A PhD student supervised by Leeds Trinity University has been awarded a recommendation of research excellence for her thesis.

​Dr Helen Kingstone passed her Viva in November 2013, successfully defending her thesis: ‘Victorian Negotiations with the Recent Past: History, Fiction, Utopia’, which led to the award of her doctorate. Her thesis explored nineteenth-century approaches to writing contemporary history. As she showed, history was only established as an academic subject in the Victorian period, so historians often preferred to write about the distant past rather than their own controversial era. By contrast, surprising numbers of Victorian novels (including by Dickens, the Brontës and George Eliot) were set back in time by 30 or 40 years, into exactly that recent past period. The thesis examined why contemporary history is such a difficult subject, and why the Victorian period saw a divergence between the history and novel genres.

Research degrees undertaken at Leeds Trinity are currently awarded by the University of Leeds. Following the Viva process, Dr Kingstone’s examiners at the University of Leeds recognised the exceptional quality of Dr Kingstone’s thesis by awarding her a ‘recommendation of research excellence’. This is only used in exceptional cases if the candidate has passed with no corrections or only editorial corrections.

Dr Kingstone’s examiners’ report praised her choice of subject for being ‘more ambitious and original than most PhD projects’, and also commented that “This is a thesis of unusual ambition and range, synthesizing concepts across the disciplines of history, philosophy, and literature.” The experienced external examiner of over thirty theses also said that “this was one of the best vivas she had ever attended.”

Dr Kingstone commented:

“The PhD viva is always a nerve-racking experience, and I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it was in the end – a chance for a good discussion rather than just an exam! That was certainly the result of the supportive and collaborative supervision I had from all three of my supervisors – I could never have completed the project without them.” 

Dr Rosemary Mitchell (pictured above right), Director of the Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies based at Leeds Trinity University, was Dr Kingstone’s lead supervisor throughout her PhD, with support from co-supervisors Dr Nathan Uglow (Leeds Trinity University) and Dr Richard Salmon (University of Leeds). Dr Mitchell commented:

“Helen is an exceptional young scholar who not only produced an original and intellectually challenging thesis in her three years with us, but also ran Leeds Trinity’s first postgraduate colloquium with another of our PhD students – Katie Lister, Katie Lister, also recently awarded her doctorate – and completed two articles which have been accepted for publication in The George Eliot Review and Clio, both well-regarded academic journals. 

“Her impressive interdisciplinary research is emblematic of what we aim to achieve in the Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies, which is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year.  All three of Helen’s supervisors loved working with her, and we wish her the very best for the future.”

Leeds Trinity University is currently expanding its PhD provision, and recently invited applications for 10 full-time funded PhD Studentships in the areas of Victorian Studies, History, Theology and Religious Studies, Creative Writing, Film and Media Studies, Social Policy, Education Sport Science/Ergonomics, and Forensic Psychology.