Case Eight: Rachael Abbiss

A Military History Master’s student, who gained her qualification while working full time as a curator at RAF Shawbury, will celebrate her second graduation ceremony at Chester Cathedral this week… and is well on her way to her third.

Rachael Abbiss collects her Master’s with distinction on Friday, March 16, having already gained a First Class degree in History and Archaeology from the University of Chester.

And the 25-year-old, from Ackleton near Wolverhampton, has clearly enjoyed her time studying in the Department of History and Archaeology, because she has returned to the institution for a third time to study for her PhD.

Rachael Abbiss

She said: “I chose to study at Chester for two reasons. Firstly, the Department offered a supportive and encouraging environment to work in – it has a reputation of achieving top results and providing fundamental support for a successful outcome. Secondly, Chester is the idyllic setting to study the past because the city itself is an area steeped in history and archaeological splendour.”

Having first graduated in 2008, Rachael, who originally hails from Bridgnorth, Shropshire, started work as a warden at Buckingham Palace before being offered a curator position for the Assault Guilder Trust, based at RAF Shawbury.

She said: “In my role as curator, I established an archive containing more than 1,500 documents and artefacts, produced six booklets relating to veterans’ memoirs and airborne operations during the Second World War, and contributed frequently to Britain at War and Shropshire Life magazine.

“I was overwhelmed to receive the mark of Distinction for my MA dissertation. Having completed my MA while working full-time at RAF Shawbury, I felt this was a huge achievement and it’s something I am extremely proud of.”

Rachael’s Master’s study focussed on early modern British history, in particular the military history of the late 17th-Century.

She said: “I’m especially interested in the composition and operational use of the Army and Navy, the politics and administration of the reign of James VII and II, and the development of Britain as a dominant European power. I am also interested in Empire and Imperial relationships and the effect on trade, finance, politics, military and government.”

Now Rachael, who is also a curatorial advisor for Shropshire Museum Service and a STEM Ambassador for STEMNET, is now furthering her interest in this field and her PhD thesis aims to focus on the role of the military within the Imperial Security Policy of the British Isles during the reign of James VII and II.

She said: “The motivation behind my decision to undertake a PhD is based primarily on my desire to continue learning within the academic field and to improve upon my historical knowledge to enable me to progress professionally. In addition, I am passionate about history and heritage and eager to develop my knowledge in these fields.”

And she is also keen to pass on her knowledge to future students of History and Archaeology as she works as a Visiting Lecturer at the University, teaching two groups for the academic year. She also contributes to the lecture programme entitled Europe and the Wider World: Turning Points in History, 1000-2000 and has covered topics such as witchcraft and satanic possession, and mercantilism and colonial expansion.

Rachael’s proud parents Paul and Mary Abbiss, and Grandmother Mary Farquharson will attend her graduation ceremony, and she will join fellow graduates at a small reception in the Department of History and Archaeology following the event.