Interview: Prof Abigail Green on the Transformative Impact of the Leadership Fellow's Scheme
The Arts and Humanities Research Council's Leadership Fellows scheme is a chance to focus intently on your research goals and discover new interests as well, according to Professor Abigail Green.
“For me it's been a brilliant scheme to be involved with simply because it's given me time to focus on my own projects, and make real progress on them, while at the same time pursuing collaborative projects that I wouldn't have otherwise been involved with,” says the Professor of Modern European History at Brasenose College, University of Oxford.
The AHRC’s Leadership Fellows scheme provides time for research leaders, or potential future research leaders, the opportunity to undertake focused individual research alongside collaborative activities which have the potential to generate a transformative impact on their subject area and beyond.
“The great thing about the scheme is that you can apply for it an early stage in a research project, rather than simply to complete a project, which is incredibly rare,” says Professor Green.
“It's been wonderful that I've been able to use the post-doc associated with it to help me do my own research, while supporting them in their own work. And I've been able to collaborate with people working in similar areas. I've been able to do things that I knew I was interested in, but just hadn't been able to get involved with before now.
But alongside the expected academic outcomes, Professor Green has also had time to pursue her work in collaboration with the National Trust on an emerging side interest with direct relevance to her core research on liberalism and Jewish political thought.
“Many Jewish-owned English country houses, like Waddesdon Manor, served as liberal political salons as well as homes to Jewish liberals,” she says.
The exceptionally grandiose Waddesdon Manor was built in the style of a French château between 1874 and 1889 for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild for use as a country retreat to entertain guests and somewhere to display his collection of art.
“Waddesdon really highlighted to me a whole category of country houses that belonged to Jews, and had never really been thought about before in this context,” says Professor Green. “Not just in England, but on the continent as well. I was able to make contact with those other, similar properties – places like Schloss Freienwalde and Villa Kerylos - and will be taking this forward as a kind of network.
“It's really exciting because many of these houses hadn't previously thought much about their Jewish dimension. Nor had they been in touch with each other. We have been able to establish connections that didn't exist and all this has fed into the transnational dimension of my work.
“Being able to visit these houses is transformative, I think. Being able to visit Waddesdon was very important for me, because people usually think about Jewish liberal politics in a very urban context and if you didn't actual visit these places you wouldn't be aware of this extra dimension.
“I've also taken people I've collaborated with to these places and it's informed their research as well.
“These are very different spaces in which Jews were politically active. They are very grand, and not at all like the traditional urban world of bankers, lawyers and journalists, which we associate with Jewish liberal politics.”
Professor Green describes her participation in the Leadership Fellow scheme as a “catalyst” for her research and urges other academics to get involved.
“It's wonderful to have these resources if you are hard-pressed, or have small children, or difficult-to-access archives, or material in different languages,” she says.
“People make a fuss about impact, but I've really enjoyed that aspect of the fellowship and I'm now pursuing that in the context of a knowledge exchange programme sponsored by my own university.
“All in all it's been a wonderful experience.”