Kansas State University


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The View from Oxford

Bethany Spare in Oxford
Matriculation wearing sub fusc

It rained all day today, pretty normal English winter weather and I currently have a pile of books mocking me on my desk. Instead I write a note to K-State. I have just finished my first term at the University of Oxford where I am reading for a Master of Studies in Modern European and British history. Currently I’m working on a paper discussing the impact of microhistorical studies on our understanding of the English Reformation. It has been absolutely amazing to get to study here, it’s a magical place, the very stones demand each student or researcher to contribute, to not waste the time they are here.

I miss the halls of Eisenhower at K-State, I miss the people I know there, but the joy of being here at Oxford is indescribable. My teachers in the history department have prepared me well, to ask questions and to work hard, to check, and then recheck my writing. They asked me to think and to pay attention to the details. These skills have stood by me as I interact with students from Harvard, from Stanford, and who studied for their undergraduate degree here at Oxford.

Keble quad
The view of Keble quad from the roof of the Chapel.

Some of my favorite places here are definitely the libraries. One of my favorites is a place called the Duke Humphrey’s library. It is part of the original Bodleian (the main library of Oxford) and it houses part of the special collections—books published in the sixteenth century, manuscripts from even earlier. When a book is consulted there, you have to use special foam book rests and cotton covered weights to keep the pages open. Do not touch the books unless you have to and no pens are allowed, it is pretty strict. My college, Keble College, houses one of the largest collections of 15th century manuscripts outside the Bodleian. That’s one of the difficulties though—all the different libraries. I only have access to the Bodleian, the History Faculty Library and Keble Library, if any book is located only in a college library it is quite difficult to have access to it.


Blenheim Palace
Blenheim Palace

Next week I head to Strafford-Upon-Avon to consult a thesis kept in the Shakespeare Institute there. Then next Saturday I go home for the holidays, I am so excited to see Kansas, for the wind and the prairie. It is amazing here and I’m very excited to finish up next year and continue to represent Kansas but it is very nice to come home.