So right now, as I write this, I have passed my viva. I successfully defended my dissertation. More impressive (at least to me), I received the highest score a PhD candidate can be accorded: a “straight pass.”

What does that mean, a “straight pass”?

Those two little words show that not only did I do a good job orally defending my dissertation, but the written work contained therein is so strong, so convincing, that I do not need to conduct further research nor craft any additional rewrites. So let me say it:

Wow.

I’m still letting it sink in. I am done. I achieved the pinnacle in higher education. I came to the watchtower and added conversation and discourse to the discipline of History. The keepers, in recognition of my oral performance and written work, have given me a “straight pass.”

Wow.

I now get to alter my name: Dr. Joseph John Krulder, PhD (well, not quite yet. In the immortal words of numerous characters from the Monty Python troupe, “wait for it…” There must be conferment, first. More on that later).

Still, just … wow.

Richard Sheldon told me that I have two things to really be proud of: the straight pass (only about one of ten dissertations receive that mark) coupled to the fact that I turned in my work early – by about a year. “This really sets you apart,” he said to me. “Well done, Joe!”

The Keepers of the Tower, from left to right: Nicholas Rogers, Richard Sheldon, Ronald Hutton, me, and Noah Millstone. Taking the photograph, Tim Cole.

The Keepers of the Tower, from left to right: Nicholas Rogers, Richard Sheldon, Ronald Hutton, me, and Noah Millstone. Taking the photograph, Tim Cole.

Indeed.

There was even talk of publication, where it might be best to seek and gain a contract so as to turn the dissertation into an academic book. Nick Rogers suggested, “Yale University Press.” I about swooned!

Professor Tim Cole chaired the viva. Professor Nicholas Rogers came all the way from Toronto, Canada to Bristol to perform the duties of external examiner. Dr. Noah Millstone, also a Californian (PhD from Stanford) acted as the internal examiner. Dr. Richard Sheldon, who  for some three three years patiently oversaw my work, got to wait in the next room. Professor Ronald Hutton who monitored my progress from afar arrived to offer his congratulations.

It’s hard to believe. All the preparation for the defense, all the hard work, the long archival hours, the writing, the rewriting, the second guessing and self-doubts: it’s all behind me.

In front of every great woman is a man - who - in all likelihood, will point back to her as his source of fortitude. Thank you Jori Jude, thank you!

In front of every great woman is a man – who – in all likelihood, will point back to her as his source of fortitude. Thank you Jori Jude, thank you!

It’s at this moment that I really ought to shine a light on the one person who supported me: that would be my Jori Jude, my lovely wife, and partner in all things Byng. Well, that’s not entirely true… who supported me in all things. Now that’s better. It is Jori who has allowed me this time, this space across two continents and the great Atlantic, the financial dipping to pay for it all, and who picked up the parenting load when I needed time in Bristol and London. This doctorate belongs to her as much as it does me. I hope I can convince her of that.

So, what happens next?

Though I have received a pass through the watchtower, the Ivory Tower is some distance away. It is quite unsure whether I will ever be allowed indoors. To gain entry, I must publish. Everyone in the room during the viva agreed to this. The quickest route to publication is an academic journal. There was clear unanimity in the room, that the fourth chapter of my dissertation held the quickest promise to accomplish this goal (also nods toward the religious section of chapter two). At the same time, I must seek out a book publishing contract. Since Professor Nicholas Rogers has published numerous works through a number of publishers, his advice held weight. He said that my work brought in quite a bit about colonial America and Admiral Byng that he did not know of, and that some of the investigation of the colonial relationship to London was terrific. Additionally, that if I could locate more of this, to his estimation, Yale University Press would be a good fit. The plus if this were to occur, is the Lewis Walpole Library at Yale, and with a contract, a good chance at obtaining a post-doctorate fellowship.

Wow.

A dream, that’s for sure. I must keep reminding myself that – at one point – thinking of earning a doctorate was also that, a dream in my head. But now it’s real. In September, the University of Bristol will confer upon awarding me the degree. In February of 2016, the graduation ceremony will be held. I can then, at that point, place Dr. Joseph Krulder, PhD, on all my mail. It’s been a long, winding, and strange road to get here. There is still a road ahead. But I have my Jori, my stories, and my ability to craft and create history at an academic level. Let’s do this.

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