Monday 28 April 2014 witnessed The University of Winchester Research Symposium, a day designed to bring together all of the research conducted across the university. The symposium opened with an address by the Vice Chancellor, Joy Carter, emphasising the importance of research to the institution and that research was one of things that defined us as a university which in turn enhanced teaching. A report was given by the head of Research Knowledge Exchange, Professor Tony King regarding the university’s recent REF submission (Research Excellence Framework), which assess the quality of research within universities across the UK. This was followed by a discussion of open access publishing and its implications for academics.
The History Department has an impressive research pedigree, having a strong submission to the REF’s previous incarnation RAE in 2008 (which raised funds for 5 PhD studentships over the past several years) and it is hoped that there 2014 will see the department’s research profile continue to grow. In addition, the History Department made an important contribution to the day’s proceedings. Michael Hicks, James Ross and Gordon McKelvie all presented papers to the symposium, which was also attended by Louise Curth, Simon Sandall, Richard Aldous and Courtney Konshuh.
Professor Michael Hicks talked about the possibilities stemming from finding what many believe to be Richard III’s bones. He highlighted the fact that although there is a distinct possibility that the bones discovered in the Leicester car park in 2012 are indeed those of Richard III, the current evidence is not 100% certain. If we are to make deductions of the king’s character and the validity of Tudor descriptions of the king, then we require this certainty. He did suggest that there are other relatives of Richard’s for whom we are certain that we have their bones and therefore they could be used in future to ensure that it unquestionably is Richard. If this occurred then we would no longer be confusing possibilities and probabilities with certainties.
Dr Gordon McKelvie presented an initial report of the Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem of Richard III’s reign which he currently producing. The project is still in its early stages of development and therefore the focus of the paper was on the potential of the project and the importance of the contribution it will make to late medieval scholarship. Several areas of importance were highlighted, notably the scope of the project, the value of inquisitions post mortem for a range of historians and the potential research questions that these important documents can address. It also highlighted the way in which the Richard III calendar can complement the research of Professor Hicks, Dr Holford and Dr Tompkins on the larger ‘Mapping the Medieval Countryside’ project. Members of the audience were eager to ask questions ranging from technical questions pertaining to the calendaring process to broader questions regarding the value of inquisitions and proofs of age. Future papers at similar events will further disseminate the findings of this project in due course.
The third paper involved Dr James Ross sharing a small amount of his extensive research and expertise on John de Vere, 13th earl of Oxford, one of Henry VII closet confidants. Dr Ross published a well-received biography of the earl in 2011 and this paper drew together much disparate information on the earl during the Yorkist era. Rather than being a dogmatic and committed Lancastrian throughout the Yorkist era, Ross noted that de Vere’s motivations were about revenge for the execution of his father and brother than any ideological commitment to the Lancastrian regime. In this respect, de Vere was more anti-Edward IV than pro-Lancastrian. The examination had implications for the way we view the late medieval nobility, noting that each magnate’s actions were motivated by a cocktail of variable ingredients.
In all, the sessions, and indeed the symposium, were successful in drawing together the rich and diverse research across The University of Winchester and enabled Professor Hicks and Drs Ross and McKelvie to share and sharpen their own research.
*The W.U Hstry team would like to thank Dr. Gordon McKelvie for sharing with us information for this update.