’s really helpful to have a supervisor who has a different perspective to you and makes you think about your research in a different light.’
After graduating, Cora was faced with a difficult choice between fully-funded PhDs at Somerville College and London Universities Queen Mary and Birkbeck, but was ultimately enticed by Wellcome Trust funding at Birkbeck.
‘They have a fantastic History of Medicine department and a project that was set up a couple of years ago called the Birkbeck Pain Project, which has now turned into the Birkbeck Trauma Project. It’s run by my supervisor Joanna Bourke who is an academic rock star and thought my research would fit in well with the research currently going on in the department.’
Anna has been at Somerville for four years, having being first accepted to the College as an undergraduate to study History. A change of direction from her undergraduate dissertation on poetry in the English Civil War, Anna’s postgraduate thesis looked further into the past to women’s education in the 16th century, in particular examining Britain and the study of Latin and Greek.
She focused her research on English noblewoman Jane Lumley, who had translated some of Euripides’ plays into English, and indeed was the first person to translate any Greek play into English. Looking at how Lumley fits into the way we see humanism from a male perspective, Anna asked questions about why women aren’t part of the mainstream narrative of humanism.
Anna credits her success to the supportive environment she experienced at Somerville from her fellow master’s students and her supervisor Oren Margolis, Somerville’s Lecturer in Early Modern History.
‘We have some really supportive Tutors in the History department, especially my supervisor who I have been working with for the last four years of studying. He is incredibly helpful and I don’t think I could have done it without him. When I found out I had won the Prizes, I was really happy, but also really happy for Oren, because I feel like it is a win for him too and he really deserves it.’
She also notes that she is thankful for the way she has seen herself grow in confidence over the last four years. ‘I started my degree without much confidence in myself and I did better in that than I ever thought I could have done. It was a real eye opener that with the right amount of support you can really fill your potential.’
Since graduating, Anna has moved back to her hometown of Twickenham and is applying to pursue a career working in museums.