Diary of a summer scholar: Sam Jaffe

08 February 2017
Sam Jaffe

Sam completed a Summer Research Scholarship on the first age of industrial globalisation with Associate Professor Maartje Abbenhuis.

Towards the end of last year I faced an alarming reality: the year had flown by and my time at the University of Auckland was about to be over. My honours year was exhilarating and I knew that I wanted to continue my studies overseas, but how was I going to stay out of trouble for the next few months?

I applied for Associate Professor Maartje Abbenhuis’s research project — The First Age of Industrial Globalisation 1815–1918: A Bibliographic Exercise — because I wanted to spend my summer honing the historical research skills that I'd developed during honours. I also saw the chance to continue working with my supervisor and help her to produce a substantial academic work as being a particularly unique opportunity.

Put simply, I'm helping to lay the groundwork for Maartje's next book: a global history of the nineteenth century. I've been tasked with organising and making sense of the vast historiographical literature about the ‘long nineteenth century’ from 1815-1914.

I first encountered the long nineteenth century when I took HISTORY 238 From Peace to War: An International History of Europe, 1815-1914. This period began with a meeting of Europe's leaders after the Napoleonic Wars that aimed to construct a lasting peace, and ended with one of the bloodiest conflicts in human history: the First World War.

Understanding how historians have interpreted this intense period of industrial revolution, rising nation-states like Germany and the United States, and imperial expansion — including the colonisation of New Zealand — has central to my work this summer.

The first aspect of the project involves considering the global forces that governed nineteenth-century societies such as imperialism, trade and migration, and summarising the most important historiographical contributions to each of these themes. Unsurprisingly, this involves a lot of trips to the library and plenty of hours reading great books that you wouldn’t normally find on many summer reading lists.

One of the most important skills I've developed through my Summer Research Scholarship is the ability to read strategically and absorb an author's interpretation without poring over every word. Many career paths — whether they lead to a boardroom or a classroom — require you to confront unfamiliar information, sort out what's relevant and distil it into a communicable format.

The other aspect of my project involves discerning how other authors' interpretations will fit into my supervisor’s book and complement her arguments. This process has helped me to become a more succinct writer because, while many of these works are thicker than a phonebook, each one must be summarised into one A4 page — an often difficult task!

The exciting, challenging and rewarding nature of my Summer Research Scholarship has, without question, made me a better historian.

There are plenty of ways to waste a summer, but this certainly isn't one of them.

Find out more about Summer Research Scholarships