A rainstorm of academic inspiration

Students’ impressions from the London Summer School in Intellectual History

The London Summer School in Intellectual History is a rare opportunity for graduate students to acquire further training in the discipline and its different methodologies. It includes special workshops, masterclasses, feedback on current research, and advice on writing and publishing.

London is now one of the international centres of research and teaching in the history of political thought and intellectual history with a dedicated graduate programme accompanied by year-round research seminars, conferences, and workshops. The Summer School is run jointly by UCL and Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL).

The third London Summer School in Intellectual History will take place in September 2014; details will be advertised in early 2014. The last Summer School, in September 2013, was attended by a select group of international graduate students studying at a wide array of universities – among them UCL, QMUL, Yale, Stanford, Oxford, Cambridge, Heidelberg, the Free University of Berlin, and the University of Amsterdam.

My time in London felt like a rainstorm of academic inspiration washing the jaded graduate student stagnancy off my mind. Surrounded by brilliant students and amazing professors, I learned about far more than Intellectual History, the concept of liberty, and the intricacies of the field. The experience reawakened the initial passion for history and love of the Ivory Tower I had as an undergrad. I felt motivated and challenged by the great minds around me and the captivating discussions we were holding.

Despite being far out of my comfort zone as a late medievalist, this program gave me new ideas for how to approach my thesis topic, as well as invaluable advice and feedback from the professors and my colleagues in the Summer School. The lasting impact of participating in the program is one of renewed enthusiasm and drive to excel.

This was my first time abroad alone, and I had not been to London since I was fifteen. The day after the Summer School ended, I visited to the Tower of London, where history first came alive for me ten years ago at the execution site of Anne Boleyn. To revisit that spot fresh after an amazing intellectual meeting of the minds, two years into my graduate career in the field, left me speechless. I reflected upon the reasons why I started, why I love history so deeply, and why I have chosen to dedicate my life to it.

My experience in London sparked a fire that has me working harder and approaching my research from fascinating new angles. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to participate in the London Summer School in Intellectual History, and I am sure that I will look back on this program as a crucial turning point in my academic life.

Lauren Ashley Miller, San Jose State University, California

The London Summer School in Intellectual History, jointly run by UCL and QMUL, provided an intensive four-day program. I left my hotel at 8:30 AM in the morning to be at UCL in time for the first activities, only to return at around 11:00 PM. The program consisted of three sessions a day: it kicked off with a masterclass, centred on the work of a famous thinker (my group discussed Rousseau, Hegel, and Mill). Student presentations followed in the early afternoon, after which the program ended with a session that offered a closer look in what was going on behind – so to speak – the scenes of Intellectual History: editors revealed the procedures they used to determine what would be published (or rejected), and scholars from other disciplines explained what intellectual history meant for them. Peter Mack, Director of the Warburg Institute, deserves special mention. From numerous participants I heard that they had very much enjoyed his inspiring lecture. I found the entire program of high quality, which may also be due to the fact that I was an MA student amongst a cohort mostly consisting of PhD students.

The formal program, which ended at 5:30 PM, and the informal “after-program” melted into each other quite neatly. Summer schools seem designed to function like this. We were a very international group of participants (studying in the UK, the US, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden – but coming originally from a wider variety of countries); finding ourselves in a foreign city, we tended to stay a rather intact group when moving from the classrooms on Gordon Square to the London pubs and restaurants. The afternoon sessions, reserved for student presentations, provided an opportunity for a brief introduction to everyone’s research, which then could be discussed in more detail after the formal program was over. International contacts were established that will be of lasting value for research and otherwise.

Sebas Rümke, VU University, Amsterdam

Lauren and Sebas at the end of the Summer School

Lauren and Sebas at the end of the Summer School

2 thoughts on “A rainstorm of academic inspiration

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