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Currently studying for a PhD in Poor Law History, Margaret developed her interest in the area when doing a taught MSc at the University of Oxford. She specializes in the Old Poor Law (OPL), which ran from 1601 to 1834. One of the fascinating things about this study is that the administration of the OPL has left thousands and thousands of documents in archives up and down the country and it is one of the only ways that we can get a glimpse into the lives of the poorest people in those centuries.

“I applied to do my PhD at Reading for several reasons. Firstly, there was a regional bursary which I could apply for. Second, I needed to demonstrate a link with the local area, and study of something local. I have lived in Reading for 46 years, and in my time have been a Borough Councillor, Chair of Reading Labour Party, and a governor of several schools. In addition a big chunk of my thesis focuses on the operation of the OPL in Reading. I was also attracted to the local area resource provided by such facilities as the Museum of English Rural Life.” 

Incredible support

Margaret’s experience of University life, has been affected by the Covid situation, which kicked off a few months before she started her course, and is only starting to ease now.

“A lot of my study has been at home, so I have found the University’s online support and library resource absolutely priceless over this time. I have also been able to manage helpful sessions with my supervisor, Dr. Charlotte Smith, and second Professor Rosemary Auchmuty, via Teams. I am sure when the University set all this up they had not envisioned this emergency, but their systems have stood up very well.”

“The University has a beautiful campus; I worked in the university sector before I started this course, and visited a lot of universities. Not many have anything like this. I hope to be able to spend more time there now lockdowns and restrictions are easing.”

Looking at the future

Margaret is hoping to use her doctorate to pursue further research, and writing. She has already had a couple of books on local history published, and would like to continue.

“I am also a qualified teacher, and started my career teaching (although I later moved into politics and lobbying). I would be interested in picking up some adult education teaching after this.”

Life outside the university

“Currently I do not get a lot of spare time outside of my research! I go walking and swimming to keep fit, and have recently acquired a little granddaughter who we try to spend as much time as possible with.”

In addition to her studies, Margaret has recently represented the University of Reading as a member of their University Challenge team.