Events Archive

RHS Lecture: ‘Possible Maps: Ways of Knowing and Unknowing at the Edge of Empire (Newfoundland, c. 1763-1829)’

‘Possible Maps: Ways of Knowing and Unknowing at the Edge of Empire (Newfoundland, c. 1763-1829)’


RHS Lecture with Professor Julia Laite

held on 3 May 2024
at the Mary Ward House, London, and online


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Consigned to the cold and watery edge of empire, Newfoundland was more of a work-camp than a colony. To the colonial officials in their mahoganied offices in London and the merchants in their mansions in Poole, the island was (in the words of Patrick O’Flaherty) a ‘a sub-colonial fishing berth, an outlying cod abattoir’.

The interior was thought too barren and empty for landward expansion, but its foreshores and coastal waters were of vital economic and strategic importance to the British Crown, and this created a unique form of negligent colonization, which produced one of the Empire’s oldest and most isolated settler populations and led to one of its most totalizing genocides.

This lecture will examine some official and unofficial, and colonial and Indigenous, ways of mapping and knowing this hinterland in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; and will reconsider the place of this ‘unknown’ island and its difficult history within the British Empire.

Speaker Biography

Julia Laite joined Birkbeck in 2010 after holding postdoctoral fellowships at Memorial University of Newfoundland and McGill University, Canada. Her research examines the history of migration, gender, sex and crime, as well as family history, creative history and public history. She is the author of The Disappearance of Lydia Harvey (2021), Wolfenden’s Women (2020), and Common Prostitutes and Ordinary Citizens (2012), and was principal investigator of the AHRC-funded project ‘Trafficking Past’. Her current work examines critical family history, settler colonialism and migration, and she currently holds an ISRF Mid-Career Fellowship to pursue a new book project.


RHS Workshop – ‘Podcasting History’

‘Podcasting History: An Introduction and Guide’, 25 April 2024



Podcasting History: 25 April 2024 Podcasting has recently emerged as one of the most popular formats for presenting history to the public. But what makes for a compelling history podcast? And how are these podcasts made? This session features two perspectives on the podcast-making process. Dr Bob Nicholson, writer and presenter of the 7-part podcast series ‘Killing Victoria’ (BBC Sounds, 2023), outlines how the series was made and what he learned about the art of developing a documentary-style podcast. Bob walks you through the process of scripting the series, identifying locations/interviews, recording segments, and then editing everything together.

Dr Dave Musgrove launched, produces and co-presents the long-running HistoryExtra podcast. His part of the session builds on Bob’s series scripting advice and then talk about building a podcast presence and identifying a likely audience, how to make interviews work, and ways to really harness the power of podcasting as a tool to spread the word about your research.


  • Dr Bob Nicholson is a historian based at Edge Hill University. He works on the history of nineteenth-century popular culture, and is particularly keen on unearthing surprising new stories about the Victorians. He has written and presented items for BBC Radio 4, Radio 3, ‘History Today’, and ‘BBC History Magazine’. Most recently, he wrote and presented the podcast documentary series ‘Killing Victoria’ for BBC Sounds (2023), which explored the lives of seven men who attacked Queen Victoria and reached the top 5 in the UK History charts.
  • Dr Dave Musgrove is content director of ‘BBC History Magazine’ and the HistoryExtra podcast and website. His PhD was in medieval archaeology, and he has worked for ‘BBC History Magazine’ for over 20 years. He has written popular history books on British heritage and the Bayeux Tapestry, He launched the HistoryExtra podcast in 2007 and has worked on it ever since. This online event was hosted by Dr Andrew Smith (Queen Mary University of London) and a Council member of the Royal Historical Society.

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RHS Panel – ‘Finding the Funny in Public History’

‘Finding the Funny in Public History’

In conversation with Greg Jenner


Greg Jenner

in conversation with Emma Griffin
held on 2 February 2024
at the Mary Ward House, London, and online




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One of the UK’s best known public historians, Greg has brought history to new audiences through his engagement with popular culture. In ‘Finding the Funny in Public History’, Greg discussed his approach to communicating history, via different broadcast technologies, and also through comedy which is a common theme in his public history. As Greg shows with reference to his own work, the relationship between historical subject, medium and format is key for effective engagement with a chosen audience. How these elements are chosen and combined is an essential part of a series’ success or otherwise.

As well as drawing on Greg’s own work and approach, our event also considered popular media more broadly as a vehicle for public history. How can formats constrained by running times, deadlines and budgets reflect the balance and nuance required of effective historical work? What is the place of the trained historian in popular media representations of the past? And what are the possible formats by which future audiences will engage with historical subjects? On Tuesday 20 February, Greg was in conversation with Emma Griffin, President of the Royal Historical Society.

Speaker Biography

Greg Jenner is a public historian, author, and broadcaster well known for his work in podcasts, radio, TV, and publishing. He is the host and creator of the chart-topping comedy BBC podcast You’re Dead to Me, as well as the presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Past Forward: A Century of Sound, the BBC’s award-nominated children’s podcast Homeschool History, and the Audible series A Somewhat Complete History of Sitting Down. From 2008-2019, Greg was responsible for the research and historical accuracy of the BBC’s multiple-BAFTA and EMMY-award-winning TV comedy sketch series Horrible Histories, and its BAFTA-nominated spinoff film Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans.

Greg’s publications include Ask A Historian: 50 Surprising Answers to Things You Always Wanted to Know (2021) and Dead Famous: An Unexpected History of Celebrity, From Bronze Age To Silver Screen (2020). His bestselling illustrated children’s book You Are History: From the Alarm Clock to the Toilet, the Amazing History of the Things You Use Every Day was published in 2022, and his new children’s book series ‘Totally Chaotic History’ – cowritten with expert historians – will be published by Walker Books in 2024. In 2021 Greg was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society for his contribution to historical scholarship and understanding.


RHS Lecture — ‘Convicts, Creolization and Cosmopolitanism: Aftermaths of penal transportation in the British Empire’

‘Convicts, Creolization and Cosmopolitanism: Aftermaths of penal transportation in the British Empire’


Clare Anderson (Leicester)

RHS Lecture
held on 23 January 2024
at the German Historical Institute, London and online



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Between the late eighteenth and mid-twentieth centuries, the British transported over a quarter of a million convicts to colonies and settlements including in Australia, the Andaman Islands, Indian Ocean, and Southeast Asia. About one percent of the approximately 167,000 convicts shipped to the Australian colonies (1787-1868) were of Asian, African or Creole heritage; convicted either in Britain or British colonies. Most of the c. 108,000 convicts sent to penal settlements in Penang, Mauritius, Singapore, Malacca, Burma, and the Andamans (1789-1945) were from British India or Ceylon.

This paper will explore some of the histories and aftermaths of these convict flows, including their relationship to experiences and legacies of enslavement and other forms of imperial labour, and to Indigenous dispossession. It will draw on research in archives and with descendants and communities in Australia, Mauritius, Penang, and the Andamans to show how over time penal transportation broke and remade families, and to think through the ways in which economic, social, and cultural factors relating to race, ethnicity, religion and (for Hindus) caste, social background, education, and status intersected in the formation of convict and convict-descended societies. It will suggest that through genealogical research in recent years these societies have become connected to sending (and origin) locations and to sites of onward migration in Britain and the settler world. In some cases, descendants of ‘colonial’ descent are together creating new histories and forms of kinship to make sense of complex and sometimes elusive pasts.

Speaker Biography

Clare Anderson is a Professor of History at the University of Leicester, where she is dean for research excellence (interim) and director of the Leicester Institute of Advanced Studies (LIAS). Clare is a scholar of the history of empires and global history and focuses on the history and legacies of colonial prisons, penal colonies, and forced migration and labour. She has given public and keynote lectures in many countries and has been a visiting fellow at UT Sydney and the University of Tasmania. Clare has held both the Caird Research Fellowship and Sackler-Caird Senior Research Fellowship at the National Maritime Museum. She is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Higher Education Academy, and British Academy.


RHS Lecture — ‘Charting Authority after Empire: Documentary Culture and Political Legitimacy in Post-Carolingian Europe’

‘Charting Authority after Empire: Documentary Culture and Political Legitimacy in Post-Carolingian Europe’



Levi Roach (Exeter)

RHS Lecture
held on 1 February 2024
at Mary Ward House, London, and online





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Research over the past three decades has transformed our understanding western Europe in the years between the late ninth and early eleventh centuries. It was in this period that recognisable kingdoms of France, Germany, England and (to an extent) Italy were born; it was also in this period that many of the dynasties which would shape the future of the European mainland were established. Above all, it was in these years that the Carolingian dynasty which had ruled much of western Europe since the mid-eighth century was decisively eclipsed.

But while elements of these transitions are now well understood, models of change continue to be constructed primarily within the context of national master narratives: the weak origins of France, the precocity of urban associations in Italy, the fateful experiments with empire in Germany. Truly comparative work, though growing in volume, continues to represent the exception. This is unfortunate, since many of the shifts observable clearly spanned what Heinrich Fichtenau memorably called ‘the sometime Carolingian Empire’ (das einstige Karolingerreich), a massive region encompassing France, Germany, the Low Countries, Switzerland, Austria and Northern Italy.

In this lecture, Levi Roach uses the charters issued by rulers of these regions as a window into the processes whereby new dynasties and kingdoms established themselves on the basis of existing traditions. In doing so, he focuses on a remarkable set of shared changes in the layout and appearance in these documents, which reveal much about the nature and significance of these transitions.

Speaker Biography

Levi Roach studied at the universities of Cambridge and Heidelberg, earning his PhD at the former in 2011. Since 2012, he has lectured at the University of Exeter, where he is presently Associate Professor (Reader) of Medieval History and Deputy Head of the newly constituted Department of Archaeology and History (and Head of Discipline for History within this). His research interests lie in the political and religious history of western Europe in the ninth, tenth and eleventh centuries, often from a comparative perspective.

Levi has published three research monographs, Kingship and Consent in Anglo-Saxon England (CUP, 2013), Æthelred ‘the Unready’ (Longman-History Today Prize 2017; Labarge Prize 2017); and (Yale UP, 2016) and Forgery and Memory at the End of the First Millennium (Princeton University Press, 2021). He has also recently published a popular history of the Normans (Princeton UP, 2021). He is presently at the early stages of preparing a new edition of the royal charters of the rulers of East Francia/Germany from the years 911 to 1002 for the Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Munich).


RHS Presidential Lecture — ‘European Exploration, Empires, and the Making of the Modern World’

European Exploration, Empires, and the Making of the Modern World’



Emma Griffin

RHS 2023 Presidential Lecture
held on 24 November 2023
at Mary Ward House, London, and online





The British industrial revolution has long, and rightly, been regarded as a turning point in world history, and the question of why it all began in Britain has produced a large and lively literature.

In the past twenty years, our understanding has been considerably enhanced by the repositioning of events in eighteenth-century Britain within global history frameworks. Yet this has resulted in some unwieldy comparisons between Britain, a small island, on the one hand; and very large, continental land masses – India, China, and North America – on the other.

In this lecture, Emma Griffin suggests a far more meaningful comparative approach may be developed by turning to some of Britain’s nearest neighbours in continental Europe. By looking at European nations, similar in size, existing outside Britain’s empire, and indeed in some instances with imperial holdings and ambitions of their own, it is possible to shed new light on the complex and contested relationship between empire and industrialisation, and offer new answers as to why Britain industrialised first.

Emma Griffin is President of the Royal Historical Society, and Professor of British History and Head of School at Queen Mary University of London.


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RHS Public History Lecture — ‘Pilgrimages, Pandemics and the Past’

‘Pilgrimages, Pandemics and the Past’


Tom Holland

RHS 2023 Public History Lecture
on 7 November 2023






The Society’s 2023 Public History Lecture, held in association with Gresham College, is given by the historian and broadcaster Tom Holland. In this lecture Tom reflects on walking in London during the Covid pandemic, and how this experience might inform historians better appreciate and understand the perspectives and expectations of those who undertook pilgrimages in the past.



RHS Panel — ‘Black British History. Where Now, Why Next?’

RHS Panel ‘Black British History. Where Now, Why Next?’, 24 October 2023


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‘Black British History. Where Now, Where Next?’ (24 October 2023) was an opportunity to reflect on the major themes currently being pursued in Black British History, and their development in recent years. It’s also chance to propose new areas of research in the years to come.

In addition, panellists and audience members explore the infrastructure that supports the study of Black British History in UK Higher Education and beyond. Recent years have seen welcome advances, including the creation of posts dedicated to teaching and research. At the same time, the subject fights to establish itself in many university History curricula, while departmental cuts and the cost of a first or further degree create restrictions for those seeking to study in this area, and impede many who seek to pursue postgraduate research. Our panel and audience discussion also considered the health of the discipline outside Higher Education, in community projects and the media.

This event, held in UK Black History Month, brings together historians to consider the present and future of Black British History. Led by Professor Bill Schwarz, a longtime commentator and writer in this field, the event takes place on the fifth anniversary of the publication of the Royal Historical Society’s report, Race, Ethnicity and Equality in UK Higher Education (October 2018).


  • Hannah Elias is a Lecturer in Black British History at Goldsmiths, University of London. Hannah is cultural historian of Britain in the twentieth century researching Black British histories, religion, media and public history. She is Chair of the IHR’s Equality Working Group and a co-convenor of the Institute’s Black British History seminar, which is actively engaged in the promotion and facilitation of learning, debates and conversation about new currents in this developing field of study.
  • Kesewa John is a scholar of Caribbean people’s intellectual and political histories, with a doctorate on collaborations between French and English-speaking Caribbean activists in the decades prior to the Windrush docking. A former PhD student of Hakim Adi, and a History Matters conference organiser, Kesewa previously taught at the Université des Antilles in Martinique and Guadeloupe. She joined Goldsmiths, University of London, as Lecturer in Black British History in September 2023.
  • Liam Liburd is Assistant Professor in Black British History at Durham University and a historian of ‘race’ and racism, and empire and decolonisation, and their legacies in modern Britain. His publications include: ‘The Politics of Race and the Future of British Political History’, Political Quarterly (2023).
  • Bill Schwarz is Professor of English at Queen Mary University of London. Bill’s many publications include his Memories of Empire trilogy and his contribution to Stuart Hall’s Familiar Stranger. A Life between Two Islands (2017). With Catherine Hall, Bill is also General Editor of the Duke University Press series, The Writings of Stuart Hall.

The event was introduced by Emma Griffin, President of the Royal Historical Society and Professor of Modern British History at Queen Mary, University of London.


RHS Panel discussion — ‘Writing and Publishing Trade History’


‘Writing and Publishing Trade History’, with Yale University Press – 10 October 2023



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‘Writing and Publishing Trade History’ (10 October 2023) was jointly hosted by Yale University Press and the Royal Historical Society. It brought together publishers, editors, authors and literary agents to discuss trade publishing in History. At this event, panellists discussed their experience of writing for and publishing trade history and provided guidance for those considering working with a trade publisher for their next book.

Topics covered included: What is trade publishing; how does it differ from an academic monograph? Why publish a trade book? How do you propose and pitch to a publisher of trade History? What does an editor wish to see? What are authors’ experience of writing a trade book? Who are your readers? What’s the future for History trade books, and how do publishers seek to ensure diversity and inclusion in History trade publishing?


Speakers at this event
  • Rebecca Clifford, Professor of Transnational and European History at Durham University. Rebecca’s publications include her 2020 book Survivors: Children’s Lives After the Holocaust (Yale University Press).
  • Robert Gildea, Professor of History at Oxford University. Robert’s most recent book is Backbone of the Nation. Mining Communities and the Great Strike of 1984-85 (2023, Yale University Press)
  • Heather McCallum, Managing Director of Yale University Press London with responsibility for commissioning medieval, early modern and modern history
  • James Pullen, literary agent at the Wylie Agency
  • Simon Winder, Publishing Director at Penguin Books

‘Writing and Publishing Trade History’ was introduced by Emma Griffin, President of the Royal Historical Society and Professor of Modern British History at Queen Mary, University of London.

The event was held to mark ‘Yale 50’, celebrating 50 years of Yale University Press publishing in London.


RHS Lecture — ‘Migrant Voices in the Multilingual City’

‘Migrant Voices in the Multilingual City’



Dr John Gallagher

(University of Leeds)

RHS Lecture on 15 September 2023






Early modern London was multilingual, and early modern urban life was shaped by linguistic diversity. The reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603) witnessed an important ‘migration moment’, with substantial numbers of migrants and refugees coming to England as a consequence of religious and political conflict on the continent. In London, a rapidly growing urban capital, the voices of migrants mingled audibly with the other languages of the city, shaping a multilingual oral culture which had to be navigated by strangers and Londoners alike.

This lecture draws on the multilingual archives of Elizabethan London’s ‘stranger churches’ – Protestant congregations which catered to the needs of French-, Dutch-, and Italian-speaking migrants (among others) at a moment of significant migration to England from continental Europe – to explore how linguistic diversity shaped social relations in the early modern city.