Portrait of Chris Toole

Chris Toole

I decided to take a sabbatical from work after 28 years working in financial services and latterly 5 years teaching English in a large comprehensive school. 

My undergraduate degree was in English Language and Literature, but I have always had a passion for History. I wanted to take the opportunity to develop my academic research skills, with the ultimate aim of achieving a doctorate at some stage in the future. Leeds offered a very broad range of modules to choose from and I had heard good things about the School of History from friends and relatives. It also allowed me to study part-time and to be able to keep living at home.

My particular interest has been local history, which thrives in Halifax (my hometown) partly through the activities of the local antiquarian society.  I have published book reviews in their annual Transactions and also contributed to a study of a nearby village, focusing on 19th century trade directories. I think it is fascinating to research and understand the locality and its development, partly because there is so much evidence to hand in terms of the built environment and partly because the story of the Industrial Revolution in West Yorkshire is so compelling.

I am enjoying the discussions we have in our seminars and the opportunity to debate ideas and theories with academic rigour. I feel it's a real privilege to be able to pursue my interest to such a level, after many years of treating it as just a hobby to be fitted in around the demands of working life. It's great to be part of the School of History community, where everyone has an obvious love of the subject and I have been made to feel very welcome as a mature postgraduate by all the other students on the course. The tutors have been very clear on expectations week on week and it is all very well organised. The modules are designed to keep challenging and developing students, but at a pace that is manageable.  

When I finish my MA I hope to return to teaching at a secondary school for a few more years and then I will try and embark on a History doctorate.