Workshop report by Julia Fernando, doctoral student at Aston Business School:
This year, I had the pleasure of attending the seventh annual Tony Slaven Doctoral workshop held by the Association of Business Historians (ABH) conference. The workshop is designed to enable doctoral students to share their research with academics and other students from the field of business history and receive feedback.
I submitted my proposal to the workshop with some hesitation – my academic and professional background is firmly rooted in Work and Organisational Psychology, with a particular focus on the experiences of women in the world of work. My current research, however, is inter-disciplinary, drawing on Area Studies, Work Psychology and Business History to explore the contemporary and historical factors influencing the patterns of female entrepreneurship in Uganda.
Prior to my doctoral studies, I had come across historical methods in my wider reading of the social sciences but had never perceived a compatibility between the two disciplines. My lack of knowledge about history and historical methods threatened to dissuade me from applying to the workshop. However, the workshop’s reputation of having an informal and supportive atmosphere fought back the pangs of imposter syndrome and I successfully submitted a proposal.
The workshop preceded the annual ABH conference 2018, at the Open University, Milton Keynes. Upon arrival, I was invited to join a small selection of doctoral students and academics, who were congregating around the refreshments in the upstairs foyer of the Michael Young Building. My nerves immediately eased as we were warmly welcomed by Mitchell Larson and given an overview of the day.
The workshop comprised of presentations by doctoral students and skills sessions led by experienced academics. The day kicked off with two excellent student presentations on the history of banking and finance in the UK. Carolyn Keber discussed her research on UK investment trusts before WW1 and Oluwatoyin Olojido shared insights from her study on the role of aristocracy in British new share issues in 1891-1914.
A roundtable on doctoral examinations followed the morning’s presentations. I learnt about the common challenges facing final year students and the ways to best prepare for your final year defence from the perspective of experienced examiners in the room. As a first-year student, I listened in with great interest but a degree of psychological detachment – stressors for next year, I reminded myself…
After lunch, Professor Peter Miskell shared fascinating insights in his interactive session on the publication patterns of business historians. Learning that the Business History of Africa remains partial and less frequented, only further sparked my motivation for adopting historical methods in my study of female entrepreneurship in Uganda.
Beatriz Rodriguez and I presented our research on the Business History of developing economies. Beatriz shared her proposed research design investigating the financing varieties of capitalism in Colombia after 1950 and I gave an overview of my research and motivations to contribute a Business History of women entrepreneurs in Uganda. A lively discussion followed both of our presentations, which spilled over into side conversations and discussions sometime after the workshop closed.
I walked into the Tony Slaven Workshop unclear about how historical methods could precisely complement the research question I am pursuing. I walked out with a sense of direction, pages of recommended reading and contact details of the academics who have already offered me extensive, informal support. I have felt hugely supported by the Tony Slaven Workshop organisers, attendees and the ABH community as a whole and would thoroughly recommend the workshop to any doctoral students incorporating an element of business history in their research.
The Slaven doctoral colloquium will run again next year, please go to the ABH website for updates: http://www.abh-net.org/