Dickey Center Internship

Spring Grant Report

Michael Newton '04

June 30th, 2003

 

             As a government major concentrating in international relations and a history minor focusing in the Middle East, the current geopolitical situation offers an unparalleled environment in which my two primary interests have been combined into a single, exciting field of study. Recognizing the combination, I began looking into international internships that would give me the opportunity to explore the fields in an interdisciplinary manner as well as provide me with some valuable "real world" work experience at the same time. After a search, I was lucky enough to secure an internship at I.B. Tauris Publishers in London, England with the help of Professor Gene Garthwaite of the History Department. With the support of the Dickey Center, I was able to take the job in London and my term turned out to be an extremely rewarding experience both academically and personally; one that unfortunately passed much to quickly.

            Although a small publishing house employing only 25 people, I.B. Tauris Publishers is the world's largest producer of English language books on the Middle East. The house's main focus, which originally attracted me to it, revolves around the powerful interplay between the region's history and its politics since the time of British influence. Through its extensive history and politics catalogues, I.B. Tauris has greatly contributed to the scholarly understanding of the Middle East and the factors that have led to its often chaotic nature.

I.B. Tauris focus in this area arises from the company's founding purpose. The company was started in the late 1970's by Iradj Bagherzade (hence the "IB" in I.B. Tauris), an Iranian who, after studying politics and international relations at Cambridge University, noticed the lack of scholarly English language books available on the Middle East.  Acutely aware of the importance of the region to the entire world, Dr. Bagherzade started the company specifically to fill in the gap. As the company grew over the last 25 years, gaining a reputation for high-quality books on the leading edge of academic research, it expanded its catalogue to include book lists in the fields of religious studies, film studies, contemporary art, non-Middle Eastern British imperial history, and geography.

            My internship at I.B. Tauris was to work closely with Dr. Lester Crook, the editor of the History and Regional Studies division, primarily on the editorial tasks necessary to publish a large, cutting-edge, academic book list. After talking to Dr. Crook and past interns, I arrived in London expecting that my main responsibilities would be to read and edit submitted manuscripts,  liaise with authors, research book competition and assist in the more perfunctory, clerical aspects of the publishing business. While I did fulfill those tasks for Dr. Crook, my responsibilities were made much broader and more interesting from the onset because Dr. Crook had just recently moved to a town nearly two hours outside of London and was working from home most days. Due to his recent move, I was immediately expected to play a more central role in the company to ensure that all projects were completed on time and up to the company's standards. My expanded role included attending business meetings, helping to  lay out the history catalogue, writing jacket blurbs and author bios, and helping to develop marketing strategies.

At first I was a bit overwhelmed by the work as the learning curve was quite steep, but with the help of the regular employees I was soon able to understand how the company operated and how to get my tasks accomplished. Although it required more work at times, I truly enjoyed the varied nature of my job and the level of confidence and responsibility that the company placed in me from the beginning. From the onset, it was very rewarding to see my efforts directly affect the business. The most exciting aspect of my work at I.B. Tauris was when my opinion regarding the overall academic value and/or quality of writing of a book was pivotal in a decision to publish or not publish the work. What really made the internship, however, was that while performing these tasks I was also greatly increasing my personal knowledge of the Middle East and the international system in general. Working for a publishing company provided a perfect perspective to solidify a true understanding of the interconnected role that history, politics, current events, academic scholarship, journalism and business play in defining the world and people's lives.

            Aside from the valuable work experience and knowledge of the Middle East that I gained at I.B. Tauris, the relationships that I made with my co-workers were truly wonderful. A diverse office with employees from all over England, Europe and the Middle East, I was able to learn about numerous different cultures and get many interesting perspectives on current affairs and other significant issues. Some of my most interesting and informative times in London were after work on Fridays at the local pubs with my co-workers. Conversations ranged from the American and British role in Iraq, to the spread of America culture, to the British football (soccer) leagues, to racism in British culture, to the popularity of U2 and their lead singer Bono. While Dartmouth is a diverse and enriching community, interacting with people in a non-American environment was tremendously rewarding and instructive. I hope to have the opportunity to continue such interaction in the future. Since I have returned home, I have kept in touch with a couple of the friends that I made at work  and I hope to see them again either when they are in the United States or when I am in England next.

            Clearly, my time at I.B. Tauris was more than worthwhile and educational. What truly made my time in London special, however, was what the city and the experience of being on my own in another country meant to me as an individual. After spending six straight terms in Hanover taking classes, there was nothing that I needed more personally than a change of pace and environment. I love Dartmouth and will always love it, but to continue the growth and education that I get there it was necessary for me to "get away" and have new, challenging experiences. I had become complacent in Hanover and totally comfortable in my surroundings; to a point that I was no longer being personally pushed and was no longer able to take maximum advantage of my opportunities there. The academics had always been tough and continued to be so, but in order to take advantage of everything Dartmouth has to offer � academically, personally, emotionally, etc � I needed an environment that would push me more and make me excited and ready to seize senior year by the horns.

London gave me just that. It was a city where I had never been before, where I knew almost nobody, and where I had virtually no support system. In short, it was everything that I wanted. Having grown up in the heart of New York City, London did not scare me with its size and activity, rather it challenged me to explore it, conquer it and take advantage of everything that it has to offer. And from the second that I got there, that is exactly what I did. The first weekend I just walked and walked and walked getting to know the crazy traffic, the serpentine streets, the funny accent and overall atmosphere. With a sense of place established, the next ten weeks became an all-out blitzkrieg of events, activities, museums and sites. That blitzkrieg, however, was not without thought. All along the way, in-between the magnificent Tate Modern and visiting historic Oxford, I reflected on the last couple of years of my life and realized just how far I had come, how much I had accomplished, and most-importantly the incredible friendships I have established. In short, London gave me exactly what I needed and I could not have been happier with my experience.

Looking back on it, I would not change much. I just find it funny that I had to go to one of the largest and craziest cities in the world to reflect and consolidate my experiences from quiet, idyllic Hanover, NH. Life is funny sometimes. Most importantly, I am ready and excited for next year. The last three years have been incredible and senior year is only going to make them pale in comparison.

Michael Newton '04 is a Government Major from New York City. After off terms in London, England and Seattle, Washington, he is happy to be back on campus for senior year. Michael's days are currently filled with writing his honors thesis, the DREAM mentoring program, and leading educational outreach for the Men's Project. In his spare time, which isn't much these days, Michael enjoys hiking, mountain biking, and playing with his two year-old yellow Labrador, Winnie.  Next year, Michael hopes to work for a consulting agency and is currently interviewing with companies through the corporate recruiting program in pursuit of that goal.