RHS News

Education Policy Committee Overview

Ken Fincham is Chair of the Education Policy Committee. He writes:

The RHS is committed to monitoring and supporting the teaching of history in higher education and secondary schools. The Educational Policy Committee was founded in 2003 to bring together expertise in and outside Council in order to promote history teaching through offering expert advice to government and NGOs as well as sponsoring conferences and teaching-related initiatives. Accordingly, on the Committee sit not just elected councillors with a particular interest in teaching but also a number of co-opted members from History UK (representing History in HE), the Historical Association and secondary schools, and they bring to our discussions a wealth of experience and insights. Among our co-opted members are the former Chief HMI for History at Ofsted, the former discipline lead for History at the Higher Education Academy, and a current academy-school teacher and editor of Teaching History. Regular Committee meetings are supplemented by biannual visits to history departments where we see history teaching on the ground, sometimes in rather challenging circumstances, which helps inform our discussions and shape our priorities.

History in HEIs

The Committee takes a broad purview of history at university by examining trends in admissions, curriculum design and delivery for both undergraduates and taught postgraduates. We are interested in history teaching in all its various settings, whether in a single-subject department, a multi-disciplinary humanities or humanities and social science unit, or historians teaching in other departments such as languages. Representatives of the RHS speak at teaching events and sponsor a number of workshops and conferences, most recently the ‘New to History teaching’, a one-day event in September 2017 at the IHR. We often provide expert advice to public bodies: in 2013-14 we contributed to the revision of the History Benchmarking document produced by the Quality Assurance Agency, and in 2017 gave evidence to the British Academy’s flagship project on skills in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Currently the most pressing matter is the rapid development of the Teaching Excellent Framework. In January 2016 the Society submitted its response to the Government Green Paper on HE, ‘Fulfilling our Potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice’, which was endorsed by the Economic History Society, History UK, the British Agricultural History Society, and the East Midlands Centre for History Teaching and Learning. Since then, the Society has maintained a watching brief over the rapid evolution of the TEF, and will in due course take up the invitation to offer views on the pilot subject-level metrics in 2017-19 and to the Independent Review of TEF in 2018-19. Another important role of the Society is to provide guidelines and resources for the fellowship and the wider discipline. We see it as a priority in the next few years to consider the implications of the digital revolution as it affects the teaching of history, and the evidence for better and best teaching practice across UK, and to share our thoughts and findings through a teaching resource portal on our website.

History in Schools

The RHS plays an important role in discussions about teaching in history, working in partnership with the Historical Association. In 2014-15 we took a leading role in discussions on reshaping history teaching from the National Curriculum via GCSE to A level. We are committed to ensuring that history in schools offers the best possible preparation for further study of the subject while also providing a rounded and fulfilling historical education for those who do not continue to study history at a higher level. Over the past decade we have built up excellent relations to the School Examination Boards, offering them advice and support as required, and convening a meeting most years to facilitate the exchange of views between their representatives as well as to asess trends in uptake, choice within specifications and performance. The recent revision of GCSE and A Level make these meetings particularly timely and informative.

The Move from School to University

Given the remit of the Society, and our close working relationship with the Historical Association, we are well-placed to help bridge the gap between history at school and university. We welcome, and are actively supporting, the Historical Association’s recent initiatives to forge closer ties with HEIs. We keep a close eye over the provision of teacher training places, and intervened in 2015-16 to protest to government over the threatened reduction in their number. A conference is being planned for March 2018, under the auspices of Professor Arthur Burns, Chair of the Committee in 2013-16, to bring together teachers of history in schools and universities with represenmtatives of the Examination Boards to review the consequences of recent curriculum changes and to smooth the transition from A Level to first year university history.

Kenneth Fincham is Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Kent. A former RHS Hon. Secretary and then Councillor, he is an experienced academic editor and has a long-standing interest in curriculum and in building bridges between secondary and tertiary teaching. In the 1980s he taught for two years in a secondary school, and since then has been involved in ‘A’ Level history as an examiner, setter and now reviser.

 

Professor F M L Thompson

The Society notes with sadness that Professor F M L (Michael) Thompson, historian of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Britain, and President of the RHS from 1988-1992, has died.  The author of 52 publications listed in the Bibliography of British & Irish History, Michael was a prolific and influential historian of landed society, property relations, agriculture, free trade and much more.  His longstanding generosity to the discipline was evident not only in his many contributions to the RHS but in roles that included Editor of the Economic History Review (1968-80), President of the Economic History Society (1983-86) and Director of the Institute of Historical Research (1977-1990).  His many labours, keen eye and warm wit will be much missed.

Professor Margot Finn, President.

 

Prothero Lecture 2017: ‘Orthodoxy & Revolution’, Prof. Simon Dixon

Professor Simon Dixon (UCL) presented this year’s Prothero Lecture, ‘Orthodoxy & Revolution: The restoration of the Russian patriarchate in 1917’ at University College London on 7 July. You can watch the lecture, and read Professor Dixon’s abstract below.

At the height of the October Revolution in Moscow – a much bloodier affair than the Bolshevik coup in Petrograd – the Orthodox Church installed Tikhon (Bellavin) as Russia’s first patriarch since 1700. At the most obvious level, this was a counter-revolutionary gesture aimed at securing firm leadership in a time of troubles. It was nevertheless a controversial move. Ecclesiastical liberals regarded a restored patriarchate as a neo-papal threat to the conciliarist regime they hoped to foster; and since Nicholas II had explicitly modelled himself on the Muscovite tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich, the potential for renewed conflict between church and state was clear long before 1917. This lecture will emphasise the extent to which a single individual haunted the whole debate. For, until the last moment, it was widely assumed that the new patriarch would be not the little-known Tikhon, but Archbishop Antonii (Khrapovitskii) [pictured above], whose attempts to model himself on Patriarch Nikon – the most divisive of seventeenth-century patriarchs – helped to make him the most controversial prelate of the age.

RHS Book Prize Winners 2017

The RHS is pleased to announce the winners of our 2017 Book Prizes.

 

The Whitfield Prize is awarded to:

Claire Eldridge, for From empire to exile History and memory within the pied-noir and harki communities, 1962–2012published by Manchester University Press.

 

The Gladstone Prize is awarded jointly to:

William Cavert, for The Smoke of London Energy and Environment in the Early Modern Citypublished by Cambridge University Press;

and

Alice Taylor, for The Shape of the State in Medieval Scotland, 1124-1290published by Oxford University Press.

 

RHS Newsletter, May 2017

The RHS Newsletter for May 2017 is available here, and includes:

  • Margot Finn’s Presidential Letter
  • Public History Prize 2018 – Alix Green announces new awards in the Public History Prize in collaboration with the Historical Association
  • Supporting Early Career Historians – grant winners Callie Wilkinson and Alys Beverton tell their stories
  • Focus on: Education – Marcus Collins explains the work of the East Midlands Centre for History Teaching and Learning, and looks at the future of teaching in UK Higher Education
  • Politicians’ Histories: the History of Parliament Oral History Project – Paul Seaward
  • The Stern Report: the Future of REF – Mary VIncent explains the Society’s work responding to the report

 

RHS Submission to REF 2020-21 Consultation

Following Lord Stern’s review of the Research Excellence Framework (REF), HEFCE opened a consultation on REF2020-21, which closed on 17 March 2017. REF is of vital importance to the scholarly community and to history as a discipline and the consultation exercise has shown that its significance for our research culture is widely perceived. The Royal Historical Society has consulted History schools and departments across the country in preparing its submission to the consultation exercise, and has provided a considered response that evaluates the possible effects of measures such as full return of research staff and non-portability, seeks to support the position of Early Career Researchers, and makes a strong case for equality and diversity. Read the Society’s full response here.

 

Prof. Claire Langhamer, ‘Who the hell are ordinary people?’

Ordinariness was a frequently deployed category in the political debates of 2016. Brexit was, according to one political leader, ‘a victory for ordinary, decent people who’ve taken on the establishment and won’. In this lecture I want to historicise recent use of the category by returning to another moment when ordinariness held deep political significance: the years immediately following the Second World War. I explore the range of values, styles, and specific behaviours that gave meaning to the claim to be ordinary; consider the relationship between ordinariness, everyday experience and knowledge; and map the political work ordinariness was called upon to perform. I conclude with some thoughts about how historians use the category today.

Prof. Claire Langhamer is Professor of Modern British History at the University of Sussex

Analysis of REF2014 Impact Case Studies

The RHS has undertaken an analysis of the Impact Case Studies submitted for History in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework. A number of characteristics emerge from the analysis:

  • Impact Case Studies were overwhelmingly headed by male historians: over 70% of listed Principal Investigators were men. This gender divide was higher at Professorial level than at other career stages, reflecting the issues surrounding gender equality highlighted in the RHS Gender Report.
  • A diverse range of funding was used to support Impact Case Studies: while 31% listed support from the Arts & Humanities Research Council, nearly half did not list a specific source of external national funding.
  • While there were Impact Case Studies on many different geographical areas, the UK was by far the largest area of focus (58%), followed by Europe (15%).
  • Modern history was the main period focus (62%), with fewer centring on early modern (12%) or medieval history (6%).
  • Public engagement was the largest impact area (listed by 66% of projects); comparatively few case studies were focused on digital impact (listed by just 9%).

Our analysis is available here.