Thank you to everyone who attended our inaugural ‘Contemporary British History Now’ conference on 13 September. We had more than 150 delegates throughout the day and an excellent keynote delivered by Professor Patrick Wright.
You can check out tweets from the conference by visiting our Storify thread here.
The first episode will focus on George Orwell. Patrick visits the writer’s former Hertfordshire home (just down the road from Manor Farm of Animal Farm fame) to launch his second series of programmes exploring the way English identity is so often defined and clarified when under threat.
He talks to Orwell scholar Robert Colls, as well as people who find Orwell’s argument about a thread linking disparate groupings of English people to be a potent symbol for what might have been and what might yet be again in spite of a fracturing of vision as expressed in the Brexit vote last year.
Postman and writer CJ Stone, screen-writer Lissa Evans and former MP Michael Wills also share their thoughts on Orwell’s “characteristic fragments” and his famous lines about returning to England from any foreign country and having “immediately the sensation of breathing a different air”.
Is that air still there to be inhaled or are Orwell’s visions and arguments no longer valuable contributions to the debate about what it is to be English?
On 13 March 2017, KCBH historians Dr Alana Harris and Laura Carter organised the ‘London’s women historians: a celebration and a conversation’ conference at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London (IHR). The event brought together 14 leading historians, and a 90-strong audience, to evaluate and celebrate the contribution of women historians working at the University of London and its colleges—from the early 1900s to the 2010s. As well as a celebration, the day was also a conversation. In 2017, gender equality remains one of the most pressing issues in the historical profession. This is evident from research published by the Royal Historical Society in 2015, longstanding efforts by the Economic History Society to elevate women in their discipline, and an initiative at the University of Oxford to launch a ‘manifesto’ for Women in the Humanities.
Their conference was also therefore a continuation and deepening of this conversation. Panellists and audience members were asked to think about how twentieth-century London institutions have both enabled and constrained female achievements in history.
A website is now live which includes audio and video links to the conference as well as images of twenty London women historians. This is an incredibly valuable resource and we are very proud of our KCBH members’ success.
On 27 September, the Sir Michael Howard Centre for the History of War will launch KCBH member Dr David Morgan-Owen’s The Fear of Invasion: Strategy, Politics, and British War Planning, 1880-1914.
Britain’s entry into the First World War and the subsequent decision to send her Army to fight on the continent remains one of the most controversial topics of her modern history. How and why the Army was committed to the battlefields of Europe—where it would suffer such terrible losses over the next four years— and whether Britain might have fought the War in a different way are questions that continue to provoke debate over a century later. The Fear of Invasion tells the story of how Britain entered the First World War with the strategy it did, and reveals how this approach came about. It charts how the British government’s capacity to co-ordinate the activities of the Army and Navy into a coherent ‘grand’ strategy fluctuated between 1880 and 1914, with insidious effects for the nation’s preparedness during the July Crisis. It does so by focusing on the key issue which acted as a nexus between the activities of the two services and which, in the absence of a willingness to consider how to fight a major war, came to act as the de-facto determinant of British strategy. That issue was the defence of the British Isles against invasion: the area of policy where the roles of the two services overlapped most directly and most obviously, and the one aspect of strategy which politicians were prepared to pronounce meaningfully upon prior to 1914.
David G. Morgan-Owen is an historian of war and lecturer in Defence Studies at King’s College London. He was previously a Visiting Research Fellow at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth, and an Associate of the Centre for Maritime Historical Studies at the University of Exeter, where he gained his PhD in 2013. Dr. Morgan-Owen has published on British strategy before and during the First World War in the English Historical Review, War in History, Journal of Strategic Studies, and the International History Review.
This event is free to attend but registration is required here.
Two well-established research centres within the School of Security Studies have joined forces, bringing together the largest community of historians of war in the world.
Leading scholars from the Research Centre for the History of Conflict (RCHC) and the Sir Michael Howard Centre for the History of War (SMHC) will collaborate on multi-disciplinary research projects, publications and offer a wide remit of expertise for doctoral supervision. The joining of these research groups will foster multiple perspectives and exposure, generating new ideas research projects that will impact the wider research community.
This event will comprise three main themes: the study of war within the broader discipline of history, the place of historical study within War Studies, and how the people who study the history of war shape the discipline. By investigating case studies from the Eighteenth to the Twenty-first century using a diverse range of methodological approaches, the event aims to foster an open dialogue about:
How scholars have studied and written about the history of conflict in the past
Current developments in the field
How we might promote innovative approaches and methodologies
Inter and intra disciplinary collaboration in the study of war
The event aims to take a first step towards a new way of thinking about the history of conflict, and the role its study can play in the modern world. Sign up here.
KCBH’s Alana Harris, Laura Carter, and Maggie Scull recently installed a ‘pop up’ exhibition of portraits in the Institute of Historical Research, featuring pictures of women historians who were active in the ‘intellectual space’ of London since the foundation of the IHR in 1921. Seen alongside the existing portraits of past IHR Directors, these images seek to tell an alternative story of historical activity in twentieth-century Britain, and put gender at the heart of the development of the profession.
This exhibition was organised and funded by the department of history at King’s College London. It was launched at a conference on 13 March 2017, to coincide with Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day 2017. It will remain on display for all to see at the IHR over the spring and summer of 2017.
The women historians featured in the exhibit include Eileen Power, Rhoda Power, Caroline Skeel, Lillian Penson, Joyce Godber, Joan Thirsk, Leonore Davidoff, Lisa Jardine, Helen Maud Cam, Margaret Gowing, Eleanor Carus Wilson, Ellen McArthur, Lilian Knowles, Rosalind Hill, Dona Torr, Olive Anderson, Frances Yates, Patricia (Trisha) Crawford, Vera Anstey and Mary Stocks.