Call For Submissions: New Edited Collection ‘Women In Power: Female Agency in the Nineteenth Century

Edited by Dr. Fern Riddell, Dr. Emma Butcher, and Dr. Bob Nicholson, ‘Women In Power: Female Agency in the Nineteenth Century’ will seek to challenge the view that the public sphere was overwhelmingly male, and reveal the many places in which Victorian women wielded power and agency.

This edited collection will showcase both the professional and domestic power held by women of the Victorian era, but we are especially interested in women who shaped the world around us through their public lives. We are also keen to push past the lens of victimhood that has often shaped studies of women’s agency in this period and to explore alternative ways of understanding their experiences. Our goal is to normalise nineteenth-century female agency as everyday and pervasive, rather than transgressive and rare.

We welcome global submissions from all disciplines exploring women’s lives in the nineteenth century, from established scholars, early career researchers, PhD students, as well as non-affiliated independents. Submissions can include, but are not limited to, case studies of individuals, as well as broad themes and identities exploring:

  • Race
  • Colonialism
  • Journalism & Publishing
  • Science & Ideas
  • Culture
  • Trade Unions
  • Politics
  • War
  • Sexuality and Gender
  • Trans lives
  • Exploration
  • Business Women

We intend for this to be an edited collection of chapters roughly 8-10,000 words in length, but at this stage need only expressions of interest.

Please email a title and abstract of 250-300 words to:

Submission deadline: 28th February, 2021.


New and forthcoming titles in the Society’s Open Access book series

Now available, in print and online, Gender, Emotions and Power, 1750–2020 — edited by Hannah Parker and Josh Dyble — is the latest title in the Royal Historical Society’s New Historical Perspectives book series. This new collection offers a timely intervention into contemporary debates on emotions, gender, race and power by asking: ‘how are emotional expectations established as gendered, racialised and class-based notions’?

Chronologically and geographically broad, the essays cover settler colonies in southern Africa, post-unification Italy, Maoist China, the Soviet Union and British Raj, among others. Collectively the essays consider how emotional expectations have been generated, stratified and maintained by institutions, societies, media and those with access to power.

Gender, Emotions and Power, 1750–2020 is the 17th title in the Society’s New Historical Perspectives series for early career historians within 10 years of completing a PhD at a UK or Irish university. All titles are published online as Open Access editions and in paperback print with Open Access fees covered by the series partners: the Royal Historical Society, Institute of Historical Research and University of London Press. For more on the series, and how to submit a proposal, please see here.




Forthcoming titles in the series, available in 2024, include Martin Sypchal’s Mapping the State. English Boundaries and the 1832 Reform Act and Rachel E. Johnson’s Women’s Voices and Historical Silences in South Africa. Young Women and Youth Activism in the Anti-Apartheid Struggle.

Full online access to all of the titles is available via University of London Press.



President, Officers & Councillors

The Society’s Council & Governance

The Royal Historical Society is predominantly a voluntary organisation. Its Council (the Society’s trustees) is made up of RHS Fellows each of whom serves a four-year term working on our various committees and working parties.

Selected members of Council hold Officer posts with responsibility for, among other areas, research and education policy or publishing. Council is led by the RHS President who also serves a four-year term. Every year the Fellowship elects three new members of Council using a preferential voting system. Council members come from a wide variety of backgrounds and research interests.


The Royal Historical Society President

Professor Emma Griffin

Emma Griffin is Head of School and Professor of History at Queen Mary, University of London. Prior to joining QMUL in September 2023, Emma was Professor of Modern British History at the University of East Anglia. Emma researches on the social and economic history of Britain during the period 1700-1870, with a particular interest in gender history, the industrial revolution, and working-class life. Her most recent publications include Liberty’s Dawn. A People’s History of the Industrial Revolution (2013) and Bread Winner. An Intimate History of the Victorian Economy (2020), both published by Yale. She is also a former editor of History (the academic journal of the Historical Association) and of the Historical Journal.

Emma is a frequent contributor to radio and television, having written and presented several Radio 4 documentaries on diverse aspects of her research, from the history of fox-hunting, to the industrial revolution, to the gender pay gap and its history. She was a historical advisor for the Channel 4 drama, The Mill and co-presented The Real Mill with Tony Robinson on More4, and has appeared as an expert contributor on several radio and television programmes, including BBC1’s Who do you Think You Are? and Radio 4’s In Our Time.

Emma became the 35th President of the RHS in November 2020.

Officers of the Royal Historical Society

Professor Lucy Noakes
President-Elect of the Royal Historical Society

Lucy Noakes is Rab Butler Professor of Modern History at the University of Essex and a social and cultural historian of early to mid 20th-century Britain. Appointed President-Elect and a Member of the RHS Council in January 2024, Lucy will take up the Presidency of the Royal Historical Society in November 2024.

As a specialist in the history of modern Britain, Lucy researches the experience and memory of those who have lived through conflict, with a particular focus on the First and Second World Wars. Her recent monographs include Dying for the Nation. Death, Grief and Bereavement in Second World War Britain (2020) and War and the British: Gender, Memory and National Identity 1939-1991 (revised edition 2023). Lucy’s work has made extensive use of the Mass Observation Archive, of which she is now a trustee.

Before joining the University of Essex in 2017, Lucy Noakes held academic posts at the universities of Southampton Solent, Portsmouth and Brighton.

Professor Clare Griffiths
Vice President of the Royal Historical Society

Clare Griffiths is Head of History and Professor of Modern History in the School of History, Archaeology and Religion at Cardiff University. In November 2023 she was appointed Vice President of the Royal Historical Society.

Prior to taking up her current position in Cardiff, she taught at the University of Sheffield, Wadham College, Oxford, and the University of Reading, and she has held visiting fellowships at the Huntington Library, the Yale Center for British Art, and the Museum of English Rural Life.

Clare’s research focuses on the political and cultural history of Britain in the twentieth century, with a particular interest in the history of the countryside, agriculture and landscape. She is the author of Labour and the Countryside: the Politics of Rural Britain, 1918-1939 (Oxford University Press, 2007) and co-editor of Class, Cultures and Politics (OUP 2011). Her published articles and essays include work on political debates in Britain during the Second World War, the commemoration and historical memory of early nineteenth-century radicalism, and many aspects of British farming and rural life. She has also written extensively for the Times Literary Supplement, particularly on visual art.

Clare was a member of the Society’s Council from 2018 to 2021, during which time she served on, and subsequently chaired the Research Support Committee.

Dr John Law
Treasurer of the Royal Historical Society

John Law was, until his retirement, a Research Fellow in History at the University of Westminster. He was elected Treasurer of the Royal Historical Society in November 2023.

John joined the academic world later than is usual, completing his PhD when he was 54 years old. John’s work considers the experience of modernity in Britain in the mid-twentieth century. He is the author of several academic books. His latest, A World Away, was published by McGill Queen’s University Press in 2022, and examines the impact of holiday package tours on the people of Britain in the 1950s and 1960s. John was a council member and trustee at the University of Sussex from 2011 to 2017.

Prior to academia, John was a partner at PwC and an executive at IBM. In these roles, he provided consulting advice to the world’s largest financial institutions. He is also a qualified Chartered Accountant.

Dr Adam Budd
Secretary for Education and Chair of the Education Policy Committee

Adam Budd is Senior Lecturer in Cultural History and Director of Postgraduate Taught Programmes in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh.

Adam’s research focuses on authorship and print culture during eighteenth century, and on the development of history as an academic discipline. Prior to being appointed Secretary for Education, Adam served as an elected member of the RHS Council, between 2018 and 2022. As Secretary for Education, Adam is responsible for the Society’s policy on higher education and support for teaching.

Adam co-authored the RHS Report on Race, Ethnicity and Equality (2018) and has been involved in developing merit-based funding initiatives for early-career researchers, in addition to chairing RHS scholarship awards and research prizes. He is active with the Higher Education Academy and has led numerous Widening Participation initiatives. His latest book is Circulating Enlightenment: The Career and Correspondence of Andrew Millar, 1725-68 (Oxford University Press, 2020).

Professor Barbara Bombi
Secretary for Research and Chair of the Research Policy Committee

Barbara Bombi is Professor of Medieval History at the University of Kent. Her research interests cover ecclesiastical and religious history in the High Middle Ages (1200-1450). Barbara was elected RHS Secretary of Research and Chair of the Research Policy Committee in November 2023. In this role, Barbara oversees the Society’s work in speaking for historians on issues related to research and funding. Prior to this she served as an elected member of the RHS Council, 2019-23.

Barbara specialises in the medieval papacy and canon law, the Crusades of the early 13th century, and the history of the Military Orders. Her most recent monograph is Anglo-Papal Relations in the Early Fourteenth Century: A Study in Medieval Diplomacy (2019), published by Oxford University Press. Barbara was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2022.

Professor Jane Winters
Vice-President and Chair of the Publications Committee

Jane Winters is Professor of Digital History at the School of Advanced Study, University of London.

Jane has led or co-directed a range of digital humanities projects, including — most recently — Big UK Domain Data for the Arts and Humanities; Digging into Linked Parliamentary Metadata; Traces through Time: Prosopography in Practice across Big Data; The Thesaurus of British and Irish History as SKOS; and Born Digital Big Data and Approaches for History and the Humanities.

A former RHS Council member, Jane became Vice-President, Publications in 2020 with oversight of the Society’s print and online publications and the RHS’s contribution to debates on humanities publishing.

Councillors of the Royal Historical Society

Dr Stefan Bauer

Dr Stefan Bauer is Lecturer in Early Modern World History at King’s College London. He previously held positions at Warwick, Royal Holloway, York, Rome, and Trento.

Stefan is an intellectual and cultural historian of early modern Europe; his research interests cover humanism, church history, religious polemic, and forgeries. Among his books are The Image of the Polis and the Concept of Democracy in J. Burckhardt’s History of Greek CultureThe Censorship and Fortuna of Platina’s Lives of the Popes in the Sixteenth Century; The Invention of Papal History; and — most recently — A Renaissance Reclaimed. Jacob Burckhardt’s Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy Reconsidered, co-edited with Simon Ditchfield (2022).

Stefan enjoys writing for different audiences and has contributed to The TabletThe Spectator USALiterary Review and History Today. He has curated exhibitions at the York Minster and the Middle Temple, London. Stefan is Director of Social Media at the Sixteenth Century Society, and a co-editor of Lias: Journal of Early Modern Intellectual Culture and its Sources. Stefan was elected to the Council of the Royal Historical Society in September 2021.

Professor Caitríona Beaumont

Professor Caitríona Beaumont is Professor of Social History at London South Bank University and Director of Research for the School of Law and Social Sciences.  Her research focuses on the history of female activism and women’s movements in nineteenth and twentieth century Britain and Ireland. Her book, Housewives and Citizens: Domesticity and the Women’s Movement in England, 1918-64 was published in 2013 by Manchester University Press.

Recent journal articles and chapters feature research relating to gender and the interwar peace movement, the print culture of the Women’s Institutes and the Mothers’ Union and the application of social movement theory to the Irish suffrage and women’s movement. She is currently working on a history of intergenerational female activism in Britain, 1960-1980. She has also contributed web content to The British Library and 1914-1918 Online: International Encyclopedia of the First World War.

Caitríona sits on the editorial boards of Twentieth Century British History and Contemporary British History, is a member of Women’s History Network, Social History Society, Voluntary Action History Society and the Women’s History Association of Ireland, and co-convenes the IHR Contemporary British History Seminar Series. She was elected to the RHS Council in September 2021.

Dr Kate Bradley

Dr Kate Bradley is Reader in Social History & Social Policy in the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research at the University of Kent. Her research  covers the history of social policy in the 20th century, and how voluntary, state and private welfare services are accessible (or not) to citizens. Her most recent book is Lawyers for the Poor: Legal Advice, Voluntary Action and Citizenship in England, 1890-1990 (Manchester UP, 2019). This project examined the campaigning and hands-on pro bono legal advice provision of individual lawyers, political parties, trade unions, charities, the press, and community activist groups, in order to try to uphold the rights of the neediest.

Kate joined the University of Kent in 2007, having previously held an ESRC postdoctoral fellowship in the Centre for Contemporary British History at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London.

Kate was elected to the RHS Council in September 2022. Prior to this appointment, she has served the historical community in several ways: co-founding History Lab in 2005, co-convening History UK in 2015-16, and as a member of the Social History Society committee since 2017.

Dr Melissa Calaresu

Melissa Calaresu is the Neil McKendrick Lecturer in History at Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge. She has written on the cultural history of the Grand Tour, urban space, ice cream, and street-vending in early modern Italy, with a particular focus on Naples. Her books include New Approaches to Naples c.1500–c.1800: The Power of Place (2013) and Food Hawkers: Selling in the Streets from Antiquity to the Present Day (2016).

Melissa has extensive experience of teaching and research, expertise in a wide range of neighbouring disciplines. She is currently writing a cultural history of the city of Naples through the household accounts of the Welsh artist Thomas Jones (1742-1803).

Professor Mark Knights

Mark Knights is Professor of History at the University of Warwick and was elected to the Council of the Royal Historical Society in November 2023. His research focuses on early modern political culture in Britain and its empire, and on the history of corruption.

Mark’s most recent publication is Trust and Distrust: Corruption in Office in Britain and its Empire 1600-1850 (OUP 2021). He is currently working on a cultural biography of a seventeenth-century merchant philosopher; a book charting the history of corruption in Britain and its empire from the 1620s to the 2020s; and the Oxford Handbook of the History of Corruption.

Mark is a member of the editorial boards of Boydell and Brewer’s ‘Eighteenth Century Studies’ series and of the journal Parliamentary History. He has held numerous posts in his department and University.

Professor Rebekah Lee

Rebekah Lee is Associate Professor in African Studies at Oxford University, which she joined in January 2022, and a former Senior Lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Rebekah’s research interests concern the social and cultural history of modern South Africa, and the history of health and medicine in sub-Saharan Africa, and curricular and pedagogical issues at all levels of history education. Rebekah’s most recent publication is Health, Healing and Illness in African History published by Bloomsbury in 2021. She is an editor of the interdisciplinary Journal of Southern African Studies. Rebekah is currently completing the manuscript of her latest book, Death and Memory in Modern South Africa.

Rebekah was elected to the RHS Council in September 2020.

Professor Simon MacLean

Simon MacLean is Professor of Medieval History at the University of St Andrews. A historian of Western Europe in the earlier Middle Ages, Simon’s research focuses on the Carolingian Empire and its successor kingdoms, 8th-12th centuries, and medieval queenship. His work has been published in numerous forums since 1998, and his most recent book is Ottonian Queenship (Oxford, 2017).

Simon has been involved in administration of teaching and postgraduate matters at the University of St Andrews for over a decade, and since 2018 has been Head of School. He has broad experience of the issues affecting the teaching and learning of history in modern academia.

Simon was elected to the Council of the RHS in September 2020.

Professor Iftikhar H. Malik

Iftikhar H. Malik is Professor-Emeritus at Bath Spa University, where he taught history for 27 years, following his five-year fellowship at St Antony’s College, Oxford. Presently, a member the Common Room at Wolfson College in Oxford, his Curating Lived Islam in the Muslim World: British Scholars, Sojourners and the Sleuths with Routledge came out in June 2021.

In November 2022, his The Silk Road and Beyond: Narratives of a Muslim Historian (Oxford University Press, 2020), received the UBL Award for the best non-fiction work in English in Pakistan.

Iftikhar’s other studies include Pashtun Identity and Geopolitics in Southwest Asia: Pakistan and Afghanistan since 9/11 (Anthem, 2016 & 2017); Crescent between Cross and Star: Muslims and the West after 9/11, (OUP, 2006); and Islam and Modernity: Muslims in Western Europe and the United States (Pluto, 2003). Iftikhar was elected to the RHS Council in November 2023.

Dr Emilie Murphy

Emilie Murphy is Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of York. She is a specialist of the cultural and religious history of England, and English-speaking people abroad, 1500-1700. Her scholarship focuses on sound and hearing, voice and language, and various aspects of performance culture. She is co-editor of Sensing the Sacred in Medieval and Early Modern Culture, and her essays have appeared in several major journals including Renaissance Quarterly, The Historical Journal and Renaissance Studies. Her current research project is The Reformation of the Soundscape in Early Modern England and she is a lead investigator on the AHRC funded research network, ‘Soundscapes in the Early Modern World’. 

Emilie enjoys sharing her research with a public audience, and has appeared as an expert contributor radio and television programmes including BBC 1’s Countryfile, and BBC Radio 4’s Making History.

Dr Helen Paul

Dr Helen Paul is a Lecturer in Economics and Economic History at the University of Southampton. A historian of the late-seventeenth and eighteenth century, her work focuses primarily on the South Sea Company and enslavement.

Helen’s publications include The South Sea Bubble: an Economic History of its Origins and Consequences (2011) and she is a frequent contributor on programmes such as Radio 4’s In Our Time.

Helen was elected a Councillor of the Royal Historical Society in September 2022. She was previously, for six years, Honorary Secretary of the Economic History Society (EHS) and has also served as chair of the EHS Women’s Committee.

Professor Olwen Purdue

Olwen Purdue is Professor of Modern Social History at Queen’s University, Belfast where she works on the social history of nineteenth and early twentieth-century Ireland with a particular focus on social class, urban poverty and welfare. Olwen directs the Centre for Public History at Queen’s and is particularly interested in the role of public history in divided societies.

Olwen’s publications include The Big House in the North of Ireland: Land, Power and Social Elites, 1870-1960 (2009); The Irish Lord Lieutenancy 1541-1922 (2012); Urban Spaces in Nineteenth-Century Ireland (2018); and The First Great Charity of this Town: Belfast Charitable Society and its Role in the Developing City (2022). Her new monograph, Workhouse Child: Poverty, Child Welfare and the Poor Law in industrial Belfast, 1880-1918, is due out with Liverpool University Press in 2023, and an edited collection on Difficult Public Histories in Ireland is due out with Routledge in 2024. Olwen was formerly international editor for The Public Historian and is currently series editor for Liverpool University Press’ Nineteenth-Century Ireland series.

Olwen was elected to the RHS Council in September 2022. She is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Irish Museums Association, a member of the advisory board for the Ulster Museum, and a Governor of the Linen Hall Library.

Dr Emily Robinson

Emily Robinson is a Reader in British Studies at the University of Sussex and a historian of modern Britain, specialising in political ideas, identities, emotions and traditions.

Emily’s recent publications include The Language of Progressive Politics in Modern Britain (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) and articles in the Historical Journal, Twentieth Century British History, Rethinking History and Journal of the History of Ideas. Her next book, An Emotional History of Brexit Britain, co-authored with Jonathan Moss and Jake Watts, will be published by Manchester University Press in 2023.

Emily was elected to the Council of the Royal Historical Society in September 2020.

Dr Andrew Smith

Andrew W.M. Smith is Director of Liberal Arts at Queen Mary University of London. His work focuses principally on the French and Francophone world with an interest in identities beyond the frame of the nation state. Recent articles have addressed minority nationalism, decolonisation, the Second World War, and linguistic politics.

Andrew is the author of Terror and Terroir: The Winegrowers of the Languedoc and Modern France (Manchester University Press, September 2016), and editor (with Chris Jeppesen) of Britain, France and the Decolonization of Africa: Future Imperfect? (UCL Press, March 2017). Andrew was previously the Society’s Honorary Director of Communications and RHS Honorary Secretary between 2021-23.


Diana Paton, ‘Seeing Women & Sisters in the Archives of Atlantic Slavery’

Royal Historical Society Lecture, delivered 9 February 2018

“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.

Professor Diana Paton is William Robertson Professor of History at the University of Edinburgh


History in the News

Dr Susan Cohen ‘Eleanor Rathbone and the Refugees’

2016 marks the 70th anniversary of the death of the independent MP, Eleanor Rathbone. Known as ‘the MP for refugees’ her campaigns on behalf of refugees in the Interwar and 2WW period have a strong resonance with the current crisis, carrying a powerful message as pertinent today as it was then. 

Dr Susan Cohen’s monograph Rescue the Perishing: Eleanor Rathbone and the Refugees was published in 2010. She is currently researching the role of women within refugee organisations in Britain before and during the Second World War. Susan is co-founder of the Remembering Eleanor Rathbone group.

holocaust-memorial-day-2016-themeThe theme of Holocaust Memorial Day this year was ‘Don’t stand by’, a salutary reminder of the duty we all have, as responsible citizens, to speak out on behalf of people who are being oppressed or persecuted. Following the family motto ’what ought to be done, can be done’ Eleanor Rathbone, Independent MP for the Combined English Universities from 1929, embraced this obligation, devoting her working life to the needs of the under-represented in society, regardless of race, religion or gender. She never had a plan in her mind, but instead took up causes that came to her attention and which called for a strong advocate, moving seamlessly from national social and welfare concerns, equality for women, eliminating child poverty, improving housing and a host of other injustices. As a parliamentarian, only one of fourteen women returned in the 1929 election, she put her skills to good use, becoming the most powerful backbencher of the time.

EleanorRathbone GR

Portrait of Eleanor Rathbone by Sir James Gunn, NPG

She extended the scope of her activism to Britain’s colonies, and to Palestine, then ruled under a British mandate, with feminist issues at the heart of her work. But it was the refugee cause, precipitated by Hitler’s accession to power in Germany in January 1933 that set her on a path that was to literally exhaust her, hastening her untimely death in January 1946. An anti-Fascist, anti-Nazi and anti-appeaser, she was the only female politician to denounce the new Nazi regime when the House of Commons met on 13 April 1933, warning of the dangers the regime posed to world peace. Presciently, she spoke of how the Nazis were “inflicting cruelties and crushing disabilities on large numbers of law-abiding peaceful German citizens, whose only offence is that they belong to a particular race or religion or profess certain political beliefs.” These were the very people whom she came to support, and for whom she became the most outspoken critic of government policy.

by Howard Coster, half-plate film negative, 1938

Duchess of Atholl, 1938, NPG

In 1937 she and her fellow MP, Katherine, Duchess of Atholl, organised the rescue of some 4,000 children from the Basque combat zone during the Spanish Civil War and when Eleanor and her allies found out, in early 1939, that more Republicans were at risk of summary executions and reprisals, and that the British government was unwilling to help rescue them or offer protection for rescue vessels, they simply circumvented officialdom. Ships were organised to run the blockade and the National Joint Committee succeeded in getting several boatloads of refugees out, and to safety. But it was the fateful events of 1938 that completely altered the landscape – from the annexation of Austria in March; the orchestrated anti-Jewish pogroms across Germany and Austria, ‘Kristallnacht’, of 9/10 November; and the intervening signing of the Munich agreement in September, which gave the Nazis carte blanche to occupy the Sudetenland in West Czechoslovakia. The latter in particular created an unprecedented refugee crisis as thousands of people, including but not exclusively Jews, sought safety in, and then escape from Prague.

Eleanor Rathbone felt a personal responsibility for Britain’s part in this human disaster, and in response set up, and led her purely voluntary Parliamentary Committee on Refugees in November 1938, quickly gathering more than 200 supporting MPs. The remit of the PCR was:

to influence the Government and public opinion in favour of a generous yet carefully safeguarded refugee policy, including large-scale schemes of permanent settlement inside or outside of Empire; also, since thousands of refugees would perish while awaiting such schemes – temporary reception homes in this country where refugees can be maintained, sorted out and eventually migrated, except in cases where their abilities can be profitably utilised here without injustice to our own workers.”

Jewish refugees.

Jewish refugees cross from Czechoslovakia to Bratislava. Photo: Getty Images

The remit has an uncanny resonance with the current refugee crisis. With some minor alterations, it could have been written in 2016. The Czech refugees were now at the heart of Eleanor Rathbone’s campaigning activities as she urged the government to issue more visa, relax entry restrictions and make good their promise of a loan to Czechoslovakia. The outbreak of war meant the cancellation of any outstanding visas, and dashed hopes of escape, so she now turned her attention to refugees at home, as she championed their fair and humane treatment. Now considered enemy aliens, and classified by a tribunal system, there were some 55,000 Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria amongst the approximatly 80,000 refugees living here at the time. Some 6,782 in Category B, had mobility restrictions imposed upon them, affecting their ability to work and to be financially independent. Employers were desperate to take on suitable refugee workers, but permits were taking forever to be issued. This treatment, she argued, was counter-productive . It struck at the heart of her sense of justice and she did everything in her power to ameliorate the situation. But she was always patriotic, and never lost sight of the priority, which was the safety of the country and its citizens.

21st May 1940: A British soldier guarding an internment camp for 'enemy aliens', at Huyton housing estate in Liverpool. (Photo by Marshall/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Internment camp in Liverpool, May 1940. Photo: Getty images

Deputations, questions, letters, phone calls, liaising with every refugee committee and activist, and enlisting the support of other MPs were all part of her armoury. The mass internment of around 27,600 enemy aliens in May 1940 served only to exacerbate an already challenging situation and to plunge Eleanor Rathbone and her committee into a maelstrom of activity as they sought the release of thousands of refugees. She put over 80 parliamentary questions on internment alone; the issues pursued including the importance of separating Nazi internees from non-Nazis; the shocking living conditions in many of the camps; the food shortages and lack of medical care. Once again the parallels with refugee camps and detention centres for asylum seekers cannot be ignored. The response to Rathbone’s urgent requests for a more generous immigration policy followed a pattern, including claims that it would fuel domestic anti-Semitism. In a desperate effort at countering this assertion, in late 1942 she established the National Committee for Rescue from Nazi Terror. The remit was to disseminate information at home about the mass extermination of Jews in Europe (information that the BBC in particular was unwilling to broadcast) and to promote small scale rescue missions. Despite the lack of success, the fact that Eleanor doggedly pursued these goals in the face of government intransigence and kept the subject in the public eye, is testimony to her humanity and determination.

Poignant words, written in 1943, highlight the struggle she envisaged people would have to expiate their shame:

If peace came tomorrow, we could not forget the millions for whom it would come too late, nor wash our hands of the stain of blood.’”

Nor was she able to hide her shame at Britain’s myopia, for she was convinced that with:

…greater foresight, courage (sic) there would have been no war, and if our policy towards refugees had been less miserably cautious, selfish and unimaginative, thousands of those already dead or in danger of death, might now be free and happy, contributing from their rich store of talent and industry to the welfare of mankind.”  [i]

Today’s political situation is not the same as that which prevailed during the Second World War. But Eleanor Rathbone’s assessment of the official response to the humanitarian disaster then resonates with the current crisis now. Calls for an imaginative and generous response reflect her belief that Britain’s tradition of liberty, generosity and asylum were of profound importance, even in wartime.

[i] EFR `Speech notes on the Refugee Question’, 16 December 1942. RP XIV. 3.85.

Eleanor Rathbone died 70 years ago in January 1946, and is being commemorated at various events throughout the year. Her refugee work will be remembered at a one-day conference being held in central London on Monday 20 June 2016, World Refugee DayWelcome to Britain? Refugees Then and Now. A conference in memory of Eleanor Rathbone 1872-1946, the ‘MP for refugees’.



New Historical Perspectives



New Historical Perspectives (NHP) is the Society’s book series for early career scholars (within ten years of their doctorate), commissioned and edited by the Royal Historical Society, in association with University of London Press and the Institute of Historical Research.

What’s distinctive about New Historical Perspectives?

The NHP series provides extensive support and feedback for authors, many of whom are writing their first monograph having recently completed a History PhD.

Each author in the series receives substantial reports from peer reviewers and series editors; is assigned a contact and ‘mentor’ from the editorial board; and takes part in an Author Workshop to discuss a near complete book with invited specialists. Author Workshops are opportunities to discuss and develop a manuscript with expert readers before submission to the publisher.

Second, all NHP titles are published as free Open Access (OA) editions, eBooks, and in hard and paperback formats by University of London Press. Digital editions of each book increase discoverability and readership. The cost of publishing NHP volumes as Open Access is covered by the series partners, not the author or an author’s academic institution.

New and forthcoming titles in the series


Gender, Emotions and Power, 1750-2020 (November 2023), edited by Hannah Parker and Josh Doble constitutes a timely intervention into contemporary debates on emotions, gender, race and power. This collection considers how emotional expectations are established as gendered, racialised and class-based notions.

The volume explores the ways these expectations have been generated, stratified and maintained by institutions, societies, media and those with access to power.



Designed for Play: Children’s Playgrounds and the Politics of Urban Space, 1840–2010, by Jon Winder (published in July 2024) is the first empirically grounded historical account of the modern playground, drawing on the archival materials of social reformers, park superintendents, equipment manufacturers and architects in Britain and beyond to chart the playground’s journey from marginal obscurity to popular ubiquity.

Children’s playgrounds are commonly understood as the obvious place for children to play: safe, natural and out of the way. But these expectations hide a convoluted and overlooked history of children’s place in public space



Mapping the State. English Boundaries and the 1832 Reform Act, by Martin Spychal (September 2024), rethinks the 1832 Reform Act by demonstrating how boundary reform and the reconstruction of England’s electoral map by the 1831–32 boundary commission underpinned this turning point in the development of the British political nation.

Drawing from a significant new archival discovery­­—the working papers of the boundary commission—Mapping the State reassesses why and how the 1832 Reform Act passed, and its significance to the expansion of the modern British state (Published online and in print, Summer 2024).


Recent titles in the Series

Edited collections in the Series

In addition to monographs, the series also publishes edited collections. NHP collections are collaborations between historians: edited and including chapters by early career scholars, along with essays from more senior historians.

New Historical Perspectives began publishing in late 2019 and a full listing of titles in the series is available from the University of London Press and via JSTOR Open Access Books.

Submitting a proposal

The Series Editors and Editorial Board welcome proposals for new NHP titles via the NHP book proposal form. Proposals may include full-size monographs and edited collections of up to 100,000 words. The NHP series also publishes shorter monographs (50-60,000 words) where this is an appropriate length for a topic. Completed proposal forms should be submitted to the University of London Press Publisher, Dr Emma Gallon:

Many NHP authors are publishing their first book, and editorial mentoring and Author Workshops are designed to help with the transition from PhD to monograph. Equally, the Series Editors welcome proposals for second books from authors within 10 years of completing their doctorates.

Enquiries about the series

For general enquiries, please email Dr Emma Gallon, Publisher, at University of London Press:

If you wish to contact the Series’ co-editors directly, please email Professor Elizabeth Hurren ( or Dr Sarah Longair (


Precarious Professionals: New Historical Perspectives on Gender & Professional Identity in Modern Britain


**PLEASE NOTE: this event has been postponed and will now take place later in the year, date tbc**


Book Launch and Panel Discussion

14.00 GMT, Tuesday 22 March 2022, Live online via Zoom



Published in October 2021, Precarious Professionals is an edited collection of essays which use gender to explore a range of professional careers, from those of pioneering women lawyers and scientists to ballet dancers, secretaries, historians, and social researchers.

The book reveals how professional identities could flourish on the margins of the traditional professions, with far-reaching implications for the study of power, privilege, and expertise in 19th and 20th century Britain.

Precarious Professionals appears in the RHS ‘New Historical Perspectives’ series and is is now available free, Open Access, to read ahead of the event.


Contributors to the panel

  • Professor Christina de Bellaigue (University of Oxford)
  • Dr Laura Carter (Université de Paris / LARCA)
  • Professor Leslie Howsam (University of Windsor / Ryerson University)
  • Dr Claire G. Jones (University of Liverpool)
  • Professor Helen McCarthy (University of Cambridge)
  • Professor Susan Pedersen (Columbia University)
  • Dr Laura Quinton (New York University)
  • Professor Emma Griffin (RHS President and University of East Anglia) (chair)

This event brings together seven of the book’s contributors to discuss the relationship between gender and professional identities in historical perspective, and to reflect on researching and writing histories of professional work in precarious times. 

About our panel

Christina de Bellaigue is Associate Professor of History at Oxford and a Fellow of Exeter College. She is a social and cultural historian of nineteenth century France and Britain, with research interests in the history of reading and of education, and of childhood and adolescence. Christina’s current project concerns middle class family strategies and social mobility. Her publications include  Home Education in Historical Perspective (2016) and Educating Women: Schooling and Identity in England and France, 1800–1867 (2007).

Laura Carter is Lecturer in British History at the Université de Paris, LARCA, CNRS, F-75013 Paris, France. She has published articles on popular history, education, and social change in twentieth-century Britain in the journals Cultural and Social History, History Workshop Journal, and Twentieth Century British History. Her first book, Histories of Everyday Life: The Making of Popular Social History in Britain, 1918-1979, was published by Oxford University Press in the Past & Present book series in 2021.

Leslie Howsam is Emerita Distinguished University Professor at the University of Windsor (Canada) and Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Digital Humanities at Ryerson University. She is editor of the 2015 Cambridge Companion to the History of the Book and author of Old Books and New Histories: An Orientation to Studies in Book & Print Culture (Toronto University Press, 2006).    

Claire G. Jones is Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Liverpool. Her research interests focus on the cultural and social history of science, from the late-eighteenth century through to the early-twentieth, with special emphasis on femininity, masculinity, inclusion and representation. She has published widely in these areas and co-edited the Palgrave Handbook of Women and Science (2022).

Helen McCarthy is Professor of Modern and Contemporary British History at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of St John’s College. She is a historian of modern Britain and author of three books: The British People and the League of Nations (Manchester University Press, 2011); Women of the World: The Rise of the Female Diplomat (Bloomsbury, 2014); and Double Lives: A History of Working Motherhood (Bloomsbury, 2020).

Susan Pedersen is Gouverneur Morris Professor of British History at Columbia University, where she teaches British and International History. Her most recent book is The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire (Oxford, 2015). She is now writing a book about marriage and politics in the Balfour family. She writes regularly for the London Review of Books.

Laura Quinton is a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at New York University and a Resident Fellow at The Center for Ballet and the Arts at NYU. Her current book project, Ballet Imperial: Dance and the New British Empire, explores the unexpected entanglements of ballet and British politics in the twentieth century. Her writing has appeared in The Historical Journal, Twentieth Century British History, and the Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism.

Emma Griffin is President of the Royal Historical Society and Professor of Modern British History at the University of East Anglia.


HEADER IMAGE, clockwise from top left: politician, Mary Agnes Hamilton, at her desk in Carlton House Terrace, c.1948; sociologist Viola Klein, 1965; historian Dame Lillian Penson running her seminar at the Institute of Historical Research, London, 1957; Marie Stopes in her laboratory, Manchester, c.1904–6; mathematician and engineer, Hertha Ayrton, in her Laboratory; lawyer and political reformer, Eliza Orme, 1889.


RHS Lecture and Events: Full Programme for 2022 >


RHS History Today Prize Past Winners

First prize Lucy Marten-Holden (University of East Anglia), ’A study into the siting and landscape context of early Norman castles in Suffolk’
Second prize Alison Rosenblitt (Wadham College, Oxford), ’Symmetry and asymmetry in Anglo-Saxon Art’
Third prize Jennifer Brook (University of Newcastle), ‘”I forgive you in advance”: Pasternak and the publication of Dr Zhivago’.

First prize
Jeanette Lucraft (University of Huddersfield), ‘Missing From History: A reinstatement of Katherine Swynford’s Identity’
Second prize Michael Finn (University of Liverpool), ‘Mythology of war: civilian perceptions of war in Liverpool,1914-1938′
Third prize Timothy Leon Grady (University of Keele), ‘Academic Anti-Semitism: the Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen and the Jews 1929-1938’

First Prize Paul Shirley (University College London), ‘Tek Force wid Force!’ Marronage, Resistance and Freedom Struggles in the Experience of North American Emigré Blacks in the Bahamas, 1783-1789’
Second Prize Antony Craig Lockley (University of Manchester), ’Propaganda and Intervention at Archangel, 1918-1919’
Third Prize Anna Chapman (University of East Anglia), ’Piety, Patronage and Politics: An Exploration of Fact and Fiction in the Early Legend of St. Edmund’

Joint First Prize Sami Abouzahr (University College London), ‘The European Recovery Program, and American PolicyTowards Indochina, 1947-1950’ and Charmian Brownrigg (University of Central Lancashire), ’The Merchant Mariners of North Lancashire and Cumberland in the Mid-Eighteenth-Century’.
Special Mention Andrew Syk (University of Derby), ’The 46th Division on the Western Front’

First Prize Andrew Arsan (University of Cambridge), ‘Shukri Ghanem and the Ottoman Empire 1908-1914′
Highly Commended Thomas Neuhaus (University of Essex), ’’Sing me a swing song and let me dance’: The Swing Youth and cultural dissent in the Third Reich’
Proxime Accessit Sebastian Walsh (University of Durham), ‘Most trusty and beloved’: Friendship, trust and experience in the exercise of informal power within the early Elizabethan polity – the case of Sir NicholasThrockmorton’

First Prize Anna Mason (Wadham College, Oxford), ‘The English Reformation and the Visual Arts reconsidered’
Highly Commended Matthew Greenhall (University of Durham), ‘From Cattle to Claret: Scottish economic influence in northeast England, 1660-1750’

First Prize Edward Swift (University of Durham), ‘Furnishing God’s Holy House: John Cosin and Laudian Church Interiors in Durham’
Proxime accessit Matthew Neal (University of Cambridge), ‘The Fall of Walpole’ and James Williamson (UCL), ‘To what extent, if at all, did the Marshall Plan impose limits upon Post War Labour Government’s policies of nationalization and creation of a welfare state?’

First Prize Morgan Daniels (Queen Mary, University of London), ‘Scarcely seen or felt’. British Government andthe 1960s satire boom’
Highly Commended Liz Homans (University of Wales, Bangor), ‘The abolition of capital punishment in the 1960s’ and Dmitri Lietvin (Selwyn College, Cambridge), ‘The philosophy of John Sergeant and the response toEnglish Deism, 1690-1700’

First Prize Catherine L. Martin (University of Greenwich), ‘The People’s Demobilization: a case study in politics,propaganda and popular will in 1945’
Highly Commended Katherine McMullen (University of Oxford), ‘Pulpit and Press: attributions of blame for prostitutionin the 1670s and 1680s’ and Robbie Maxwell (University of Edinburgh), ‘Analyse and assess the impact of George S Benson’s‘ Americanism’ between 1941 and 1964, particularly through the films of the National EducationProgram’

First Prize Eleanor Betts (Queen Mary, University of London), ‘Who Will Help? The Impact of the 1866 CholeraEpidemic on the Children of East London
Highly Commended Charles Cornish-Dale (University of Exeter), ‘Land, Power, Politics and Patronage: A Case Study of Orcof Abbotsbury’

First Prize Alexander Baggallay (University of Edinburgh), ‘Myths of Mau Mau Expanded: The role of rehabilitation in detention camps during the state of emergency in Kenya, 1954-1960’
Highly Commended David Kenrick (University of Liverpool), ‘Identity and the Politics of Survival: White Rhodesia, 1965-1980’

Richard Lowe-Lauri (University of Durham), ‘The decline of the Stamford bull-running, c. 1788-1840’

Frederick Smith (University of Warwick), ‘’Discerning cheese from Chalke’: Louvainist Propagandaand recusant identity in 1560s England”

Anna Field (Cardiff University), ‘Masculinity and Myth: the Highway-woman in Early Modern England, 1681-1800’

Rebecca Pyne-Edwards Banks (University of Derby) ‘Cutting Through the Gordian Knot: The British Military Service Tribunals During the Great War’.

Cora Salkovskis (University of Oxford) ‘Psychiatric photography and control in the ‘benevolent asylum’ of Holloway: the construction of image, identity and narrative in photographs of female patients in the late nineteenth-century asylum‘.

Emma Marshall (University of Durham) ‘Women’s Domestic Medical Practice: Recipe Writing and Knowledge Networks in 17th Century England’.

Abigail Greenall (University of Manchester) ‘Magical Materials and Emotion in the Early Modern East Anglian Household’.

Ella Sbaraini (University of Cambridge) ‘In Praise of Older Women’.


Professor Catherine Holmes — RHS Lecture, 7 May 2021

Header for lecture

The repulsion of the Rus’ attack on Constantinople in 941 by the Byzantine fleet, C13th, Chronicle of John Skylitzes, cod. Vitr. 26-2, fol. 130, Madrid National Library, CC-0.


“The Making and Breaking of Kinetic Empire: Mobility, Communication and Political Change in the Eastern Mediterranean, c.950-1100 C.E.”


Professor Catherine Holmes (University of Oxford)Photograph of Dr Catherine Holmes
Friday 7 May 2021

18.00 BST – Live online via Zoom



The final decades of the eleventh century were a period of immense geopolitical change for the eastern Mediterranean world. Invasions from the east (Turks) and west (Normans and Crusaders) reordered a political landscape hitherto balanced between the Byzantine empire in the north and the Fatimid caliphate in the south. It can be tempting to interpret this period as one when stable, early-medieval imperial formations with fixed administrative centres, carefully-choreographed ceremonial cultures, and palace-based elites were rapidly undone by outsiders whose power was mobile and fluid.

The picture of the geopolitics of the eastern Mediterranean put forward in this lecture is rather different. By working with ideas about kinetic empire developed for eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century North America, I will suggest that putting mobility at the centre of our analysis can make sense not only of late eleventh-century change in the eastern Mediterranean, but also of the century between 950 and 1050 when the sedentary Byzantine and Fatimid empires were themselves expanding. That mobility was integral to the operation of power in states which are often viewed as ‘sedentary’ is an idea with increasing traction among medievalists.

But ‘mobility’ is a characteristic which requires breaking down so that its role can be more precisely gauged in particular contexts. In the case of Byzantium, harnessing the kinetic was fundamental to the practical ways in which the empire recruited to its armies and fought campaigns, but also to the construction and communication of an imperial ideology. Nor was Byzantium alone in this enterprise – parallels can be detected across western Eurasia and the Mediterranean in the same period. Nonetheless, probing the first-hand evidence for the kinetic enables us to see how little real world control those claiming imperial power often had over the movement that they attempted to channel, harness and celebrate in official communications.

Speaker biography

Catherine Holmes is Professor of Medieval History and a Fellow of University College, Oxford. A specialist in the politics and the culture of the Mediterranean world, including Byzantium, between the tenth and early fifteenth centuries, her research integrates Byzantine studies with the study of other regions of the medieval world. Together with Naomi Standen (Birmingham), Catherine recently edited The Global Middle Ages (Oxford, 2018), a Past and Present supplement volume which draws together the findings of a collaborative project funded by the AHRC.

Watch the lecture




In Conversation — Professor Serhii Plokhy, 16 May 2023


The Russo-Ukrainian War

Serhii Plokhy in conversation with Sir Richard Evans


Professor Serhii Plokhy

(Harvard University)


Tuesday 16 May 2023
6.30pm-7.45pm BST – Livestreamed



About this event

In this special event, Serhii Plokhy, Professor of Ukrainian History at Harvard University, will discuss his new book, The Russo-Ukrainian War, which is published by Penguin on 16 May 2023.

Professor Plokhy will be in conversation with the historian, Sir Richard J. Evans.

The Russo-Ukrainian War is the comprehensive history of a war that has burned since 2014, and that — with Russia’s attempt to seize Kyiv from February 2022 — destroyed the geo-political order in place since the end of the Cold War. Professor Plokhy traces the origins and the evolution of the war: from the collapse of the Russian empire to the rise and fall of the USSR, and on to the development in Ukraine of a democratic politics.

Our event takes place in partnership with the Ukrainian Institute London. The Institute champions Ukrainian culture and shapes the conversation about Ukraine in the UK and beyond. It explores Ukrainian perspectives on global challenges. The UIL is an independent charity registered in England and Wales.

Those joining this livestream of the event will be able to watch the conversation and discussion as it takes place, but we are unable to take questions from the online audience.

Speaker biographies

Serhii Plokhy is Mykhailo S. Hrushevs’kyi Professor of Ukrainian History and Director of the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University. He is one of the most widely known historians working today and the author of numerous studies on the history of Ukraine, modern warfare and the Cold War.

Serhii’s books include Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy (2018), which won the Baillie Gifford and Pushkin House Book Prizes; The Gates of Europe. A History of Ukraine (2015); and Lost Kingdom. A History of Russian Nationalism from Ivan the Great to Vladimir Putin (2017). Professor Plokhy’s extensive work on the history nuclear power and arms include Nuclear Folly. A New History of the Cuban Missile Crisis (2021) and Atoms and Ashes. From Bikini Atoll to Fukushima (2022). His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Richard J. Evans is is one of the world’s leading historians of modern Germany. From 2008 to 2014 he was Regius Professor of History at Cambridge University, and from 2010 to 2017 President of Wolfson College, Cambridge. He served as Provost of Gresham College in the City of London from 2014 to 2020.

In 2000 Sir Richard was the principal expert witness in the David Irving Holocaust Denial libel trial at the High Court in London, subsequently the subject of his book, Telling Lies About Hitler (2002), and the film Denial. Sir Richard’s many books include Death in Hamburg. Society and Politics in the Cholera Years 1830-1910 (winner of the Wolfson History Prize in 1989); In Defence of History (2001); and the trilogy: The Coming of the Third ReichThe Third Reich in Power, and The Third Reich at War (2003-08).

Sir Richard’s The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914 (2016), is volume 7 of the Penguin History of Europe, and was published in 2016. His most recent books include Eric Hobsbawm: A Life in History (2019) and The Hitler Conspiracies: The Third Reich and the Paranoid Imagination (2020). In 2012 he was knighted for services to scholarship.

Watch the recording of this event >


More on the Royal Historical Society’s events programme, 2023 >