Introducing Benjamin Newman – CDA Student

Hello Surgeons!

I’m Ben, an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award (CDA) student working in partnership with the department and the Royal Ben Newman Geographical Society (with IBG). I am supervised jointly by Dr. Innes Keighren and Dr. Catherine Souch (Head of Research and Higher Education Division at the RGS), with Prof. Klaus Dodds offering guidance and support for good measure.

My journey at Royal Holloway started some 5 years ago when I joined the department as a young, fresh-faced undergraduate student. I completed my undergraduate degree on the BA Geography course, where I was introduced to the world of historical geography on the second-year research field trip to New York. I moved on to the MA in Cultural Geography (Research) in 2013 (notwithstanding that fact I hadn’t previously undertaken any of the cultural geography modules available at undergraduate level). Despite an apprehensive start, I enjoyed the new and varied concepts introduced in each of the seminars and creative practices (which including strapping a Go-Pro to a dog), however, almost inevitably, I found myself back in the archive to complete my MA dissertation.

Throughout my time at Royal Holloway, I used the respective dissertations to hone the clumsy archival research skills that would have been on display in the New York Public Library years earlier. My undergraduate dissertation took me to the League of Nations Archive on the United Nations campus in Geneva and considered the conception, implementation, and circulation of the League of Nations’ interwar nutrition programs. Since the glamour of New York and Geneva things have come slightly closer to home. Under the guidance of Prof. Felix Driver, I found Richard Dennis’s and others fascinating work on nineteenth-century modernity and formulated a project considering the new lived experience and politics of the first, deep-level electric underground railway in London (and the world).

Now I am here, starting another exciting adventure, it was never meant to happen like this, but Harriet could sell ice to the inuit or, more appropriately, PhDs/MAs to students who aren’t quite sure if they are ready for the next step. Although I have been at Royal Holloway for years, I have been exposed to a range of geographic concepts not least at LS. Broadly I am interested in historical geographies of the nineteenth century (I think it’s a great time period to work in given its turbulence and rapidity, the emergence of new geographic experiences and knowledge making) and the mobility of people, objects, and knowledge during that period. I am currently working under the title: “Geography in Dialogue: Print Culture at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), c. 1830–c. 2000”. The project uses The Geographical Journal (GJ) as an empirical focus. First printed in 1831, a year after the founding of the RGS, the GJ’s long-standing tradition of publishing lectures delivered in the Society alongside the questions and discussions which followed them, offers an important insight into the circulation and reception of ideas within geography and the nature of the discipline’s dialogues throughout time and space. As a CDA student, the project was formulated by my respective supervisors and, therefore, currently a significant portion of my time is dedicated to the reworking of the project within the loose parameters already set out in the original AHRC proposal.

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