Recent Alumna Reflects on Post-Grad England Tour
During my senior year at Arcadia University, I had to undergo the process all senior History majors have to go through: writing a senior thesis. Going into the process I was incredibly intimidated. I couldn’t decide on a topic I loved enough and was worried I wouldn’t be able to write 40 pages. I was lucky enough to have Dr. Geoffrey Haywood as my thesis advisor, who provided incredible support and guidance as I changed my topic over three times, until I finally landed on my final topic: post-punk Britain.
My senior thesis, Left to Blind Destruction: An Exploration of Post-punk Britain Through the Lens of Manchester’s Own Division (1973–1980), explored the emergence of the post-punk music era in Britain, specifically through an observation of Joy Division in Manchester, investigating the connection between the political and economic state of the region and the music. I also investigated the history of Joy Division and what earned them the title of “post-punk vanguard,” even though they were only around for two years.
I argued in my thesis that post-punk was both a continuation of punk and a new movement emerging out of a time of great turmoil. I argued that Joy Division can be viewed and understood as a representation of place, the product of outside parties, and uniquely personal psychology. The significance of my research lies in the lessons shared regarding the influence of music and how musical movements come to fruition, as well as in the contributions it made to scholarship related to Joy Division.
The process of researching and writing my thesis was definitely an intense process. It required strong time management and prioritization skills, and I pushed myself intellectually in ways I never had before. While it was a difficult task, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to write a senior thesis. I explored my passions in an academic way that was incredibly rewarding and a phenomenal learning experience.
My research stuck with me after I graduated and earned my Bachelor of Arts. For my graduation present, my parents and I went on vacation to England in July 2022. While in England, I was able to visit the city of Manchester and see the subject of my research in person. I connected with the University of Manchester’s John Rylands Research Library Staff, specifically with Mat Bancroft who, alongside Jon Savage, the celebrated author and broadcaster who was very closely involved with Joy Division, curated the British Pop Archive, a national collection dedicated to the preservation and research of British popular culture. This archive included primary source documents directly related to Joy Division that I referenced in my thesis. It was amazing to see these sources in person and talk to Mat more about what the process of putting together the archive looked like. Archival work is something I have been interested in pursuing as a career in the future, so it was great to learn more about that work first-hand.
I also had the opportunity to visit some iconic Manchester sites while on vacation, including the infamous Epping Walk Bridge, which is the site of one of the most iconic images of Joy Division to ever exist, taken by photographer Kevin Cummins. My visit to England and Manchester was absolutely amazing. It allowed me to connect my academic research with my everyday life and further cemented in me my immense passion for history and historical research. And I have Arcadia University to thank for that experience.