Saturday, 29 September 2012

On Personal Mottos

My time here in Sheffield is part of a much larger journey. In fact, you can say its a means to an end as my primary objective centers on becoming a high school history teacher. I am already fighting an uphill battle because:
a) I do not have an undergraduate in education or history
b) I am entering a very saturated field with many people who have higher qualifications
c) Education is suffering under tight budget cuts

So why the pursuit? First and foremost, I feel that I can make a difference in young student's lives. I firmly believe that with proper respect and correct use of a "hands-on" teaching style, I can get kids excited about history. Secondly, I realized that I had to change my own life in order for me to be succesful and happy. The underline to all of this is my personal motto which I have held for the better part of 13 years: "Do what must be done, achieve what must be won".

I first heard these words in a military recruitment ad from the mid to late 90s and they have been with me ever since. I must admit there was a time when I had to deal with my own personal issues and the words rang hollow but I am once again convinced of their power. They continue to motivate me to run the extra mile, to succeed at work and studies and to become a better person.

So every time I leave my room, I am reminded to put forward my best effort. By this point next year, we shall see if hard work and perserverance paid off. I am ready for the challenge.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

History In Sheffield Pt 3

With the sun finally coming out after three days of solid rain, it was time to take a stroll through Sheffield's Weston Park and Museum.

Demand for open public spaces was growing towards the end of the 19th century. In Sheffield, Robert Marnock was tasked with landscaping the area around Weston Hall, a building purchased by the city in 1873. Two years later the park would be opened. I find that in local histories, any visit of a reigning monarch is always grounds for mentioning. Weston Park is no different as it welcomed King Edward VII and his Queen in 1905.

The main park entrance is fashioned from well carved terracotta and features both cherubs and Queen Victoria's cyphers. All are still perfectly visible today:

The first memorial in the park is dedicated to local man Ebenezer Elliot, a self taught poet who campaigned against the "Corn Laws" which taxed the vegetable and made bread costs rise.

Up next are the paired memorials which remember the men of the York & Lancaster Regiment who fell fighting for Monarch and Country. The smaller screen is dedicated to those who fought in the Boer War of the late 1800s while the rising column with the goddess Nike at the top honors the men of both World Wars.

Moving into the park proper, there is a metal bandstand and duck pond built in 1900 and 1874 respectively. At the end of Weston Park lies the museum of the same name. It was constructed in 1935 to replace the previous structure which contained the city's historical, archeological and art collections. Mappin Art Gallery (next door) was eventually incorporated as well. The building sustained damage from a German bombing raid in 1940 (I hope to cover WWII in a later post). 
Today, the Weston Park Museum forms part of the "Museums Sheffield" group and contains several permanent and rotating exhibitions. In my opinion, they are definitely worth looking at. One tells the story of Sheffield's evolution through the ages while another explores the animal kingdom with well over 150 species on display.


Wednesday, 26 September 2012

So It Begins

University of Sheffield's Coat of Arms

After two weeks of orientations and introductions, classes finally kicked off this week. I'm excited to finally start working on history and learn more about the profession as a whole. Oddly enough, I started my academic career in an archeology class focusing on my period of interest which ranges from 1455 to 1603. While the Tudors came to power after the battle of Bosworth in 1485, the years prior are important as well for they include the nobility civil war known as the Wars of the Roses. This series of conflicts essentially dragged England from a medieval existence to a renaissance state. Battle tactics changed, the gun was used in anger for the first time and the monarchy finally realized it had to rely on a standing military force rather than men gathered under the banners of loyal nobles.

The class itself is led by a very nice and seemingly brilliant professor. I am looking forward to reading some of his work. Even better, we have several field trips scheduled which includes a visit to a ruined monastery. Being able to go "hands-on" is what I really want to advocate as a teacher. Why? I feel it lends credence and power to history. This isn't your parent's history class where one memorizes dates, people and battles. I want to take it a step further and introduce critical thinking that makes students look at the whys and hows. Including things that can be touched, viewed, heard and tasted brings history to life and I really hope I can energize my students to see the subject in a better light.

And then...

I just returned from a research skills seminar. My reaction: "What the hell am I doing here?" Seriously, everyone around me seem to be history nuts (in a good way) having done their undergraduate work in the same area. Here I am coming from the business world with next to no clue on how to conduct proper historical research let alone cite, footnote, etc.
What amazes me even more is how specific people want to get and how they found their subject in the first place! One wants to focus on Sheffield's involvement in the Spanish Civil War, another wants to study civil rights within the American military during Vietnam, another is looking at jewish populations in post WWI London and another is looking at mining in Chile. The list goes on.
And what about me? I want to do something Tudor related which everyone and their mother already knows about! I need to get more specific and fast. The end of October is fast approaching for synopsis submittal.

Still, the business student in me is wondering how I can find a subject that I can best manipulate for job opportunities back home. Never let work go to waste they say. That same student wonders what the person studying jewish populations is going to do with their research. Besides writing a book or teaching jewish history, it seems that its all for nothing. Then again, perhaps I am looking at it from the wrong perspective...I need to free myself from constantly having to justify decisions as to how they can best affect my chances going forward. Maybe I just pick something I care about and throw caution to the wind. History is history after all, right?
My quest to find a research topic and question will be covered in some later posts.

For now, its time to read. A lot. No seriously, there's not enough hours in the day to read what they've given us.

Farewell to a Historian

A sad note to pass along. Renowned Anne Boleyn historian, Dr. Eric Ives, has died. Many argue (myself included) that he wrote the definitive text on Anne in 1986 which was then revised in 2005. I own two copies of his book: one for the shelf in pristine condition while the other is well worn with highlights, margin notes and colored underlines. While I do my best to maintain an unbiased view of Anne, it is Ives' work that best assembles a picture of Anne from the foggy depths of history and myth. It is essentially my go-to text for Anne and I've come to accept his perspective of the Queen.

It was his book that I first picked up when my interest in Anne was piqued and it has kept me going ever since.

I was very much looking forward to perhaps meeting him while I am here in England. Unfortunately, I am a little too late. His work shall be missed.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

History In Sheffield Pt 2

Today's installment is on the Cathedral Church of St Peter & St Paul. Sheffield Cathedral, as it is more commonly known, is located near the heart of the city.

While its prestige and size cannot compare to the more well known cathedrals of Lincoln and York Minster, Sheffield Cathedral has a beauty of its own: "One of Sheffield's oldest buildings where God has been worshipped for over a thousand years" (Guide, 1).

In 1101, William de Lovetot built a church on the current site. Remains of the Norman building were incorporated into the later structure and can still be seen today. One example is the diamond shaped stones implanted in St. Katherine's Chapel:
(white strips, top left)
A discussion with one of the guides led to him point out the structure of the Sanctuary window. According to him, the frame of stone holding the window in place was, in fact, the doorway to the Norman church:
The cathedral proper, as we see it today, was mostly built in the 1430s. It was built in the popular perpendicular style and incorprated many altars and a hammerbeam (carved wood) roof:

Here's where we get to my favorite part. There are several areas pertaining to the Tudor period (1485-1603) within the cathedral. To the right of the high altar lies the Shrewsbury Chapel. This was built in the 1520s by George Talbot, the 4th Earl of Shrewsbury and was intended to be a family burial site. The Earl lies there today between his two wives (Ann and Elizabeth). The alabaster figures on the tombs still carry faint traces of paint and it is thought the images were carved to lifelike precision.
On the opposite side lies the magnificent tomb of the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury. His claim to fame was his custodianship of Mary Queen of Scots while she was kept captive in Sheffield from 1570 to 1584. Also elaborately carved, the armored figure of the Earl rests on a mat of rush with his feet lying on a Talbot (hunting dog). The Earl's many accomplishments are carved in latin above his effigy. To the top right of his tomb are mounted three helmets thought to have been used at his funeral in 1590.
There are several additional chapels including two dedicated to the York & Lancaster Regiments as well as to the three Royal Navy ships to bear the name HMS Sheffield. The bell of the first is in the west end of the nave. Military memorabillia including battle standards and sabres can be seen as well. While a simple blog post cannot do justice to a thousand years of history, I would be remiss without mentioning other small details: When standing in the Shrewsbury Chapel, look up to see pagan "green men" carved into the ceiling. They are now picked out and gold and pose an interesting juxtapostion between pagan and christian beliefs. Similarly, the freemasons have had a hand in the construction of the church over the years. Some of their images can be spotted as well. In St. Katherine's chapel sits a row of 3 oak carved chairs dating back to the Tudor period. Another oak chapel screen can be seen by the stained glass window depicting the "Sheffield Worthies" (6 men who had an impact on the city). Sadly, none of the stained glass in the church, while very beautiful, dates before the 1800s.
As of right now, I will be visiting the cathedral for three concerts where I get to sit amongst the wonderful architecture and listen to Baroque and Classical pieces. Looking forward to uncovering more of this amazing building! Please enjoy the brief video I took:

Saturday, 22 September 2012

History In Sheffield Pt 1

This post will be the first in a series that chronicles the history of Sheffield. These posts will come up whenever I've had some sort of run in with locations, artifacts, etc so keep checking back for more!

For this introductory post, let us look at "The Old Queen's Head" pub:

It has the distinction of being the oldest domestic building in Sheffield with estimates placing its creation around 1440. At the time, it was used as a hunting lodge given its location near the river Sheaf. The lodge was mostly used by the nobility from the neighboring Sheffield Castle which no longer exists (although foundations can still be seen under the market place).

The first mention of the building was in 1582 as part of an inventory taken of the estate of the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury. It was called "The Hawle at the Poandes" which roughly means "Hall at the Ponds". Given the layout of terrain at the time, it is thought the building was a banqueting hall sitting near two old ponds from which several streets today get their name.

The history of the pub proper dates to 1840 when "The Old Queen's Head" was first opened in a neighboring building. It merged with today's location in 1862 (I am still not 100% on this). The pub became a Grade II listed building in 1952 and underwent extensive renovation work in 1993 when they found all manner of artifacts now displayed inside:

The name of the pub probably refers to Mary, Queen of Scots who was imprisoned in Sheffield from 1570-1584 and eventually beheaded a few years later for conspiring to kill Elizabeth I. Ironically, it is the portrait of Elizabeth, not Mary, that graces the outside of the pub:

One final note, the food and staff is quite nice. See more in my food section entry for Sept 22.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Going Gold

Today's post is brought to you by the XXX Olympiad.
The smashing success of the London games has energized Great Britain in quite a neat way. Everyone stands a bit taller, everyone is a bit nicer. Most hope that the euphoria and outpouring of patriotism and kindness continues well into the coming years. While that may be a bit too optimistic in my opinion, it is definitely strong at the moment.
Sheffield played its own part in this year's olympics. Nearly 1/3 of Britain's team trained in Sheffield because of the University's outstanding sports complexes. More importantly, one particular alumni honored her school and city by taking gold.

Jessica Ennis won gold in the women's heptathlon. Her name is everywhere now!
To honor British gold medalists, their home mailboxes are painted gold instead of the required red. Jessica's has already become a mini tourist attraction with people lining up to take their picture next to the box. Obviously I didn't want to be left out...

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

A Day For Victory

My blog is a bit behind (well that was quick) given that I started my student career last week. I shall save the stories of orientation week for a later time so I can get caught up to the present!

Today was as uneventful as it gets, but even then, I dominated the mundane! First I had to go back to my department to receive my official class list for registration. The day before, all the history students had to submit what classes and work placements they wanted. Today we got the results and I achieved 100% victory!

My fall semester is as follows:
"Early Modernities"
"Research Skills for the Historian"
"Wars of the Roses to Elizabeth I: The Archeology of England 1455-1603"
"Work Placement" -Sheffield Manor Lodge

The big news is that I have no classes Thursdays or Fridays which means four day weekends every week! Booyah! Actually, this is very helpful as I can now plan for overnight trips with no worries about school forcing me to cut short potential events/ visits.
The archeology course was not available for me to choose. It just so happened that another student from the US informed me about it. I asked my department if I could take it and have it count towards my overall credit total because it centers around my area of interest. They said they'd try to make it work and they did!
Having done some museum curation work before, I wanted to try a work placement which lets me get up close and personal with history. I requested the Sheffield Manor Lodge because of its historical significance over the centuries. Obviously its Tudor period is most important to me because Cardinal Wolsey stayed there on his doomed trip south to face Henry VIII's wrath over not securing a divorce. Wolsey would die at Leicester before reaching London. I hope to be doing some fun things on site!

The University runs a neat event program called "Give It A Go" which allows students to purchase a one time ticket to an event or club event. This allows them to experience new things without having to commit to the club or group. I picked up quite a few tickets ranging from archery to running to movie screenings. Today's event for me was fencing.
Fencing is always somthing I wanted to try and it seems (for once) that I have the proper body form to succeed. We were taught basic foot and combat techniques. I managed to win the mini tournament at the end. The instructors caught some of my efforts and were pleased with my form. After some talks, I have decided to join the club and hope to learn enough to the point I can compete on behalf of my school.

Also signed up for the gym located within my flat complex and did some laundry. No one cares about that ;)

Onwards to tomorrow!

The Eagle Lands In Sheffield

Welcome to what will become my written progress through a post-graduate year at the University of Sheffield! Having finally decided on what I want to be when I grow up, I had to figure out how I could obtain the proper skillsets that were required. As my luck would have it, universities state side were turning me down because my undergradutate, being business, was completely different from my masters goal. I needed more credits, more money and more time.

Fortune finally smiled on me in the form of a random internet search that brought me to international universities. One stood out in particular and that is where I currently find myself! The University of Sheffield is a great school (voted best overall in 2011) and they support all students seeking to further their education. After many months of data mining, submissions and validations, I am finally here and ready to embark on a year long adventure in Early Modern History. Sounds so exciting I'm sure.

I have several important objectives that I set for myself at the start of this adventure. Hopefully all will be met by success at the end:
1) Earn a Masters of Arts in History (well duh)
2) Network with the staff and faculty to help set up future opportunities in who knows what
3) Travel throughout England to see as much wonderful Tudor and medieval stuff as I can
4) Travel to continental Europe for more fun and excitement (hello German Christmas markets)
5) Become more extroverted and get out of my comfort zone by doing all sorts of non-Mike like shenanigans
6) Make lots of great friends from all nationalities, races, creed, gender, etc. We're all together on this journey afterall
7) Continue this blog all the way through the year, hopefully giving my future students something to read and laugh about...hysterically

The idea is to have regular updates...maybe 4-5 per week. I will supplement these with pictures or videos as best I can; a picture is worth a thousand words (which is good because I don't want to write too much).
So please follow along and make sure to leave comments because talking to oneself is the first sign of insanity and I really don't want to worry about that at the moment.