Can you tell me a little bit about your PhD topic?
As an undergraduate I had done Russian and history and my masters was in Russian literature but with a slant towards cultural history. I'd spent a year living in the Caucasus and discovered that that was where Russians in the nineteenth century had first started visiting resorts as we would understand them in the West. And they had found these natural mineral springs and around them built spa resorts and then eventually seaside resorts developed. No one either in Russia or anywhere else had worked on this before. And I set out to write a history of three of the most significant resorts in nineteenth-century Russia and how they developed and to posit some theories of why they had developed. In the end, as well as being survey histories of these three places, I think the thesis suggested that in an autocratic state, where there was very little freedom of commerce, obviously no ability for people to vote, this was one of the very few ways in which people with some money could express themselves as middle class, in a way that people in Western Europe could express themselves at the time as middle class. So I sort of posited the theory that actually leisure took on a special significance in Tsarist Russia as one of the ways that they, Tsarist Russians could feel European and affluent and upwardly mobile.