During the Spring semester students enrolled in GEP 4180, Research and Writing II with Dr. Judith Carmel-Arthur, took advantage of a study visit to the National Archives, Kew, to work with some original archival materials that underlay our understanding of events in British history.
The visit drew on experiential teaching and learning methods to widen students’ familiarity with and actual practical use of some types of potential research sources not usually encountered at the undergraduate level.
As the course studies the art of argumentation, a case-study was set up during a preliminary classroom lesson which showed differing perspectives on the Suffragette Movement in the early 20th Century. During the same classroom session, students were given basic document handling and conservation lessons to ensure they later arrived at the Archive with a solid overview of the nature of these new artefactual research sources.
Once in the Archive, students handled and studied a wide variety of original documentation relating to the suffragettes, including personal and family letters, police reports, prison reports on force feeding, diet and the general well-being of the suffragette prisoners, in addition to original news cuttings covering the death of the activist Emily Wilding Davison at the Epsom Derby in 1913.
Afterwards, students said:
“I found the trip very informative and engaging and I definitely plan to take advantage of my 3 year pass.”
“It was really interesting (to) study original documents, and the trip taught me to see the value in going straight to the original source”
“The National Archive was an interesting experience. I learned a new way to do research.”
“It allowed me not only to research information on the women suffragettes, but interpret and form my own opinion on the authentic documents that no computer program could allow me to do.”
“. . .it was interesting to get it straight from the source and to completely read through documents of what was happening in those exact moments, and not read from a site online that put information in their own words; this information was actually legit.”