Meet the Programme Leader - Dr James R Gregory

Dr James Gregory is programme leader for the MA in History. His research interests in modern British history include the social and cultural history of organised vegetarianism; capital punishment in the Victorian era; and eccentricity and local, regional or national identities. He’s written biographies of spiritualist aristocrats and a radical poet who ended up in a lunatic asylum; studied men and women who spoke out against the State’s use of the gallows; and explored a ‘commodity of oddity’ – involving eccentric biographies and portraits of unusual people – eagerly consumed across the British world.

“I’ve often been drawn to more marginal figures and to causes that didn’t attract a huge number of supporters. More recently I’ve been trying to understand – in exploring ‘integrity’ and ‘mercy’ – virtues or qualities which most people would have endorsed, but which, at the same time, often had varied political uses. ”

The MA in History programme develops your expertise in a discipline that seeks to understand a subject of great public interest, and which has developed in astonishingly diverse ways in over a century as a professional field of study. We have experts in the history of gender and sexuality, in diplomacy, in military history, in maritime fields, in religious history, and popular culture, and the geographic and chronological range of our research interests is striking for a modestly sized department.

You’ll be exploring the philosophy of history, studying some of the major approaches and milestones in the pursuit of ‘historical truth’ (if that is even attainable), appreciating the key debates, and considering what challenges historians face today. 

In some ways, the task of the researcher in the humanities, often now exploiting collections of digitised texts, images and sounds, and connected to wider communities through discussion groups, blogs, and mailing lists, has been made easier: but the MA training is about developing your discrimination and confidence in handling what may be a bewildering mass of primary sources, navigating the specialist historiography, and helping to develop your own academic voice.

And there’s a real privilege for us as the academic staff, in the seminars or leading the lectures, to participate in the conversations you’ll have about the nature of history, and in guiding your research projects.  If this is the stepping stone to further historical work by you, in a PhD, then you are the future of the subject! But studying the MA will give you training useful for a range of careers, and the public history module is especially geared to give you practical insights into the ‘uses of history’ outside academia. When you study at Plymouth, you are a valued part of the research-active community, and will be encouraged to join in the ‘making of history’ with your own research projects and involvement in research seminars.

- James R Gregory