RHS News

RHS Asks Government to Clarify its Position on Historical Research

The Royal Historical Society, together with the heads of other leading UK historical organisations, has written asking the Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden MP, to clarify the government’s position on the funding of historical research.

An excerpt of the letter has today been published in The Sunday Times (Letters, p.26). The letter comes with the news that Dame Helen Ghosh, master of Balliol College, Oxford, has apologised for the historical acceptance of donations linked to the Atlantic slave trade.

The full text of the letter, together with its signatories:

 

“Dear Sir,

We write to express our concern as historians about ministers’ illegitimate interference in the research and interpretation done by our arm’s length heritage bodies such as museums, galleries, the Arts Council and the lottery heritage fund.

In particular we deplore the position, attributed to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Department in the press recently, that Professor Corinne Fowler’s ‘Colonial Countryside’ project, which explores the links between National Trust properties, empire and slavery, will be barred from funding in future.  As historians, we find this deeply concerning and we ask the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, to confirm or deny whether this is his department’s position.

Academics are protected from such interference by the ‘Haldane Principle’, which accepts that government should set the general strategic direction of public funding for academic research but that ministers must not seek to make directions on individual funding decisions, which are best left to peer review to ensure both quality and independence.  Arm’s length bodies such as the Arts Council and the National Lottery Heritage fund are not so explicitly protected.  Perhaps they should be; Parliament ought to consider this carefully.  But the Lottery Act at least specifies what are ministers’ powers and these do not include determination on individual projects.  The granting bodies, not the minister, have the expertise to determine what projects best fulfil their statutory mission, and both heritage organisations and individual researchers have the legitimate expectation based on long practice that the minister not interfere in those determinations.

The culture secretary has also been quoted as seeking to deny funding to any projects deemed ‘political’.  Not only do we dispute his authority to interfere in funding decisions, we also query his use of the word ‘political’.  It is worth pointing out that the Charity Commission has recently found that the National Trust’s recent investigations into the links between its properties, empire and slavery is compatible with its charitable purposes, i.e. not ‘political’ in the relevant sense of the word. The minister should welcome this finding and make clear that research of this kind, into the connections between heritage, slavery and empire, does indeed fall within the funding bodies’ public purposes, if deemed otherwise fundable by those bodies.

Britain has a tradition of arm’s length funding of education, culture and heritage which has always sought to insulate these spheres, crucial to free debate in a diverse society, from excessive interference by government.  Such interference stifles the capacity of historians to do their work and exerts a wider chilling effect.  It may deter – it may be intended to deter – historians from embarking on difficult or sensitive research.  It certainly undermines and impoverishes our ability to explore difficult issues.  It also runs counter to recent statements by the government in defence of academic freedom.

If anyone is being too ‘political’ here, it is politicians who violate the principles of arm’s-length governance by seeking to dictate what research our heritage bodies can and cannot support.”

Emma Griffin, President, Royal Historical Society
Peter Mandler, President, Historical Association
Peter D’Sena, Vice President, Royal Historical Society
Jonathan Morris, Vice President, Royal Historical Society
Olivette Otele, Vice President, Royal Historical Society
Jane Winters, Vice President, Royal Historical Society
Catherine Schenk, President, Economic History Society
Yolana Pringle, History UK
Jamie Wood, History UK.
Matthew Hilton, Co-Editor, Past & Present
Joanna Innes, Chair, Past & Present
Alexandra Walsham, Co-Editor, Past & Present
Naomi Tadmor, Chair, Social History Society

 

RHS Announces new approach to Transactions journal submissions

The Royal Historical Society has announced that from 2021, all Society Fellows and Members will be eligible to submit articles to be considered for publication in the Society’s journal, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society.

Until now, the content of Transactions of the Royal Historical Society has come from lectures delivered during RHS visits around the country, those given by speakers at sponsored conferences, and articles from RHS prize winners.

RHS Literary Director, Professor Andrew Spicer says:

“As the journal approaches its 150th anniversary in 2022, it is a good time to reassess the journal and its role… Opening up Transactions will allow the journal to reflect more fully the diverse approaches and innovative research being undertaken across the discipline.”

Moving to continuous online publication will enable Transactions to address such issues more swiftly than in its current form, although there will still be an annual volume. These are significant but necessary developments to ensure the journal’s future.

Find out more about the new submission process for Transactions on the RHS blog.

 

New Historical Perspectives Book Launch: Coal Country

Join the IHR and University of London Press to celebrate the launch of Coal Country. The Meaning and Memory of Deindustrialization in Postwar Scotland by Ewan Gibbs (University of Glasgow). Published by University of London Press as part of the RHS / IHR New Historical Perspectives series.

Coal Country presents the first book-length account of deindustrialization in the Scottish coalfields. It draws on archival research using records from UK government, the nationalized coal industry and trade unions, as well as the words and memories of former miners, their wives and children that were collected in an extensive oral history project.

Deindustrialization progressed as a slow but powerful march across the second half of the twentieth century. In this book, big changes in cultural identities are explained as the outcome of long-term economic developments. The oral testimonies bring to life transformations in gender relations and distinct generational workplaces experiences. This book argues that major alterations to the politics of class and nationhood have their origins in deindustrialization. The adverse effects of UK government policy, and centralization in the nationalized coal industry, encouraged miners and their trade union to voice their grievances in the language of Scottish national sovereignty. These efforts established a distinctive Scottish national coalfield community and laid the foundations for a devolved Scottish Parliament. Coal Country explains the deep roots of economic changes and their political reverberations, which continue to be felt as we debate another major change in energy sources during the 2020s.

Speakers:

Chair: Professor Jane Winters (School of Advanced Study, University of London and New Historical Perspective series co-editor).
Dr Ewan Gibbs- lecturer in global inequalities at the University of Glasgow and author of Coal Country.
Dr Ariane Mak- faculty member at Paris Diderot University and a specialist in British miners and oral histories.
Brendan Moohan- a former miner who lost his job after being arrested picketing in Midlothian during 1984. Brendan appears in Coal Country as both an oral history participant and a poet.

All welcome!

This event is free to attend, but booking is required. It will be held online with details about how to join the virtual event being circulated via email to registered attendees 24 hours in advance.To find out more and book a place at the launch please visit: https://www.history.ac.uk/events/nhp-coal-country

 

 

RHS publishes Roadmap for Change Update II

The RHS has today published Roadmap for Change Update II, the second update to its 2018 Race, Ethnicity and Equality in UK History report.

The report, authored by RHS Past & Present Fellow, Dr Diya Gupta, and RHS President, Professor Margot Finn, surveys the race, ethnicity and equality initiatives undertaken over the past year by the historical community in the UK. Its purview includes departments, faculties and schools, along with heritage organisations and learned societies, as well as the RHS itself.

Roadmap II follows on from the RHS’s initial publication Race, Ethnicity & Equality in UK History: A Report and Resource for Change (2018), which documented the overwhelming whiteness of the discipline of History, and the first Roadmap for Change I (2019), which gathered evidence on how individuals, universities, learned societies and other institutions responded to the 2018 report.

Read Dr Diya Gupta’s post introducing Roadmap II on the RHS blog.

Find out more about the RHS Race, Ethnicity and Equality working group, and download all RHS publications on race, ethnicity and equality in UK History on the RHS website.

 

Bringing Archives to ECRs: The RHS Awards Three Rounds of AMD Subscriptions

In April, the Royal Historical Society (RHS) announced that Adam Matthew Digital (AMD) had generously agreed to award the Society a number of twelve-month subscriptions to its digitised collections of primary sources. Our final round closed on 1 September and we were pleased to award 62 subscriptions over three application rounds. 

These licenses will be made available free-of-charge to successful applicants based at UK universities for their doctorate. The RHS hopes that these licenses will significantly enhance the access of Early Career historians (both current doctoral students and recent recipients of doctoral degrees) to digital primary materials during the dislocations, travel restrictions and archive and library closures that are necessitated by the COVID-19 crisis in 2020-21. The twelve-month subscriptions Adam Matthew has kindly allocated to the RHS include not only the 8 million+ pages of primary source material in the Research Source Platform, but also over 70 thematic collections. You can find out more about the scheme on the RHS blog.

 Across the 3 cycles, the RHS awarded 62 subscriptions to the following researchers:

Amelie Addison
University of Leeds
‘National Airs in the Life and Works of William Shield (1748-1829)’

Edward Armston-Sheret
Royal Holloway, University of London
‘Exploring Bodies: Science, Heroism, and the Body in British Exploration Cultures, 1856–1913’

Michael Bennett
The University of Sheffield
‘Merchant Capital and the Origins of the Barbados Sugar Boom, 1627-1672’

Sabera Bhayat
University of Warwick
‘The Problem of Polygamy in Modern India, 1880s-1940s’

Sarah Birt
Birkbeck, University of London
‘A Fashionable Business: Seamstresses, Mantua-makers and Milliners in Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century London’

Benjamin Bland
Royal Holloway, University of London
‘Extremism in the British Underground: Subcultural Fascism(s) and Their Reflections in Music Culture, c. 1975-1999’

Fiona Bowler
University of Southampton
‘The British Nuclear Test Veteran: Radiation, National Service, and the Soldier’s Body, 1952-2012’

Mike Brackpool
University of Southampton
‘Not the Expected War: How did British Newspapers portray the Phoney War of 1939-1940 and the Resultant Perception of this by its News Audience’

Morris Brodie
Queen’s University Belfast
‘Transatlantic Anarchism during the Spanish Civil War and Revolution, 1936-1939’

Simon Buck
Northumbria University
‘The Aged South: Old Age and Roots Music in the US South’

Emily Burnett
University of Southampton
‘Agency of the “Fallen Women” in the Later Nineteenth Century Portsmouth and Plymouth’

Rachel Chua
University College London
‘Virtuous Reality: Confucian Ideals and Women’s Agency in Late Imperial China’

Nicola Clarke
Birkbeck, University of London
‘Accuracy and the Value of Accuracy Seventeenth Century English News Sources’

Charlton Cussans
University of Aberdeen
‘Constructing Settler Identity in Southern Rhodesia: Law, Immigration and, Citizenship, 1922-1939’

Paul Diggett
Manchester Metropolitan University
‘Poverty and Welfare in Manchester, between 1868 and 1914, with Reference to Angel Meadow and Ancoats’

James Finch
University College London
‘Reframing Oceania: Towards New Narratives of the Colonial Pacific, 1820-1920’

Iain Flood
Newcastle University
‘Violence and Victimhood: The Emotional Impact of Guerrilla Warfare in Civil War Era Missouri’

Kevin Geddes
Edinburgh Napier University
‘Pioneering Television Cooking Programmes: Content, Controversy and Innovation in British Television Production, 1936-1976’

Ben Giordano
University of Southampton
‘Memories of Dance Halls in Twentieth Century Britain’

Nicole Gipson
University of Manchester
‘Making the Third Ghetto: Race and Family Homelessness in Washington, D.C., 1977 – 1999’

Geraldine Gnych
Swansea University
‘Gender, Authority and the Mouth in Medieval Culture’

Nicolás Gómez Baeza
University of Warwick
‘Gringos duros: Transnational British Managements of Labour Discipline in Sheep Farming Industry (Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, 1837 – c. 1950)’

Nishant Gokhale
University of Cambridge
‘Agents of Order: Governing the Khandesh Bhils in Nineteenth-Century India’

Milo Gough
Goldsmiths
‘Urban Morphology of an Early Colonial City, Freetown, Sierra Leone 1850-1910’

Stephen Harper
Manchester Metropolitan University
‘The End of the Cromwellian Protectorate in North West England 1658-60’

Mel Harrison
King’s College London
‘Intersections of Gender and Disability on the Early Modern Stage 1553 – 1603’

Jasper Heeks
King’s College London
‘The Spread of ‘Genus Larrikin’: Overseas Reaction to Deviant and Delinquent Australian Youth, 1870-1940’

Yijie Huang
University of Cambridge
‘The Clock and the Hand: Taking the Pulse in English Medicine, c.1650- c.1700’

Sandip Kana
King’s College London
‘Technical Education in Colonial and Post-colonial India, 1880-1958’

Aleksandra Kaye
University College London
‘Mapping the Polish Knowledge Networks in Nineteenth-century Latin America, 1830-1890’

Jennie Kiff
University of Lincoln
‘”Amazonian hooligans” or “feminist zealots”? : A demographic study of the Bradford branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union, 1903-1918’

Oliver Lewis
University of Roehampton
‘Porous Masculinities: Unstable Surfaces, Fluid Identities and Early Modern Embodiment’

James Mackay
University of Edinburgh
‘‘‘What They Call Free in This Country’’: Refugees from Slavery in Revolutionary America, 1775-1783’

Katrina Maydom
University of Cambridge
‘New World Drugs in England’s Early Empire’

Lindsay Middleton
University of Glasgow/University of Aberdeen
‘The Technical Recipe: A Formal Analysis of Nineteenth-century Food Writing’

Sudipto Mitra
Royal Holloway, University of London
‘Conspiracies of Consent: The Middlemen in Nineteenth Century Indian Indentured Labour’

Harriet O’Neill
University of Roehampton
‘The Immigration of Theatrical and Medical Occupational Groups into the City of London 1571-1605: The Influence of Historical, Personal and Social-economic Factors’

Ellen Packham
University of Aberdeen
‘Literary Engineers: Engineers as Authors and Readers 1750 – 1900’

Sami Pinarbasi
University of Manchester
‘Manchester and the British West Indies, 1700-1833’

Matthew Pooley
University of Hull
The role of information and intelligence in the development of the British empire in North America and the Caribbean, c.1700-1750

Jonathan Powell
King’s College London
‘Place, Space and Common Law in Jacobean Britain’

Kelly Power
King’s College London
‘Changing Childhoods: The Educational Experiences of Working-Class Children 1850-1870’

Ellie Reed
The University of Roehampton
‘Lower Middle-class Domestic Culture in Woman’s Weekly, 1918-1958’

Emma Rhodes
University of Leicester
‘Opportunities and Representation of Non-White Women in the Works Progress Administration in the Southern United States’

Timothy Riding
Queen Mary, University of London
‘Producing Space in the English East India Company’s Western Presidency, 1612-1780’

Euan McCartney Robson
University College London
‘A Cathedral Encountered: Stories and Storytelling in Medieval Durham’

Andrew Searle
University of Birmingham
‘Is Anybody Listening? Torture Advocacy by Human Rights Activists from 1961 to 1979 and the Politics of Human Rights in the UK’

Mark Shearwood
University of Leeds
‘The Catholic Other in the Army of James II and William III, c 1685-1690’

Richard James Sladden
University of Cambridge
‘The Oil Shock and ‘Eurodollar Diplomacy, 1969-1979’

Ellen Smith
University of Leicester
‘Communication, Intimacy and Creativity: Family Life in British India, 1790-1920’

Amy Solomons
University of Liverpool
‘Books for Everyone? National Trust Libraries and their Reading Communities in the Long Eighteenth Century’

Cameron Stewart
University of Aberdeen
‘The Russo-British Alliance at Sea during World War One, 1914-1917’

Diane Strange
University of Leicester
‘The Contempt and Reproach of our Nation: petitioning the Court of Wards, 1610–1635’

Donna Taylor
University of Birmingham
‘Governance and Locality in the Age of Reform: Birmingham 1769-1852’

Suraj Thube
University of Oxford
‘Print, Language and Counterpublics: The Marathi Public Sphere in Late Colonial Western India, ca. 1920-1947’

Adam Waddingham
The University of Manchester
‘”We’re Out!”: An Intellectual History of the Development of Euroscepticism within British Political Thought’

Jackie Wilkinson
University of Winchester
‘What can patterns of church court litigation tell us about social and cultural relationships in different areas of early modern Hampshire?’

Weiao Xing
University of Cambridge
‘Language, Translation, and Encounters in the Early Modern North Atlantic World’

Oliver Yule-Smith
King’s College London
‘What are the themes that have shaped the Development of British China policy from 1922 to today?’

Yuan Yi Zhu
University of Oxford
‘The Theories and Practices of Sovereignty in Republican China, 1911-1943’

Jenna Zmrzel
University of Oxford
‘Thomas Cook, Women Travellers, and the Gender Dynamics of Leisure, c.1855-1903’

 

RHS welcomes its new Past and Present Fellow

The RHS is delighted to welcome Dr Diya Gupta as our new Past & Present Fellow: Race, Ethnicity & Equality in History.

Dr Gupta will work with the Royal Historical Society and the Institute for Historical Research to develop and take forward the work of the RHS Race, Ethnicity & Equality Working Group (REEWG), and will combine this with developing her own research interests and her first book, based on her doctoral research. Diya completed her PhD in 2019 at King’s College London, where she studied Indian experiences and literature of the Second World War. In her work, alongside colonial photographs, she analyses letters, memoirs, political philosophy and literary texts in English and Indian languages to reveal the intensity and influence of Indian war emotions.

Dr Gupta takes over from the previous Past and Present Fellow, Dr Shahmima Akhtar, who has taken up a permanent lectureship at Royal Holloway, University of London. We wish Dr Akhtar all the best in her new position, and many thanks for all her work at the RHS and IHR.

We thank the Past & Present Society for their ongoing support of this position.

 

RHS LGBT+ Histories and Historians Report

The Royal Historical Society has today launched its LGBT+ Histories and Historians report and resources. This is the fourth report on equality and inequality in UK History produced by the Society since 2015.  

LGBT+ Histories and Historians finds many examples of good practice, but also concerning evidence of discrimination, marginalisation and prejudice towards LGBT+ historians at all levels from undergraduate students to senior practitioners.

The Working Group that co-authored the report emphasise the importance of including LGBT+ and queer historians, histories and perspectives in academic teaching and research, as well as in museums, galleries, archives and libraries.

The report is made available in accessible and print-friendly formats, and is accompanied by a series of online resources intended to support the report’s recommendations, and demonstrate some of the variety of existing approaches to LGBT+ history.

 

Key findings include:

  • 1 in 4 LGBT+ staff have witnessed homophobic, transphobic or biphobic behaviour, attitudes or decisions between staff
  • 1 in 3 LGBT+ undergraduate historians have witnessed homophobic, transphobic or biphobic behaviour and/or attitudes between students.
  • 1 in 5 LGBT+ historians were hesitant or uncomfortable, or did not feel able to disclose their LGBT+ identity to colleagues and students.
  • 1 in 3 LGBT+ staff in History felt unsure, or did not think that they would be supported in challenging reluctance about, or hostility to, the teaching of LGBT+ histories in their department/classroom.
  • Within university settings, knowledge of equalities legislation and institutional policies to support diversity and inclusion is poor, even among senior staff.

 

Download the Report and Access the Resources

 

Professor Margot Finn, RHS President said:

Enhanced awareness, knowledge and understanding of LGBT+ experiences—and active work to disrupt discriminatory behaviours—will not only improve the day-to-day learning and working conditions of all students and all staff in History but also enrich the breadth and quality of teaching, research and public engagement in our discipline more broadly.  Attention to equality, diversity and inclusion continues to matter in pandemic times. As we grapple with the enormous challenges posed by coronavirus, educational, cultural and heritage organisations all need new ways of engaging with existing audiences and welcoming new ones.

 

Professor Frances Andrews, who led the working group that produced the report added:

As the first RHS vice-president for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, I am truly delighted to see this report published. It is the result of much hard work, careful discussion and analysis. Our 2019 survey showed us the vibrancy of LGBT+ and queer histories but the report also contains findings that are depressingly familiar.  Too many LGBT+ colleagues and students face a lack of understanding, or discrimination. We found pervasive unfamiliarity with equalities legislation and a reluctance to embrace LGBT+ histories in teaching, research or museum displays. Our report also underscores the difficulties faced by transgender historians. The report includes recommendations for improvement, and online resources to help that process.

 

 

 

A Message to School History Students

Congratulations to all students who have studied History as part of their A-Level, Advanced Highers and BTEC qualifications this year. Your hard work (and your teachers’ dedication) during the pandemic has been inspiring.

The analytical skills you’ve developed by studying History are excellent preparation for further study and your future careers — whether in the charity sector, consultancy, government, heritage organisations, legal studies, teaching or so many other professions.

The recent resolution of this year’s examination results is good news. The English and devolved governments’ decision to use your teachers’ assessments, rather than a faulty algorithm, will permit many more students to benefit from Higher Education in 2020-2021 in this unprecedented time. At the same time, we know that many of you are still unsure where, or in what format, you will be able to study this autumn, and that the uncertainties of the current situation are a source of great anxiety.

There are still places available on excellent History programmes across Britain, and a key feature of UK university History teaching is that excellence is found throughout the higher education sector. How do we know this?  As the main learned society for History in Britain, the RHS believes in basing our arguments on evidence.  We work closely with departmental heads, and each year for decades, we have visited different university History programmes to learn about what they’re doing to enhance their students’ experiences.

Innovations in personal tutoring, curriculum offerings, career development and research supervision abound in UK History programmes.  Our annual Teaching and Research prizes and the annual RHS History Today and History Scotland prizes (for the best undergraduate History dissertations) can recognise only a fraction of this excellence. But we repeatedly find that innovation and quality extends across the sector as a whole.

If you are still looking for a place to study History, you can find first-rate degree programmes – with highly satisfied students – across all institutional types. History can be studied in a wide variety of high-calibre departments, each with their own character and areas of excellence; some have established expertise in distance learning, and others make substantial provision for part-time and/or evening study.

The Royal Historical Society encourages you to explore the full range of History programmes to find the best one for you.  If you miss out on your first choice, this is an opportunity to identify a new, alternative first choice from among the many programmes on offer. Don’t hesitate to contact institutions’ helplines to explore your options.

Take time to find a programme that suits your interests — whether those are in the histories of medieval women, Latin American politics, Chinese cultural revolution, the Ottoman empire, religious wars in early modern Europe, the Black Atlantic, Enlightenment thought, innovative digital methods or many more.

Wherever you choose to study History, when you start your degree you’ll be greeted warmly by enthusiastic experts who are both first-rate scholars and committed teachers.

Our very best wishes will be with you from the start.

Professor Margot Finn
President
Royal Historical Society