Friday, 24 December 2010


Review of SpeakEasy! workshop 14/12/2010 by Amelia Nel

Speakeasy! is a one-day interactive course with practical exercises aimed at postgraduate students to improve their public speaking skills. Around 20 of us arrived bright and early on the 14th of December eager to learn new skills. We were met with coffee and biscuits by our two friendly instructors, Liza and Steve.

They divided us into two groups, one group taken for the first session with Liza, the other group taken by Steve. Liza's session covered the academic aspects of public speaking. Issues covered included: how to deal with difficult academic settings, rules to follow in such settings and how to be an effective speaker. Liza also talked about the art of writing a good presentation (know your audience, write to speak, keep it simple). Afterwards we had a practical session in which we learnt how to chair a panel at a conference, and crucially, how to answer questions from an audience effectively. Each of us had to brought a short excerpt of our work, which we delivered in a mock-conference setting, with one in each group chairing the 'conference'. Liza directed us with some difficult questions and we had to answer in an effective, clear manner.

This panel underlined that being able to speak in public with confidence and authority are two paramount skills to possess for any budding historian. Liza emphasised that when a student delivers an academic paper they need to be conscious of ways to 'hook' the audience's attention, for example by using a short anecdote relating to our work.

For session two we swapped over to Steve, who as a working actor, knows everything about how important voice projection and posture are to ensure a good acting performance. As historians, we are constantly talking about our work to others. When a speaker delivers an academic talk, that speaker is also 'acting'. Actors' techniques are very useful to assist us academics. Through a series of exercises, Steve showed us how to warm up our voices, how to improve our posture, how to articulate properly and how to speak with confidence. We practised this skill by taking turns in reading out a piece of historical writing. After this, we then returned to our own excerpts of work and delivered them to the group incorporating the techniques we had explored. Steve provided us with helpful comments on our strengths as speakers and some constructive criticism that really helped in improving our performance.

I left the workshop feeling wholly motivated and with heaps of confidence for my first public engagement as a postgraduate student. The day was well presented, interestingly delivered and both Liza and Steve were incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. I would wholeheartedly recommend this workshop to all postgraduate students. For more information on further SpeakEasy! events please contact Liza at:

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Speakeasy workshop - New date added

Public Speaking workshop- NEW DATE ADDED. Due to intense interest in the
History Lab Speakeasy workshop, we have decided to add another date that

week, on Friday 17th December at the Institute of Historical Research,

9.30-5pm. Places are limited, so if you are interested could you please

return the attached application form (download link here) with accompanying cheque for

£25 (made payable to Liza Filby to the address below) by the 10th December.

Please note that places cannot be reserved without payment. If you are

unable to make a payment via cheque please contact for an alternative form of payment.

Please note that the workshop on 14th December is now full.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


Please note that the date of this event is now December 14th.

To SPEAKEASY! Public Speaking Workshop for Historians Tuesday 14 December 2010, 9-5pm Institute of Historical Research, London Thiscourse is available to all registered PhD and Masters students and would be relevant to students studying humanities subjects. The cost ...ofthis course is £25 for the day which includes lunch and refreshments. There are only a limited number of places in this class so please email ASAP to register.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Friday, 16 July 2010

Call for Papers - Postgraduate Work-in Progress Seminar, Institute of Classical Studies

Postgraduate Work-in Progress Seminar
Institute of Classical Studies
School of Advanced Study
University of London

We are now inviting abstracts from postgraduate students who would like topresent a paper at the seminar during the year 2010/11.

Speakers give a paper of about 45 minutes duration dealing with anysubject connected with the ancient world (broadly defined), the receptionof antiquity, or classical scholarship. They have the opportunity toreceive questions, moderated by the joint chairs, from an audience ofpostgraduate students, mainly, but not exclusively, from the University ofLondon, and to continue the discussion over wine and nibbles. The seminarprovides a friendly environment in which speakers are able to talk abouttheir research, take part in stimulating discussion of their paper, andextend their social and academic network. During the past two years wehave been pleased to attract speakers from twenty-four differentinstitutions in the United Kingdom and further afield in Europe.

The seminar will take place at Senate House at 4.30 p.m. on Fridays duringterm.

Speakers travelling from outside London will be eligible to submit a claimfor reimbursement of reasonable travelling expenses within the UK.

Please submit an abstract of about 300 words, together with a workingtitle for your paper, to both of the seminar’s joint and Thedeadline for submissions is 12 midday on 23 August 2010.

For further information please visit our website:

With all good wishes,
Stephen Royston-Davies and Alexander Millington

Institute of Classical Studies
School of Advanced Study
University of London
Senate House
Malet Street

Monday, 28 June 2010

History Lab Conference - programme update

We have had to cancel our first panel tomorrow morning (Tuesday 29 June) due to unforeseen circumstances.

We will open registration at 10am with lunch at noon. We will then hold our first panel at 1pm.

Final reminder - Politics and Power!

I would like to remind you all that our annual conference, Politics and Power, starts tomorrow (Tuesday 29 and Wednesday 30 June).

Please visit this link to register:

Details of our annual conference can be found here:

Friday, 18 June 2010

Here is an excellent IHR blog. Watch this space: History Lab will be featuring on here soon...

Postgraduate and Early Career Seminar

Rebecca Roberts (Teesside University) presented a fascinating paper at the Postgraduate and Early Career Seminar last night, entitledThe Houses of Sir Arthur Ingram and Lionel Cranfield, earl of Middlesex: a comparative study of elite architecture in England, 1600-1640. Rebecca made a convincing argument that, in terms of architectural fashion and cultural awareness, it was the provinces of England that were regarded as ‘backwards’ rather than the north of England, per se. Along the way, Rebecca discussed the use of brick in these buildings, made the point that regionalism may have influenced the use of available, local building materials and highlighted the influence of Inigo Jones’s architectural style. Rebecca also made the point that distance from London was significant, as proximity to London allowed access to London craftsmen.

In the discussion that followed the paper, Rebecca elaborated on the rationale behind studying the two individuals in question. Ingram and Cranfield were not just contemporaries but friends, suggesting that they would have shared similar networks and contacts.

This was the final seminar paper in the current series. For details of seminar papers in the Autumn term, please click here.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Postgraduate and Early Career Seminar

Come and hear Rebecca Roberts deliver her paper this Thursday. The title of Rebecca's paper is:

'The Houses of Sir Ingram and Lionel Cranfield, earl of Middlesex: a comparative study of elite architecture in England, 1600-1645'

There will be free wine after the event, so please come and join us!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Here are some more conference details....

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Registration for History Lab's annual conference is now open! Please visit this link( to register. Details of our annual conference will be posted here ( and on our blog.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Calling all emerging scholars of the 'digital generation'...

Dr Toni Weller is seeking a contributor for a chapter on a new book on digital history to be published by Routledge. The chapter would focus on new ways of teaching and learning history in the digital age, using wikis, blogs, social networking sites, as well as digital documents, email, and so forth. The chapter should explore the conceptual challenges and opportunities of such changes in the field rather than just a list of technologies available to utilise. It may include personal experiences but needs to be accessible to a broad international audience. Dr Weller is keen that this chapter of the book should be written by an emerging scholar who is part of the 'digital generation'. Proposed titles and abstracts of up to 500 words should be emailed to Dr Toni Weller at no later than 30 June, along with a brief CV (no more than two A4 pages). The successful contributor will need to produce a chapter of 7,000-8,000 words by August 2011

Thursday, 3 June 2010

History Lab's annual conference - Politics and Power

Just a quick reminder of the details for the 2010 History Lab Annual Conference. Further details to follow:

Politics and Power
History Lab Annual Conference
29th and 30th June 2010
Institute of Historical Research, London

Political history is sometimes seen as the victim of recent turns in historical practice. This conference aims to explore where politics fits into the current practice of history, and the current shape – and status – of political history.The General Election means that 2010 would seem to be a good year in which to consider the state of politics in history, not just as Political History, but as a broader aspect of much historical research. The past can be a powerful motivator and politician’s tool, and historians play an important role in this; we need also to be aware of our own political positions when writing history. What is the place of traditional forms of Political History in the 21st century? How can this type of history interact with other approaches to history? Has the cultural turn really done for political history, or just changed the way we do it? How do we define ‘political history’ – is all history politics?

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

History Lab Summer Social

You are warmly invited to the History Lab summer social on Thursday 20th May 2010 at 7.30pm in the SAS common room. Please come along for free drinks and nibbles and catch up with other history postgrads. Non-member postgrads are welcome to come along too.

See the attached invitation for more details.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Simon Lambe (St Mary's UCL) 'The Tudor Monarchy and the Somerset gentry'

Simon's PhD is a study of the developments in the style of government under the early Tudor monarchs. On May 6, he gave a paper focusing on the Paulet family of Somerset, and particularly Sir Amias Paulet (c.1457-1538) and Sir Hugh Paulet (1532-1588). These two men fulfilled the duties of the county squire and gentleman while remaining as the eyes and ears of Tudor government.

In the questions and comments that followed the work of Helen Speight and Mary Robertson over the management by Thomas Cromwell of the southwestern government. Speight argues, contrary to Roberston, that it was beyond Cromwell's competence to 'manage' southwestern government in the manner she suggests. Simon stressed the success of the Paulet's in their roles as local governors and it was suggested that they were the exception in terms of their ability to maintain connections with local institutions and central government.

Simon's paper added to the historiography in its tackling of a county, and in its focus on gentry families rather then the nobility.

On 20 May, the History Lab postgraduate seminar will host a paper by Caroline Watkinson (Queen Mary, University of London) 'Exiled English Convents and the French Revolution'. This will be followed by the History Lab summer social event.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Early-Career Historians: Come and Join Us! Young History Workshop Project

An exciting opportunity has arisen for early-career historians (including doctoral students) to work with school students as ‘historian-mentors’ in a London-wide history project. Young History Workshop (YHW) is a strategic education project run by the Raphael Samuel History Centre* in collaboration with the Historical Association, and funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

YHW will involve students from eight state secondary schools in the Greater London area. The students will research, write and present historical projects of their choice relating to the broad theme of ‘Them and Us’. They will receive hands-on guidance at workshop sessions facilitated by at least one volunteer historian-mentor and the YHW Project Officer. Archive and museum visits will support and complement the students’ research, which will be presented at a day-long event (Young History Workshop Day) in March 2011.

YHW provides an excellent opportunity for academic historians to gain experience and skills in widening participation and public engagement, as well as forging collaborations with history teachers and workers in the archives and heritage sectors. The project will require a maximum of three school visits, an internet-based presence, and attendance at Young History Workshop Day.

For more information and/or to express an interest in taking part in this project, please contact Anna Gust,, before the end of May.

*The RSHC is a partnership between the University of East London, Birkbeck College, and Bishopsgate Institute. Visit

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Goodenough Annual Conference Series - War & Faith: Exploring the place of Religion in Conflict and Reconciliation, Friday 18 June 2010

Over the past nine years Goodenough College has established an internationally renowned conference series with a reputation for addressing serious issues of multi-disciplinary and global importance. This series of conferences is devised and organised by members of Goodenough College and attracts the highest calibre of specialists from political, financial, academic and diplomatic communities around the world.

This year the College will host speakers from a number of diverse fields to examine the relationship between war and faith in the past and present, particularly the extent to which religion can be seen as a cause of conflict, the religious discourses used to define the experience of war, and the ways that faith can be instrumental to reconciliation and reconstruction. The connection between war and faith stretches back for millenia, but it is one that is increasingly important to examine, discuss, and attempt to understand in the twenty-first century.

Follow the link below for more information:

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Professor Duncan Tanner

Sadly, Professor Duncan Tanner died recently (you can see an obituary here, and another one here). He was only 51, and his death was a shock to many people. I wanted to share some of the experiences I had of listening to him speak. This is not an attempt to write another obituary but to share the one or two brief experiences I had of meeting him. I have been inspired to write something based on the very positive experiences I had of listening to him.

The first time I met him was during a AHRC-sponsored event for people embarking on their PhDs. I remembering him speaking with great enthusiasm for his current area of research: the history of Welsh devolution. The second time, was at a workshop last year at the University of Birmingham on non-government activism in post-war Britain. Professor Tanner attended and spoke on the possibilities and challenges associated with writing really contemporary history. He gave fascinating and useful insights into his work and carefully described research and career opportunities for young researchers.

During a coffee break at the workshop, I asked him for some advice concerning the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. He was an expert on the workings of the Act, and was full of ideas for its potential for contemporary historians. My own research focuses on the history Citizens' Advice Bureaux, a charity designed to help individuals in their dealings with the state. I was having difficulties getting hold of certain records which may or may not have been covered by the FOI legislation. I approached Professor Tanner to ask how best I should frame a request for information.

Professor Tanner was extremely helpful in his suggestions. He gave me contacts and ideas on how best to approach the relevant authorities with my requests for information. At the same time he seemed interested in my work and gave me encouragement to pursue requests under FOI. I also remember him coming for a drink with the attendees afterwards, most of whom were doctoral students, to ask about their research.

As someone who had only a fleeting experience of Duncan Tanner, I will remember him as a very helpful and inspiring academic.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

History Lab's annual conference - Politics and Power

Politics and Power
Call for Papers
History Lab Annual Conference
29th and 30th June 2010
Institute of Historical Research, London

Political history is sometimes seen as the victim of recent turns in historical practice. This conference aims to explore where politics fits into the current practice of history, and the current shape – and status – of political history.The General Election means that 2010 would seem to be a good year in which to consider the state of politics in history, not just as Political History, but as a broader aspect of much historical research. The past can be a powerful motivator and politician’s tool, and historians play an important role in this; we need also to be aware of our own political positions when writing history. What is the place of traditional forms of Political History in the 21st century? How can this type of history interact with other approaches to history? Has the cultural turn really done for political history, or just changed the way we do it? How do we define ‘political history’ – is all history politics?

Abstracts are invited for 20 minute papers that address any of these issues, in any time period. Suggested topics include:

People, parties and networks
Elections, voters and the franchise
Inclusion and exclusion
Political theory and the practice of political history
The use of history in politics
Protest and revolution
Local politics
Power and agency
Nationalism and devolution
International politics
Identity politics
The 2010 election in historical context
‘New politics’ – neoliberalism, New Labour and reinvigoration

Please send a 250-300 word abstract by the end of Monday, 17th May to, giving your institution (if applicable) and contact details. Suggestions for two or three person panels are welcomed: please supply a title or theme for your panel, and abstracts and contact details for each proposed panellist.

Friday, 23 April 2010

David Turner (York) 'Managing the royal road: the development of managerial structure on the London and South Western Railway 1836-1881'

David Turner gave a highly stimulating account of the LSWR's managerial structure, and its development, in a paper to the History Lab Postgraduate Seminar on 22 April.

The paper analysed some of the key driving factors of organisational change in the management of LSWR, and considered how these impacted on the company's performance. An important characteristic of management was the amount of independence enjoyed by each of the departments of the company. This independence came about largely through the demands of administration, and the absence of centralised control throughout this period.

A stimulating discussion followed the paper in which questions were asked about the efficiency of the company, and the issue of social mobility within its staff.

More about David's work can be found on his blog which can be found at:

The next paper is on 6 May, when Simon Lambe, (St Mary's, London) will present a paper on the Tudor monarchy and the Somerset gentry.

Friday, 16 April 2010

To overseas conference or not to overseas conference...

One of the greatest pleasures of my career to date has been attending conferences overseas.  If, like me, you research contemporary British history and study/work in the UK, then the chances of heading off somewhere exotic/interesting/warm to hit the archives are usually limited.  I chose particularly badly on the 'reasons to travel for research' front by working on East London, where I also happened to live and work part-time.  So I needed nothing more than a zone 1-3 travelcard in order to get my research done.  In terms of meeting people from around the world in my field, I was spoilt by a) doing my PhD at the IHR where most people rock up to at some point and b) working at one of the archives my fellow specialists would travel to. 

However, whilst it's very easy to have everyone come to you, there are many, many good reasons why you should get to an overseas conference at least once in your PhD studies, beyond the getting more stamps in your passport and it looking good on your CV.   Some studentships - usually research council ones - will offer a multi-purpose research support grant that can be used for travel to conferences, and if you are in this position, then you should seriously consider using your grant for this.  If you aren't this lucky, then it is more than worth making an application to schemes such as the Royal Historical Society's postgraduate support scheme.  Money might also be forthcoming from other sources, including alumni funds from your university or school, local trust funds and the like.  The IHR's Grants in History is always worth a look, too.  The conference you are attending may also offer to pay some or all of your costs.

I've had a number of trips for conferences outside the UK: two to the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands.  The first trip was arranged by my university, and was supported by a British Academy grant, back in 2003.  The second resulted in my gaining one of my first publications in an edited collection.  I also got to go to Japan to attend an academic conference, although this was through my paid work rather than through academic channels.  The Social History Society periodically holds its annual conference outside the UK, and I've been lucky enough to get to Dublin (2005) and Rotterdam (2008).  I am involved with the British Scholar conference held by the University of Texas at Austin, which is a thoroughly enjoyable conference, having been to it twice.

So what did I gain from my travels?  Well, the EU conferences left no evidence on my passport, if the Japanese and US jaunts have.  On the most basic level, it's been an opportunity to travel and to experience something out of the norm.  But it also opens your eyes to the ways in which universities and research work beyond the UK, which are the kinds of things you discover through observation and through small talk.  I'll tackle the first point first.  If you have spent all of your educational and working life in Britain, it's easy to forget that the world simply operates in different ways.  For a start, British degrees - indeed secondary schooling - is relatively unusual in offering early specialisation.  Thus British graduates fresh from school are generally let loose on industry at the ages of 21/22 - or they can begin an MA at an equally tender age, before starting a PhD a year later.  For those who have straightforward (or at least relatively straightforward - I'm not alone in having a segue into 'real life' before doing my PhD) routes through to their PhD, the average age at completion is 25-28 or so.  Compare this with the US where a four year degree programme with specialisation in the later stages leads to a longer postgraduate programme, often interrupted by the pressures of funding studies through taking on paid work.  PhDs in the Netherlands are examined in public... so rather than sitting there in front of your examiners and possibly your supervisor, trying to avoid puking, you could be standing up in front of an audience, defending your thesis in public, trying to avoid puking.  These are a couple of examples that would suggest that the experience of doing a PhD - and later working as an academic - is not as universal as we may initially think.  It's a useful means of starting a discussion about what it is we do prepare our postgraduate students for, and whether there is anything to be learned by doing or examining a PhD a different way.

The other way in which getting out of the UK and out to a conference is in terms of the way in which it changes your perspective on your subject.  It's not just the exposure to a different narrative that counts.  It's also an understanding of how not being British, how not living and working in the UK, for example, might literally shape the way in which you come to your work.  How do you work your research questions with the practicalities of archival research?  How might the training offered where you did your PhD take you in other directions to that of a British-trained PhD student?  These are refreshing and important points, at least to think about.  In short, whether it is the way a conference is organised, the experiences that your colleagues have had, the take they have on your topic, all raise questions about the global nature of academia and how postgraduates fit into this.

So, in my view, it's worth making the effort to apply to overseas conferences and to work on getting the funds together.  Granted, options involving sea travel and Eurostar may become more important if the Icelandic volcano continues to spew ash into the atmosphere, but it's still worth it...

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

History Lab North West - Postgraduate Workshop, Weds 2 June 2010

We're really pleased to announce that History Lab North West will be holding a one day postgrad workshop on Weds 2 June 2010 at Manchester Metropolitan University.  To whet your appetite, here's the provisional programme: 

11.00am: Registration
11:20am: Welcome

11.30am Session 1: Female Experiences
Jenny Hillman (University of York) ‘Penitent Magdalenes’: Conversion and the Cabinet in seventeenth-century Paris.

Andrea Livesey (University of Liverpool) 'Sexual Interference by the Antebellum Southern Slave owner as told by Ex-Slaves in the 1930s.'
12:30pm: Lunch (please provide your own lunch)
1:30pm Session 2: Representation
Becky Williams (University of Liverpool) “Saints Alive!” Graffiti and Devotion in late medieval Europe.
Rebecca Conway (University of Manchester)‘Modern England is Rapidly BlackpoolingItself’: J.B. Priestley, Blackpooland Englishness.

Simon Williams (University of Liverpool) The Reception of a Medieval Text: Interpreting the Manuscripts of Liudprandof Cremona’s Antapodosis.
3pm: Coffee

3:30pm Session 3: Policy and Reform

Mark Seddon (University of Sheffield) State-Private Networks and the Origin of British Cold War Policy, 1941-1948.
Nick Foggo (University of Liverpool) Why was social reform in Liverpool so long in the coming?
4:30pm Simon Lambe (History Lab Chair) The Postgraduate Experience
All welcome!  For more information, please contact Carly Deering or Christina Brindley at or join our facebook group.
History Lab North West is a regional affiliate of History Lab, the network for postgraduate and early career historians, and is supported by the Institute of Historical Research.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Postgraduate and early career seminar - dates announced

Dates and titles for the Postgraduate and Early Career Seminar have now been announced:

18 March Rebecca Conley (Manchester)
Modern England is Rapidly Blackpooling Itself: J.B. Priestley, Blackpool and Englishness

20 April David Turner (York)
Managing the 'Royal Road': The Development and Failings of the Managerial Structure on the London and South Western Railway 1836-1900

6 May Simon Lambe (St Mary's University College)
The Tudor Monarchy and the Somerset Gentry

20 May Caroline Watkinson (QMUL)
Exiled English Convents and the French Revolution

All seminars take place in the Low Countries Room, Institute of Historical Research, University of London, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU. Seminars start at 5.30pm, and there are drinks afterwards. All postgraduate and early career researchers welcome.