Martina Reiterová looks back on her stay in Edinburgh

At the end of 2019, we hosted Martina Reiterová, a doctoral student from Charles University in Prague. In this farewell blog post, she tells us about what she got up to while she was here.

The main purpose of my two-month research stay in Edinburgh was to gather and study archival materials connected to the Scottish side of my research project on the organisation An Comunn Gaidhealach and its activities at the turn of 19th century.

Martina hard at work in the National Library of Scotland

I gained the most from two archival institutions – the National Library of Scotland (NLS) and the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Research Collections (CRC). The materials I focused on were mostly of an individual nature, especially correspondence. In particular, I have uncovered “behind the scenes” interpersonal relations that played a role in the formation of the public image of the Gaelic language movement at the time. Such insights are extremely valuable as they allow me to go beyond a discourse analysis of printed sources.

Probably the most interesting material I found were the minute books of An Comunn’s councils. Since these have been donated to the NLS very recently, almost nobody knows that the National Library is in possession of the archives of An Comunn. I was not aware of the existence of this material and its availability until very late. I discovered them only during the last week of my stay in Edinburgh.

An invitation to a Gaelic event in 1891

For this reason – and the fact that I was not allowed to take pictures of the materials – I plan to come back to Edinburgh later this year for a week or more in order to finish the study of these documents.

As regards the sources stored in the CRC, there were two very interesting archival collections, both of which are potentially important for my research.

First, The Carmichael-Watson Collection, which consists of papers belonging to Alexander Carmichael, the most influential Scottish folklorist of the second half of 19th century, and to his family members. Secondly, the Collection of Professor Donald Mackinnon, which does not unfortunately contain personal archival material, only lecture notes, and religious texts and songs. Even though I expected these collections to be richer in personal documentation, they nevertheless contained significant sources for my research.

In addition to collecting my sources, I had great opportunities to talk about my topic with various scholars in the field, especially Rob Dunbar, the Chair of Celtic Languages, Literature, History and Antiquities in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures. Unfortunately, I did not manage to visit scholars at other the University of Glasgow and the University of St Andrews. I hope to make these connections in the near future, potentially at the 3rd World Congress of Scottish Literatures, held this year in Prague.

Overall, then, my stay in Edinburgh has brought an extra dimension to my dissertation project. Not only have I widened my primary source base, I also have a better understanding of the peculiarity of the Gaelic language movement in the broader European context of the second half of the 19th century. This, combined with the student life experience and excellent study facilities at Edinburgh, made this an extremely rewarding trip.

Martina Reiterová was a Visiting Research Postgraduate Student in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology and the CSMCH in October and November 2019. She is a third-year doctoral student at the Charles University in Prague. Martina has studied in Prague, Budapest and Paris. She is conducting research into the formation of collective representation at the turn of the 20th century in the Celtic countries under the influence of local revivalist movements. During her time at Edinburgh, she did archival work, particularly in the university special collections and the National Library of Scotland.