University of Leicester eBulletin

Degree Idea Sparked by Ancestors

July 2003

Despite not holding a first degree, Pam Fisher has just graduated with a distinction from the University of Leicester with a Masters degree in English Local History – and her highly acclaimed dissertation grew out of investigations into her ancestors.

Before researching for her degree, Pam had studied her own family history. She commented: “I uncovered some fascinating characters, and even found records of the negotiations that one of my ancestors – a ship’s captain – had with the natives of several remote islands in the early nineteenth century during a voyage to the South Seas that lasted several years.

“Closer to home, I found a notice which another ancestor placed in his local newspaper in 1779, seeking election to the office of coroner for the county of Oxfordshire. I searched in vain for a book that would tell me about the work of a coroner in this period. Thus, when I was trying to choose a topic for my MA dissertation, I knew that the office and role of the coroner could be a good choice.”

Treading such an uncharted path proved to be a challenge, but it allowed her to approach the topic with no preconceptions, and build her own ideas and arguments from scratch.

Working full-time, Pam had to take her Masters degree by studying in the evenings and at weekends. However, she was no stranger to this method of study. With no undergraduate degree, she had already taken professional qualifications to postgraduate level by private study, and had researched the history of certain towns and villages as well as her own family’s roots in her spare time. She had also completed the Local History Certificate offered by the University of Leicester’s Institute of Lifelong Learning, which she said gave her an excellent grounding and the confidence to tackle the Masters.

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Information supplied by: Barbara Whiteman
Last updated: July 2003
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