Class of 2023: Michael Sewell and Lewis Smith

We’re so proud of our Spring 2023 Graduates. They’ve overcome enormous challenges, helped others, grasped opportunities, and developed their skills, showing their Essex Spirit in so many ways. Here, we’re taking the opportunity to share some of their stories.

  • Date

    Tue 28 Mar 23

Lewis Smith Michael Sewell

Studying under the shadow of COVID-19 led History PhD graduates Michael Sewell and Lewis Smith to launch History Indoors at the start of the pandemic – offering online interactive talks for everyone.

They created History Indoors with the support of their Department at a time when people were stuck indoors with nothing much to do and they saw the need “to provide an intellectual stimulus.” At such an isolating time, it was important to “create and bring the PhD community together,” they added.

Now the two friends will celebrate completing their PhDs together at Spring 2023. Both are studying very different subject. Michael’s PhD looked at how the British Civil Wars were used in Colchester for political and tourist purposes in the long nineteenth and early twentieth century. while Lewis’ PhD topic looked at how the British Overseas Airways Corporation crafted an image of Britain as a nation.

Michael was inspired by the expertise and passion of the lecturers which led him to do a PhD at Essex, while Lewis was interested in the “rebellious, anti-tradition and innovative” nature of Essex which in his words “came in really handy when it came to PhD work”.

Lewis said that “the essence of the Rebel Spirit” that has taught him to “fight injustice through careful thinking” is a core reason that a prospective student should choose Essex. Michael added: “It's the perfect place if you live and breathe history like me!”

The team at History Indoors has grown so much throughout the years and includes speakers from all over the world. Their talks have also moved from being hosted on Zoom to a new programme called Streamyard.

Michael and Lewis both believe that History Indoors has been a learning curve for them in terms of “managing a team, handling social media relations, video editing, website management, and scheduling.”

They went from zero followers to over 1,200 subscribers on YouTube, reaching thousands of people across the globe, especially in Colchester and Essex. This growth was what they found most challenging and “this was achieved by advertising in the old forms like newspapers and radio and new forms like social media, Instagram and Twitter,” they explained.

The most rewarding aspects of History Indoors for Michael were the feedback they received “from people saying how helpful the talk has been for them or how it has inspired them, especially during such a terrible time.” Lewis added: “It was a real light in a period of real dark.”

As they are both now graduating, Michael and Lewis are unsure of what the future holds for History Indoors but “it's something we will be chatting about in due course,” they said.

Michael and Lewis also paid tribute to “the most incredible administrative team” In the Department of History.“They are permanently cheerful, always ready to help, and they get things done,” they added.

Following their PhDs, Michael has moved into the field of place management – looking at how town centres can be improved and enhanced – while Lewis is a postdoctoral researcher in Essex Business School and hopes to eventually become a lecturer, focusing on community citizenship and industry.

This article was written by Student Content Creator Nilisha Subasinghe.

Read more of our Spring Graduates 2023 stories