Sing it Mr. Disney, “It’s a small world after all.”

Chance encounter in an elevator, me wearing my “University of Bristol” badge, had a gentleman with family in tow to ask “Do you know Richard Sheldon?” This was Steve Hindle, the W. M. Keck Foundation Director of Research at the Huntington Library in Los Angeles.

“Yes,” I replied. “Of course. He’s my supervisor.”

Badge

Yes! Yes you do need to wear your “stinking badges.”

This is the instant the world became small.

Turns out that Steve Hindle, like me, is a fan of Richard Sheldon. Richard is amazing, and I’m not saying this because he is my supervisor, I’m saying this because it’s true. I chose Bristol because of Richard; ahead of Manchester, and ahead of Edinburgh. His work is that good (and a book to come from Richard this year) and precisely what I sought in order to make the claim that Admiral John Byng needs to be connected to the food shortage crisis in 1756 and 1757.

Which is what my completed fourth chapter is about, and what I was to present at the conference. I am very thankful that Steve Hindle attended my presentation, for we had a great and quite significant conversation on the topic of dearth and politics afterwards. But there was also another audience member of great renown.

Kathleen Wilson, author of Sense of the People, sat two rows back. She gave me a hearty “thumbs up,” her signature in the aforementioned book, and a bit of time to have a conversation about mid-eighteenth-century British culture. But best of all she accepted a copy of my fourth chapter (all 23,000 words of it) with a promise to make comments. Professor Wilson stated she has an “open file” on the admiral and that my presentation is quite timely.

But there existed, also, a global edge to the conference. Professors and graduate students from Canada, the UK, even far away Hawaii joined in the weekend of intellectual discourse. I made new friends, networked, and learned.

On the downside, there was a bit of doom and gloom on the state of higher education – both in the USA and in the UK. Budget cuts predominate, tenured positions in decline, an overreliance on adjunct faculty, and the rise of technology as a player in all of this. If anything, the cure is getting published, getting that contract after a successful defense of the dissertation (but the gloom talk suggests that not even that may help one find work).

Last note: On conferences themselves. I owe my current position as an adjunct to the attendance of a conference in San Antonio, TX. There, I met my current boss at Butte College in California. We exchanged info, which included a proposed syllabus from me. And now here I am, happily filling in and helping where I can while completing my dissertation. At this Vegas conference, I am hopeful that Steve Hindle and Kathleen Wilson will help, in some small way, to give feedback to and whisper my work with publishers to get that contract.

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