Elaine works in the Department of History. Her PhD research project is ‘The Culture of Horticulture: Urban Gardens and Gardening in Eighteenth-Century Birmingham’
Tell us a bit about your research…
This focuses on gardening and horticulture in a town more widely celebrated for taking the products of nature and turning them into the products of the Industrial Revolution. In a period when gardening underwent its own revolution, provincial towns were centres of horticultural enterprise, gardening activity and botanical knowledge. Uncovering Birmingham’s horticultural capital exposes aspects of the town’s history beyond its manufacturing nature, cultivating new perceptions of Birmingham in the eighteenth century. My work on Birmingham’s Vauxhall Gardens is published in a book co-edited with my supervisor: Malcolm Dick & Elaine Mitchell (eds), Gardens and Green Spaces in the West Midlands since 1700 (Hatfield, University of Hertfordshire Press, 2018). An interest developed over the course of my research is the intersection between garden history and printing history and culture and this is supported by membership of the Centre for Printing History and Culture (www.cphc.org.uk), a joint initiative between the University of Birmingham and Birmingham City University.
Why did you choose Birmingham? What do you like about the University and the city?
Birmingham is where I live and work so the University on my doorstep was the natural choice when I decided I wanted to do the degree I had never done, allowing me to continue my career whilst I studied. A part-time BA in Combined Humanities was followed by the part-time MA in West Midlands History. As my research interests developed around Birmingham in the eighteenth century, situating the town within the wider West Midlands, the University’s Centre for West Midlands History offered the expert supervision and support necessary for a research degree. The Centre’s relationships with other Universities and a range of cultural institutions across the region provide access to a wider research community.
What is your experience as someone researching the long eighteenth century at Birmingham?
I’ve found extensive resources and encouragement and a mutually supportive post-graduate community. The University has the advantage of being strong on eighteenth-century expertise across several disciplines, something invaluable to the cross-disciplinary nature of my project. The Cadbury Research Library’s Eighteenth-Century Collections are extensive and continue to offer up useful material, especially in the fields of botany, horticulture, landscape improvement and consideration of printing history and culture.
What advice would you give to someone considering postgraduate research?
Talk about your research ideas to anyone who’ll listen – it’ll help you refine your thinking, your proposal and why you want to do research.