The Royal Historical Society represents the interests of History and historians, of all kinds, via a programme of advocacy and policy research. The higher education, publishing, technological and cultural landscapes, within which much of our work is situated, have changed rapidly over the past decade.
The need for historians to be supported, and for History to be understood and practised well, is more important than ever.
The RHS is the UK’s foremost body for supporting the historical profession and championing History as a discipline. The Society’s advocacy work takes place at a range of levels: individual, departmental, sector and discipline.
We work closely with departments and individuals who contact us in need of support, through sharing resources, offering expertise and writing letters. The Society also convenes regular meetings with History Heads of Department, providing opportunities for historians to discuss matters of shared interest. Outcomes from these meetings include a toolkit — ‘Supporting History Teaching and Research in UK Universities’ — launched in 2022 and regularly updated as new information becomes available.
In addition, the Society runs a programme of Visits to departments across the the UK to meet with historians and discuss matters relating to their institutions and the wider profession. Recent and forthcoming Visits include to the universities of Lincoln, Edge Hill, Kent, Canterbury Christ Church, the Highlands and Islands, and Hertfordshire (2022-23) and York, York St John and Brunel (in early 2024).
From 2023, we publish the latest data relating to the History and the historical profession in UK Higher Education, as generated by external providers. Both these resources focus particularly on historians and departments facing threats of cuts or closures to academic programmes and staff.
The Society’s latest public statements have focused on cuts and closures at UK History departments — ‘History in UK Higher Education: A Statement from the Royal Historical Society’ — (in June 2023), and the closure of the MRes in The History of Africa and the African Diaspora at the University of Chichester, in September 2023).
Previous statements include the Society’s concern at closures, mergers and contractions of UK History departments, especially at post-92 institutions such as Roehampton and support for historians at Goldsmiths, University of London. Any department that seeks support — for example, with advice on plans to cut or reduce History provision with their institution — may get in touch confidentially with the Society via the President or the Academic Director. Individuals with concerns about the discipline may also contact the Society at any time.
Where appropriate, the Society collaborates with partner organisations to present a coordinated response. In resisting cuts and closures, the Society works closely with disciplinary organisations such as History UK and the Arts and Humanities Alliance, an association of UK learned societies. Other recent partnerships include the Society’s 2022 Ukraine Scholars at Risk programme, undertaken with other learned societies in History and area studies.
Policy and Research
The Society’s policy and research programme is responsive to the environment in which historians work. Much of this work takes place via established RHS committees that monitor, respond to, and shape developments in the Research environment and culture in Higher Education; History Education and teaching; and Publishing.
In 2021 the Society established a Council post for Professional Engagement, to better support historians (in and outside HE) with training, skills and career development.
Our Equalities work remains of central importance to the Society. Recent initiatives include the creation of a Masters’ Scholarships programme (since 2022) to support students from groups underrepresented in academic History.