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I spent Easter Term 2019 as an Archives By-Fellow at Churchill College, and I could not have asked for a more rewarding or productive experience. Having previously visited the college’s Archives Centre, I was aware of the wealth of material there, particularly in relation to my own research interest, which is in the area of code breaking and intelligence during the First and Second World Wars. To have been afforded the opportunity of spending an entire term there as an Archives By-Fellow, however, allowed me an uninterrupted eight week period to fully immerse myself in the rich collections held at the Archives Centre, a process which proved invaluable in progressing the biography of female code breaker Emily Anderson OBE which I am currently writing. I was particularly fortunate in being able to consult a number of significant collections related to code breaking and intelligence during the First World War, very few of which survive. The collections of Denniston, Clarke, Hall and Bruford were particularly valuable. With regard to the interwar and Second World War period the Churchill, Batey, Christie, Milner-Barry and MacLachlan-Beesly papers in particular provide both historical context and significant links to further collections and archives.
The Archives Centre itself is a wonderful space in which to undertake research, and I happily echo the comments of every previous By-Fellow in saying that the Archives staff, to a man and woman, are an absolute delight to work with. Knowledgeable, accommodating, and genuinely interested in the work of all of those who spend time in the Archive, they made one really feel at home, and that one was in safe hands – no possible lead would be missed, no potentially useful collection left unexamined. I want to particularly acknowledge Allen Packwood’s help in pointing out to me some collections I might not have considered relevant to my own research, but which ultimately proved to be a treasure trove of information, much of which will feature in my biography of Emily Anderson OBE.
During my time at Churchill College I was determined to fully immerse myself in the By-Fellowship experience, and that I did, by attending as many lectures, concerts and other events as I could during my time there, and by dining frequently with colleagues. Everywhere I was met with a warm welcome, interest in my research, and helpful suggestions and insights regarding same, which enriched my research experience at Churchill College to a degree I would not have thought possible. I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the Master and all of the Fellows, and Visiting Fellows, who made my time at Churchill College so enjoyable as well as productive.
It was my great pleasure, and privilege, to have been an Archives By-Fellow at Churchill College. My research was immeasurably enhanced by having access to rare and quite remarkable archival collections. Those archival collections were in turn made accessible, and in many cases interpreted in a way that greatly enhanced their value, by a highly skilled and professional archival staff, who go above and beyond the call of duty in making their Archives By-Fellows feel welcome and supported. No researcher, or By-Fellow, could ask for more.
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