Saturday, 29 September 2012

A218 - Just call me Dr. McGiveron...

Maybe not just yet, eh. Might have been getting a bit ahead of myself.

Well, I'm now in my fourth year of studying with the OU - this one is A218 - Medicine and society in Europe 1500-1930. I'll be honest, I've read all the blurb and I don't really fancy the first half of the course - I am very much into modern history so anything ancient just does not get me going. But, I was like this a bit at the start of A200 (see earlier blog), and I am very happy to start this one. It's a Level 2 so I'm aiming high, want THE BEST MARK I can get. By that I mean that if I am really crap at this one, and have to scrape through to get a pass, then so be it. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and I'm happy to just go with it.

So, week 1 then. I've read all the preliminary material, and I even read the Roy Porter door-stop book before the course started. Trouble is I can't remember jack about it, so I'm glad that we have to read it in small bite size chunks for the course. I haven't really got much to say about what I'm reading at the moment. It's all DEAD OLD history, but it is interesting. Galen, Hippocrates, erm...Aristotle. ETC. I'm using really small post-its to mark my book, pink, yellow and green ones.  This makes it easier and also, I like mini post-its. I also like the massive A5 ones you can get, but I use those in work and it just wouldn't do to use them for uni as well, I'd get confused and wouldn't know where or who I was.

So, here are my tools. Nothing special. (Apart from the post-its.) I've not got a lot to post in this first blog to be honest. I plan on writing one a month and we'll see how we go. I don't have much time to do this sort of thing, to give you an idea, the time is now 11.19pm on a Saturday night and I've just put Porter down, took that photo and started doing this.
The only tips or anything of interest I am going to do here is list what I have read/watched before the course started. I'm not saying that these things are going to be mega-useful - it was much easier writing my A200 blog with hindsight and a distinction under my belt. This time I'm a bit blind, so I'm just going with how I'm doing it. I'll just update as I go. If you are doing A218 at the minute and have anything to add then feel free to comment below. I think sharing good practise is great, especially with the OU, sometimes it's a lonely old experience. So, please find below my list of summer reading/watching. Don't laugh, some of it is crap.


Obviously the damn Porter one - Took me ages to read but I was comforted by the knowledge that I could always batter someone to death with it should they choose to attack me on the train to work...

Bad Medicine - David Wootton: Small book (compared to the Porter one) with some cracking opinions in. I read it really quickly. Some of the vivisection parts were disturbing, but it was good to read a different perspective. Bad Medicine

Disgusting Diseases: Part of the Horrible Science series. Read this on the train in one hour - great overview, easy to read, GREAT PICTURES...Disgusting Diseases

I think that was it for books relating to this course. Over the course of the summer I also read War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy, Capital Vol. 1 - Karl Marx, The Prince - Niccolo Macchiavelli, The Rape of Nanking - Iris Chang, Groovy Greeks (Horrible Histories), The Social Contract - Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Age of Empire - Eric Hobsbawm erm...I think that was it. But none of these are about medicine, so pointless really.


Now these or some of these I watched before I decided to do A218. I am a sucker for period dramas and the like, and so I would naturally watch these, but as it turns out, some of them may come in handy for this course. Or they may not. But I'll list them here anyway.

Bramwell - Late 19th century fiction - corseted women, poor London, and medical drama. EXCITING.

Casualty 1900s - This was written from real case-notes, and the people it in it were real figures such as the enigmatic Eva Luckes.

Spanish Flu The Forgotten Fallen -

This is still on iplayer (as linked) watched this last night. It was good, and again is based on true events. Not sure how relevant it will be, but it's only an hour long and it was based in Manchester, and I like the local history element to it.

Timeshift - Health before the NHS

I've only watched ten minutes of this so far, so no review but it looks really good. The link is directly to the iplayer.


Again, I have only watched one episode of this, but I really enjoyed it. No idea how relevant it is to the course, but I particularly like the presenter of this, he is very engaging.

So that's it. Nothing else to say except good luck to anyone who is doing this, and if you have any tips you'd like to share please do. I'll be doing another one of these next month with some essay/time crisis, I'd imagine, so I'm sure that will be interesting...

Hope this has been of some use.

All the links on here are just what I have Googled. I do not get paid by any of the sites, I don't own anything or want to promote anything - everything is my own opinion.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Open University A200: History Medieval to Modern

I wanted to put a sort-of 'review' of A200 on here. It was a really testing course, and I got a really good mark, and was so happy. I wanted to let others know what I did that worked, and what I did that didn't work, and just generally offer some tips. It's hard being an OU student, as anyone who has done distance learning will tell you - it can be lonely and sometimes you just have no idea whether you are going right or wrong with what you are doing. There are social internet media type things, Facebook groups, OU forums, OU Twitter feeds that do help. I find Facebook groups to be friendly and useful - although you have to be aware that these are not moderated like the OU forums. The OU forums are informative and lively - but are quite heavily moderated, and things can get a bit heated sometimes.

When I started the course, and definitely closer to exam time, I searched the internet for help, for experiences of other students, and found very little to be honest. I just thought that if this helps some people, then while it's fresh in my mind, then that would be pretty cool. It's nice to be nice.

My aim here is to just talk through the blocks of the course and offer some tips. Please leave comments, good or bad. I plan on doing similar  for A218 - History of Medicine, but more in real-time, maybe one blog a month about it, so I can just get things straight in my head and hopefully help/get help from others!!! I love to share my work and anything that I make for revision, but I also love shamelessly borrowing from other people, but I suppose that is what any good historian does! I'm just going to start at the beginning here, please correct me if I'm wrong or add anything in the comments, or email me for further information or to shout at me for getting it wrong - I don't mind.


Basically the course does what it says on the tin - it's a survey course from about 1400-1900. It is very fast paced and there is a LOT of information crammed in. You WILL feel like you are on a roller coaster, one minute you're at the battle of Agincourt and the next you're on a slave ship bound for the Americas. It is heavy going and quite emotional at times. Take your time, read things thoroughly and enjoy it.

Tip: The course is about historiography. Remember your facts, but remember what historians views are about events. If you're taking notes on each block, write down histroians' names and their views. I had to cram all this information in at the end, because it wasn't until the end that I realised I would get more marks by letting the historians tell the story, letting them compliment my essay, and backing up my points.

Tip: Pay attention to the course themes. Think about it as you go along.

Block 1 - France, England and Burgundy in the fifteenth century

It is what it is. Medieval Europe, Joan of Arc, The Wars of the Roses. All really interesting events, focused around beliefs and ideologies, state formation and producers and consumers.

I didn't really do any outside reading for this, but I loved Joan of Arc, and watched a film called The Messenger.

The film was OK, and although Joan of Arc only gets a small mention in this block, the film helped me to visualise battles and the passion that these people had for their cause.

"Inside the Medieval Mind"  - Loved this documentary. They used to have all of this on Youtube, but my links have broken, so maybe you can find it elsewhere.

Block 2 The European Reformation

Again, self-explanatory. Really interesting. You'll hate me for this now, I know it's a degree-level subject, but for this section I listened to the Horrible Histories English Kings and Queens song. Youtube it.

It helped me to remember who was King/Queen at the time so that I would know who was Protestant, who was Catholic, and I can sort-of picture who wanted what and why. This has helped me since in all the blocks, I'll post more up as I go, please don't hate me, I really REALLY used these for revision and they helped me no end in the exam.

I watched The Virgin Queen as well at this point. It's a little off-topic, but Elizabeth I's Dad was Henry VIII so it's sort-of related to the Reformation, and again paints a picture. Ann-Marie Duff was OK in this, and the men were all fit, so that did it for me!

Block 3 The Wars of the Three Kingdoms

The English Civil War. Remember to recall Ireland and Scotland, don't just focus on England - this is important. Now this is where I did some real background reading, and I scored my highest essay score ever for this TMA. I used this website: Civil War.

I also watched Cromwell, which was a bit rubbish to be honest, but again, it painted a picture in my mind.

The most concise history of the Civil War - I actually recalled the lyrics to this as I wrote my exam answer

Charles II - Restoration - same with this one

Block 4 - Slavery and Freedom

I'll warn you - course starts to get quite harrowing from here on in, and I really struggled with my own feelings about these last few blocks. I loved them, and wanted to learn more but realised I was developing quite strong views and ideas - that of course can not really be expressed in a history essay at this level. Try and remain 'on the fence.'

I visited Liverpool Slavery Museum - they even have a copy of Equiano's diary here - amazing. There is a model of a plantation as well, and lots of accounts from slaves and historians. Look up Thomas Thistlewood. Read Equiano's diary. Go to the docks and breathe it in.

I watched Amistad, which I wouldn't recommend as a film, but certainly read up on the events. Amazing Grace was fabulous, I really thought it was a good film and very helpful. Please check historical facts on films though!

As an aside, I watched The Great British Bake-Off the other night and they were talking about the sugar industry, and how Britain made it accessible for the masses, etc. Not one mention of the slave trade which made me feel slightly sick to be honest.

Book 5 - Creating Nations

This was my least favourite Block, to be honest. Lots of historians to get to grips with here - make sure you learn them. Pay attention to the French Revolution, and do read around the subject. The French Revolution is where it begins, and to be honest there is not much to go on from the book. War and Peace would be useful to read here, but it took me a month to read it (after this course) - so not essential and possibly time-wasting!

Chartists and Luddites - really good stuff. Luddites If you get well into it, read Capital by Karl Marx. I read this after the course, as I couldn't squeeze any more reading in with what I was doing. Pay attention to the revolts - 1840s - really interesting stuff here. I'd also recommend reading The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell, but again, only if you have time.

Block 6 - Nations and Imperialism

Again, harrowing. Do focus on your historians here again.

King Leopold White King, Red Rubber, Black Death - brilliant documentary

Focus on propaganda and the role of the media. There is loads to go on here, and because it is more modern history, I found I enjoyed this very much. Read Eric Hobsbawm - The Age of Empire - heavy-going but worth it.

The Exam

  • Do a revision timetable and try and stick to it. I revised one block a week, made notes, then revised exam technique and practise questions
  • Buy the practise papers, or network and get someone to email them to you.
  • Make posters or flashcards. Posters worked wonders for me. I printed pictures of the historians with speech bubbles saying what their view was on certain issues. Corny, but it worked. My flashcards were basically screwed up pieces of paper in a creased envelope with historians' views and names on that I asked my 8 year old to test me on in the car on the way to school. Resourceful!
  • Make notes. I didn't make ANY notes throughout the whole course, I was enjoying it so much I forgot about revision. I then had to play catch-up - DERR.

The Source Book

When we had our day school, one of the tutors asked the group how we planned to revise the source books. I answered with "I plan on reading every source." Both men at the front muttered "no no no" and shook their heads. I explained myself "I need to know these sources so I can use them to help me to answer my questions as primary evidence." I honestly read every source, and took mental notes. I remembered the women's pamphlets, the abolitionists' documents, Charles II's declarations, Leopold II's speeches. It was hard-going but worth it.

Visual Sources

Same again - look them over, try and remember them. You can use them in your exam and essays - Brookes' Slave Ship, the images of the Herero tribe, photographs of mutilated Congolese - these are all powerful images that should prompt you to remember names like Thomas Clarkson and  Alice Harris.

 So that's it really. I LOVED the course, and it's a bit sad, but I still miss the damn thing. I start A218 next week, so I am looking forward to that. I must say I feel so much better for getting all this stuff down - I only hope I have helped some of you. Thanks for reading and good luck with A200.

Please leave comments or email me, I'll be happy to respond.

If you liked this post, you might also like to read:

A218 - Just Call Me Dr. McGiveron
Stop! Essay Time
A218 TMA 01 Results and TMA02
A218 - Madness to Continue?
Last TMA Results and Revision/ist Time
Exam Jitters
A218 Pre-Exam Post-Revision Jitters: A Day In Pictures
A218 Exam Results

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

First Introductory Blog *gulps*

Well, I'm afraid this blog is going to be an introductory, plain-old boring one.

My aim for this blog is to show what can be achieved (or not!) by a working, studying Mum. Hopefully it will help out any students, Mums, Dads, and will provide a bit of light entertainment in between!

I plan on blogging about all the different types of hats I wear:-

  • Student Hat: My Open University History degree. I plan on blogging weekly about the progress, book reviews, any hints and tips all leading up to the madness of the exam period.
  • Mum Hat: The kids, pregnancy, motherhood. I have two daughters aged 9 and 1 and I am currently pregnant, so busy year ahead.
  • Wife Hat: I enjoy being a wifey-type so I may post some recipes or tips from time to time
  • Worker Hat: I work at the University of Manchester part time in administration and love it. I may post about the balancing-act that is being a Mum and a worker.
I hope this will be of interest to you. The annoying thing is that I wear so many metaphorical hats, and you know in real-life, I'm just not a hat person at all . . . 

Disqus for Wife, Mum, Student Bum