UCL Institute of the Americas


Elizabeth Rees

Elizabeth Rees is a United States Studies: History and Politics MA student (2018/19). Here she tells us about her fieldwork trips to Atlanta and Simi Valley.

I received a travel grant from the UCL Institute of the Americas which helped me fund my research trip to the US as part of my dissertation. My project focused on the rhetoric of outsiders using the examples of Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Donald Trump. I undertook my research in Atlanta at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, and then in Simi Valley and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. In both cases, I had access to original drafts of speeches and White House Staff memos which gave me a much deeper level of insight into the workings of the speechwriting departments and the presidents in their construction of their outsider images. Having had limited experience of both America and using National Archives before, this was a fantastic experience which gave me a great taste of what life as a researching historian is like.

The professional practice of using an archive was an invaluable skill and the highlight of undertaking the masters at UCL. Outside of my research, whilst in Atlanta I got to indulge my passion for history by visiting Civil Rights monuments in the city such as the tomb of Martin Luther King Jr. which was an emotional experience which made momentous moments of modern history seen more tangible.