Professor Annie Tindley
School of History, Classics and Archaeology
Please describe your current research interests
I am a historian and my research interests are focused on the aristocratic and landed classes, landed estates and their management from the mid-eighteenth to mid-twentieth centuries, in the Scottish, Irish, British and imperial contexts. I look at the ways in which landed elites defined and translated their power – territorial, political, social, financial – across their estates, the domestic political world of Westminster, and into the imperial context as governors and legislators. Related to this is my work on historical and contemporary land reform, mainly in the Scottish context.
I have also worked extensively with other disciplines, including design, water engineering and visual arts. I also champion working out of the academy in all capacities, including policy work for the Scottish Government and adult and lifelong learning work.
Why did you choose this field?
I’ve always loved History and historical research and my research allows me to work primarily in this disciplinary area, while having some degree of contemporary relevance and usefulness. I love rural Scotland – its communities and landscapes – and this research embeds me into that context. I very much enjoy working with other disciplinary areas to explore multifaceted questions about the landscape, land management and land reform issues too. Fundamentally, I am interested in the nature and operation of power, from the perspective of the traditionally powerful in society, and how and why that came under increasing pressure in the modern period, with what results.
What are the main methods you use, how and why?
My principal research method is archival research; that is, identifying and analysing the documentary archives of individuals and organisations – in my case, usually those of aristocratic individuals and landed estates – to build a picture of how these elite institutions operated and were managed. There is a good deal of variation under the label ‘archive:’ this can constitute correspondence, diaries, minutes, mapping, visual materials and objects, official papers of the state. All require careful analysis and cross-referencing.
Which methods excite you?
Working in and with archives, which have their own fascinating histories excites me. The archives of landed estates and aristocratic families tend to be very large, constituting kilometres of shelving, especially for the 19th century – this excites me; I love that sense of full immersion in the archive and putting together a puzzle.
Are there any methods you’d like to explore?
I would like to explore recent methodological developments in historical geography and archaeology in relation to landscape analysis and community engagement with place. Methods such as map questionnaires, creative and performing arts, oral histories and landscape categorisation are all approaches I would like to explore in much more detail.
Who inspires you methodologically?
A historian called James Hunter: over a forty-plus year career in journalism, historical scholarship, university teaching, campaigning for rural and Highland Scotland, Jim has developed an incredible methodological range. He is a very experienced archival historian, but combines this with oral history techniques, literary criticism, environmental and landscape studies and the political and social sciences – a true polymath.
What, about methods, did you wish your younger self had known?
Where do I start – pretty much everything! When I was an undergraduate, there was little or no explicit methodological teaching on History degrees: it was more of a trial and error approach. It was only when I began teaching myself after my PhD that ‘methods’ modules were widely introduced and so by teaching others, I learned on the job. The explosion of digital search tools and major digitisation projects of archival materials has also transformed historical research today. I suppose I wish I had been introduced to the wider world of methodological research and to those used in other related disciplines such as literature, historical geography and the social sciences: there is so much to explore!
Have you had any memorable methodological blunders?
I cannot be sure if this constitutes a genuine blunder, but I have always in the back of my mind that, working as I do on very large and often uncatalogued archival collections, I will finish up a piece of research and publish it, only to discover a whole series of boxes or files I had overlooked which would change my conclusions completely!
Which upcoming ECR or PgR should we look out for?
Violeta Tsenova, a 4th year PhD student based in the SHCA: she has an incredible breadth of methodological expertise and experience already, and generates outstanding real-world impact from her research on critical making and heritage.
If you could recommend students read just one text on methods (book or journal article), what would it be?
This is not explicitly a book about methods, but it kind of is at the same time … and I love it!
John Harris, No Voice from the Hall: early memories of a country house snooper (London, 1998).