What the OU did for me and history

OU degree ceremony

David Puttnam congratulating me at the degree ceremony

Study can broaden, widen and enrich your mind – that was a good enough reason for me when I signed up to do an MA in history with the Open University. I’d had to leave studying history at school because it clashed with Latin. (Who put that timetable together?)

We won’t go into the details of the paper chase needed to secure my place; let’s say it was thirty years since I graduated with my BA in French, German and Economics and the course had ceased, records had been destroyed and the university had changed names twice. But being a hoarder, I had kept a load of course admin and stayed in occasional touch with my personal tutor. Somehow, I persuaded the OU I was a suitable candidate.

After that first seminar in February 2004, my mind was reeling. I hadn’t been in academic study for three decades and the teaching methods had changed drastically. Whilst I’d remained passionate about history all my life, and had done well in the history modules in my first degree, I hadn’t operated at this formal level for decades.

spriteI had committed to three years’ hard graft and every spare waking hour devoted to research, study and writing. What else would you do in your non-earning hours but plough your way through academic textbooks in German, track down clues in the Bundesarchiv, read oral histories taken in German, traipse up and down to the British Library, the German Historical Institute Library, Imperial War Museum plus weekly seminars, then regular meetings with your tutor? And writing, revising and editing all the time. My fingers were almost paralysed after a three hour written exam at the end of the first year. I could hardly lift my pint of cider afterwards in the pub.

But I don’t generally start anything I don’t mean to finish. And I was investing in myself and had faith that it would be worth it!

The big bonus was that because of my first degree, I could read source material in the original German, which was a good thing as there was very, very little in English.

Three years later in 2006 I emerged with an MA (with distinction!). My masters’ dissertation was seen to be groundbreaking – the first academic account on the subject written in English. My tutor urged me to take it to the next level. But I was tired. I was running a business, a family, was active in the local business community and plotting to move to France.

Inexperienced as I was, I didn’t know how to get it published. In the end and several years later, I tidied it up, set up a Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) account and self-published it as a book. The learning curve was steep; apart from formatting and finding a decent cover picture, there were 200 academic references to bookmark and hyperlink. But people buy it from time to time…

Helferin_cover_defAnd the title?
Military of Civilians? The curious anomaly of the German Women’s Auxiliary Services during the Second World War. It’s an unknown piece of half a million women’s history I brought into the light. I’m rather proud of it.

But what was it about and how is it relevant to my new book INSURRECTIO? I explain all on my Roma Nova blog …




Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIO and AURELIA. The fifth in the series, INSURRECTIO, will be published on 12 April 2016.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines…

4 comments to What the OU did for me and history

  • I read your post, and now I’m tired! It’s amazing how much you accomplish—I have great appreciation for people like you! Congratulations on your degree, and of course, your books. Now I’m off to read more articles in this interesting blog.

    • Alison Morton

      Thank you, Diane. I think you do need to keep going and the opportunities these days are so many. But I never dreamt that when I finished the course, I would be going back and using that research again.

  • Very cool! Congrats on the success of your dissertation 🙂

    • Alison Morton

      Thank you! It was such a sense of fulfilment to be on that stage after three years’ hard graft. But I’d never have done it without the OU.

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