RHS News

Subject-level TEF Consultation

The Department for Education has invited responses to its technical consultation to inform the development of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) at subject level. The Society has submitted a response to the consultation that you can read here.


Book Processing Charges

Most publishers currently charge fees (“Book Processing Charges”; BPCs) to authors and their institutions for Open Access publication. The Society has issued a document surveying current BPCs from publishers working with UK-based historians: you can find it here.

The Society is engaged in the ongoing debates on Open Access and the future of book publishing. We have recently issued briefings for historians on the UK Scholarly Communications Licence, and the possible implications of Open Access requirements in future REF exercises, and we have also launched our own fee-free Open Access monograph series, New Historical Perspectives.


UK Scholarly Communications Licence

The Royal Historical Society has issued a discussion document on the UK Scholarly Communications Licence, exploring the policy’s possible implications for arts and humanities subjects in the UK. You can view the document here.


RHS Lecture: Prof. Diana Paton, ‘Seeing Women & Sisters in the Archives of Atlantic Slavery’

On 9 February, Prof. Diana Paton delivered an RHS lecture entitled ’Mary Wiliamson’s Letter, or: Seeing Women & Sisters in the Archives of Atlantic Slavery’. You can watch the lecture and read Prof. Paton’s abstract below.

“I was a few years back a slave on your property of Houton Tower, and as a Brown woman was fancied by a Mr Tumoning unto who Mr Thomas James sold me.” Thus begins Mary Williamson’s letter, which for decades sat unexamined in an attic in Scotland until a history student became interested in her family’s papers, and showed it to Diana Paton. In this lecture, Paton will use the letter to reflect on the history and historiography of ‘Brown’ women like Mary Williamson in Jamaica and other Atlantic slave societies. Mary Williamson’s letter offers a rare perspective on the sexual encounters between white men and Brown women that were pervasive in Atlantic slave societies. Yet its primary focus is on the greater importance of ties of place and family—particularly of relations between sisters—in a context in which the ‘severity’ of slavery was increasing. Mary Williamson’s letter is a single and thus-far not formally archived trace in a broader archive of Atlantic slavery dominated by material left by slaveholders and government officials. Paton asks what the possibilities and limits of such a document may be for generating knowledge about the lives and experiences of those who were born into slavery.

(Image used with the kind permission of Nicholas James)

Honorary Secretary

The position of Honorary Secretary becomes vacant in July, and the Society is keen to attract a strong field of applicants for this important office. The Job Description below outlines the post’s responsibilities and the opportunities it presents.

Job Description

The Honorary Secretary, together with the President, the Treasurer, two Literary Directors and the Honorary Director of Communications, all of whom are academics, constitute the Society’s Officers. The Society also employs a full-time Executive Secretary, a part-time Administrative Secretary and a part-time Research and Communications Officer. The Honorary Secretary works with the other Officers and Members of Council to determine the overall direction of the Society and also has the particular responsibility, in conjunction with the Executive and Administrative Secretaries, to conduct the day-to-day administration of its affairs.

S/he is ex-officio a Member of Council and of the eight Committees of Council, consisting at present of the Education Policy Committee, the General Purposes Committee, the Finance Committee, the Membership Committee, the Publications Committee, the Research Policy Committee, the Research Support Committee and the Digital Committee (established in 2017). Council meets in London five times a year (normally in February, May, July, September and November) and Committee meetings are held on the same day as a Council meeting. It is the present policy to hold Councils and Committees in the Society’s rooms in UCL on Fridays. One or two lectures or symposia are usually held outside London in any one year. The Honorary Secretary is very much encouraged to attend all the Society’s activities.

The Honorary Secretary, in conjunction with the Executive and Administrative Secretaries and the President, deals with the planning and administrative work connected with Council and with Committee meetings. This may include duties, such as the finalization of Council minutes and the preparation of the Council agenda, as well as oversight of the Society’s IT systems and chairing the General Purposes Committee (which selects the Society’s annual speakers). The Honorary Secretary facilitates the work of the Society in the broadest sense, providing advice and assistance on key policy initiatives in research and education and the other services the Society performs, such as publications, events and fund-raising. Finally, the Honorary Secretary serves as the line manager for the Society’s permanent staff (including duties such as, but not limited to, the assignment of tasks, annual staff review, and supportive discussions on workload and progress). As such, s/he would be expected to maintain a regular and active presence in the Society’s office at UCL and keep in close contact with the Executive and Administrative Secretaries.

The Honorary Secretary acts as a public advocate for the work of the Society and provides strategic support to the President. As such, the role offers an opportunity to contribute to the shaping of the discipline at a national level and to understand issues facing UK historians. This experience provides valuable insights into education and research matters that may in this context prove especially useful to mid-career academics considering undertaking substantial leadership roles in their own Departments.

Honorary Secretaries usually serve for four years, with the possibility of an extension. The post has been held, in recent years, by Peter Mandler (later President of the Society), Kenneth Fincham (now a Vice-President), Vanessa Harding, Adam Smith and Zoe Laidlaw.

The Society is looking for someone who is:

  • willing and able to make a creative contribution to the full range of the Society’s activities, lectures, conferences, support for the interests of history and historians, publishing and subventions for research and to help the Society to develop future initiatives and to promote recognition of the Society.
  • willing and able to devote time and close attention to the necessary administrative tasks on which the Society’s scholarly enterprises depend. This would involve being within commuting distance of London.
  • Willing and able to help line-manage the Society’s administrative team
  • Willing and able to keep a watching brief over the Society’s website

The Society is able to provide some modest financial support to relieve some duties at the Honorary Secretary’s Department or School. This support would be negotiated between the President, the Honorary Secretary, and the Head of Department or School concerned.

Expressions of interest will be welcome until a suitable candidate is identified, but the review of applicants will begin on 1st March, and continue until the post is filled, with the intention that the successful applicant will shadow the outgoing Secretary at May’s Council and then take over after the Council meeting in early July.  Informal enquiries in the first instance to Kenneth Fincham (K.C.Fincham[AT]kent.ac.uk) and applicants should submit a one page cv with a covering letter, explaining their interest in the post, to Sue Carr, the Society’s Administrative Secretary (s.carr[AT]royalhistsoc.org).


Public History Prize 2018 Winners

The Winners of the 2018 Public History Prize were announced on Friday 26 January at the Mary Ward Centre in London.

Overall Winner:
‘Partition Voices’, BBC Radio 4, presented by Kavita Puri

Museums & Exhibitions Winner:
Museum of London Docklands, ‘Tunnel: The Archaeology of Crossrail’

Radio & Podcasts Winner:
‘Partition Voices’, BBC Radio 4, presented by Kavita Puri

Commended for Radio & Podcasts:
‘Instant History’ (‘Archive on 4’), BBC Radio 4, presented by Andrew Green

Film & TV Winner:
‘Black and British: A Forgotten History’, BBC 2, presented by David Olusoga

Commended for Film & TV, and Online Resources:
South Oxford Local History, ’66 Men of Grandpoint’

Online Resources Winner:
‘Our Migration Story’, Runnymede Trust

Public Debate & Policy Winner:
Lucy Delap (Cambridge), Adrian Bingham (Sheffield), & Louise Jackson (Edinburgh), ‘Historicising “Historical Child Sexual Abuse” ‘

Undergraduate Student Prize:
Cherish Watton (Cambridge), ‘Democratic and Critical Commemoration of the Women’s Land Army in 20th-Century Britain’

Postgraduate Student Prize:
Joe Hopkinson (Huddersfield), ‘Dispersing the Problem: Immigrant Children in Huddersfield during the 1960s & 1970s’

Commended Postgraduate Student:
Kirstie Arnould (Royal Holloway), ‘Keeping us in Mind: Silences & Voices in the Epsom Cluster’


RHS sponsors Historical Association Quality Mark

In recognition of the excellence and high standards that the Historical Associaton’s Quality Mark (QM) can bring to a school we are delighted to announce that to help celebrate our 150th anniversary, the Royal Historical Society is to provide sponsored bursaries to ensure more schools can take part. The QM supports the development of excellent history provision by the teacher, the department and as part of the whole school offer to young people. You can read more about the scheme here.

The Royal Historical Society will be provide sponsored bursaries in 2018 for up to ten secondary schools to participate in all stages of the Quality Mark programme. Conditions of the sponsorship mean that the sponsored schools will be state funded, non-selective schools drawn from across the country. To register your interest in the the Royal Historical Society Quality Mark Bursaries, please contact Mel Jones (melanie.jones[AT]history.org.uk) for more details, or download and complete the application form from the HA website. Applications close on July 16 2018.


Presidential Address 2017: ‘Loot’, Prof. Margot Finn

On 24 November, RHS President Margot Finn presented her first annual Presidential address, discussing the subject of ‘Loot’ in her series on ‘Material Turns in Modern British History’. You can watch the lecture, and read Prof. Finn’s abstract below.

The first of four annual addresses deploying methodological approaches associated with the ‘material turn’, this lecture focuses on the relationship between imperial warfare, on the one hand, and the writing of History in modern Britain, on the other. It does so by tracing the entangled histories of booty, plunder and prize in the Third Anglo-Maratha or Pindari campaigns of c. 1817-1819, and by examining the material afterlives of Indian loot in late Georgian and Victorian Britain. Not least among the consequences of military men’s efforts to regulate (and profit from) the vibrant indigenous and imperial plunder regimes of the East India Company era was an efflorescence of historical research conducted on the subcontinent under the Company’s aegis. Co-produced with Indian scribal and princely elites, the historical writing that flourished in the Pindari War and its aftermath was caught up in and fostered by wider processes of material exchange that saw plundered jewels, weaponry, textiles and manuscripts fuel , rationalize and reward both Indian and British combatants. The history-writing of these campaigns differed sharply from the Whig verities which were to dominate later Victorian historiography. But these earlier and later varieties of historical interpretation are viscerally related—most notably in the biography and the material possessions of the Royal Historical Society’s fourth President (1891-1899), Sir Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant Duff. On the eve of the Society’s 150th anniversary, it is timely to render more visible History’s connection—by blood, capital, and the spoils of war—to earlier practices of archiving, researching and writing the past born on the battlefield.

Call for Nominations to REF2021 History Sub-Panel

The Royal Historical Society has been invited by HEFCE to nominate sub-panel members for REF2021 and will be looking to put forward c.50 names before nominations close in December 2017.

This important process requires us to balance the number of nominees needed to cover particular sub-disciplinary areas with equality and diversity considerations and HEFCE’s intention to have c. a third of the sub-panel with previous REF panel experience with, correspondingly, at least c. a third new members.

It is vital that the History sub-panel reflects the range, institutional variety and expertise of our discipline (including an ability to assess research published in languages other than English), and that its membership commands the confidence of the profession.

To help achieve this goal, the RHS is inviting Fellows to contact us with the names and disciplinary areas of potential nominees. Suggestions for both full sub-panel members (responsible for assessing outputs, environments and impacts) and for impact reviewers who work outside the Higher Education sector will be welcome. In keeping with HEFCE’s wider nominating process, the Society will not consider either individual self-nominations or nominations made by a colleague at the nominee’s own university.

Prior to contacting the Society, Fellows are kindly requested to read carefully the HEFCE guidance on REF sub-panel membership, available here.

Note should be taken (1) of the very substantial time commitment required in a discipline in which output assessment is undertaken by qualitative reading, often of lengthy texts; and (2) that sub-panel membership typically entails both travel and periods of over-night accommodation away from sub-panel members’ home institutions.

Fellows should be aware that we expect to receive many more names than we will be able to nominate, reflecting the strength of History in the UK. Following HEFCE guidance on diversity and reaching out to under-represented groups, we strongly encourage nominations from those under-represented in REF2014 panels

All suggestions for potential sub-panel members should be sent to
rhsref2021@royalhistsoc.org, before 12:00 noon on Wednesday 22 November.

In suggesting names for the Society’s consideration, please include the following information, in the following order, in the body of your email:

1) Confirmation that you are currently a Fellow of the RHS (Y/N);

2) Full name of proposed REF sub-panel member;

3) Email address of proposed nominee;

4) Institutional address of proposed nominee;

5) URL of candidate’s individual page on institutional/professional website;

6) Field(s) of specialism of proposed nominee (region, chronology, sub-disciplinary area, and/or methodology, as appropriate);

7) Any known prior experience of peer-review in History (editorial experience, research council assessment boards, etc.)