Unexpected Generosity. Yes, it still exists; out there in the cold real world there are still people who surprise you with their kindness and without expectation of any reward. Believe it!

During the course of researching this current section of my thesis, I stumbled upon a paper published in The Women’s History Review in 2002, that was discussing points that I was planning to cover in my own work. I discovered that this paper was an extract from a D.Phil thesis lodge at the Bodleian in Oxford. It is absolutely necessary for me to read and be aware of its contents as to ignore something that was so closely to my topic would not survive scrutiny at VIVA.

So I emailed the relative librarian, who found the thesis in question and forwarded my request onto the Thesis Repository department at the Bodleian, who emailed me back with full instructions as to how I could obtain a copy (living in Scotland I have little opportunity to pop along and visit) They ~whilst being very accommodating and quick to respond ~  sent me a  overcomplicated email informing me that if I wanted to obtain a FREE copy of the thesis then I had to track down the author, get two signatures in person, return the appropriate paperwork, in triplicate (there were 4 attachments of forms with the email) and return it to them at which point they would provide me with a digital copy (no time scale was represented). If I couldn’t get TWO signatures they would do me a photocopy at £120 (yes I gawped too) plus P&P … but I still needed the author’s permission. I was informed I could trace the author through the relevant college’s administration department.

Luckily the first librarian had provided me with this information so I emailed them a polite request to put me in touch with their alumni Dr. F.  I received a very nice email in reply saying my details had been passed on and hopefully Dr. F. would be in touch.

Now I know a lot of academics. December is a busy month, especially if they are marking exams and assessments so I wasn’t holding my breath for an immediate response. But to my delight I received a reply, within hours of the response from Merton, from the (now) Professor asking how she could help.

I replied attaching the Bodleian’s email and attachments – and thought “once she sees that lot of stuff she’ll probably say she is too busy blah blah blah”

But no. I awoke this morning (She is based in America so we have a time difference negotiation going on as well)  to find a PDF copy of her thesis in my inbox witht he most delightful email saying “here is my thesis. After years of trying to negotiate the Bodleian rules I thought this would be far easier. Your research sounds fascinating. Good Luck” …

So a big cheer goes out to Oxford University, The Bodleian, Merton College Admin and the Librarian in the history department (who I have to say went above and beyond as the thesis was lodge with literature not history and technically I had emailed the wrong librarian – but she still helped anyway!) and not least to the wonder Prof. F at the university of Texas for her unparalleled generosity in providing me with a copy of her wonderful thesis!

How bloody wonderful is that! And what good start to the day. It just goes to prove – if you don’t ask you don’t get!

Now – in the spirit of Prof. F’s generosity I am going to attempt to pay it forward and suggest that if each of us did the same we could all make someone’s day a little brighter! So if you can do someone a kindness today then do so – it may change their lives forever, and even if it doesn’t it will make them smile.


3 thoughts on “If you don’t ask – you don’t get!

  1. I never cease to be amazed at the generosity of other academics when it comes to sharing research. I think a lot of people are fed up with the endless paperwork/signatures/bureaucracy and have just decided “it’s my work, and I’ll share if I want to.” I’ve had people send me their dissertations as email attachments because I expressed an interest in reading them, and once, after a five-minute conversation, Bonnie Wheeler (Google her if you don’t know who she is – Major powerhouse in medieval studies) sent me an offprint of a chapter she wrote for a book because it was relevant to my research. That is totally the kind of academic I am going to be!

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