Nicholas Hall

Department: Modern Languages
Discipline: History
Research Centre/Unit: N/A

Project Summary

The objectives of my thesis are threefold. First, I hope to, via looking at British travellers in the USSR, explore how their experiences of and encounters with, Soviet citizenry away from tours and guides informed their understanding of Soviet life and culture, and how this fed into debates about the USSR that were running in Britain throughout the period. This should shed further light on how the USSR figured in British politics and culture, particularly in relation to issues of political ideology and subjectivity.

Second, the thesis should, by focusing on the relatively rare (but still plentiful for study) moments a foreigner and a Soviet citizen encountered one another away from obvious official presence, explore how the Soviet citizen reacted, how they evaded or engaged, how they took or missed opportunities, and what they said, intimated, showed. I hope that this can offer us some insight into Soviet mentalities: how Soviet citizens constituted themselves, mentally and emotionally, how they described their world and what referents they employed with foreigners, how they negotiated new value systems, how this changed over time, how it varied between generations, and so forth.

Third, I hope that the thesis will, via examining these two big topics together, offer us some insight into issues of communication and the power of travel in a political and cultural context.


Supervisory Team

Dr Emily Lygo

Professor Andrew Thorpe

Wider Research Interests

Beyond foreigner-Soviet encounters, I have a more general interest in the Soviet Union, particularly 1917--53, collectivisation, the Second World War, and issues of Soviet identity - subjectivity/objectivity, self-expression and so forth. I enjoy working with material that deals with the meeting of cultures and mentalities, particularly regarding the USSR as it itself was a meeting of cultures, traditions, concepts and ideologies, of Europe and Russia.

I also maintain a more general, not specialised, interest in inter-war German modernism, the artist Goya, the philosopher Isaiah Berlin and the interplay of Romantic and Enlightenment traditions in 20th century Europe, and the authors Vassily Grossman, Boris Pasternak, and George Orwell.

Authored Publications/Reports

Nicholas Hall (11th August 2016) Gareth Jones, the Soviet peasantry, and the "Real" Russia, 1930--33, Russian Journal of Communication, Special edition. DOI: