RHS News

Royal Historical Society Statement on UCU Industrial Action

This news item was originally published on 25 November 2019. It was updated on 19 February 2020 to provide updated information about the second wave of strike action scheduled for February and March 2020.

In autumn 2019, members of the University and College Union (UCU) voted in favour of industrial action, with branches at 60 Universities reaching the 50% support threshold.  Following a further ballot of members in early 2020, UCU announced on 3 February 2020 that seventy-four UK universities would undertake 14 days of strike action in February and March, after more institutions reached the 50% threshold.

The action centres on two disputes: 1) a dispute over changes to the USS pensions scheme (79% of UCU members who voted did so in favour of industrial action on this ballot) and 2) a dispute over pay, equality, casualisation and workloads (74% in favour of strike action). Collectively, these are being described as the “Four Fights”.

A second round of strike action is scheduled to take place on the following dates:

  • Week one – Thursday 20 & Friday 21 February
  • Week two – Monday 24, Tuesday 25 & Wednesday 26 February
  • Week three – Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 & Thursday 5 March
  • Week four – Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 & Friday 13 March

Several universities have agreed local variations of these dates with UCU. At UCL, where RHS is physically based, Thursday 20 & Friday 21 are not strike days, however Thursday 19 & Friday 20 March are strike days at UCL, and thus will have a picket.

In addition, many UCU members are continuing to undertake ‘action short of a strike’.

The Royal Historical Society (RHS) has members on both sides of this dispute, members who work at universities that did not reach the required threshold for industrial action, members who are not unionised or who belong to unions not engaged in this dispute, international members, and members outside higher education.  In this context and as a registered UK charity that is not itself a party to this dispute, the Royal Historical Society does not take a declared position with respect to this industrial action. However, the RHS strongly supports members’ legal and moral right to undertake strike action, and accepts that aspects of our own work – the vast majority of which is undertaken by volunteers – may be delayed or interrupted during this time.

As previously, many members of the RHS Council will be participating in strike action. Our final committee and Council meetings for 2019 as well as the Society’s AGM were initially scheduled for 29 November, during the strike period.  By a strong majority, Council voted to move these meetings to 6 December 2019, after the strike ended.  This decision ensured that the Society meets its legal obligations to the Charity Commission whilst avoiding any necessity for Council members or seconded committee members to cross a picket line.

RHS staff, as employees of a registered charity that is not a university or college, are not eligible for membership in UCU.  The RHS office is however physically located at UCL, one of the 60 universities participating in the UCU strike.  All RHS staff have been offered the option for the duration of the strike to work from home without any prejudice should they wish to do so.  Likewise, RHS staff who choose to attend work at UCL during the dispute can do so without any prejudice. RHS Members wishing to access the RHS office during the dispute are advised that there will be pickets at the UCL entrances, and as is ordinarily the case, they are advised to call or email in advance to check that the office will be open at the time of their intended visit.

Questions from the RHS membership on this matter should be directed to rescommsofficer@royalhistsoc.org.

More information:

More information about the two disputes can be found on the UCU website.

The employers’ (UUK) perspective on the pensions dispute can be found on the UUK website.

The employers’ (UCEA) perspective on the dispute on pay and conditions can be found on the UCEA website.


New Members and Fellows – December 2019

At its meeting on 6 December 2019 the RHS Council elected 79 Fellows and 36 Members, a total of 114. These new members were formally welcomed to the Society at Dr Andrew Arsan’s RHS Lecture on Friday 7 February 2020.

The RHS also formally launched its new Early Career Membership category. More details about this scheme are here.

Women comprised forty-five percent of the new Fellows and fifty-eight percent of those elected to the Membership. In terms of geographical distribution, our new members are based both in various parts of the UK and around the globe – in Australia, Canada, China, India, and the USA.

The majority of the new Fellows hold academic appointments at universities, specializing in a very wide range of fields; but also include a broadcaster, a properties historian, and an academic librarian. The new Members also have a wide variety of historical interests, including those employed in universities, school teachers, an archivist, an historic environment record project officer, an author of historic tours scenarios, and a rare books curator.

All those newly elected to the Fellowship and Membership bring a valuable range of expertise and experience that will help the Society to fulfil its objective of representing the diverse body of those engaged in historical scholarship.



John Allison
Karen Bauer
Chiara Beccalossi
Ann Benson
Sara Bernard
Nandini Bhattacharya
Elleke Boehmer
Keagan Brewer
Adam Bronson
Luc-André Brunet
Barbara Burmna
Valerie Burton
Mike Carr
Alison Carrol
Michael Carter
Vinayak Chaturvedi
Sabine Clarke
Christopher Colvin
Matt Cook
Kate Cooper
Adam Crymble
Selena Daly
Santanu Das
Filippo De Vivo
Mario Draper
Fiona Edmonds
Marion Gibson
Daniel Grey
Vivienne Xiangwei Guo
Duncan Hardy
Sally Holloway
John Howlett
Jason Kelly
Prashant Kidambi
Andrew Kloes
Jane Lawson
Christopher Lee
Leni Liapi
Daniel Livesay
Anne Logan
Jessica Lutkin
Dolly Mackinnon
Neil Maher
Craig Mantle
Lucinda Matthews-Jones
Steven Maughan
Lynn McDonald
Richard McKay
Jeffrey Meriwether
Alex Mold
Julia Moses
Samuel Moyn
Catriona Murray
David Olusoga
John Owen
Timothy Peacock
Frederik Pedersen
Guy Perry
Kennetta Hammond Perry
Nick Piercey
Anna Plassart
Ronald C Po
Justin Pollard
James Poskett
George Douglas Pratt
Volker Prott
Naomi Pullin
Andrew Ralston
John Rees
Edward Roberts
David Rundle
Juliet Simpson
Michael Smith
Noémi Tousignant
Angus Vine
Stephanie Ward
Elizabeth May Williams
Ian Worthington
Karin Wulf



Stefan Aloszko
Charles Anderson
Julie Beniams
Marina Bezzi
James Buckman
Jane Card
Luke Daly-Groves
Elizabeth Eger
Allegra Fryxell
Tim Glasby
Andrew Godefroy
Laura Hampden
Katarzyna Hollis
Sharon Howard
Robert Hughes-Mullock
Ian Hunter
Mojlum Khan
Umesh Khute
Lucy Kilfoyle
Cora Knowles
Maria Kostaridou
Jack Lennon
Anthony Lewis
Teng Li
Alba Lopez
Felicity Loughlin
Rose Luminiello
Robert Mackinnon
Hilary Mclaughlin-Stonham
Eoghan Moloney
Jo Ann Moran Cruz
Elizabeth Olusoga
Nicola Pickering
Evgeniya Postovalova
Robert Power
Helen Rutherford
Chander Shekhar
Mallikarjun Shetty
Donald Spaeth
Christopher Zembe


RHS launches new Early Career Membership

The Royal Historical Society launches its new Early Career Membership category today.

The Royal Historical Society is committed to supporting and encouraging the work and development of early career historians (ECRs). But academic careers are changing, many scholars increasingly find themselves in a period that can be termed “early career” far beyond postgraduate years.

Early Career Membership of the RHS is free of charge. It is open to all those registered for a postgraduate research degree in a historical subject, and to early career researchers within two years of submitting their corrected PhD in a historical subject. The membership is for a period of five years, with the possibility of a further extension for two years.

The category of Early Career Research Membership of the RHS has been developed to further the Society’s commitments to the next generation of scholars, and provide practical assistance through access to our grants schemes for conference organisation, conference travel and research expenses.

The new category will, we hope, attract a wider membership and thus provide us with better channels of communication to, and conversation with, this part of the historical community. It is an opportunity for those new to the profession to join a pre-eminent association for working historians and to gain inspiration, support and encouragement in developing their teaching and research trajectories.

  • Find out more about why this new membership category is needed in this blog post.
  • Find out more about the support the RHS offers Early Career historians, and apply for Early Career Membership here.


RHS Response to Plan S Transformative Journals consultation

The RHS has responded to the cOAlition S consultation on their draft framework for transformative journals criteria in Plan S. We were grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to the development of the framework through this process, full details of which are available here. The survey closes at 09.00 CET on Monday 6th January 2020.

The consultation offered three opportunities for comment on elements of the framework. The RHS responses to these are reproduced below in full.

Colleagues and stakeholders may also be interested in the following:


RHS Response to Plan S Transformative Journals consultation

Q.1 The draft framework specifies that a Transformative Journal must demonstrate an annual increase in the OA penetration rate of at least eight percentage points year-on-year, measured on a three year rolling period. If you disagree that this is fair and reasonable, then please specify what target you would support, and why. [2000 character limit]

The RHS does not support imposing arbitrary, unachievable targets for yearly increases in OA, and we see little or no prospect of History journals “flipping” to full OA. For the vast majority of History (and wider Humanities) journals submission numbers are not at a scale to make such calculations possible. Nor does this proposal offer Humanities journals a financially viable pathway to sustainable publication. For evidence and figures for history publishing, see our Feb 2019 response (Part 4) to the Plan S consultation: https://royalhistsoc.org/plan-s-consultation-feb-2019/)

Requiring journals to increase OA content by a fixed % p.a. will subvert the vital role of rigorous independent peer review by forcing editors to make decisions about publication based on authors’ ability to pay for OA, rather than the work’s quality. We note SpringerNature’s response to this consultation also makes this point.

If subject to inflexible targets, authors in receipt of Plan S funds may be sorely disadvantaged if the most appropriate journals for them to publish in are made “non-compliant” by stringent universal criteria.  Existing Plan S requirements for OA journals already mean the great majority of History journals in DOAJ are not Plan S compliant. More fundamentally, by mandating author compliance regimes without first developing viable, long-term financial models for the ‘transformative’ Humanities journals in which they are expected to publish, this proposal undercuts Humanities researchers’ ability to publish in peer-reviewed outlets.

The RHS keenly supports fair, equitable open access in principle and practice, and welcomes transparency in any transition. But reducing OA goals to percentage “penetrations” (itself an inept choice of phrasing) risks further distancing Plan S from the ethical and moral impetus of the OA movement more broadly, and from engagement with the richness and diversity of potential approaches that characterise global OA initiatives.


Q.2 In addition to the 8% increase on OA penetration, year-on-year, the publishers of Transformative Journals must agree to either flip them to OA either when 50% of the content is OA, or by 31st December 2024. To what extent do you agree that these are fair and achievable? If you disagree with this, please specify what target (percentage of OA, or date) you would support, and why. [2000 character limit]

The calculations presented here are both inappropriate and very difficult to apply in an Arts&Hums context where journal submissions are comparatively few & fewer than 20% of authors can access APC funds.

Research carried out by the RHS indicates that Plan S signatories fund a maximum of 17% of articles in UK History (& wider humanities) journals, making any target unrealistic. (see RHS February 2019 Response, p.43 at https://royalhistsoc.org/plan-s-consultation-feb-2019/) From a base of 15% OA it would take 16 years at 8% increase to reach the 50% threshold that the coalition deem a realistic point to “flip”. History journals would need to grow OA at a rate of 36% p.a. to meet the 50% threshold by December 2024. Even at 8% growth, less than a quarter of articles are likely to enjoy access to the funds required for open access by Dec 2024.

There is little evidence currently available that more funding – particularly for arts and humanities subjects – is going to become available and cOAlition S Funder “support” is unspecified in the Plan S Principles and Implementation guidelines. There is a dearth of examples of H&SS journals operating at scale, over the long-term, without a subscription base or paywall AND without significant and ongoing institutional support from research organisations or external grant funding.

The best journals attract global authors from a wide and international range of institutions and institution-types. They do not function in closed national, regional or local systems. By rejecting hybrid as a viable, sustainable (and popular) medium to long-term means of fostering OA and setting the bar so high, this plan is likely to stifle innovation by alienating publishers (with the effect that Plan S funded researchers may be locked out of the best journals) and paradoxically drive researchers back toward subscription journals that allow submission of AAM.


If you have any further comments on the proposed framework for Transformative Journals, please add them here. [2000 character limit]

We thank cOAlition S for the chance to respond to this framework, but remain unconvinced of the evidence-base, or rationale behind these targets. The Sept 2019 Information Power report valuably seeks to establish evidence-based arguments, but its “transformative agreement toolkit” takes a very small sample across all research areas (from H&SS to STEMM), contains internally inconsistent arguments and dodges key issues around funding for sustainable H&SS OA journals. Of the 7 models in the IP report, only 3 seem designed to produce full, permanent OA journals, and 4 do not appear to be ‘transformative’ as defined by cOAlition S. Effectively, in this scenario the APC model remains the only viable means of funding transformative journals, yet in Humanities less than 20% of researchers have access to cOAlition S funding for APC payment.  This deficit is especially acute for ECRs.

This proposal again shows no evidence of considering potential implications for Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI), or researchers (e.g. ECRs) who don’t meet waiver criteria. UK-based cOAlition S Funders have specific duties of care and legal obligations with respect to researchers’ rights to equal opportunities. The absence of any reference to EDI as defined by European legislation or UK Equality Act 2010 is a striking feature of the Plan S Principles, broader cOAlition S policy statements, and this plan.

In OA policy discussions, the term ‘transformative agreements’ describes 2 distinct types of OA contracts, which may or may not comply with Plan S. The first are contracts designed to reduce specified research organisations’ annual journal subscription costs while enhancing OA. The second are agreements by journals for a permanent transition to fully and immediately open-access peer-reviewed articles. We urge clarity and consistency from cOAlition S about their definitions, and to consider possible consequences for researchers, disciplines and wider academic publishing ecosystem.


Roadmap for Change Update: The RHS Race, Ethnicity and Equality Report One Year On

In October 2018, the Royal Historical Society published a report on Race, Ethnicity and Equality in UK History, which surveyed the state of the discipline for BME staff and students in particular. It found that Undergraduate level History was overwhelmingly white in terms of students, that the numbers were even lower when it came to Postgraduate level History and that ‘History academic staff are less diverse than H&PS student cohorts, with 93.7% of History staff drawn from White backgrounds, and only 0.5% Black, 2.2% Asian and 1.6% Mixed’.

This report committed the RHS to reporting on progress after a year. Today we publish our Roadmap for Change Update. This new report summarises how individuals, universities, learned societies and other institutions have responded to the 2018 report and its findings.


Enlightenment Gallery, British Museum. London. Credit: Derwisz via Flickr. Reproduced under terms of CC BY-SA-NC 2.0 Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/).

RHS Presidential Address to be held on Friday 6 December 2019

Full details of the 2019 RHS Presidential Address are now available.

Professor Margot Finn (UCL)
‘Material Turns in British History: III: Collecting: Colonial Bombay, Basra, Baghdad and the Enlightenment Museum’
Friday 6 December 2019 at 6.00 pm
Venue: JZ Young Lecture Theatre, Anatomy Building, UCL. (Please note that this is not in the usual venue, the Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre)


Full details of the lecture including an abstract and accessibility information for the venue are here.

The lecture will be held in the JZ Young Lecture Theatre in the Anatomy Building, Gower Street, at UCL . The lecture will be followed by a Reception in the UCL North Cloisters, showcasing the Society’s new open access book series, New Historical Perspectives.

The lecture will be preceded by the Royal Historical Society’s AGM. This begins at 5:45pm.  Attendees for both the AGM and Lecture are welcome to enter the JZ Young Lecture Theatre from 5:30pm onwards (including during the business of the AGM).



Royal Historical Society Publishes Guidance Paper on “Plan S and History Journals”

The Royal Historical Society (RHS) has today (23 October 2019) published its new Guidance Paper on ‘Plan S and the History Journal Landscape’ .

The report is designed to assist History and broader Humanities & Social Sciences stakeholders to understand and navigate the current policy frontiers of open access publishing for peer reviewed scholarly journals.

In particular, it is timed to contribute to the two public consultations on open access publication mandates, due to be launched shortly by United Kingdom Research & Innovation (UKRI), the funding body that includes the seven UK research councils as well as Research England.  This consultation process reflects UKRI’s membership of cOAlition S, a consortium of international funders established in 2018 which has articulated a new ‘Plan S’ mandate for open access publication.

The RHS report explains what cOAlition S and Plan S are, and why they matter to Humanities and Social Science researchers, journal editors and learned societies—among other stakeholders.  The report uses granular evidence of peer reviewed History journal publication to examine the potential impacts of Plan S implementation by UKRI.  The report is based on a summer 2019 RHS survey that attracted responses from 107 UK and international History learned society and proprietary journals.  Respondents included both self-publishing journals and journals published by 26 different university and commercial presses.  Additionally, the report uses data from the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) to explore open access journal publication in History.

In the context of the forthcoming UKRI consultation, the report offers specific recommendations for:

  • History researchers (including early career historians)
  • journal editors and editorial boards
  • learned societies
  • research organisations
  • funders     

Find out more and download the full report here.


New Historical Perspectives: First Volume Out Now!

The RHS is delighted to announce that today marks the release of the first volume in New Historical Perspectives, an Open Access books series for early career scholars commissioned by the Royal Historical Society and published as an imprint of the Institute of Historical Research by University of London Press.

The first book in the series is Ed Owens’ The Family Firm: Monarchy, Mass Media and the British Public, 1932-53.

The Family Firm presents the first major historical analysis of the transformation of the royal household’s public relations strategy in the period 1932-1953. Beginning with King George V’s first Christmas broadcast, Buckingham Palace worked with the Church of England and the media to initiate a new phase in the House of Windsor’s approach to publicity. The book also focuses on audience reception by exploring how British readers, listeners, and viewers made sense of royalty’s new media image. It argues that the monarchy’s deliberate elevation of a more informal and vulnerable family-centred image strengthened the emotional connections that members of the public forged with the royals, and that the tightening of these bonds had a unifying effect on national life in the unstable years during and either side of the Second World War. Crucially, The Family Firm also contends that the royal household’s media strategy after 1936 helped to restore public confidence in a Crown that was severely shaken by the abdication of King Edward VIII.

Download and buy copies of The Family Firm here.

All titles in New Historical Perspectives are published in print (hard- and paperback) and as Open Access (OA) from first publication, with no fees charged to the author or the author’s institution. Monograph authors receive a workshop with invited specialists to discuss their work before its final submission, and guidance from members of the NHP’s academic editorial board who also oversee a careful peer-review process.

Find out more about the New Historical Perspectives book series, including how to make a proposal, here.


New Members and Fellows – July 2019

At its meeting in July 2019 RHS Council elected 45 Fellows, 15 Members, and 20 Postgraduate Members, a total of 80 in all. These new members were formally welcomed to the Society at Professor Penny Roberts’ RHS Lecture on Friday 20 September 2019.

We are pleased to report that over half of the new Fellows elected were women, and that equal numbers of men and women were elected to the Membership and Postgraduate Membership. In terms of geographical distribution, our new members come from around the UK, as well as Australia, Belgium, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan and the USA. While the majority of the new Fellows hold academic appointments at universities, specializing in a very wide range of fields, this is by no means the case for all. Fellows elected on this occasion include archivists, educational and heritage consultants, and the director of a policy centre. This diversity of interests, reflects the Society’s aim of recognising the vital contribution to historical scholarship made by those in other professions.

The new Members also have a wide variety of historical interests. All those newly elected to the Fellowship, Membership and Postgraduate Membership bring a valuable range of expertise and experience that will enrich the Society and help it to fulfil its objective of representing the diverse body of scholars engaged in historical scholarship.

Our next deadline for Society Fellowship and Membership is 7 October. Additional information can be found here.


Gemma Allen
Dayna Barnes
Tobias Becker
Matthew Bingham
Luke Blaxill
Hilary Carey
Jeng-Guo Chen
Rebekah Clements
Pamela Clemit
Guillemette Crouzet
Judith Curthoys
Johanna Dale
Jennifer Davey
Coleman Dennehy
Karey Draper
Hugo Drochon
Katherine East
Margaret Ezell
Anna Greenwood
Ryan Hanley
Katherine Harloe
Catherine Hindson
Natasha Hodgson
Tom Hulme
David Jordan
Louise Kettle
Miles Larmer
Grace Lees-Maffei
Victoria Leonard
Michael Maddison
Kirsten McKenzie
Dwayne Menezes
Emily Michelson
Cai Parry-Jones
Stephen Sandford
Sally Sheard
John Slight
Diana Spencer
Michael Talbot
Clare Taylor
Seth Thevoz
Boris Volodarsky
Rob Waters
Keira Williams
Man Kong Wong


Rosamaria Alibrandi
Matteo Bonifacio
David Brazendale
Timothy Causer
Bettina De Cosnac
Esther Freeman
Marion Gibson
Alexander Hutton
Caroline Laske
Neil Murphy
Edward Reid-Smith
Lucy Santos
Uttara Shahani
Swati Shastri
Shutaro Takeda

Postgraduate Membership

Jordan Beavis
Hillary Burlock
Jane Campbell
Rodney Curtis
Steven Driver
Helen Esfandiary
Catherine Freeman
Meira Gold
Nathan Hazlehurst
Tyler Herber
Otis Illert
Kate Lawton
Peter Morgan-Barnes
JC Niala
Mary Ononokpono
Oliver Parken
Beatrice Pestarino
Edwin Rose
Dilara Scholz
Fabio Simonetti


Image: New Fellows at the RHS, 20 Sept 2019 (Credit: Grace Lees-Maffei / Oleg Benesch)