By Catherine Clarke, Director of the Centre for the History of People, Place and Community at the Institute of Historical Research

The summer has flown by and now, as we continue our planning for the IHR London Summer School 2023, is a great opportunity to look back on our inaugural IHR London Summer School in July. Focused on the theme of ‘Renewal’, the Summer School brought together participants from across the UK, Europe and North America for four days of lectures and seminars, trips and historic site visits, and special access to the IHR Library collections.

The Great Fire of London—and post-Fire rebuilding—loomed large across the week, with Professor Vanessa Harding’s lecture on the Monday morning, as well as her presentation on ‘The Great Fire and the End of Medieval London’ as the inaugural Derek Keene Lecture on Wednesday evening. Other lectures took us from Martin Luther King’s visit to London in 1964, to Mass Observation and the WW2 Home Front, to fire and renewal at London’s Covent Garden theatre/opera house.

Hands-on sessions included mapping RAF bomb damage aerial photos in Layers of London, plotting the route of a fourteenth-century pageant, and discovering the rich London-related collections in the IHR Wohl Library.

Trips and site visits were a particular highlight throughout the week. On Monday, a tour of Wren churches culminated in a behind the scenes Triforium Tour at St Paul’s Cathedral, viewing the Library and Great Model, with access to the roof space to see the internal workings of the dome. Participants also climbed the dome and visited the cathedral floor and crypt. Several participants chose to stay on for Evensong.

We braved the heatwave to explore the City of London’s lost pedway system, with a special guided visit to the Museum of London (fascinating—as well as cool!). Wednesday’s trip was closer to home, with access to restricted areas of Senate House itself—a chance to discover its many historical roles, from wartime Ministry of Information to present-day film set. Our tour included access to one of London’s best-kept secrets: the view from the top of Senate House tower! The final afternoon saw us exploring the historic homes of London Livery Companies and their archives.

From the formal sessions to fringe events—including a London ‘pub quiz’—the friendly, collegial atmosphere was wonderful. Participants commented on the delight of joining with ‘interesting participants from a wide range of backgrounds’ and ‘a welcome feeling of community with people of similar interests’. The most common words in feedback included inspirational, exciting, fun, surprising, fantastic, stimulating, encouraging and intriguing.

One participant suggested a way the Summer School could be made even better: by adding a fifth day. We’ve got good news: the IHR London Summer School will return in 2023 for a full 5 days, July 10-14! Next year’s theme will be ‘London: Secret Histories’. We look forward to welcoming participants for another exciting, collegial week together next year.

If you would like to express interest in next year’s summer school, we would love to hear from you, here.