How a Spy Led Me to History

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A scene from episode one, season one of HBO’s Rome (case study used in my research paper for HSTY3903).
While I completed HSTY3903 in semester one last year, a lot has happened that warrants my post necessary. But first, who is this ‘spy’?
One of the intellectually memorable moments from this course, for me, was hearing Sheila Fitzpatrick talk about her experiences as a ‘spy’ during her stay in the Soviet Union. More than that, it was her chapter ‘In the Archives’, an assigned reading for that week that inspired me to take the leap for history. What I learnt was that to study history and conduct historical research is not an easy task. It takes effort and time. At that point during the course, I was not sure where I was headed. All I knew was that I wanted to find a connection between popular imagination and historical reality by studying HBO’s television series, Rome. Fitzpatrick showed me how to ask the necessary questions, to seek answers and how to research beyond simply searching through Internet databases.
However, that was what I initially learnt upon reading her fifth chapter. It was not until I finished her book that I realised that what we study in these courses at Sydney University can be more than just another assignment completed, another grade assigned. I decided to bring my work into the eyes of the public though social media. I made an account on Academia and Tweeted about my work. Within a few days, my work gained considerable traction, having spread from Twitter to other history sites. I already had thirty downloads of my paper.
Moreover, I had people messaging me about using my work for their postgraduate dissertations, and recently, I discovered that my work is now being used in history classrooms in New York! How exciting is that? I now have over a thousand views on Academia and have gained followers who study history, write history, make historical films, and have learnt a lot from them in the process.
The purpose of my post, although it has taken me so long to contribute to this blog, is to show how such subjects like HSTY3903 can make a difference in how a student of history interacts with the outside world. We can move beyond just simply writing up another assignment and make what we do known if we make the effort to, just as Fitzpatrick did. From all the subjects that I have taken, HSTY3903, for me, was extremely rewarding. And John Gagné’s tireless effort to make sure his students got the most out of their research was the biggest contributor to making HSTY3903 a memorable and successful experience.
If interested, you can see my work on here: Popular Imagination vs Historical Reality: What does HBOs Rome Reveal about the Practice of History?
If interested in Sheila Fitzpatrick’s book: A Spy in the Archives: A Memoir of Cold War Russia

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