A Post-doctoral Position, Hurrah!

20 Aug

iash_logoThe year or so since I had my PhD viva has been one of ups and downs, highs and lows. That, its seems, is the norm for the newly minted academic Doctor and something I entirely expected. In fact, it’s a subject that I’m writing a fairly long post on, but for now I’d like to talk about a recent ‘up’.

I’m delighted to say that I’ve been awarded a Post-doctoral Research Fellowship by the Institute for  Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH) at the University of Edinburgh. The fellowship runs from September 2015 to May 2016 and allows me to research one of the building blocks of a much bigger post-doctoral project.

My IASH project revolves around state secrecy, the intelligence services, and the news media in early 1980s Britain. This project investigates the intersections between the state, public service broadcasting, and secret intelligence during the earliest years of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership.

In early 1980s Britain, there was an unprecedented level of interest in espionage. The publication of Chapman Pincher’s Their Trade Is Treachery caused a media sensation, while Duncan Campbell’s exposure of British spying also created uproar. This wave of formerly secret information was not limited to print journalists. The BBC – an organisation at the heart of British cultural life – produced many programmes challenging governmental secrecy at a time when tension between East and West was reinvigorated after the relative calm of the détente years.

This project’s focus is a little-researched incident from 1980-81, where the government pressured the BBC to withdraw or censor an episode of the Panorama documentary strand focusing on the intelligence community. The Thatcher government’s antipathy towards the BBC is well known, but this project offers new insights by connecting and textually analysing materials from a range of archives, one of which is under-utilised by scholars examining these issues (the BBC Written Archives) and another that is totally new (the Duncan Campbell Collection). Why, though, did the Prime Minister, her ministers, and civil servants react to the prospective broadcast in such a fashion? Was it simply a desire to keep secret intelligence secret, or were there wider ramifications?

Therefore, this project addresses – through an interdisciplinary approach drawing upon work done in history, political science, and media studies – the relationship between the state, public broadcasting, journalists, and Cold War concerns to explain how and why the government sought to manipulate and influence public perceptions of secret intelligence. To my mind, it is more vital than ever to explore the history of the intersections between government, the ‘secret state’, and the media. Furthermore, there is a widespread public and academic interest in the ministries of Margaret Thatcher. The output from this undertaking will add to vital debates that are taking place – and will continue to take place – about the role of secrecy in democratic societies and the impact and influence of the Thatcher years.

One Response to “A Post-doctoral Position, Hurrah!”

  1. Kit Carruthers August 21, 2015 at 12:14 am #

    Good stuff Malc. The curse of the postdoc though; hope it leads onto more funding!

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