RHS News

RHS Response to the Government’s Green Paper on HE

Endorsed by the Economic History Society, History UK,  the British Agricultural History Society and the East Midlands Centre for History Teaching and Learning.

PDF of RHS response

Edited version of RHS response


  • welcome a renewed emphasis on teaching quality, but are concerned that perverse incentives may be created by the focus on proxies that have little connection to actual teaching quality;
  • want to see teachers at the heart of any assessment of teaching, shaping and defining good practice;
  • believe that teaching cannot and must not be separated from research;
  • believe that teaching methods and outcomes differ so much between disciplines that any assessment would have to be done on a discipline-by-discipline basis (which might carry dauntingly high regulatory and economic burdens);
  • believe that the dual funding model for research must be protected.

The general principle of a ‘Teaching Excellence Framework’

The Royal Historical Society would like to see genuine incentives for HEIs to concentrate on teaching quality. Therefore, if the government introduces a TEF it should be one that encourages institutions to:

  • create a culture in which pedagogy is valued, developed, and discussed among all members of academic staff, and quality teaching rewarded
  • create programmes that are consciously designed to develop in students particular sets of intellectual (and, where appropriate, practical) skills
  • recognise and develop the intrinsic relationship between research and teaching

We believe that to achieve these goals, the TEF must:

  • recognise and value the whole educational experience of students – i.e. learning as well as teaching
  • be based on programme-level (discipline specific) submissions
  • be peer reviewed by respected academics in the same discipline, in much the same way as happens with the REF
  • require submissions that will be largely narrative, rather than metrics-based

We can see the value in aiding student choice of appropriately benchmarked metrics, but we do not think they could ever be an effective proxy for teaching quality and doubt that they could form the basis of reliable comparison across institutions or disciplines.

It is one thing to seek to make information about teaching even more available and transparent to potential students and quite another to impose a target-led regulatory regime on HEIs, with all the well-known problems that will engender. As the government withdraws from direct public subsidy of teaching it must recognise that its regulatory role necessarily changes too. While the government can seek to give more leverage to students, since it is they who are now ultimately paying, it has ceded any direct leverage it may theoretically have had over how HEIs deliver teaching. Since the removal of the recruitment cap on undergraduate numbers, universities have noticeably been focusing more on teaching quality than was previously the case. The test of these proposals is whether it will enhance that tendency or retard it.

The Royal Historical Society’s case is that the only meaningful assessment of teaching quality is one that is rooted in the discipline-specific experience and judgement of those who participate in teaching and learning – the teachers as well as the students.

As the Green Paper concedes, it is palpably not up to the government to define what makes for effective teaching at HE level. It must therefore be up to teachers to determine how best to teach in their discipline at this level, within the resource constraints we face.

We are confident – on the basis of evidence – that a good history programme prepares students very effectively for the workplace, but we are certain that effective learning and teaching in History is not measurable by generic cross-disciplinary standards. Typically, humanities programmes will feature fewer contact hours than most science programmes, but will also feature much more small group teaching, a far greater emphasis on independent learning, and more concentration on the development of students’ writing and communication skills. There will be very different kinds of links with outside institutions and the nature of ‘employability’ will necessarily be different in a subject like ours than in some other disciplines. The QAA has already recognised this in establishing discipline-specific panels in order to draw up disciplinary benchmark standards. The TEF, if it is to have credibility, must do the same.

The RHS takes a lead in shaping and defining what effective teaching and learning means in our discipline. We therefore welcome the suggestion in the Green Paper that Learned Societies are among the ‘stakeholders’ with whom institutions would want to work. The RHS is already well positioned to play this role, being able to draw on a depth and range of expertise from many different institutions.

Metrics and how a TEF would work

We are pleased that the Green Paper acknowledges the difficulties of using metrics. We believe that the conclusions of Prof James Wilsdon’s review of the use of metrics in research assessment for HEFCE, The Metric Tide, apply with even greater force to teaching and learning.

By far the most problematic metric mentioned in the Green Paper is the destination of graduates. The difficulty here is that employment status and earnings are not related in any demonstrable or tangible way to teaching quality but reflect other factors including social class, the perceived status of the university attended, and secondary school type, as well as career choice. It may be of some value to students to have this information, but it should not be confused with a mechanism designed to drive up teaching quality.  

In addition, the use of earnings/employment data, if they do not control for social origin, may have the perverse effect of incentivising socially selective admissions. We are sure you agree that government policy should not end up, however unintentionally, encouraging university admissions officers to have to weigh up the likely earning potential of applicants, something which would be dishearteningly easy for them to do using school and postcode data. Even where it is possible to control for some of these background factors, the demonstrable tendency of employers to use institutional reputation as a ‘screening’ mechanism in employment decisions suggests that a TEF based in any substantial degree on graduate earnings may only have the effect of fossilizing established hierarchies rather than inciting innovation and improvement. 

Retention figures are of relevance but only so long as they are properly benchmarked against the background of the student body, since otherwise this would be a disincentive for institutions to recruit students from under-represented groups, including part-time and mature students, for whom the funding situation has already been deteriorating markedly in recent years. 

Student satisfaction data is potentially of value, but again only so long as it is properly benchmarked. But, to state the obvious, a measure of student satisfaction is not a measure of teaching quality. Learning should be difficult and should require commitment on the part of the learner, and rigorous assessment means that by definition not everyone will succeed. These self-evident observations severely limit the ability of ‘satisfaction’ measures to capture teaching quality.

Of the metrics mentioned for later implementation we would strongly welcome a measure of the proportion of staff on permanent contracts. We would also urge that universities be incentivised to embed the relationship between research and teaching by being penalised for employing staff on teaching-only contracts. The distinctiveness of HE, and one of UK universities’ internationally recognised great strengths, is that students are taught by people who are also actively engaged in research. In our discipline (and no doubt in others) effective teaching cannot be divorced from research: we want to develop students who are engaged in research themselves and who are exposed to the people who are immersed in scholarship.

Teaching intensity’ is not clearly defined in the Green Paper, but in our discipline we believe it should mean levels of student engagement (i.e. evidence that students are actively participating in learning), insofar as that can be reduced to a metric. We are convinced of the value in our discipline of small group teaching and/or low staff/student ratios as a means to this end and believe that this is vastly more important than the number of contact hours. In our experience, drawn from across the spectrum of institutions teaching History, students consistently appreciate the individual attention and higher quality feedback that is only possible in a small-group setting.

On the whole, however, we suspect that the idea that metrics which may not be ‘robust’ can or should be ‘balanced’ with ‘institutional evidence’ is likely to lead to greater managerial attention to the former (which can be automated and rendered generic) than the latter (which relies on costly subject-specific and qualitative measures).  Like other performance indicators this runs the risk of transferring institutions’ efforts from performance to indicator.

The precedent of the REF, where many of the distortions to academic effort have come from HEIs’ (mis)interpretation of the rules, is ominous.  On this precedent one might expect university managers to be unnecessarily and distractingly interventionist not in ways that encourage diversity and experiment in teaching but rather in ways that are thought to mirror government ‘intentions’. It would be one of the most depressing unintended consequences of the TEF, albeit one very easy to imagine, if the regulatory constraints under which university teachers worked, stifling innovation and creativity, outweighed putative benefits in enhancing teaching quality.

Therefore, the TEF should not, indeed in our view cannot, impose measures that, however subtly or unintentionally, have the effect of directly engineering how teaching and learning happens in universities, whether that is through crude measures like ‘contact hours’ or anything else.

Social Mobility and Widening Participation in Higher Education

The Royal Historical Society is strongly supportive of efforts to ensure that class and ethnicity are not barriers to a good historical education with all the benefits that brings. Unless Access Agreements – together with evidence of progress toward achieving the goals set out in them — are a prerequisite for a TEF award, it is difficult to see what incentive HEIs would have for maintaining or extending the numbers of students from under-represented groups. This is especially true since in some respects the TEF, as outlined in this Green Paper, would otherwise incentivise universities to become more socially selective in order, for example, to ensure their graduates have higher earning potential.

There are few more important issues for universities, or the education system and society more widely, than ensuring fair access. Therefore we believe the government should use all available policy levers to ensure that universities make strenuous efforts in this area. However, we do not support externally imposed institution-level admissions targets for under-represented groups.

The challenge for HEIs and for us as a Learned Society is to work with schools and other organisations to increase participation and academic success among under-represented groups at all stages of the education system.

The challenge for government is to discriminate between those levers that can be pulled at the point of admission to university and those that can’t. It would be a mistake to place more policy emphasis on one specific stage than it can bear, and which would therefore be likely to incentivise game playing and produce perverse effects.

As the Green Paper points out, ‘prior educational attainment is the key factor in determining progression’. Disadvantage starts in infancy and deepens (unevenly) at different stages of the life course. Government policy on social mobility needs to link up communities, child-care, child support, schools, universities, careers, equal-employment policies and income inequality.  At the point of entry to HE, a successful widening participation policy must give universities the ability to identify applicants who have demonstrated their intellectual ability while overcoming measurable disadvantages. Properly contextualised decisions about academic potential can only be made on the basis of as much data, about social class, ethnicity and school as possible. Therefore we support greater access to the kind of information currently held by UCAS.

 A student-led market in HE

 There is an important component largely missing from the Green Paper’s discussion of market exit: how to facilitate students transferring, during their degree programme, from one institution to another. Although there is now a rudimentary system of credit transfers that in theory allows students to move from one HEI to another without losing credit, in practice institutions often place barriers in the way. Incentivising universities to facilitate the transfer of students from a programme in one institution to a programme in another would create more fluidity in the market.

Naturally, it would also require an HE system that had robust mechanisms for ensuring peer-reviewed validation of programmes and the reinforcing of broad comparability among programmes through the external examining process.

 Regulation, Research Funding and the ‘architecture’ of Higher Education

The higher education architecture is unnecessarily complex, but this is in large part because as government withdraws from direct administration it leaves behind complex regulatory frameworks. SLC, OFFA, QAA, HEA and HESA are all relatively recent products of this regulatory policy. The Office for Students (OfS) would be yet another one.

Not all of HEFCE’s current functions are appropriate for an OfS. Hiving off HEFCE’s research functions will, according to the Nurse Review, require a further complication of the research support structure.  In addition to assessment and allocation of QR, HEFCE provides essential core funding to research institutes (such as the Institute of Historical Research, as part of the School of Advanced Study of the University of London, which provides crucial infrastructural support for our discipline).  These research functions – not provided for in the rationale for government intervention in HE on p. 58 of the Green Paper– are crucial and not easily separable from ‘education’.  For example, it is not clear from the Green Paper proposals where responsibility for PGT and PGR students will lie. 

We would favour retention and indeed strengthening of a single higher-education regulator, such as the funding councils provide, with if anything transfer to it of some of the functions of the other, smaller quangos targeted for supersession.

Although little teaching grant remains for humanities disciplines such as ours, we are concerned about the proposal to allocate teaching grant from within BIS to ‘enable ministers to strengthen incentives for higher education provision that supports the needs of the economy’. This seems to suggest a degree of ‘manpower planning’ which governments have largely abjured since the 1960s and which is inconsistent with an HE system centred on students and student demand. It points to features of the Australian system, including differential fees and subject quotas, which have been heavily criticised by students and employers for unbalancing the normal functioning of supply and demand mechanisms.

Independence of Research and Academic Freedom

Changes to the institutional framework are presented as reducing complexity. But we are concerned that they are also likely to reduce the independence of academic judgement in teaching and research that has been the recipe for international success of the UK higher education system for decades. We are pleased to see an acknowledgement in the Green Paper of the Haldane Principle, but we note that successive governments have redefined the Haldane Principle when it suits them. Clause 68(3) of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, still in force, provides that ‘Such terms and conditions may not be framed by reference to particular courses of study or programmes of research (including the contents of such courses or programmes and the manner in which they are taught, supervised or assessed) or to the criteria for the selection and appointment of academic staff and for the admission of students’. This, in fact, provides for a stronger protection of academic freedom and independence than does the Haldane Principle, as observed as recently as 2010 by BIS in its Strategic Plan. But it would be weakened by the Green Paper’s proposal to limit protection to ensure that ‘ministers and officials could not single out specific institutions’.  We note that the Green Paper acknowledges the importance of ‘research which is directed within institutions’ (p. 70), also protected by the 1992 Act, but it does not extend the same significance to teaching.

We would expect to see the independence of arm’s length bodies safeguarded in legislation at least as strongly as at present, with stronger protections for what the Green Paper calls ‘research directed from within institutions’.

The dual system of research funding

The two streams of the dual funding system have different purposes and different statutory status.  By redefining the Haldane Principle, successive governments have increased their ability to influence decisions made on the RC arm. At the same time the balance between the budgets of the two elements has shifted in favour of RC funding (for example, in the 1992 ‘dual support transfer’ and again in 1998 in order to fund the Arts and Humanities Research Council – in both cases from the QR to the RC stream). To protect both the value and the independence of QR funding, some longer-term guarantee ought to be provided fixing the balance between these two budgets, as indeed is recommended by the Nurse Review.

QR is essential to the independence of individual academics and their employing institutions. Without it, student fees would presumably have to be used to cross-subsidise research infrastructure, which would be difficult to justify, not least to students. Above all, QR ensures, as the Green Paper puts it, that research ‘may be purely curiosity-driven, respond to individual partnering opportunities, or may be in rapid reaction to advances in a given field’. These qualities are more important to the humanities than to the sciences, as our research does not cluster so readily or fruitfully around easily identifiable research frontiers or immediate applications. It is for this reason that, rightly, 85% of government research funding in the humanities is provided by QR and only 15% by RCUK. As a means of distributing QR, REF has its critics, yet so far no one has come up an alternative that would be credible and consistent while also identifying and rewarding quality in all its many manifestations.  In fields such as ours where quality is very widely distributed across a range of institutions, it also enables individual achievers to gain recognition independent of the reputation of their institutions and also to small pots of funding that have disproportionately significant effects in stimulating creative research across the system. This plurality is a sign of health in UK HE that is rightly envied abroad.

If REF is to measure research quality wherever it is, we need to find ways to reduce the extensive (and expensive) game-playing in which institutions engage, modelling the exercise many times in advance and erecting elaborate selection processes that divide the academic community and distract from the research enterprise itself. One option would be to require the submission of all research-contracted staff, but this requirement suffers from the fatal flaw that it would encourage the proliferation of teaching-only contracts and the bifurcation of HE into research and teaching streams, which, as the Green Paper indicates, would be to the detriment of both.









The Making of ‘For King and Country’ exhibition: RHS Public History Prize-winner

ForKCAngelaClarewithtrophies2 sq.

Angela Clare

‘For King and Country’, an exhibition about the First World War at Bankfield Museum, Halifax, has just won the first RHS Public History Prize

In 2013 Angela Clare from Calderdale Museums was appointed Project Manager for the exhibition. She had previously worked at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds in exhibitions, research and historical interpretation. Her role with Calderdale Museums was to oversee the redevelopment of the gallery and the exhibition installation research in addition to writing the exhibition’s content, and promoting it alongside related events. 

Angela reports here on the creation of the prize-winning exhibition:

for-king-and-country-624x114 panFollowing a successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid, Bankfield Museum in Halifax transformed its top floor gallery into a dedicated First World War exhibition with an adjoining research room. The exhibition commemorates the centenary of the outbreak of war through to the signing of the armistice and is open until the end of 2018. It opened on the 2 August 2014 and has proved extremely popular with the public with excellent feedback and a 25% increase in visitors to Bankfield.

MainAward_Logo smallEighteen months later, to hear out of the blue that the exhibition had won a prize from the Royal Historical Society for Public History in Museums and Galleries was a wonderful surprise. For us, our first thought was that this would help us spread the word of the exhibition further afield. On the evening of the prize-giving we were then awarded the overall prize for Public History which was a real honour. It has given our project a stamp of approval from a well-respected authority and endorsed our decisions in putting the exhibition together.

The exhibition itself includes a range of objects, images and archives exploring what life was like in Calderdale one hundred years ago. Whilst national involvement and the events of the conflict itself would no doubt be covered by larger institutions such as the Imperial War Museum and the National Army Museum, best placed with vast archives, collections and historical experts, we, in turn, drew on local experiences to explore the key events of the war overseas and at home. 

For K&C local albumWe found stories from this region to display alongside the many objects and archives in the museum’s collections, donated and acquired during the last century. Over sixty local families responded to our call for stories and we worked alongside a number of community groups, all shedding new light on how the people of Calderdale contributed to the war effort. The stories were woven into the exhibition enabling us to relate a wide range of topics as well as events of the war itself to the lives of ordinary people, and we continue to actively collect local stories to form an archive for the future. The diversity of the stories demonstrates the social, cultural, economic and political impact of war on the people of Calderdale as civilians or military personnel. Rather than reading official reports of battles on the Western Front or state diplomacy, the stories of real people who once lived in Calderdale  and lived through this traumatic episode in history, made the exhibition human, poignant and touching. Families who contributed stories felt real ownership of the exhibition, bringing grandchildren, nieces, nephews and friends to see their story on display.

For K&C posterThe title for the project and the exhibition itself, ‘For King and Country’, seemed to sum up the idea of sacrifice, through choice or not, characterised at the time as being ‘for king and country’. Of course this varied greatly between age, class, gender, religion and ethnicity. The title also prompts questions about historic events, many of which we simply did not have the space to explore fully. So we included a large Research Room with more information, books, computer access and information sheets on how to research your own family history and where to see other First World War exhibitions and find out more online. The Research Room also contained a large wall space for visitors to leave comments on printed poppies. This was quickly filled with touching tributes to individuals and collective remembrance for all those who served.

For K&C uniforms GRAnother success was tracing the stories of how local industries and manufacturers contributed to the war effort. From the beginning of the conflict, Halifax manufacturers turned their attention to producing the goods needed for industrial scale warfare, including khaki cloth, webbing and army issue blankets. This was hardly surprising given Halifax’s prominence in the textile trade. Much less well known are the innovations in this part of Yorkshire, notably the invention of the first steel helmet, bomb mechanisms for aeroplanes and the manufacture of mine sweepers. The sheer numbers of local firms who shifted production to munitions and arming is remarkable. The production of knitting yarns and patterns in Halifax and surrounding areas to produce comforts for the troops was another story which captured the attention of visitors.

The exhibition begins in a corridor space which sets the pre-war scene in the region covering work, leisure, royalty and British Military conflicts in Crimea and the Boer War. This leads the visitor up a wide staircase to the top floor and the main galleries.

For K&C galleryWe knew we had to cover the key events of the First World War but that we also needed to relate them to our locality. To do this we divided the main gallery space into two – one side dealing with the conflicts overseas, and the other with events in the region to support, oppose and supply the war. The gallery has four further areas with dividing walls which lent themselves to other themes. As a museum known for its costume and textiles collections, one of these spaces was dedicated to exploring costumes before, during and after the war, as well as the demand for clothing supplies. The second space centred on communication, looking at propaganda, local newspapers and the postal service and the importance of letters for keeping in touch. This room also featured a large projection of a film we commissioned from a local company, Limehouse TV, which detailed our research into the war in the region, our responsibility to share stories and tell a balanced account of the war’s events, as well as interviews with some of the families who had contributed stories to the exhibition and what it meant to them to be remembering their ancestors.

For King & Country - kidsTwo smaller annexes were used for a children’s area, with dressing up and some delightful dolls and bears with various outfits for younger children, comfy seating and books for children of all ages, along with information about what life was like for children one hundred years ago and the role of the guides and scouts in the war. The opposite annexe became our space to display topics which would change each year as the war progressed – the first set of these panels from 2014 went on tour of the region this year, and more will follow each year of the centenary.

WewillrememberthemOn exiting the gallery, we chose the extract from Binyon’s poem to be displayed above the staircase ‘We will remember them’.

SAMSUNG CSCIn addition to the exhibition itself, we have hosted a range of First World War-themed learning opportunities such as educational workshops, live interpretation, re-enactment, centenary talks, family events and hands-on activities, which have been well attended and will continue throughout the years of the centenary. A souvenir guide was compiled to accompany the exhibition and includes a selection of family stories alongside colour images of the rich objects on display to remain a lasting legacy of the project.

The exhibition was completed on time and within budget. For the opening, we invited all those who had contributed to the exhibition, from the building works, renovations and film makers to the families and local historians who had contributed stories and content. Winning the Royal Historical Society’s Public History Prize has given us a good opportunity to host another event to once again thank all those involved.

FKC openingWhen deciding who would officially open the event in 2014, I thought immediately of one of the first people to contact me when I started in the post. Richard Smith was a local man who had carried out considerable research on his granddad who had served in the war alongside his two brothers. The three brothers had lived on Boothtown Road, near Bankfield Museum and had all survived the war and gone on to have families of their own. Richard kindly loaned some artefacts belonging to his grandfather and his own father, and Arthur’s son came down from Scotland to see the opening. We asked the Smith family to place their objects on display and close the final case to mark the exhibition as open and Arthur’s son, grandson and great-grandson and great grand-daughter did the honours, passing Arthur’s possessions from generation to generation and onto display to share his story with the wider public one hundred years on.

Calderdale Museums logo stacked‘For King and Country’ is open until the end of December 2018 and entry is free.

Opening times and details of related events

HLF logo





RHS Response to Independent Commission on Freedom of Information

Mary Vincent LS

Mary Vincent

The RHS has conducted a brief consultation among academic historians and historical researchers in response to the Call for Evidence by the Independent Commission on Freedom of Information. Professor Mary Vincent, Chair of the Research Policy Committee, has submitted this response from the Royal HIstorical Society:

We would like, first, to affirm our commitment to transparent and accountable government, both as historians and as citizens.  As practising historians, we understand this commitment not only in terms of FOI but also as an eventual release of all documentation so that the official record may be as complete as possible.   While the latter affects all historians and historical researchers, FOI has a particular impact on contemporary historians and it is clear from our consultation that FOI is now an essential tool for them.

Historians who make regular use of FOI feel that the current legislation has worked reasonably well, both for academics and for PhD students.  It is also clearly the case that significant historical work is being published as a result of existing FOI provisions and that this work could not have been undertaken without the FOI legislation.  The RHS is therefore concerned that additional restrictions, such as fees or some kind of limit, for example on grounds of cost, would affect and even restrict this kind of research, which often looks at important and sensitive areas, for example the Northern Irish Troubles.

While there is some feeling that a scholar needs to develop an expertise in making requests and using the FOI provisions, this is not seen as complex.  The RHS also feels that the same if true of many kinds of research access.  However, there does seem to be an issue with timeliness.  Historians report that FOI requests regularly take longer that the stipulated period, sometimes much longer.  There thus already seems to be a ‘lag’ in terms of the current legislation in that the process is slower than it should be and the RHS is very concerned that further restrictions are only likely to exacerbate this.  Clearly, this is a particular issue for work that needs to be completed in a timely fashion (e.g. the current History and Policy project on historical child sex abuse).

The RHS recognises that there is a balance to be struck.  FOI legislation may have led to some self-censorship of official documents but we have not heard concerns about ‘chilling’ and would see appropriate access to documentation as the priority.  FOI requests are also refused, or redacted, for example under the Section 38 or Section 40 exemptions and, clearly, there is a need to protect individuals.  However, we would urge that the public interest be construed as widely as possible so as to facilitate academic research and scholarship into serious and timely contemporary issues.  Such work will be to the benefit and interest of the public as well as to historians and students.

Yours faithfully,

 Mary Vincent signature



Professor Mary Vincent
Chair Research Policy Committee & Vice-President
Royal Historical Society




RHS Public History Prize Winners 2015

For K&C Angela Clare, Richard Macfarlane with trophies

Richard Macfarlane & Angela Clare, Calderdale Museums

The winner of the first
RHS Public History Prize was

For King and Country

Bankfield Museum, Halifax
Calderdale Museums

                                    View gallery film       


The Royal Historical Society, in partnership with the Public History Seminar at the IHR, announced that the overall winner of the first Public History Prize was ‘For King & Country’, Bankfield Museum, Halifax. The prize is intended to promote the field of public history by recognising work that enhances public understanding of the place of the past in today’s social, political and cultural life. In association with the award there was a day-long Public History workshop held in the Wolfson Suite at the IHR on Thursday 29th October 2016.

The 2015 Public History Prizes were presented by Professor Amanda Vickery (Queen Mary, University of London) at a reception at University College London on Friday 27th November 2016.

  •  The 2015 prize judges were: Professor Mary Beard (Cambridge); Dr. Alix Green (UCLAN); Professor Aled Jones (National Library of Wales) and Professor John Tosh (Roehampton). The panel was chaired by Professor Ludmilla Jordanova (Durham).
  • The prizes were presented by Professor Amanda Vickery (Queen Mary, University of London) on 27 November 2015 at University College London.
  • The specially commissioned Public History Prize logos were designed by Wale Osunla and Rebecca Railton, who were both undergraduate students at Hertfordshire University at the time.
  • The Public History Prize is run in association with the Institute of Historical Research Public History Seminar.

Public History Prize Category Winners

For Museums & Exhibitions: For King and Country, Bankfield Museum, Halifax, Calderdale Museums

Nominated by Lewis Howcroft from Leeds who wrote:

Museum_LogoIt is rare that you enter an exhibition and immediately just know that it is something very special. That it is a presentation on one of the most difficult periods of our history, one in which we should be totally ashamed of, and yet, for the first time in my life (and I am sixty-five years old), I felt at ease and drawn out by the excellence of the creation of this exhibition… It is due to end in December 2018 and my first thought was, great, we have lots of time to come back and see it again … In May 2014 we became the Grandparents of two baby girls (twins). The 2018 “deadline” at least allows us to bring them to the exhibition as they turn four years old, just to introduce them, very carefully, to this history. I really would like to be able to keep taking them back, as they get older.”

The judges said:

This beautiful and moving exhibition draws on community participation, encourages independent research, and gives a helpful account of the processes by which it was produced. The clear and evocative ways in which it uses local stories and artefacts is impressive, while it also provides a balanced account of many aspects of the First World War. The exhibition is informative, engaging, well-organised and elegantly designed.”

Public History Prize Winner for Broadcasting: Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners, BBC2, broadcast 15 and 22 July 2015

David-Olusoga-Britains-Forgotten-Slave-Owners pan2

Nominated by Professor Barbara Taylor, Queen Mary, University of London,

who wrote that the programme:

… represented the best of television history, highlighting new research in an important and difficult area. Unusual in their emphasis on the significance and the excitement of archival research elaborated arguments about slavery and race, the nature of the British state, the gendering of property, and the commercial and physical legacies of slave-ownership in Britain.”

The judges said:

This two part television series tackles an extremely difficult subject in a measured way by showcasing new historical research. It shows in an accessible manner the nature of the evidence, the locations to which it refers, and the value of intensive archival research. It engages with the descendants of slave owners, as well as with historians of slavery in the West Indies who are themselves descended from slaves. It explains the complex economics of slavery and encourages viewers to take a better informed and more critical stance on current economic issues.”

Public History Prize Winner for Web & Digital: Voices of Science, British Library

Nominated by Sally Horrocks, School of History, University of Leicester, who wrote:

web&digital_logoVoices of Science is unique among history of science and oral history websites alike. It presents an accessible picture of British science and British scientists since the 1940s through extracts from over 100 oral history interviews … It allows us to see how science fits into the context of individual lives and helps us to understand what being a scientist has meant to those involved”

The judges said:

This website provides rich materials for understanding the practice of twentieth-century science in a historical manner. The interviews themselves are fascinating; they are greatly enhanced by the interpretative material that is also provided on the site, encouraging users to reflect on major themes, including the role of gender in science, and the practice of oral history. The site is beautifully organised, providing not just valuable sources but tools for reflecting on them. It offers a way into a major field of history that makes it fully accessible to those with little or no previous knowledge of the history of science.”

Public History Prize Winner for Film: Body Games: Capoeira and Ancestry (Jogo de Corpo), UK/Brazil/S.Africa 2014

Body Games capoieraNominated by Professor Eddy Higgs, University of Essex, who described it as “an outstanding film”:

Based  on extended field research into combat games in Southern Angola … it introduces the viewer to the every-day life of remaining elderly practitioners, their practice and local knowledge, as well as their reflections regarding the current loss of traditions. … The charismatic character of the Brazilian capoeira master Cobra Mansa takes the audience on a breath-taking journey that criss-crosses the Atlantic.”

The judges said:

This original and beautiful film is an exploration of history at many levels. It uses oral history, ethnomusicology, biography and dances passed on through generations to illuminate the relationships between Brazil and Central Africa. In the process it also examines the ways in which people now think about and are connected with their ancestors. Here too is a form of contemporary history, which examines the nature of identity and the legacies of colonialism and slavery.”

2015 Public History Prize commendations:

Film: Falmouth and the Great War – a film about local histories of the First World War that premiered in January 2015 in Falmouth and made with funding raised by Exeter and Falmouth university students through Crowdfunder. Nominated by Dr Garry Tregidga, University of Exeter, who described it as “an outstanding public history film which engaged the students, in their own time, in a project that taught them, and the town, more about its First World War history“.

Museums & Exhibitions: Heritage Quay – the public archive centre at the University of Huddersfield, with significant collections including the British Music Collection. Nominated by Susanna Eastburn, CEO Sound and Music, Professor Tony Collins, and Professor Bob Cryan, Vice Chancellor, Huddersfield University. Susanna Eastburn wrote that the archive had opened “a fascinating, eclectic and unparalleled collection of material to a much wider public than has ever been the case.

Web & Digital: Empire: the Controversies of British Imperialism – on open online course run by Exeter University’s Centre for Imperial and Global History in partnership with FutureLearn. Nominated by Professor Henry French, University of Exeter, who wrote: “It is the interactive and dynamic aspect of the course that marks it out as pioneering … The detailed responses indicate that participants were not mere passive learners but rather engaged vigorously with the course leaders and with their fellow students.

HeritageQuay pan

Heritage Quay, University of Huddersfield



RHS Presidential address by Peter Mandler ‘Educating the Nation III: Social Mobility’

RHS Presidential Address, Friday 27th November, 6pm, Chadwick BO5 lecture theatre, UCL


What is social mobility, who benefits from it, how does it ebb and flow over time, and what contribution does education make to it? These thorny questions have been amply addressed by sociologists and economists, but using their own disciplinary conventions, sources of data and definitions, and rarely across multiple generations. This lecture tries to provide an historian’s overview of social mobility in Britain since the Second World War. It will be argued, somewhat paradoxically, that social mobility has been a constant feature of the second half of the 20th century, but that this has not led to greater ‘equality of opportunity’. The wider experience of social mobility has, however, implanted this aspiration firmly at the centre of public opinion and, as a result, politicians’ discourse. This has in turn raised expectations of education, which public opinion looks to as a basis for social mobility and which politicians feel they have some control over. But what if education isn’t the prime mover of social mobility at all?  Where does this leave politics and particularly the politics of education?

RHS President, Peter Mandler, is Professor of Modern Cultural History, University of Cambridge and Bailey Lecturer in History, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. His specialisms are Modern British history, especially cultural, intellectual and social; the histories of the humanities and social sciences in comparative perspective. In 2015 he was elected as a Fellow of the British Academy.


Peter Mandler’s Presidential Letter, RHS Newsletter October 2015

The death of our Executive Secretary in the 1970s and ‘80s and the election of my successor to 2020, both reported elsewhere in this newsletter, have naturally induced thoughts this season about the long-term trajectories of a learned society – our learned society – over what will soon be 150 years of its own history.  Some things have stayed the same; a lot has changed.  Actually there were features of the late Victorian historical profession that are eerily familiar today. As early as 1872 we can find one eminent Victorian (Edward Freeman) writing to another (Bishop Stubbs), complaining about a circular on the ‘“subsidy of research”, which I did not understand, and I see that it has grown into a meeting for the “organization of study”, which I don’t understand either.  If it means that they will give you and me … something, instead of wasting it on a parcel of idle youngsters in London, I shall not object.’ And already in the 1880s the Society was working with the British Museum and the Public Record Office to raise historical issues of public interest, such as the teaching of history in schools, just as we now work closely with their successors the British Library and the National Archives.  Of course we also continue to fulfil the functions that all learned societies seek to fulfil in all times and places:  that is, maintaining the infrastructure for scholarly publication, communication and debate, sponsoring public lectures and conferences, publishing primary sources and secondary works, seeking to pump-prime the future of the discipline by encouraging early-career historians with grants to do research and outlets through which to publish their research.  Just as we did 150 years ago, we publish our annual volume of Transactions – containing the best in new scholarship by leading figures of our discipline – and multiple volumes in the Camden series of original documents in British history (in the case of  Camden for more than 150 years, having inherited an older series from a defunct society).

The biggest change witnessed in the 20th century was the entry of the State into the funding and organization of higher education – hardly a whisper of this in evidence in 1868, and not much more in 1938, but by 1968 the State was responsible for nearly three-quarters of all university funding, and of course (despite the panoply of ‘arm’s length’ bodies designed to protect academic freedom) also demanding more say in how academic research was carried on and even in what directions. I think it is fair to say that the Society did not devote much of its time and energy in those postwar decades of the State’s rise to predominance in the world of higher education to following or seeking to influence government policy. It left that to the arm’s-length bodies, like the University Grants Committee, and although social and economic history was included in the remit of the new Social Science Research Council (later Economic and Social Research Council) from 1965, the Society, reasonably enough, continued to proceed on the assumption that the State had little interest in or impact on historical research. Much of that research was carried on by individuals, with little funding, a good deal of it outside universities altogether, and in some ways the Society became more inward-looking in those decades, carrying on its own scholarly activities with little reference to government, the general public, or indeed to anyone who wasn’t a historical scholar. Joy McCarthy’s reminiscences of the Society’s offices under Jean Chapman’s supervision in the 1970s and ‘80s gives a pungent and accurate flavour of the times – amiable, inertial, traditional, deeply immersed in the practice of history but rather oblivious of the wider cultural and political context.

That began to change, not when the State was increasing its role in the funding of academic research, but when it began to contract that role, during the ‘run-down’ of universities announced by Sir Keith Joseph in the 1980s. The Society didn’t respond quickly to the threats posed by the run-down, and a History at the Universities Defence Group (HUDG) was established in 1982 to lead a more public campaign in defence of historical teaching and research in a beleaguered university system. Nor did the Society respond quickly to the dramatic expansion of the higher-education system (and indeed of the numbers studying, teaching and researching history) that took off from the late 1980s. However, by the mid-1990s, under the leadership of a sequence of very sensitive and acute Presidents, the Society did begin to become much more responsive to the new breadth of activity in historical research and to the new tasks that should naturally have fallen to the country’s leading learned society in history.

Today Council is more fully representative of the range of historians from wherever they hail, new and old universities, museums, libraries and archives – we would like to see, too, independent scholars without institutional bases, who form a large and important part of our Fellowship, putting themselves forward for election to Council and answering our calls for self-nomination to officer positions that we circulate every year. This coming year, for example, we will be seeking a new Literary Director and a new Honorary Director of Communications, and I hope Fellows from all sectors will consider stepping forward and offering to take on these important jobs which, while voluntary, are the lifeblood of the Society’s work. I hope you don’t need me to recite the range of issues that the Society has taken up in the last twenty years in fulfilment of its new, wider brief – not only to service historical research, but to evangelize for it, and to ensure that the counsels of government, funding bodies, the universities and academic bodies across the full range of subjects are made constantly aware of the distinctive needs and flavour of the discipline of history.

In my own time as President we have made special efforts to influence the rewriting of the history curriculum in schools, to ensure that government plans for ‘Open Access’ to academic publications take a form that protects academic freedom and quality (which may be a quite different form for the humanities than for the sciences), and to defend the arm’s-length autonomy of the funding bodies from government’s attempts to impose its own short-term ‘strategic priorities’ on academic research.  We have reached out to ever-widening circles to build audiences for serious historical scholarship – putting all of our public lectures and symposia online for free access to the general public, sponsoring workshops and prizes in ‘public history’, and making our own publications ‘Open Access’ in more generous and appropriate forms than government mandates suggest.  And we have made renewed efforts to invest in the future of our discipline by extending our grants to early-career researchers (with help from our friends in the Economic History Society and at Past & Present), organizing workshops around the country with History Lab Plus, drafting (also with History Lab Plus) a code of practice for the employment of temporary teaching staff, and working to ensure gender equality in hiring and employment practices in academic institutions.

I do believe that the Society is in a stronger position today than it has been for many years – engaged in a wider range of activities, drawing in more direct participation from its members, using its resources more nimbly and effectively.  (And this is a good point to remind you that all donations to the Society continue to benefit from a matching grant from Dr Lisbet Rausing and Professor Peter Baldwin – please do consider making a donation online where every pound you give will be doubled.)   Of course new challenges await – not least the year- on-year reduction of the government’s share of higher education funding that we have endured for the last five years and will now endure for the next five. In these circumstances it is only learned societies like ours that can and will step up to defend scholarship. It is a great consolation to me to know that for four of those next five years the Society will be led by a wonderful scholar, someone exceptionally well-informed about the politics of higher education, and an agile and creative strategist. I shall do my best in my last year of office to keep the legacy of my predecessors intact so as to be able to hand over an organization in the best-possible shape to meet any new challenges as well as to continue our traditional role of maintaining infrastructural support for historical research as we head towards our 150th year.

Peter Mandler signature



New Look RHS Newsletter

The RHS Newsletter is now online with a beautiful new design, which is very easy to view and to navigate.


Contents of RHS Newsletter, October 2015:

  • Margot Finn

    Margot Finn, RHS President-elect

    Peter Mandler’s Presidential Letter

  • Introducing Margot Finn, RHS President-elect
  • In Memoriam – Jean Chapman 1934-2015 – RHS Executive Secretary 1977-1987
  • Archives Inspire – Matt Greenhall looks at the National Archives’ new strategic priorities
  • The Study of History and the Higher Education sector at the Imperial War Museum – Suzanne Bardgett
  • Reviewing Committee on the export of works of art and objects of cultural interest – Naomi Tadmor
  • Magna Carta and Decolonisation – Harshan Kumarasingham

PDF of October 2015 Newsletter

PDF of 2016 Card of Session

Students in a line (5 women)

Collaborative doctoral students at IWM

Comments on our newsletter and suggestions for future articles are actively welcomed. Please contact the Editor, Jo Fox: info@royalhistsoc.org


Lawrence Goldman commemorates David Cesarani

Lawrence GoldmanProfessor Lawrence Goldman, Director of the Institute of Historical Research, University of London, remembers the exceptionally productive life of a colleague and a friend. 

David Cesarani, who died on 25 October 2015 aged 58, was the leading British historian of the modern Jewish experience. Equally at home in the history of the Anglo-Jewish community, of Zionism and of the Holocaust, he mixed scholarship with commentary in the press and writing on contemporary events. The balancing act was not easy, but Cesarani pulled it off because he neither suffered from the traditional reticence of the scholar nor let his journalism wander from scholarship and evidence.

Born in London in 1956 and educated at Latymer Upper School, David came from a relatively humble background and not an especially religious one, either: his father was a ladies’ hairdresser with a salon in Paddington. It was at Cambridge, where he was an undergraduate between 1976-79 at Queens’ College, that his interest in Jewish History developed, almost certainly as a consequence of a search for his own identity. He took courses in modern history – though his Special Subject, devised and taught by John Morrill, was on Oliver Cromwell – and on graduating with a first class degree went to Columbia University to study for a Masters in Jewish History with the then renowned rabbi and historian Arthur Hertzberg. As an undergraduate David had become active in student politics. This was the era, after the Six Day War of 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973, when campus criticism of Israel began, and Cesarani was engaged in rebutting the accusation that ‘Zionism is Racism’ which was current at that stage, the mid and late 1970s. He came to see, gradually and incrementally, that as a historian he could play a part in the debate, dispelling mythology on all sides, correcting error, ensuring that public discourse was rational and based on the evidence. It is to his great credit that he remained trusted as a historian even while commentating so actively on Jewish life and history in Britain, Europe and Israel.

Ces Peace-Now-at-MigronAn early member of the organisation Peace Now, which stood for a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of a Palestinian state on the West Bank, Cesarani was every bit as critical of Israeli leaders and orthodox Jewish groups who rejected this compromise as he was of those who entered the debate knowing little history of the Middle East, or distorting what little they knew. His job was to enlighten on the basis of an accurate history, without fear or favour. Often involved in controversies – how could he not be when dealing with such subjects? – his greatest achievement was to retain the respect of his colleagues and peers as a historian. Many historians are understandably uncomfortable if asked to mix politics and history; Cesarani thrived on it, believing that the purpose of studying the past was to inform the present and future.

Later in his career, David knew professional success and stability, especially as a research professor in the History Department at Royal Holloway after 2004. Before that there were stints at the Wiener Library in London as Director of Research, and at Southampton as Professor of Jewish History between 2000-04. But like many, his early career in the 1980s had been disjointed and precarious. After Columbia he studied in Oxford, at St. Antony’s College, for a doctorate on the politics of the inter-war Jewish community in Britain, and there followed short-term posts at the University of Leeds and what was then Queen Mary College, London.

Cesarani-Justic-DelayedBy this time – the late 1980s – he had discovered how to bring together past and present: how he might use Jewish History to illuminate and clarify contemporary debate and controversy. He became the lead researcher for the All-Party War Crimes Group in 1987 which investigated the presence in the United Kingdom of Nazi and other Second World War criminals. This research, and the public concern it engendered, led to the 1991 War Crimes Act which extended British jurisdiction to cover war crimes committed anywhere. Cesarani’s own version of this episode and the history behind it can be found in Justice Delayed: How Britain Became a Refuge for Nazi War Criminals (1992). The search for elderly war criminals and the change to the law were both controversial, though this was not the first controversy Cesarani had entered. Earlier, in 1987, he had taken a position in opposition to Jim Allen’s play Perdition, due to be staged at the Royal Court Theatre in London, though never performed there because of public criticism. The play focused on the infamous case of Rudolf Kastner who had negotiated with Adolf Eichmann in 1944 to save a trainload of Hungarian Jews, about 1600 in all, from the gas chambers at Auschwitz. Some of those saved eventually found their way to Israel. Kastner was damned by many for this truly Faustian bargain, and was eventually assassinated in Israel in 1957. It was a complex historical episode in the very worst of human contexts, and Cesarani used his knowledge and expertise to argue that Allen’s play had simplified and decontextualized the story in order to delegitimize Zionism and the founding of the state of Israel.

Cesarani EichmannHe returned to the subject of Eichmann in his later biography, Eichmann. His Life and Crimes (2005). Hannah Arendt in Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963), based on the Eichmann trial of 1962, had famously coined the phrase ‘the banality of evil’ to describe a man she saw as a functionary of Nazi policy and bureaucracy. Cesarani took issue with an interpretation which had become almost routine in historical and public discourse over the next four decades, presenting Eichmann instead as a man with choices rather than an official following orders, and re-injecting the theme of personal, moral accountability into the history of Holocaust. He was not alone in this reinterpretation: his biography of Eichmann will stand with other more recent works of the 1990s and 2000s as part of a revisionist movement against overly structural interpretations of the Holocaust.

Ces Major Farrons HatCesarani published other books connected with the Holocaust. His study of Arthur Koestler. The Homeless Mind (1999) concerns the formidable and controversial public intellectual who managed to reach Britain in 1940 having published one of the most insightful exposes of Soviet communism, even if in fictional form, Darkness at Noon. In Major Farran’s Hat (2009) Cesarani used the murder of a young Zionist activist in a Jerusalem street in 1947 as a way of examining the end of the British mandate in Palestine. It was a work of history, for sure, but it also owed something to Cesarani’s penchant for thrillers. And there were several edited collections of essays as well, among them The Final Solution: Origins and Implementation (1994), all of them testament to Cesarani’s energy and activity in bringing together historians, often young historians, and giving them the opportunity to develop and publish their research. He was himself a willing servant of his subject as well as its master.

Ces Yad VashemBuilding a network of international contacts as he went – he spent periods of academic leave in Washington DC and at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem – Cesarani was well-placed to act as an interpreter and conduit for the new research into the Holocaust which became possible with the ‘fall of the wall’ and the end of the Soviet Union in 1989-91 as archives and collections in Eastern Europe became accessible to scholars, often for the first time. Conscious of his role, Cesarani became interested in the historiography of the Holocaust, especially in the absence of major research that marked the generation after the 1940s, and the result was one of his last edited collaborations (with Eric J. Sundquist), After the Holocaust. Challenging the Myth of Silence (2011).

His public services to Holocaust education were a corollary of this scholarly commitment. As a research fellow in the 1980s he had gone out to schools and community groups to talk about the Holocaust as a lecturer for the Spiro Institute for Jewish Education, based in north London. It was at this time that he developed his skills as a public speaker and lecturer. He worked with the Home Office unit responsible for establishing Holocaust Memorial Day in Britain, the 27th January, which was first observed in 2001.

Number10 Downing Street hosts a number of guests in preparation for the Holocaust memorial day. The Prime Minister David Cameron spoke to guests throughout the evening discussing the significance of Holocaust memorial day. The PM also made a speech to his guests commending them on their achievements for passing on the history and stories of the holocaust to a younger generation. Holocaust Memorial Day takes place on 27 January each year. It’s a time for everyone to pause to remember the millions of people who have been murdered or whose lives have been changed beyond recognition during the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. On HMD we can honour the survivors of these regimes and challenge ourselves to use the lessons of their experience to inform our lives today. 27 January marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. - See more at: http://www.hmd.org.uk/page/why-mark-27-january-holocaust-memorial-day#sthash.Ukz3tmIk.dpufWhen David Cameron established the Prime Minister’s Holocaust Commission in 2014 to determine ‘what more Britain must do to ensure that the memory of the Holocaust is preserved and that the lessons it teaches are never forgotten’, Cesarani was a member of its education committee. He was also a member of the advisory group that oversaw the creation of the remarkable permanent exhibition on the Holocaust in the upper floors of the Imperial War Museum in London. At the outset of the project Cesarani organised a number of seminars and teaching sessions for all the Museum staff involved, and though not solely responsible for its design, the exhibition bears evidence of his close involvement in its lack of sentiment, its commitment to historical detail, its careful focus on the massacre of one-and-a-half million Jews by the Einsatzgruppen before the Final Solution of the extermination camps was devised (ignorance of which Cesarani always lamented), and its use of survivors’ testimony.

Ces IWM HolocaustThese were features that ran through Cesarani’s scholarly publications, too. But he was never bound by orthodoxy, and he would challenge convention in his public educational work just as much as in his revisionist scholarship. There is a story of a public lecture he once gave on the subject of ‘Auschwitz and the Allies’. David spent the first 20 minutes explaining to his audience why it was impossible for the Allies to have bombed the train lines to Auschwitz and the camp itself, with the deliberate intention of lulling them into the acceptance of an interpretation with which he very strongly differed, before turning the occasion into a seminar on all the opportunities which, in his opinion, were ignored or dismissed, and which, if taken, could have severely disrupted, even if they could not have ended, the Holocaust.

Cesarani was a formidable public debater as I found out myself on one occasion. Asked to contribute to Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ on the problems of the secondary school History curriculum which has focused excessively on the Nazis and their crimes, I expected the easiest of victories. They did not tell me who I was up against, however, until I was placed in a sound-proofed box with moments to go. My arguments in favour of a curriculum that introduced students to the workings of stable government in plural societies, rather than focussing relentlessly, at all ages, on history’s most terrible events, were parried by David and swatted back. Afterwards we agreed that it had been a ‘score draw’ in soccer parlance; if I had more possession, he had more shots on target.

Ces JC book coverAgainst this background David’s continuing interest in the local travails of the Anglo-Jewish community might appear parochial or quaint. He was the author of the official history of the Jewish Chronicle, which has held the Anglo-Jewish community together since the 1840s, and which was published for its 150th anniversary: The Jewish Chronicle and Anglo-Jewry 1841-1991 (1994). There were many more essays and provocations from his desk on Jewish migration to the United Kingdom, Jewish communal organisation and the tensions between different groups and political positions in Anglo-Jewry. All of this work had an important point to make, however: that Jewish history in Britain was more vexed and more troubled than its first historians had suggested. David was one of several in his generation who took aim at the complacency of a whiggish history of the Jews which had been written to comply with a whiggish history of the English – a story in which the Jews had found common cause with English mores, politics and institutions and successfully adapted themselves to private and public life, enjoying notable professional advancement in a nation dedicated to tolerance and fair play. Cesarani recognised, of course, that Britain has been good for the Jews, but he and others were conscious that just as there were successive waves of Jewish migration to Britain, there were also different Jewish experiences. It was better to think of varied Jewish communities, differentiated by forms of religion, politics and attitudes to Israel, and often at odds with each other, than a single Anglo-Jewish identity. He himself identified strongly with Jewish causes, but he was not very observant and maintained a healthy disrespect for the excesses of religious orthodoxy. Indeed, there was something reliably unorthodox to David Cesarani; it was part of his personality and attractiveness as a companion and colleague that his opinions were always surprising and often the very opposite of what might have been expected.

Cesarani head shotIt is sad and poignant that Cesarani’s early death occurred just as two books that exemplified and united his career were going through the press, to be published early in 2016. His study of Disraeli. The Novel Politician looks again at Disraeli’s Jewish identity, but brings to that old question all David’s wisdom combined with impressive knowledge of British politics in the nineteenth century. Meanwhile, The Fate of the Jews 1933-48 is a major synthesis which will sum up his work on the Holocaust over three decades. They will represent one side of David Cesarani’s great achievement. To appreciate the other side, go to the Imperial War Museum, or to a lecture on Holocaust Memorial Day, or talk to someone who attended one of his seminars, or heard him on Radio 4, or read one of his pieces in the newspapers. In a profession that sometimes talks airily and vaguely about ‘public historians’, David Cesarani was the real thing.






Peter Mandler – President

Giving to the RHS – an appeal by RHS President, Peter Mandler

As Fellows, Members and friends of the Royal Historical Society, I’m making an appeal to enable the RHS to take on new roles whilst continuing to maintain our traditions as a learned society.

Over the last decade we have had to adapt and grow in a new environment of online communication, reduced government funding for education, and a more atomised university system. In response we’ve taken on new roles – advocating for history with government and funding bodies, defending the academic career, representing the interests of historians of all kinds. We also spend more on our traditional roles as a publisher, a funder of postgraduate research and a body recognising excellence in the form of grants and prizes.

This appeal launches a special and concerted attempt to raise funds for the Society’s modest endowment so that we can support permanently these new and essential levels of activity. We have been fortunate with two immediate generous philanthropic donations. The Linbury Trust has donated £12,500 to support the Gladstone Prize for the next five years. And Professor Peter Baldwin and Dr Lisbet Rausing, Fellows of the Society, have made an exceptional donation of £25,000, plus another £25,000 in matching funds, if we can raise an equivalent amount from our supporters, which is why we need your help.

We have three immediate goals:

  • to increase the sums we spend on grants to postgraduate researchers, for basic archival and travel expenses, as the funds available to them from their own institutions are cut back;
  • to invest in our publications so that they can be made open access without requiring authors to pay to publish;
  • to undertake more systematic research into issues facing the historical profession, following up our successful reports on early-career historians and on gender issues, to better inform our advocacy in the interests of history and historians.

I’m asking you to join me now in making a donation to help us reach our initial target of £25,000. If you are a UK tax payer you can increase the value of your gift by a further 25% at no extra cost to you. A donation from you of £40 with gift-aid and match funding will be worth £90 to the Society. Support the RHS by giving a gift securely online via credit or debit card or set up a regular donation through CAF Donate. Or download and complete our donation form and post it back to us.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your involvement and support as Fellows, Members and friends of the RHS, which we value greatly. Thank you too for considering making a donation. No matter the size, it will make a real difference to us and to our discipline.

Go to Support the RHS page