Leanne is making history…again

Leanne Smith

Published on 30 July 2019

Leanne Smith was awarded the annual Sid Chaplin Memorial Prize for the best undergraduate dissertation in 2017 for ‘The Struggle over Female Labour in the Durham Coalfield, 1914-1918’. She won the Blackwell Prize for Best MA Historical Research 2018, for her analysis of an infamous sect in the 1650s – The Fifth Monarchy Men. Leanne has now been named proxime accessit for the Rees Davies Prize 2019 by the Royal Historical Society, rewarding her MA dissertation.

The Fifth Monarchy Men were charged with reforming society in order to bring about the second coming of Christ, are at the centre of her dissertation titled, ‘“In the Revolution of Times, the Changes will run their round out, and then the Lord will come to Reign” John Rogers: A Fifth Monarchy Man’s Commonwealth of Saints’.

The Rees Davies Prize for an outstanding Master’s thesis commemorates former Royal Historical Society President and distinguished medieval scholar, Professor Sir Rees Davies (1938-2005). It is awarded for the best Master’s dissertation submitted by a UK institution of Higher Education. The winner is awarded a prize of £250 and invited to submit an article based on the dissertation to be considered for publication in Transactions, a collection of the papers of the Royal Historical Society, which have been published since 1872.

She said: “It is such an honour to be named proxime accessit for the Rees Davies prize by the Royal Historical Society. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the assessors for their recommendation, and to thank Dr Delphine Doucet for her advice and encouragement throughout my time at the University of Sunderland. Hearing the news that I’d won this prize was amazing and means so much to me.

“Going to university was the best decision I’ve ever made. I had been working in call centres and left the job in 2009 to have my son. I had always wanted to go to university and thought this could be my chance to change my career. I also wanted to show my son that you can achieve your dreams if you work hard.”

Leanne, 39, joined the University of Sunderland in 2014 and achieved a First Class degree in History and thanks to the confidence she’d gained and with support from her lecturers she decided to sign up for her Masters, in which she achieved a distinction. She was awarded a studentship by Northern Bridge Consortium and will be starting her PhD at Newcastle University in September.

“I have loved studying at Sunderland and would recommend it to anyone,” says Leanne. “All of the academics in the history department are so supportive and approachable.”

Her winning research over the last year looks at a period of history in the aftermath of the English Civil Wars (1642-1651), and the backdrop of Oliver Cromwell’s leadership.

She explained: “My research focuses on the use of religious and secular languages by the Fifth Monarchist Preacher John Rogers to form his republican thought during the Interregnum period. The Fifth Monarchy Men were a millenarian sect which emerged after the execution of Charles Stuart. They believed that they were charged with the role to reform society in order to bring about the second coming of Christ.”

Although her dedicated research methods remained the same, her Masters subject was a departure from her earlier awarding winning work at undergraduate level when she unearthed original research into how the Durham Mining Association (DMA) resisted pressure from colliery owners and the government to accept the introduction of female labour during the First World War.

“My research showed that the Durham Mining Association resisted reforms, because they believed it was necessary to continue the status quo. The DMA were a very conservative body, who believed that a sexual division of labour was essential to coal mining communities such as the Durham coalfield.

“Women contributed not just domestically. It was women who built the Durham mining community, who held together the family unit and brought stability that made it possible for the coal mining industry to exist – and made equality impossible in the minds of the Durham Mining Association.”

Delphine Doucet, Senior Lecturer in Early Modern European History, said: “Leanne has grown from strength to strength throughout her time at university. She is determined and an excellent student.

“Reading through her drafts for her Masters dissertation as she developed her analysis of the Fifth Monarchists was a pleasure. Her final work was thoroughly enjoyable and I had no hesitation in submitting her work for such a prestigious award. I wish her all the best for her PhD work and am looking forwards to reading more of her insights on a fascinating topic.”

To find out more about postgraduate study at the University of Sunderland go to: sunderland.ac.uk/masters.