A Reflection on the Value of Research Time and Space—and Access to Resources
From late March through early May 2019, I was very privileged to spend six wonderful weeks as the Joint Manchester Wesley Research Centre/John Rylands Research Institute Visiting Research Fellow. My project was entitled ‘The Liberal Non-Conformist Conscience and the Eastern Question: Appraising the Liberal Internationalist Turn. An Investigation in Methodist, Congregationalist & Quaker Circles and Print (1875-1915)’ and is part of a broader forthcoming monograph project on British Liberals/liberals and the Eastern Question at the turn of the twentieth century.
The value of such a span of concentrated research time is invaluable in the life of the lecturer-researcher. The fellowship enables researchers to explore unexplored aspects of Methodism by offering dedicated access to Methodist Archives and Research Centre at the John Rylands Library (in central Manchester). Lodging and a small stipend are also generously provided by the Manchester Wesley Research Centre (MWRC) located Nazarene Theological College (NTC). The awardee is hosted on the campus of the NTC, which is located in Didsbury, in a peaceful and restful suburb of Manchester. Not only a haven for research (with splendid grounds) and the hub of a lively community, the NTC harbours the MWRC, whose library and archive wonderfully complement the John Rylands collection. The MWRC/NTC also runs a weekly research seminar, which allocates time and space for thriving debates on topical historiographical developments of Methodist/Wesleyan religious thought and history with presenters and participants. These are ideal conditions for conducting research on Methodism and the daily commuting between Didsbury and central Manchester (approx. 40 mins) offers further time for reflection or relaxation.
In the course of the preparation of the application and of the stay, Geordan Hammond, director of the MWRC, was most helpful, as were Jane Gallagher (librarian who looks after the Methodist periodical collection at the John Rylands) and Helen Stocker (NTC librarian). The research involved consulting manifold Methodist, Congregationalist, and Quaker periodicals, mostly held at the John Rylands, to try to appraise the impact of crises in the Ottoman Empire, and in particular the Armenian massacres of 1894-1896, on the Liberal ideology, mindset and practices and examine its relation to the internationalist turn visible in the British Liberal conscience and Nonconformist conscience at the time (especially amongst Radical Holiness Methodist circles). The patience and expertise of the reading room’s staff at the John Rylands Library helped me make the most of my research time and verify various hypotheses. Exchanges with David Bundy, Associate Director of the MWRC, who currently researches the Radical Holiness movement’s pre-WWI connections with Ottoman Armenians, offered sharp insights into the complex landscape and overlap of turn-of-the-century Methodist groups and their relations with other denominations. Owing to time, space, hitherto unexamined resources and fruitful exchanges, I am continuing this research by looking at missionary periodicals (especially Methodist) held elsewhere, and will present a paper at the 2019 Methodist Studies Seminar, which coincides with the 75th anniversary of the establishment of Nazarene Theological College and will focus on the history and theology of the Holiness Movement in the UK. It is entitled: ‘Practical Christianity and Methodist Advocacy for Ottoman Armenians (1894-1915)’. Again, I am most grateful to the award board for all the opportunities opened up by the fellowship, which wonderfully coincided with a research leave awarded by the CNRS (French research national agency) for the 2018-2019 academic year.
Dr Stéphanie Prévost is Senior Lecturer in 19th-century British History and Culture, Faculty of English Studies, Université de Paris / LARCA (CNRS UMR 8225)