26 November 2014
This blog is the story of my research for my PhD thesis on ‘Winning the Peace: The British in occupied Germany, 1945-1948.’
My first post was nearly ten years ago, on 1 October 2005, when I enrolled, as a part-time student, on the MA in Contemporary British History at the University of London. Two years later I started on my PhD. I finished my thesis and was awarded the degree in February this year (2014).
I heard recently that my thesis has been awarded the annual prize of the German Historical Institute, London, given for an outstanding thesis on German history (submitted to a British university), on British history (submitted to a German university), or some aspect of Anglo-German relations.
Receiving the prize is a great honour, above all for the recognition it gives to the subject of my work – the post-war occupation of Germany by Britain. This area has been neglected by historians in recent years, but I hope this will change, as scholars discover new and innovative approaches to the subject.
In January 2011 I tried to explain why I wrote the blog. I said that, at first, I wrote it for myself. I didn’t know if anyone would read the blog and I didn’t care. Even if no-one else looked at it, I thought it would be useful as a way of helping me get my thoughts in order.
Researching a history PhD is about writing as much as it is about reading, working in the archives, and learning more about your subject. Writing a blog helped me express my ideas, and select which aspects of my work were most important.
But I was also amazed at how many people discovered the blog, read it, added their comments, and sent me emails: students and other academics working on projects or researching similar subjects, people exploring their family history, a few individuals who were there in person and could tell me about their own experiences, and children of British fathers and German mothers, who met each other and married in occupied Germany after the war.
The earliest posts on the blog were on a variety of subjects: including post-modernism, bread rationing in Britain, and allowing historical sources to ‘speak for themselves’. I then discovered Humphrey Jennings’ documentary film on post-war Germany ‘A Defeated People’.
As I became absorbed in my PhD research, the posts became more focussed on post-war Germany under occupation and the twelve British individuals I researched, who all worked for Military Government or the Control Commission.
More recently, as I came to the end of my research, I wrote about one or two topics that I found interesting, but had not included in my thesis, for one reason or another: such as the Craft of Research, the process of researching an writing a PhD thesis, and the extraordinary story of Sergeant Harry Furness, the first serving British solider in occupied Germany to marry a German.
I hope to continue my research over the next few years, working with other academics interested in developing new and innovative approaches to the study of the occupation of one country by another.
But this will be the start of a new story. The award of the prize of the German Historical Institute for my thesis seems a good time to bring this blog, which tells the story of my PhD, to a close.
This blog will remain open to anyone to read and add comments, if they wish. I hope it will provide a resource for anyone researching the occupation. But I do not propose to write any new posts. Please feel free to contact me by email, or ask any questions, which I will always try to answer.
List of previous posts: July 2011 – March 2014
Harold Ingrams and the ‘Aden Emergency’ 17 March 2014
History and Policy 6 February 2014
‘Infantilisation’ and ‘Echoes of Empire’ 21 January 2014
‘Operation Butcher’ 1 July 2013
Marriage with ‘ex-enemy nationals’ (continued) 24 May 2013
‘Hunting for Democracy’ (continued) 2 April 2013
Collective biography 8 March 2013
The Craft of Research 12 February 2013
Colonel E H D (Eric) Grimley: ‘Hunting for democracy’ 7 August 2012
International Socialists 5 January 2012
“We pour petrol on them” 21 June 2011