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Public Speaking for Historians – 26 October 2015


elizafilbyThis post has kindly been written for us by workshop organiser Dr Eliza Filby

Do you suffer from a lack of confidence or nerves when you speak?  Are you finding that you spend a lot of time writing conference papers that fail rather than fly?  Aspiring historians can make as much impact in what they say than as from what they write – whether it be through teaching, job presentations, media engagement or conference papers and yet we receive very little helpful training in core communication skills. Indeed in the age when students are now ‘customers’ and academics are increasingly encouraged to disseminate their research to a broader audience, it has never been more important for academics to be effective communications.

Most public speaking course however are delivered by ‘external’ coaches who have no understanding of what is required in the academic world. The one-day course provided by the IHR is designed for historians (at any stage of their career) who wish to rid themselves of nerves and inhibitions and to think imaginatively and broadly about how to communicate their work to various audiences. The course is entirely interactive; you will not sit there and listen to ‘experts’ but will be called upon to practise your skills.

Working with a professionally trained actor and an academic, this workshop will take participants through the process of how to write and deliver a speech. In the first session you will cover how to structure a speech for different audiences, the use of appropriate language and imagery, audio-visual aids and how to master the academic Q&A. In the second session, we will focus on your performance. Drawing on acting techniques used in the leading drama schools, participants will discover how to improve their diction, resonance, range and articulation as well as relaxation and breathing techniques to calm nerves.  For this day, all participants will need to prepare 150-word punchy summary of their research designed for a non-academic audience (on printed paper) as well as one powerpoint slide designed for an academic audience (on a memory stick). All participants will present their work, be taken through the Q&A  and receive individual feedback.

For more details and to register see here.

New Historical Research article



Sometimes somnolent, sometimes seething: British imperial Africa and its home fronts by Bill Nasson

This article considers the domestic impact of the First World War upon Africa, a continent pulled into the hostilities of 1914–18 because of its place in the world of European imperialism. Africa experienced some patchy fighting fronts in western parts, and endured the heavy costs of prolonged military campaigning across its eastern and some of its central regions. Equally, the experience of wartime for those at home was highly uneven, depending on locality. While the lives of some inhabitants were hit hard by the violence, brutality and other costs of the war, others were relatively insulated from the direct effects of the conflict by remoteness. Theirs became a war of the mind in which a distant European conflagration inhabited the imagination, stimulating hope, rumour and even millennial aspirations.


This article is a revised version of a plenary lecture delivered at the 83rd Anglo-American Conference of Historians on the theme of ‘The Great War at home’, Institute of Historical Research, University of London, 3–4 July 2014

New Historical Research articles


thebaid-2Neither Byzantine nor Islamic? The duke of the Thebaid and the formation of the Umayyad state by Marie Legendre

This article investigates how the early Islamic state developed out of pre-Islamic administrative structures. Taking the example of the Byzantine provincial structure in Egypt, the governor (duke) of the Thebaid clearly appears in papyri written in Greek, Coptic and Arabic as an agent of the Medinan and early Umayyad administration. The progressive redistribution of his responsibilities to new offices developed within the Islamic state shows how the Byzantine system contributed to the formation of Islamic administration, casting light on a pre-Islamic heritage which is often neglected in the narrative.

The Engagement controversy: a victory for the English republic by Amos Tubb

In the fall of 1649, the newly created English commonwealth required that all men over the age of eighteen take an Engagement to demonstrate loyalty to the regime that had executed King Charles I. Historians have long argued that the Engagement was a political disaster for the commonwealth, as it provided its opponents with an opportunity to reveal the illegal and hypocritical nature of the new government. However, this article argues that the Engagement was actually a political success. Not only did people throughout England take the Engagement, but the royalists themselves acknowledged its achievement during the winter and spring of 1650.


New Historical Research articles


Wenceslas_Hollar_-_Prynne_croppedLame Jack his haultings: J. H. Hexter, the ‘middle group’ and William Prynne by Warwick K. George

This article examines the historiography of J. H. Hexter’s ‘middle group’, arguing that current trends in historical scholarship have revived the need for a convincing scheme of faction in the Long Parliament. Hexter’s evidence is discussed, and his supporters and critics addressed, before the hypothesis of a moderate, secular, constitutionalist lobby is subjected to scrutiny through a tract by William Prynne, commissioned by the Commons at the height of middle group ‘ascendancy’. In light of this, it is argued that Prynne represents a body of opinion within the Commons that was radical, religious and essentially Anglo-Saxon, which has implications for neo-whig, bicameral and ‘Three Kingdoms’ interpretations alike.

The Guildhall Library, Robert Bale and the writing of London history by Mary C. Erler

The careers of four of London’s late medieval chroniclers – Robert Bale, Richard Arnold, Robert Fabyan and Edward Hall – show the entrée to City administration that facilitated the writing of the City’s narrative. More importantly, points of connection among these writers suggest the borrowings, physical and intellectual, that the presence of London’s administrative library at the Guildhall made possible. This article focuses in particular on Robert Bale (c.1410–73), correcting some errors in his biography, and on his personal compilation (now Trinity College Dublin, MS. 509), its movements and its possible influence on other London chronicles.

The early Irish hostage surety and inter-territorial alliances by Jaqueline Bemmer

This article examines the legal evidence on treaty law in early medieval Ireland, focusing on fragments from the lost law text Bretha Cairdi (Treaty Judgements) and the short text Slán n-aitire cairde (The Immunity of a Hostage-Surety in a Treaty). It aims to examine the ways in which jurists faced cross-border violence and to look at how law was used to forge a political alliance in extending legal allowances and duties beyond the frontier, and so permit designated enforcers from both sides to collaborate in the quest for legal satisfaction and social stability.

Opening the book: reading and the evolving technology(ies) of the book


academicbookwhiteonblack-eps1In celebration of the diversity, innovation and influence of academic books, the first ever Academic Book Week is being held from 9 to 16 November 2015. A range of activities and events are being organised throughout October and November, tackling subjects such as ‘Curious books’, the trustworthiness of Wikipedia, the future of the English PhD, and the role and history of the university press (see, for more information).

On Tuesday 10 November, the School of Advanced Study, University of London is hosting a debate focusing on how the evolving technology(ies) of the book have affected the ways that we read. A panel of six speakers – Professor Sarah Churchwell (School of Advanced Study, University of London), Professor Justin Champion (Royal Holloway, University of London), Dr Martin Eve (Birkbeck, University of London), Dr Stephen Gregg (Bath Spa University), Professor Lyndsey Stonebridge (University of East Anglia) and Pip Willcox (Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford) – will consider the many different kinds of books which are read in an academic context, from text books to edited collections, from monographs to scholarly editions, from novels to handbooks. There will also be plenty of time for audience discussion, beginning with formal responses from early career researchers for whom these questions will be of enormous importance in years to come.

Registration for the event is free, but places are limited so do book online now ( If you’re not able to attend in person, key elements of the debate will be published subsequently on the Academic Book Week website. You can also follow this and other events on Twitter throughout the week, using the hashtag #AcBookWeek.

This event is being organised as part of Opening the Book: the Future of the Academic Monograph, an international multi-centred debate. Academic Book Week itself is the centrepiece of this year’s activity on the two-year AHRC/British Library Academic Future of the Academic Book project (

The Deana & Jack Eisenberg Lecture in Public History 2015


The Deana & Jack Eisenberg Lecture in Public History 2015

More than just a good day out: Bringing History to life in the National Trust

Wednesday 7th October 2015
Wolfson Conference Suite 6pm

A public lecture on history in the National Trust by Dame Helen Ghosh.

Dame Helen joined the civil service from Oxford University, where she read Modern History. She has worked in a number of government departments, starting off in the Department of the Environment, and returning to environmental issues when she became Permanent Secretary at Defra in 2005.

In between, she followed her interest in providing public services to local people with jobs in the Department for Work and Pensions, HM Revenue and Customs and the Government Office for London. She has also worked at the centre of Goverrnment, with two spells in the Cabinet Office.  Most recently, she has been Permanent Secretary at the Home Office.

She is a long-term member of the Trust and of her local Wildlife Trust in Oxfordshire. She is married to an academic and has a son and daughter, who are in their early twenties. She lives in Oxford, and includes family life, looking after her allotment, walking and watching ballet among her relaxations.shutterstock_213121852shutterstock_36890647shutterstock_136765844

To register for this free event visit: or RSVP to the IHR Events Office (

New reviews: Unemployment, Christian missions, Latin law and Galileo


homeless_1625213cWe start this week with Unemployment, Welfare, and Masculine Citizenship: ‘So Much Honest Poverty’ in Britain, 1870-1930 by Marjorie Levine-Clark. Nicole Longpré and the author discuss a book which will appeal to those working in fields across the history of modern Britain (no. 1839, with response here).

Next up is Karen Vallgårda’s Imperial Childhoods and Christian Mission: Education and Emotions in South India and Denmark. John Stuart recommends an impressive book, distinguished by wide and close reading and by innovative methodology (no. 1838).

Then we turn to Law and History in the Latin East by Peter Edbury, which Stephen Donnachie extols as an erudite collection, of vast benefit to any who wish to investigate further the law and history of the Latin East (no. 1837).

Finally we have Thomas F. Mayer’s The Roman Inquisition: Trying Galileo. Maurice Finocchiaro cautions against accepting the thesis of a flawed and provocative book (no. 1836).




Wolfson Room II, IHR 2-4pm

We hope you will be able to attend our programme of Director’s seminars for autumn, at which the 2015-16 junior research fellows will present their research. All are welcome. Tea and coffee will be served.

7 October
Jennifer Keating – Images in crisis: Landscapes of disorder in Russian Central Asia, 1915-1924
Julia Leikin – War and Commerce under the Imperial Russian Flag, 1768-1812

14 October
Alice Dolan – Re-Fashioning the Working Class: Mechanisation and Materiality in England 1800-1856
Judy Stephenson – Occupation and Labour market institutions in London 1600 – 1800

21 October
Will Eves – The Assize of Mort d’Ancestor: From 1176 to 1230
James Norrie – Property and Religious Change in the Diocese of Milan, c.990-1140

28 October
Felicity Hill – Excommunication and Politics in thirteenth-century England
Lucy Hennings – England in Europe during the Reign of Henry III, 1216-1272

4 November
Joan Redmond – Popular religious violence in Ireland, 1641-1660
Sarah Ward -Royalism, Religion, and Revolution: The Gentry of North-East Wales, 1640-88

11 November
Paul Kreitman – Attacked by Excrement: the political ecology of shit in wartime and postwar Tokyo
John Morgan – Financing flood security in eastern England, 1567-1826

18 November
Cécile Bushidi – Dance, socio-cultural change, and politics among the Gĩkũyũ people of Kenya, 1880s-1963
Tehila Sasson – In the Name of Humanity: Britain and the Rise of Global Humanitarianism

26 November (Thursday)
Mindaugas Sapoka – Poland-Lithuania and Jacobitism c. 1714 – c. 1750
Junqing Wu – Anticlerical erotica in China and France: a cross-cultural analysis

2 December
Roel Konijnendijk – Courage and Skill: A Hierarchy of Virtue in Greek Thought
Ben Thomas – The Royal Naval Reserve in rural Scotland and Wales, c. 1900-1939

Connected histories – the history of Essex


This post was kindly written for us by IHR intern Alex Thompson.

TheWitch-no1Connected Histories is a website made for online research of a variety of different topics ranging between 1500 and 1900. When typing in and searching for a particular topic, the search will include results from many different sources, which means that it’s easy to get a wide range of information. It is also possible to narrow your search to select resources, a particular time period or different source types, making searching for something particular a lot faster and easier.

To try out this website for myself, I searched ‘Essex’ as that is where I live and I was interested to find out some of the history of the county. I managed to get 407,990 matches across 22 resources, which proves how much information is available.

Scrolling through the results, I was interested to find many witch cases from Essex, using the resource Witches in Early Modern England, which contains witchcraft narratives from Early Modern England. This included a woman found guilty of bewitching her own son. It was fascinating to read that this happened in Colchester, a place that I know fairly well.

Results from the History of Parliament Online, which contains detailed biographical entries for members of parliament, also popped up and I discovered that Sir Richard Rich was elected to parliament for Essex twice around the time of 1640.

Furthermore, I discovered from the Old Bailey Online, a website that has accounts of trials held at the Old Bailey in London that a man from Essex was found guilty of stealing a coat and a waistcoat. This surprised me as I would not expect to find that kind of detail, though it could easily be very useful in some research projects.

When typing in Essex, I had to bear in mind that it is a name as well as a place, an obvious one being the Earl of Essex. However, this made the whole experience even more interesting as a result from Queen Victoria’s Journals came up, a website that makes available vast volumes of Queen Victoria’s journals, telling me that Essex lunched with her in October 1832, and so from there I clicked on the Journals and read a few more entries that gave me an in depth and really interesting look into the Queen’s life and what she did with her family and her friends.

I was very impressed how just a simple search with no filters brought up so many fascinating results that I could have spent hours looking at and reading. When using Connected Histories, its great how it can start off with a particular search term but then in a few clicks, you can be looking at something completely different that is still just as interesting. As I am only in my second year of university, I have not yet decided what I would like to do for my dissertation, so with nothing in particular in mind, it was thought-provoking to use Connected Histories to just build up my knowledge of topics that I have a general interest in.


New reviews: Renaissance, TV multiculturalism, Book of Common Prayer and Cold War diplomacy


ruggiero2We begin this week with The Renaissance in Italy: a Social and Cultural History of the Rinascimento by Guido Ruggiero. Stephen Bowd and the author discuss a new social and cultural history of Italy between 1250 and 1575 (no. 1835, with response here).

Next up is The Vision of a Nation: Making Multiculturalism on British Television by Gavin Schaffer. Stephen Brooke praises a superb book which scholars of race in Britain and culture in Britain will find indispensable (no. 1834).

Then we turn to Richard Baxter’s Reformed Liturgy: A Puritan Alternative to the Book of Common Prayer by Glen J. Segger. Benjamin Guyer believes this book makes an important contribution to both the study of early modern liturgy and the history of English religious controversy (no. 1833)

Finally, we have Martin Folly’s Historical Dictionary of U.S. Diplomacy During the Cold War. Thomas Tunstall Allcock recommends, with caveats, a hugely useful work and a remarkable achievement for a single-authored volume (no. 1832).

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