Anne Byrne McLeod

Alumni profile - Anne Byrne McLeod, PhD in Naval History

Why did you choose to study here?

I wanted the rigour of studying with the top naval historians of the day, and Exeter had at that time both Nicholas Rodger and Mike Duffy. I was not on campus, but travelled when I needed to from my home in Gravesend.

What did you enjoy most about studying here?

The freedom to do my own research in my own way, with the support and guidance of a top historian.

What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?

Once I had completed the PhD, having a book published immediately by a top-end academic publisher was a great thrill, and confirmed that I had achieved my goal of raising my game to match that of the top academic writers. The research for the subsequent book was completed and the writing begun when I was asked to become the honorary secretary of the Society for Nautical Research. This has changed my life. I had got into a very comfortable life, restricted to occasional trips to the National Archives for additional material, or opening parcels of books which arrived thanks to Abebooks. I could work uninterrupted for 12 hours a day, and my very understanding husband, similarly engrossed in an 18th century naval study of his own, supported my every move.

Now, as an official of an august body, I have never been busier. My own work has had to be put to one side, but I feel that I am actually advancing the cause of nautical history.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I am involved now in a project to make searchable the articles published by the Society in the Mariner's Mirror over the last 100 years. Yesterday i travelled back to Exeter. I spoke to over 30 members of the Society, telling them about my background as a historian. I then asked the students to be the pilot body, undertaking the task of writing abstracts and listing key words to each article. They embraced this wholeheartedly, and took ownership of two year's worth of published articles. I will go on to talk to the rest of the Universities already in my sights with renewed confidence. Making available to modern researchers the accumulated riches of a century of nautical history, seems to me to be a laudable goal. Thanks to Exeter's History Society, it appears that I will achieve it. I got home at 11.00pm tired but happy.

How have your University of Exeter studies helped in your career?

Having time to do original research was crucial to my PhD, and I am afraid that success there was more dependent upon my living near London than it did on my being a student at Exeter. But Exeter was relaxed about my being a distant student, and enjoyed the benefits of the original research, so we were both content.

Do you have any advice for current students wishing to pursue your career?

Be passionate about rooting your work in something original that you have discovered for yourself. It is not easy, but there are hundreds of undiscovered treasures waiting to be dug out. Don't be fobbed off with secondary sources that are not worth the paper they are printed on.

What are your plans for the future?

Once the Society's website has been redesigned to carry the newly searchable archive I will go back to the three books I have waiting to be written. The need for them sprang from my original research, and I look forward with real longing to getting back to my quiet, twelve-hour days of writing

Do you have any tips or advice on being employable?

Be passionate. Employers want to be convinced that you will feel strongly about their enterprise. If you can demonstrate passion about your own endeavours, and show that the skills you have learned will be transferable, you become an asset to the company and will be employed.