Late to the Start

There is something quite refreshing about returning to St Andrews after a small sojourn away: the familiarity of everything and the convenience of life is comforting to the weariest of travellers. I was definitely one of them having spent a month away from Scotland and away from the prospect of my project over the summer.

So when I did return last week I found that I felt both comforted to be in just one place but, at the same time, daunted by starting my eight-week project and by how much progress other Interns had made. My peers, it seemed, had all been hard at work, discovering exciting developments in their research. Some were even close to finishing. These facts filled my mind the Monday of my start and they were noticeably difficult to banish. This week I knew would be difficult but I also kind of knew where to begin.

The first thing that I knew I needed was perspective. Not everyone was nearing the end and there were even some new starters like myself. They were good to talk to as they had similar concerns about what lay ahead.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, I knew that I needed a plan and a reading list. A detailed plan about how to break up eight weeks of work and material to conquer this project. This was by far the most useful device to ease my worries. Once I had a plan and knew where I was going I was reassured that this as a project was not only manageable but once again exciting!

My last remedy for the nervous Laidlaw beginner might seem slightly odd if not obvious but I found that actually getting down to work and seeing progress being made before my eyes was greatly comforting. After all, this is what I had proposed to do in November and had been looking forward to it since.

As a result of these my nervousness had not only been assuaged but I have been rewarded in my first couple of weeks of research with new information that I previously knew nothing about. My project on Scots in the Bedchamber of James VI and I and their impact on his British policy in the early years of his English reign has been fleshed out by distinctive characters and operators surrounding the King. Working through the secondary literature in a thematic way has allowed me to connect what I previously knew about the early seventeenth century—and the problems of multiple monarchy that James faced—directly to this microcosmic area of the Court and the Bedchamber.

While I have only been reading for a couple of weeks I am beginning to see how my poster might take shape, what I will include in it and how I might even present it. I am beginning to consider what of the vast primary material I will further look at and, having completed the online courses provided by the Laidlaw internship, what other methods and resources I might use in my research. I am no longer fearing the weeks to come but relishing what they have to offer.

So to late beginners everywhere, I recommend the not-so-surprising remedies of taking perspective, making a plan and actually starting but to also think of what excitement and reward awaits.

Panel from Peter Paul Rubens’ ceiling panels in the Banqueting House, then part of the Palace of Whitehall, London. James (on the right) is being offered both the Crowns of Scotland and England. This is one of many representations of ‘union’ which surround James.

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