Hannah Fay

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I was born in Leeds but grew up in Leeds neighbouring city of Bradford. I did my undergraduate degree in history at the University of Sussex in Brighton and now have returned north to do my Masters at Leeds.  

I am most interested in the history of colonial and post-colonial India. I am also interested in gender and memory history. I am also interested in how people and governments interact with their own histories. 

What made you want to apply to your Masters course and to Leeds?

While doing my undergraduate I found myself drawn to strands of history that are often defined as social and cultural history, I wanted to continue to advance my understanding of colonial Indian history from different perspectives. The University of Leeds offered a Masters programme that would allow me to develop a broad skills base and also allow me the freedom to follow my own interests aided by leading academics. 

What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?

My grandfather came from the princely state of Hyderabad, I was always curious about why he came to England. This led me to the study of Hyderabad and a broader interest in the history of India during and after colonial rule. At the same time, I find the relationship Britain has with its imperial past a complex one that requires constant examination and discussion and I am determined to acquire the skills and knowledge to fully engage in this debate.   

What aspects of the course are you enjoying the most?  

I really enjoy the optional module of ‘Making history: Archive collaboration’. This is a unique module that places each student in an archive attached to a specific project. The placement work has given me hands on experience in an archive and encourages me to reflect on the creation and maintenance of archives, which are one of the bedrocks of historical study. 

I also enjoy the core module of ‘concepts and debates in social and cultural history’. It encourages me to use methodologies and theories that I would not otherwise have considered while at the same time giving me the freedom to develop my own areas of interest. For example, having chosen to use gender history in one essay I was able to decide to focus on the Rani of Jhansi in the Indian uprising of 1857. 

What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?

The School of History is large and so you can always find an academic with experience in your area of interest who is willing to help you develop ideas. The University has four separate libraries and many different work areas including dedicated postgraduate spaces which makes it easy to find space for your work and research. The support offered for students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia is always amazing and everyone at disability services is always kind and ready to help. 

Did you work closely with a particular tutor or member or the University’s academic staff? Tell us about that experience. 

Dr Ria Kapoor is supervising my dissertation supervisor and is amazing always pushing me to develop my ideas to their full potential and even willing to support my investigations into slightly more ‘out there’ ideas. At the same time, she is kind and genuinely cares for her students’ well-being.  

What other activities are available for students to take part in outside of their studies, and which ones have you tried out yourself?

There are hundreds of societies as part of the students’ union, but I have found myself most at home with the global history reading group that meets every two weeks to discuss a reading chosen by one of the students. It’s great fun and it really makes me feel part of the community. 

At the same time as the University of Leeds is located within working city centre there is plenty of opportunity to wander down into Leeds proper and enjoy local crafts market that take place on Saturdays.

What do you plan to do when you’ve finished your course, and how do you think the skills and knowledge you’ve developed/are developing at Leeds will help with these plans?

Right now, I plan to continue on an academic path and apply to become a doctoral candidate to further my study of Hyderabad state and its relationship to Britain. My time at Leeds has given me a firm base on which to base further academic study. It has also increased my confidence in an academic setting. 

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?

I would say you should absolutely go for it; the campus is amazing and the people (both students and staff) are friendly and welcoming especially if you studied elsewhere at undergraduate. If you need support from disability services, they will be welcoming and helpful.