Advocacy & Policy

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.

Advocacy

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 disciplinary.

Support for departments

We work closely with individuals and departments who contact us in need of support, through sharing resources, offering expertise and communicating with university senior managers. The Society also makes available and maintains disciplinary information and links via its a toolkit — ‘Supporting History Teaching and Research in UK Universities’ — launched in 2022 and regularly updated.

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 and York St John and Brunel (in Spring 2024). Details of applications for a programme of Visits for 2025-26 will be circulated later this year.

The Society also publishes data relating to the History and the historical profession in UK Higher Education, as generated by external providers. This resource, and the Toolkit, focus particularly on historians and departments facing threats of cuts or closures to academic programmes and staff.

Parliamentary engagement

Since 2023 members of the Society’s Council have met with UK parliamentarians to discuss their concerns about cuts and closures at History departments in UK Higher Education, and the often negative language used to describe the History and other humanities subjects at university. Recent sessions include members of the Commons and Lords, across the parties, and with representatives from the government and shadow front bench, relevant Commons Select Committees, All Party Parliamentary Groups for History and Universities, and the parliamentary secretariat. These meetings continue.

The Society also draws on the experience of its fellows and Members, many of whom have worked with parliamentarians, either to promote the discipline or with reference to the policy applications of their research.

Public statements in support of departments and the discipline

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’ — (June 2023), the closure of the MRes in The History of Africa and the African Diaspora at the University of Chichester (September 2023), and the cuts to History and the wider humanities at Oxford Brookes University (December 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.

Collaborative work

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. More recent initiatives include the collation of data relating to the historical profession and discipline in the UK, and responses to consultations on the Research Excellence Framework 2029.

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 and publication, in June 2024, of an Update to the Society’s 2018 report, Race, Ethnicity & Equality.