Cultural History programme


Thesis: ‘A Sad Tale of Domestic Life’: Identifying ‘Separate Spheres’ in Violent Crime By and Against Domestic Servants in Dundee, ca. 1860-1910

by Victoria McIntyre

Hi CHME students!

I’m Victoria, a recent graduate from your MA programme! I completed my Bachelor of Arts at the University of Queensland in 2015 and, during that degree, I was so nervous about writing a brilliant thesis that I submitted a train-wreck. I applied to Utrecht University both as ­– despite my disappointment – I still wanted to pursue History as a future career and I knew I needed to flex my thesis-writing muscles and redeem myself. I went into the CHME programme ‘all guns blazing’, seized every opportunity that came my way and wrote a thesis that I am truly proud of and which helped me to secure a ‘cum laude’ postgraduate result. I did it through sheer determination and confidence in my research, and you can do the same!

“Preparation is 90 per cent of the job” – that’s a mantra my dad has drilled into me since I was a child. Just as all the lecturers will tell you, there really is no better feeling than being prepared and on schedule with your work, which usually comes as a result of (you guessed it) starting early. I settled on my thesis topic over the 2016-17 Christmas break: a good six months before my due date of 26 June. Despite completing two internships and an extracurricular Honours programme while keeping up with all the exhaustions of life as a twenty-something student in a new country, I succeeded in setting and meeting manageable goals. I found an excellent supervisor in dr. Willemijn Ruberg, who greatly aided these milestones by providing me with guidelines and a flexible schedule. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to have a respectful and productive relationship with your supervisor; they are there to shine a light for you when the thesis tunnel is long and dark, but you must put the work in!

Now, I – like many of you, I’m sure – often suffer from debilitating writer’s block, which makes reaching draft deadlines difficult. I once watched a YouTube video that claimed to cure this ailment by assuring the writer that they had “permission to write garbage” which brings me to the personal development side of thesis writing. Whether you are satisfied with what you have written or not, it is a 100 per cent improvement on an empty page! At various stages of writing my research proposal, chapters and polishing the final product, I had crises of confidence. With my BA thesis, I let these worries consume me, but during my MA, I simply trusted that my topic had substance, purpose and academic worth. As amateur historians we know that nothing we do will cure cancer. Nonetheless, we are doing justice to the dead and the disenfranchised and our work is significant to us – what else matters?

My thesis focused on a feisty group of domestic servants from Dundee, Scotland in the second half of the nineteenth century. It took me to three different archives in Scotland, through innumerable directories, legal records and newspaper articles and challenged me to utilise the theoretical and practical tools I had learnt throughout the CHME programme. When you choose your route, I hope you find it as fulfilling as I did! And, mostly importantly, enjoy it!

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