I learnt about this conference by happenstance. In a book I purchased a few weeks ago, I found the publisher had inserted a small card for registering with their mailing list. It also included their twitter handle. Now us budding academics are told we must have an online presence to facilitate and improve our academic profile. Short version, I have a Twitter account focused around my academic studies and so followed this company – Helion Books – on Twitter. During one of my (very rare, honestly) bouts of procrastination I decided to trawl Twitter and spotted that Helion Publishing were advertising their 2nd Annual ‘Century of the Soldier’ conference, to be held in Shrewsbury and supported by the Pike and Shotte Society.
PhD students are also told, by various academic and non-academic university staff, that we need to attend conferences or seminar series, even ones not fully connected to our topic. As I am still in my first year of my part-time study (if only just!) while writing this, I have not been able to attend as many as I would have liked. Those that I have attended have usually been run by one of the constituent departments of the university. So seeing that the ‘Century of the Soldier’ series of books concentrated on military history between 1618 and 1721 (my topic is 1638-1651) I looked into it. The conference was very reasonably priced and advertised that it would include unlimited drinks, a lunch and opportunity for a free tour around Civil War Shrewsbury.
Food, limitless cups of tea, Civil War papers AND a historical tour in the sunshine? Decision made.
So what was it like?
Well, it was a great choice of venue at Rowley’s House in Shrewsbury. The atmosphere when I walked through the doors was very welcoming and informal. Admittedly I did not take COMPLETE advantage of it as I am a little bit of a “socially inhibited gremlin” in the words of one of my more polite colleagues. However, the opportunity was there. Included in the foyer of the building throughout the day was a stall for the current and upcoming books in the Century of the Soldier series. I found no objection to this marketing as the conference was run by Helion and it was also a great opportunity for some pre-orders at a fantastic value (I may have partaken of a few…)
20% on new releases and pre-orders. I ask, what was a poor PhD boy supposed to do?!?
The papers presented at the conference were along the topic of ‘professionalism’ and they all fit around that theme very nicely. What was very well done was, despite the last minute cancellation of one of the papers, the conference chair comfortably rearranged the order of a couple of papers so there maintained a nice cohesive ‘flow’. Additionally, we were treated to a second presentation by Professor Malcolm Wanklyn who briefly covered the topic of the missing paper. I quite liked this touch and, if Prof. Wanklyn of necessity could not go into detail on the topic, at least those people who had attended in part for the missing paper were not totally disappointed.
For myself, I found all of the papers interesting and several of them directly useful for my own work – the pages of my A5 notebook were filled with my scribbled notes. I was able to talk to a few people during the regular breaks and get some contact details that might prove useful later. “Networking” is the key phrase that is always thrown about for these things.
The tour was a nice touch for those of us without much knowledge of Civil War Shrewsbury and, as mentioned previously, it was lovely weather for a nice end to an interesting and fun day. One other point I feel I should mention about the food provided. Apart from being really high quality, it had little signs detailed what sandwiches had what including which were vegetarian or suitable for various allergies. Now this did not really affect me as I will eat anything if it is between a couple of pieces of bread, but I thought it a nice touch for those that need to be a bit careful on their diet.
So, taken all in all, it was a lovely, relaxed and informative conference. This was only its second year and it seems there are some discussions that a new series of books Helion will be producing will join in the conference, alternating each year between the two titles. This second series would cover military history from 1722 through to 1815 giving the two series a combined coverage of over 200 years. I have no hesitation in saying I will eagerly attend future conferences run by either series and commend them very highly to anyone with interest in and around the topics.
This post was produced by Glenn Price, a PhD student in History.
Glenn, who began his research in Autumn 2015, examines military logistics, supplies and the course and conduct of warfare in the British Isles in the middle of the seventeenth century.