60 Seconds With Alex Bryne

The U.S. Studies Online 60 Seconds interview feature offers a short and informal introduction to a postgraduate, academic or non-academic specialist working in the American and Canadian Studies field or a related American and Canadian Studies association. 

Last month you spent 60 seconds with the Executive Committee of the British Association for American Studies, our parent organisation, and before that the lovely (ahem) U. S. Studies Online Editorial team. For the remainder of the summer we have invited our first contributors to tell us a little bit more about themselves, the moment they decided “this is the path for me,” and what keeps them going all these years –or months– later. 

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Where are you right now?

Sitting at a desk in my parent’s house in Grantham.

If you could time-travel to observe one moment in the history of America, where would you go?

Simply because the Monroe Doctrine is central to my current research, I would like to hear President James Monroe’s annual message of 1823 in which the principles of the doctrine were first enunciated.

Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?

Otto von Bismarck is one of my favourite historical figures and his life can be credited to have inspired my desire to study history, so he would have to be in attendance. I would invite Hiram Bingham and John Barrett because they talked and wrote about the Monroe Doctrine as much as I do so we would have a great deal to discuss. I adore the fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien and I could spend days discussing the lore of Arda with him. Finally, I would love to meet Shigeru Miyamoto in person.

You’re stranded on a desert island, but luckily you pre-empted it. Which book do you take with you?

I never tire of The Lord of the Rings, and its size would keep me busy for quite some time.

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

I would have to say that it was when I found out I had been granted funding for my PhD from the School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies. I was writing my MA thesis at the time and had been unsuccessful in all my previous funding applications, leaving my application to the University of Nottingham my last shot. I remember feeling relieved that I was going to be able to support myself financially during my PhD and it made me think that I might actually have the skills and qualities required to become a historian. I was in such a state of disbelief that I had to email the School to confirm that they had offered the funding to the correct applicant!

What advice would you give to early career academics?

I don’t think that I am in a position to give much advice due to the fact that I am still very inexperienced in the world of academia, but I would advise people to never forget why they first pursued postgraduate education.

What is the most exciting thing you have planned in the next six months?

Presenting my first conference paper.

How did you come to your current area of research?

During an MA module on American foreign policy in the twentieth century that I took, I chose to write an assignment on the Monroe Doctrine in the early years of the Cold War, because I was fascinated by the doctrine’s ever changing meaning. After I abandoned my plan to study German history due to perceived language barriers, I discussed with the module convener the prospect of expanding the core concepts I discussed in this assignment into a PhD project in its own right.

What profession other than academia would you like to attempt?

I would love to run a board game shop or perhaps dabble in board game design.

What book is currently on your bedside table?

The Sleepwalkers and The Penguin History of the USA.

Be honest; how long has it been there?

The former was a recent gift, so only a couple of weeks. I purchased the latter about half a year ago in an effort to expand my broader knowledge of American history. Unfortunately I have yet to progress any further than the Revolution.

What’s in your fridge right now?

Whatever food my parents decided to stock. I know they have milk.

About Alex Bryne

Alex Bryne submitted his PhD in American Studies and History at the University of Nottingham in 2017. His thesis traces the history of the Monroe Doctrine during the early twentieth century and addresses the relationship between notions of national security, regional hegemony, and Pan-Americanism.
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