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The University of Southampton
Doctoral College

Dear Anne,

Anne Curry steps down in July as Dean of the Faculty of Humanities after eight years. Her researches focus on Anglo-French relations in the later middle ages and especially on the battle of Agincourt (1415). She has published many books and articles in French and English, including most recently the Penguin Monarchs volume on Henry V, and has been president of the Historical Association as well as vice president of the Royal Historical Society and a member of the AHRC Postgraduate Committee. She chaired the University’s Graduate School Committee between 2008 and 2010.

Dear Anne,

Hindsight is a valuable thing. Historians exploit it all the time. You would be thrilled to know that you did manage to have a long career in academia, culminating in the Chair of Medieval History at the University of Southampton and the opportunity to develop the careers of your own hard working and brilliant PhD students.

The circumstances under which you took your doctorate were unusual even at the time. In the mid 1970s the Polytechnics in the UK, still under the control of local authorities and making awards under the Council for National Academic Awards, were keen to have doctoral students. But who would go to Teesside Polytechnic in Middlesbrough to work on fifteenth-century armies? You did - because the Poly had hit on a brilliant way of recruiting PhD students in humanities and social sciences – a three-year post at 80% of the lecturer salary where you had to register for their doctorate and do six hours of teaching a week as well as helping your supervisor with their research. Even better than that, the help yours needed was for you to spend six months in France collecting data in the archives, all expenses paid! And the icing on the cake?

So why did it take you so long to complete your thesis? OK you got a permanent post at Reading after two years and had lots of teaching to prepare so had to go part time. But I think you should have had more self-confidence in your research and writing when you were younger. Doctoral students often don’t realise how they are at the cutting edge and can soon become experts in their field. You were a bit nervous putting forward your new interpretations but you should not have been. Remember how buoyed up you were when you gave a paper at a conference in Bristol and it was accepted for publication even before you finished your PhD? You should have found more opportunities to give papers to try out ideas. You shouldn’t have worried about whether you had collected enough data before you started writing. Researching and writing support each other: draft chapters give you a clear idea of what else you need to find out. You are always telling your own students that now. And I am impressed your time management is much better now than it was then!

But you did realise how helpful your supervisor and other colleagues could be in guiding you, especially in communicating and in teaching. You got a great deal out of being in a community of other doctoral students working across a huge range of subject areas. You volunteered to be the student rep on Teesside Polytechnic’s Research Committee, thereby getting insights into the bigger picture. Talking, listening, networking, building new links in France. It was great fun as well as a strong foundation for what was to come.

In the great group of fellow doctoral researchers there was your future husband researching local government reorganisation, who introduced you to the possibilities of putting your soldiers’ names into a computer database. The rest, as they say, is history.

Best wishes,


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