Lesley Trotter

Lesley Trotter's personal interest in Local History prompted her to enrol on our Advanced Undergraduate Diploma in Local History (Online) - which released her 'inner academic' and gave unexpected new focus and depth to her writing career.

'I'm a freelance writer and researcher working mostly in areas connected with my original science degree (many years ago) but I much prefer working on genealogy and heritage projects when I get the chance.'

'I had been picking up the leaflet for the Advanced Diploma in Local History in various record offices for years. When I was finally in a position to do the course, I had just missed the registration deadline for that year - so I did a one-year A Level Archaeology course to fill in!'

'I was particularly interested in the use of computers and databases in history, and how they enabled quantitative analysis on a large scale revealing new patterns and insights.'

Studying from home

'Of course, being able to do the course over the internet from home in Cornwall made the whole thing possible. I really enjoyed the regular online group tutorials and the contact with other students. They were so lively sometimes that typing your responses in fast enough before the discussion moved on was a challenge in itself.'

'When I started the course it was really just out of interest, and with the idea that it would help my writing career, but somewhere along the way my hidden inner academic emerged. After the course finished, I didn't want to leave it at that and discovered that I could do a part-time taught MA that had a strong element of local history at The Institute of Cornish Studies on the Cornwall campus of Exeter University.'

'My final year dissertation was on the experiences of the wives from a mining village in Cornwall who were 'left behind' when their husbands migrated to work in mines all over the world in the 19th century. That turned out so well that I am now expanding on this research as a full-time PhD student with Exeter University.'


Researching Cornish miners' wives

'Generally, when these women are mentioned at all in the literature, they are portrayed as struggling to cope on irregular remittances while waiting to be sent for to join their husbands overseas, as having been completely deserted, or occasionally as wasteful wives frittering away their husband's hard earned money. But this perception has arisen from mostly anecdotal evidence (e.g. newspapers, letters, family histories) that tend to concentrate on the more unusual or dramatic cases.'

'In my research I'm balancing this by tracing large numbers of wives identified from the census returns and quantifying what actually happened to them. The results from the parish that I looked at for my MA suggested that things, there at least, weren't universally as bad; very many of the wives were able to carry on in their own homes and were reunited with their husbands when they returned from working abroad or joined them there as part of a culture of, often temporary, labour migration. It is early days, but it looks like a fascinating untold story is going to emerge.'

'The research to date has been published as 'Desperate? Destitute? Deserted? Questioning perceptions of miners' wives in Cornwall during the great emigration, 1851-1891' by Lesley Trotter, in P. Payton (ed.), 'Cornish Studies Nineteen' (Exeter University Press, 2011).'

'In the long-term I plan to turn the thesis into a book, and then who knows?'

'I found that the Advanced Diploma in Local History was a really well organised distance learning course and the tutors were very supportive. I'd tell anyone with an interest to go for it!'