Inequality remains a major challenge for historians in UK higher education. The Royal Historical Society is today an important voice for equality in the discipline and profession. This work takes many forms, and continues to develop and evolve in response to circumstance.
The Society seeks to provide practical support where it’s most needed and impactful—often in partnership with organisations with shared aims. Current initiatives are either led by members of the Society’s Council (its governing body) or in partnership with external groups. In 2022, these include:
- Masters’ Scholarships: for early career historians from groups underrepresented in academic history. The programme, seeks to actively address underrepresentation and encourage Black and Asian students to consider academic research in History. By supporting Masters’ students, the programme focuses on a key early stage in the academic training of future researchers.
- ‘Positive action’ workshops for early career historians of colour: these workshops offer one-to-one guidance and group discussion. Sessions cover CV writing, applications, and proposals for funded research, among other topics, for up to 30 historians at a time. This workshop runs annually, with a report from the first meeting (2021) available here.
- ‘Writing Race’, featuring new research on histories of research from guest contributors.
- Support for external projects including:
— co-sponsorship (with the Runnymede Trust) of the Harriet Tubman Essay Prize, run by the British Association for Nineteenth-Century American Historians (BrANCH). The prize is awarded annually for the best undergraduate essay or research project by Black, Asian, or other minority ethnic students based in the UK.
— funding for the Social History Society’s BME Small Grants programme; these grants of up to £1000 support Black and Minority Ethnic historians working in the UK and/or histories of BME people.
— promotion of national events, including Windrush75 (June 2023)
- Councillors and RHS staff also participate in wider initiatives, including the AHRC-funded Connected Curriculum Network project, and Working Group membership for the National Education Union / Runnymede Trust History Curriculum Review.
- Events, our programme includes regular lectures and talks on histories of ethnicity and equality. Recent examples include: panel and book launch for ‘Freedom Seekers: Escaping Slavery in Restoration London’ (March 2022); Kavita Puri’s RHS Public History Lecture on the Partition of India and migration (November 2022); a panel of the life and intellectual legacy of Eric Williams (June 2023); and the 2023 RHS Prothero Lecture by Brenda E. Stevenson, ‘To Do and Be Undone: Enslaved Black Life, Courtship, and Marriage in the Antebellum South’ (July 2023).
The Society’s current equalities work is informed by the findings of its important studies on the historical profession relating to gender, race and ethnicity, and sexual identity:
- Gender Equality and Historians in UK Higher Education (2015)
- Promoting Gender Equality in UK History. A Second Report and Recommendations for Good Practice (2018)
- Race, Ethnicity & Equality in UK History: A Report and Resource for Change (2018)
- Race, Ethnicity & Equality in UK History: Roadmap for Change, I (2019)
- Race, Ethnicity & Equality in UK History: Roadmap for Change, II (2020)
- LGBT+ Histories and Historians. A Report (2020)
Of these initiatives, the Society’s Race Reports has been particularly widely adopted. Between 2019 and 2022, this programme has been supported by an RHS Race, Ethnicity & Equality Fellowship, generously funded by the Past & Present Society.
The contribution of this Fellowship, and the future of the Society’s race equalities work, is summarised in ‘Race, Ethnicity and Equality in History. A Review and Look Ahead’ (November 2022).
If you wish to contact the historians who make up the Society’s Council (trustees) about current or potential areas of equalities work, please email: email@example.com.