Royal Historical Society Responds to TEF Review

First introduced by the government in England in 2017, and open to all UK higher education providers, the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) is designed to:

  • better inform students’ choices about what and where to study;
  • raise esteem for teaching;
  • recognise and reward excellent teaching;
  • better meet the needs of employers, business, industry and the professions.

Section 26 of the Higher Education and Research Act (2017) provided for an independent review of the TEF.  The Secretary of State for Education appointed Dame Shirley Pearce of the LSE to conduct this review, supported by an advisory group, and she issued a Call for Views on 18 January 2019, with a closing date of 1 March 2019. The Royal Historical Society submitted a response, and this is now available in full on our website.

As our response to the review (and indeed our own commitment to rewarding excellent teaching within the history profession) makes clear, the Royal Historical Society welcomes initiatives which raise the status of teaching and reward teaching excellence. However, we remain unconvinced that TEF  should be used to inform students’ choices or that, as it is presently configured, it is best suited to enhance teaching and learning provision.

In particular we have concerns about:

  • whether Subject-Level TEF will provide meaningful information to prospective history students;
  • the absence of any engagement with “learning gain” acquired by students studying history at university;
  • the use of NSS core metrics which, by indicating student views on teaching rather than assessing teaching itself, are inadequate proxies to assess ‘teaching excellence’, particularly in the light of studies that identify substantial levels of bias in student evaluations;
  • the bunching of History with other disciplines (such as Archaeology) which have their own disciplinary norms in terms of teaching, underpinning premises and conceptual framework. To conflate these disciplines will not provide accurate information for potential students, a central purpose of TEF;
  • the impression of competition in the same ‘race’ implied by the award of Gold, Silver and Bronze evaluations, notwithstanding the use of benchmarking in TEF evaluations (which mean that institutions are not ‘competing’ on the same ground);
  • statistical flaws in TEF as identified by the Royal Statistical Society.

As ever, we welcome feedback from our members and the wider historical community on this response and any other policy issues.

2nd Gender Equality Report

Royal Historical Society report highlights gender inequality in UK History

A new report published today (6 November 2018) by the Royal Historical Society (RHS) recommends steps to promote gender equality in UK History, following the RHS’s recent report on race in UK History. Recent spotlights on the #MeToo movement, “Everyday Sexism”, and the centenary of women’s suffrage in have raised public awareness of gender as a defining social influence. Yet despite some progress since its landmark 2015 report, the RHS reveals considerable work remains to be done, revealing enduring structural barriers to equality as well as worryingly high levels of workplace discrimination.

While there is a small majority of female students in History at A-level, undergraduate level, and on taught postgraduate programmes, women remain underrepresented at more senior levels, constituting just 41.6% of academic staff in History and only 26.2% of History Professors. Female historians are also more likely to be in temporary, fixed-term, or part-time posts, with over 60% of full-time permanent posts in History held by men.

A survey of hundreds of UK historians revealed a number of reasons for this “leaky pipeline”Overwork is chronic throughout the sector, and gendered in its effects. Almost all respondents reported working “a lot” in the evenings, most worked a lot on weekends (72.2% female; 56.2% male) and many often gave up annual leave (51.7% female; 37% male). Many respondents called for more transparent workload models to combat these inequalities.

Respondents highlighted how the effects of overwork and an unhealthy working culture were exacerbated by a lack of support for caring responsibilities, which are still more likely to affect women. Nearly a fifth of respondents (19%) reported that maternity leave policy was implemented partly or hardly at all in their workplace. Female respondents reported mid-career issues returning to work after maternity leave, with many feeling they have been overlooked for promotion (44.5%) or become stuck in certain roles (52.9%).

Nearly half (47.8%) of female respondents reported their working lives had been affected by discrimination, and 18.2% reported sexual harassment. Both men and women also reported widespread issues of bullying and intimidation. Issues of gender discrimination were often particularly pronounced for female early-career historians: over a fifth (21%) reported being subject to sexual harassment, while many observed or experienced gender inequality in conference programming, keynote lectures, publishing, and teaching; indeed large numbers of historians at all levels reported the same. The RHS is also very concerned by strong evidence of negative gender bias in student evaluations, particularly in advance of the implementation of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) at subject-level.

The report concludes with specific action points and guidance for Heads of department, teaching staff, appointment panels, promotion committees, editors, and conference organisers. The recent RHS report on Race, Ethnicity & Equality in UK History emphasises that inequalities intersect, and the Society is committed to History becoming more inclusive for women, non-binary, Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) and other underrepresented groups of historians. This report provides essential data and guidance to promote a more equal and diverse profession, which will ensure and expand the intellectual vitality of our discipline.

The full report is available here.

The full results of our survey are available here.

RHS Race Report

Royal Historical Society report highlights need for greater diversity in UK History

A new report published today (18 October 2018) by the Royal Historical Society (RHS) highlights racial and ethnic inequalities in the teaching and practice of History in the UK. It draws attention to the underrepresentation of ‘Black and Minority Ethnic’ (BME) students and staff in university History programmes, the substantial levels of race-based bias and discrimination experienced by BME historians in UK universities, and the negative impact of narrow school and university curriculumson diversity and inclusion. The report, a key component of the Society’s 150th anniversary programme, draws on a year of research and a survey of over 700 university-based historians. It offers advice and guidance for academic historians on taking positive action to address and diminish barriers to equality in the discipline.

History is a popular subject in UK schools, but evidence suggests BME pupils are less likely than their peers to choose History in examinations and university applications. History student cohorts are less diverse than most other university subjects, with only 11% of History students coming from BME backgrounds, compared to nearly a quarter of all university students. Research and focus groups conducted by the RHS highlight the need for more diverse content of curriculums in schools and universities to engage a wider pool of students, and the need for historians to articulate more clearly the benefits of studying for a History degree to prospective and current BME students.

Academic staffing in UK university departments is even less diverse.  Among UK-national staff, 96.1% of university historians are White, a figure again higher than in most other subjects. Underrepresentation is particularly stark for Black historians, who make up less than 1% of UK university-based History staff. One third of BME respondents to the RHS survey reported witnessing discrimination or abuse of colleagues and/or students based on race or ethnicity during their academic employment, and 29.5% reported having experienced such discrimination themselves.

Urgent attention by universities and History departments to BME students’ and colleagues’ experiences of exclusion, bias and discrimination is clearly needed.  If History in the UK is to attract and train the best intellects—thereby enriching both academic and public understanding of the past—significant improvements on our discipline’s existing record is imperative.

The report concludes with tailored advice and guidance for Heads of department, teaching staff, research supervisors, journal editors and conference organisers.  Building on the significant achievements of BME historians in the past decade, the RHS seeks to broaden recognition within and beyond university departments of the extent to which racial and ethnic inequalities detract from the quality, practice and experience of History in the UK.  Addressing this unacceptable situation will require substantial structural and cultural change within the discipline.  This report provides essential data and guidance intended to expand and accelerate these reforms.

The full report is available for download here.

The full results of our survey are available here.

Image: Imperial War Museum AP 14372D, 1943.

Global History for Schools

October is Black History Month, and following on from our Global History Symposium this summer, Prof. Miles Larmer introduces the Oxford History Faculty’s new range of resources for schools, designed to help them offer a more diverse curriculum.

How do we create a curriculum in schools and universities that best reflects the histories of our current students and future citizens? As Britain has become a more diverse society, and as a result become increasingly aware of its diverse past, the need to ensure that is reflected in what we teach and research is a question of growing importance, educationally and politically. At the University of Oxford, we have launched a new undergraduate curriculum better designed to ensure global history is more prominent in the experience of all our students, though delivering teaching that adequately reflects the history of all parts of the world remains a work in progress.

In schools, many complain that a curriculum that often focuses on key events such as the War of the Roses or the Second World War fails to reflect Britain’s deep history of migration and imperialism, in which what it meant to be ‘British’ changed radically over time. New undergraduates taking my African history courses at Oxford often arrive with little or no experience of studying the continent, either its great empires and kingdoms, or its distinct history of global connectedness.

In late 2016, having read yet another newspaper op-ed bemoaning the inadequacies of school teaching in addressing these areas, I chanced on a new GCSE course entitled ‘Migration, Empires and People’, a British history option that emphasised the long history (starting in 970 AD) of British inter-connectedness with the wider world: the textbook’s front cover shows Kwame Nkrumah, the first leader of independent Ghana, meeting the then decolonising British military leadership. This was, I thought, exactly the kind of history course I wanted my future students to be taking.

Enthused, I recommended the course to my partner, who is head of history in what is euphemistically described as a ‘challenging’ state school: more than half its students speak English as a second language and nearly half receive free school meals. Surely, I thought, this was an ideal course for such a school. She immediately punctured my naïve enthusiasm: the problem was that teachers delivering such a new and innovative course wouldn’t have access to appropriate resources. Such resources are the lifeblood of school history lessons: for existing courses, online banks of resources are available for teachers to deploy in classrooms – as one example, the Wellcome Trust provides fantastic materials supporting the teaching of the history of science and medicine.

If resources were going to be a fundamental problem, why not get Oxford historians to write those resources? Our research expertise could be put at the service of the new GCSE option and, indeed, other school history courses. I contacted the authors of the course textbook, Robin Whitburn and Abdul Mohamud of UCL Institute of Education, and we met up in January 2017. They were delighted at the suggestion and, having discussed the proposal internally, we got the go-ahead. The Faculty sees the project as an opportunity to share its research outside traditional academic circles, particularly in state schools that have historically sent very few or no students to Oxford: it also indicates Oxford’s own increasing engagement with non-western and global history, their centrality to British history and to the interests and experiences of our increasingly diverse undergraduate student intake.

IMG_4386.JPGIn May 2017 we organised a workshop that brought together interested Oxford researchers – professors, college tutors, post-doctoral and doctoral researchers – with Whitburn and Mohamud and a set of schoolteachers who were delivering the new option for the first time in the 2017/18 academic year. This was an inspiring event, in which teachers were able to explain to academics how they deliver complex historical concepts, methods and debates to 15 and 16 year olds, and together develop their shared understanding of how innovative resources could bring to life key questions of Britain’s changing global role and national identity and the role of migration and imperialism in shaping these histories.

Over summer 2017 a first set of resources was developed and uploaded to our ‘resources for schools’ webpage. Most of these focus on a key individual or event as a way of illustrating a much broader set of issues: they have been designed to be delivered in a classroom setting, so use visual imagery and clear language to communicate their arguments. Although the resources were designed with a specific option course in mind, they are publicly available to all teachers for any class they deem relevant and the project has the potential to be rolled out to other under-resourced option courses in the future.

A launch event for the project was held at one of the schools running the new course, St. Michael’s College, Bermondsey in south London in September 2017: I had the positive if slightly nerve-wracking experience of presenting some of the new resources to the teachers present. There was great appreciation of what we have achieved so far, and there is clearly demand for many more resources of this type.

The project is still very much a work in progress, but our efforts were rewarded this year by the university’s award for promoting equality and diversity in learning and teaching. We have secured university funding for the next phase of the project, which will run during the 2018–19 academic year, and there are plans to expand our schools outreach work in various ways. There is clearly much more to be done to develop resources of this type, and to provide school and university curricula that reflect the diverse experiences of Britain, its school students and Oxford’s present and future students. We hope this project provides a modest step in the right direction.

Dr Miles Larmer is Professor of African History at St Antony’s College, Oxford.

Top image: Detail from John Singleton Copley, ‘The Death of Major Peirson, 6 January 1781’, (1783), The Tate. Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND.

Global History

As part of our 150th anniversary programme, we recently hosted a symposium on ‘The Future of History: Going Global in the University’ with the Oxford Centre for Global History at the Ashmolean Museum and Bodleian Libraries. Dr Priya Atwal, a Knowledge Exchange Fellow at The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities, reflects on the symposium and asks how we can make global history ‘work’.

As an early career academic with an interest in global history, I attended the first day of the symposium with a view to understanding more about how the university space is working to adapt itself in order to ‘embrace the global turn’, and how this may well impact on the practice of historians going forward. The formal discussions (as well as the on-going conversations over tea and lunch) showed just how many challenges and opportunities the practicalities of ‘doing global history’ have thrown up for historians individually and the higher education sector as a whole.

The tightly-packed programme aimed to explore the multi-faceted issues connected with this question by adopting a punchy and lively approach to stimulating discussion: running four panels a day, each with three 10-minute summary papers, followed by plenty of time for debate with the audience. The topics included were wide-ranging and eye-opening: drawing on insights from academic research collaborations across continents, alongside reflecting on the value of museum expertise for interdisciplinary projects, as well as on the importance of working closely with university librarians to shape new kinds of undergraduate curricula.

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Prof. Karen O’Brien (Head of Humanities at the University of Oxford) addressing the symposium in the Ashmolean Museum

One critical issue was brought out powerfully from the outset by Prof. Maxine Berg – who warned against slipping into a sense of complacency and simply passing off the history of European imperialism as global history, even though the two may intersect in many ways. This argument was taken further by Prof. Esther da Costa Meyer, who urged historians based in the West to engage more closely with the work of different scholars from around the world, who are themselves pioneering new kinds of regional and global studies within their own university spaces. This opened up a lively discussion about the often challenging practicalities of working in the field of global history: centring most interestingly on the importance of historians learning more languages in order to be able to access source materials and specialist literature that will enrich their research; or alternatively, to find ways to build international research networks that can enable practitioners with a variety of skills (historical research, language knowledge and museum/archive collections management, for example) to advance knowledge together through working relationships that are meaningful and mutually beneficial, both in a professional and intellectual sense.

The comments of Professors da Costa Meyer and Berg certainly highlighted the risk of the new interest in the ‘global turn’ repeating and further entrenching older patterns of inequality in the practice of scholarly research: wherein ‘native’ specialists would only be recruited for their usefulness in rendering their archives accessible to Western scholars (by providing access to source materials and translating their contents), who go on to impose their own understanding and rationales on such raw material, without engaging in any kind of meaningful discussion with their foreign counterparts. What was promising about the programme and the conversations that it sparked, was the variety of solutions that were being proffered to guard against such issues and lay foundations for truly exciting future developments in promoting the study of global history.

The issue of language learning provoked a great deal of debate and is certainly one of the key long-term challenges that university History departments need to actively engage with if they are serious about embracing global approaches in the curriculum and future research projects. It is a well-known fact that language learning takes a considerable amount of time and dedication, and can add months if not years on to the training of a historian, if one wishes to become truly proficient in understanding a different tongue.

A major brewing problem for the future of historical study in the UK is the apparent lack of interest in language learning amongst British school pupils. Since the government removed the compulsory requirement for students to take a GCSE in a modern language, the number of students taking subjects such as French, Spanish and German have dropped considerably. Those taking non-European languages otherwise available in schools (for example Punjabi, Mandarin and Urdu) have never been high and have often been limited to ethnic minority students, whose engagement with Humanities courses at university-level has also been less than that compared to more vocational courses such Law, Engineering or Medicine. Thus it may well fall to History departments to engage more actively in schools outreach work that not only seeks to make the study of History appealing to more diverse groups of students, but also to make the case for why learning a language on a post-16 course would be beneficial for a student’s career development (whether as an historian or beyond academia).

IMG_om7j20The Ashmolean Museum’s ‘West Meets East’ Gallery

What about developing a pipeline of pioneering global historians from the History students and academics already working at universities? Bodleian History Librarian Isabel Holowaty highlighted the steps that are currently being taken by Oxford’s History Faculty Library to respond to the changes being made by the University’s History tutors, to broaden the remit of the curriculum and introduce more diverse, global perspectives into regular reading lists for undergraduates. Tapping into digital content (whether e-books or digital journals) seem to be the quickest way to enable more historians of different ages, stages and backgrounds to easily learn from and engage with ideas about global history – something that Dr Rowena Olegario backed up with her argument about the importance of connecting researchers around the globe through open access e-journals, to further debates in this field.

Again however, the debate came into difficulties when the language question reared its head, as all of these ideas were predicated on the assumption that all scholarly literature about global history would be produced in English. Should our university courses (both at undergraduate and postgraduate level) therefore include more formal, even compulsory, language learning elements to better support budding researchers with an interest in global history? (Certainly, if this was implemented at the doctoral level at British universities, greater funding support would be needed to lengthen PhD programmes and afford graduate students more time to study languages in addition to completing their research and theses – much more like the American model.)

Going further still, why not also introduce built-in time and support for mid-career or even senior academics to acquire training in language or digital communication skills, to allow them to embrace the global turn at a later stage in their careers? Surely a greater emphasis on life-long skills development would be beneficial for boosting not only the field of global history, but also the professional quality of historians working globally.

Lastly, the other aspect of the day’s discussion that most excited me was the possibility that global history contains for the building of networks that can span the boundaries of nations, disciplines and institutions. Prof Paul Betts’ collaborative research project – exploring the relationship between Eastern Europe and Africa, and the shifting dialogue around socialism within this – was an interesting case in point, demonstrating how new partnerships spanning across and including researchers from previously marginalized/less well-studied parts of the world can inject fresh insights into seemingly old debates.

Alternatively, the work of Dr Laura Van Broekhoven on the colonial legacy of the Pitt Rivers Museum provided brilliant examples of how using material culture more creatively – alongside collaborating with a mix of scholars, heritage specialists and community groups – can transform and enrich our historical understanding considerably. These issues were also discussed in a fascinating presentation by Prof. Wayne Modest of Amsterdam’s Tropenmuseum. Perhaps most movingly of all, Dr Steffen Burkhardt’s account of his experiences of running a ‘digital memories’ project (to record and preserve the stories of Holocaust survivors with a diverse team of German undergraduate historians) highlighted how useful technology can be for taking innovative findings from such inclusive research teams out to a broader audience, stimulating positive social dialogue in the process.

Dr Sujit Sivasundaram (Co-Chair of our Race, Ethnicity & Equality Working Group) addressing the symposium in the Bodleian Libraries.

It seemed to me from all of this that the world of the global historian may become quite different to that of an older, stereotypical type of History scholar. Global historians may well need to increasingly work in teams; collaborating with researchers with different regional specialisms, as well as perhaps linguists and curators. They may also likely need to access sources, conferences, literature and audiences through various different digital media platforms, if they are not always going to have sufficient time or funding support to physically travel to locations to be present for such activities. We will equally need to invest time and energy in growing the number of students who are interested in global history and also equipping them with a range of skills in languages, digital communication and even public history, if this shift is going to be a sustainable, long-term change and not just an academic fad. Universities will therefore have to think quickly and creatively about how to build a supportive infrastructure around this evolving culture and practice. It will be interesting to see how, going forward, our History departments will prioritise the kinds of changes that they are willing and able to make, in order to the ensure that the study of global history can really work.

Dr Priya Atwal is a TORCH Knowledge Exchange Fellow at the University of Oxford, and is taking up a new post as a Teaching Fellow in Modern South Asian History at King’s College London from September 2018. You can follow her on Twitter @priyaatwal.

Featured image (top): Standing figure of Buddha, from northern Pakistan c.200AD; Ashmolean Museum. This image was used for the programme of the symposium and was discussed in a presentation by Prof Peter Stewart, Director of Oxford’s Classical Art Research Centre.

National Archives Research Priorities

We partner with many organisations to host events and promote the study of history. Each summer we sponsor a series of free lectures at The National Archives, where our colleagues do invaluable work preserving and sharing the nation’s historical records. This year’s series, ‘Mapping Movement: People, Place, & Power’, begins this month, following the launch of The National Archive’s new research prioritiesDr Anna Sexton is Head of Research at The National Archives, and here she introduces the new priorities and future directions for research.

Here at The National Archives, and indeed across the archive sector, we have a vast range of historical records, which can enrich our understanding of the past and inform contemporary discourse and debate. Archives help us to chart the evolution of society, law and governance on a truly global scale. But how can we unlock our historical collections for greater and more diverse use? What new methods can open up the content of archives, from early modern maps to Prime Ministers’ papers? How can we best deal with the shift from paper to digital and ensure that born digital content is preserved for the future?

In response to this challenge, The National Archives has recently launched its new research priorities. We have developed five cross-cutting, interdisciplinary themes which address some of the biggest opportunities and challenges we face as an archive, in particular the shift to digital. We seek to explore new methodologies, theories and technologies in five core areas:

Our theme ‘Rethinking the record’ reflects our desire to transform thinking and understanding of records and record-keeping. For example, can we reimagine physical collections as aggregated datasets? If so, how do we go about achieving this – is it through bringing together computer scientists, historians and digital humanists? In what ways can we recombine our data to tell new stories about our past? Furthermore, ‘Risk, uncertainty and trust’ unpacks notions of integrity and authenticity in the record, and how new technologies may be able to enhance trust in born-digital records.

The theme ‘People, place and rule’ considers research questions around contested spaces, the individual and the state, and placing the record in context. At a time when boundaries, borders and political structures are being challenged, these records have never been more relevant to present-day society.

Impact has become an increasingly significant aspect of research culture and our theme ‘Impact, value and affect’ is committed to better understanding, measuring and enhancing the impact of collections upon culture, heritage and identity, as well as ensuring their sustainability for generations to come. In addition, ‘Openness, access and use’ examines ways in which archives can meet the needs of new users and ensure that the record they capture truly reflects the communities they represent.

We would like to work collaboratively across disciplines and sectors to respond to these research challenges. Bringing together the skills of the historian, archivist, conservator, digital humanist and computer scientist (to name but a few), we hope to innovate around the archive and transform practice and public understanding.

Dr Anna Sexton
Head of Research, The National Archives

If you would like to work with The National Archives to explore any of our research priorities, please contact them here, and for further information visit their research webpages.

Image: Military map showing the coast and sea of Chin-chou from Ho-p’u to the Vietnamese border, TNA catalogue reference: FO 931/1900

Diverse History/ Hanes Amrywiol

In April, we hosted a symposium on Diverse History/Hanes Amrywiol at the University of South Wales in Cardiff. The event highlighted the great diversity of historical research and engagement in Wales, as well as engaging Welsh colleagues in our ongoing work with gender and racial inequality. RHS Council member Professor Trish Skinner of Swansea University reflects on the event as one of the organisers, and Dr Emily Cock of Cardiff University offers her reflections from an early career perspective.

Trish-Skinner-LS.jpgAs the Royal Historical Society celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2018, this event took a timely look at current and future trajectories in the make-up and practices of the UK historical profession. Its location in Wales was particularly timely just as the new Welsh language standards came into force, reminding delegates that regional diversity is just as much a factor in historical practice, and against the background of the Welsh Government’s ‘Live without Fear’ campaign, promoting social inclusivity.

Working through the lens of ‘diversity’ – a multiplicity of positions, identities, approaches – in preference to ‘difference’ – which tends to concretize boundaries between specific interests rather than seeking their intersections – the conference brought together academics at different career stages and students within and outside university history departments working in different areas of history, including gender, race and disability studies, and connected them with colleagues working in education policy and the Third Sector. Over the two days some 50 delegates attended. The conference was consciously intersectional, that is, there were not specific sessions on each area of history, but papers were programmed to bring out points of contact. The event also sought to challenge the idea of a ‘traditional’ conference by eschewing keynotes in favour of opening up with a panel and discussion reflecting on the achievements and desiderata for a history that is truly inclusive of minority ethnic communities. Bringing together Margot Finn, President of the Society, in conversation with REEWG Chair Suzanne Bardgett and with Uzo Iwobi, CEO of Race Council Cymru, we heard how soldiers of the colonial service were remembered, how the RHS is working to identify how more BAME students could be attracted to history courses (starting with the obvious problem that the profession itself is not representative of the population as a whole) and how RCC has been arguing for better representation of black history within the curriculum at schools level in Wales. As Uzo commented, ‘Welsh history is black history.’ In the 70th anniversary year of the first Windrush arrivals, the imperative to make the curriculum more inclusive is clear. The second panel introduced the survey that will lead to the second RHS Gender Report, and breakout panels explored the landscape facing ECRs and the gender dynamics of delivering history teaching. The ensuing discussion highlighted gendered space as a missing element in the survey’s considerations, and how students studying history in History departments might have a different age/gender mix and experience to those, for instance, in Adult Education. Margot drew out the contrast between the two panels – whilst we had still been exploring what content might inform an ethnically-inclusive curriculum (some examples of website resources are listed at the end of this report), the gender panels highlighted process, suggesting that content and resources in this area are more mature and accessible, but that basic bibliographies might still favour male authors over female. Papers in the subsequent session pointed up further intersections, as the LGBTQ+ history of Wales was highlighted by Daryl Leeworthy and Norena Shopland. Sarah Morse, Acting CEO of the Learned Society of Wales, then outlined how the Society is working on an inclusive Wales Studies agenda. [The new CEO, Martin Pollard, has just been announced.]

Historians obviously have a crucial role to play in shaping this programme, and ensuring it represents the longstanding exchanges between the region and the wider world.

After these panels, a full programme of papers followed across the two days, before a final panel considered how the diversity agenda in history might be moved forwards. Phil Star from the WJEC/CBAC suggested that the rich research he had heard about during the conference could help to shape KS3 and upwards in schools, and echoed earlier calls in the workshops for universities to be ‘better neighbours’ in reaching out to community and third sector history groups and projects, such as the ‘Backyard’ project in Newport, getting BAME kids to interview their older relatives about their migration histories and life in Britain in the 1950s onwards, or the Ely Hospital project presented by Cardiff People First, researched by members with learning disabilities. As an archivist in the audience commented, archivists and historians of all backgrounds need to work together on making diverse histories more visible, through specialist finding guides that are sensitive to the specific historical languages of a particular group or community.


Prof. Trish Skinner with Phil Star (WJEC/CBAC) and Kebba Manneh (SEWREC). Via USW.

So what next? Participants left their thoughts, underlining that public engagement is ‘easy for the pre-engaged, less so for the dis-engaged’. Some questioned whether working with ‘real’ historians in universities brought any additional benefits: it was suggested that appointing community group leaders to honorary roles within university communities could be beneficial in giving them access to library and online resources that might be prohibitively expensive to subscribe to. It was pointed out that since 1970 Wales has had Llafur: Welsh People’s History Society, whose most recent event featured migration histories, and that the Women’s Archive of Wales holds an annual conference celebrating gender diversity. Perhaps the trick is to continue holding events that bring individual researchers and institutions together so that common interests can be identified and pursued strategically. The Royal Historical Society’s support has been crucial in facilitating the conversations that took place, and with three current Council members from Welsh universities, the relationship will continue to flourish.

Prof. Patricia Skinner
Swansea University

Examples of online resources for BAME history:

Dr Emily Cock of Cardiff University writes:

EC.jpgI was invited to think in particular about the event from an ‘early career perspective’. The program was certainly intellectually rich, bringing in an intersectional array of papers on topics across the history of Wales, and historians working in Wales. But perhaps the most significant diversity at work in this particular event was the range of fields of historical practice on show, consciously removed from a hierarchy of keynotes etc, in a manner generally absent from standard academic history conferences. The program staged a deliberate conversation between forms and practitioners of history from Welsh universities, education policy and the Third Sector.

Prominent for me was the highlighting of exciting work being done outside or alongside universities and museums, often through small local archives or in collaboration with and between community groups. This was particularly marked in the opening panel discussion between Margot Finn (President of the Royal Historical Society), Suzanne Bardgett (Head of Research and Academic Partnerships at Imperial War Museums) and Uzo Iwobi (CEO of Race Council Cymru), which covered topics including the inclusion and representation of soldiers from colonial forces in military narratives, and British BAME history in all levels of the educational curriculum, but which also foregrounded the ways in which different fields of historical practice, advocacy and activism can enrich and challenge each other. This interested me as a means of diversifying career paths, spaces, and ways of doing history that can challenge and inform institutional practices, but also pragmatically engage the work of individuals who may wish or be compelled to work in or with history outside academic posts after completing a PhD or Masters.

One of the breakout sessions asked us to think about gender diversity in particular, with a session dedicated to early career researchers and chaired by Rachel Herrmann that was very well attended. Issues raised in the far-reaching discussion included the importance of role models through all stages of history education and employment, recognition of intersectional diversity needs, provisions for and work culture acceptance of parental and other forms of leave, and anxieties around career progression and casualization.

Place and community are further issues that are often highlighted as concerns for itinerant early career staff. Several of the papers spoke to the contributions of migrant communities in Wales, while others traced Welsh men and women across the world: my own paper touched on Thomas Jefferson’s claim to Welsh ancestry in the course of examining his use of British and American precedents for facial disfigurement as a crime and punishment, and broader questions of facial normativity in eighteenth-century Virginia and beyond. Where, for instance, are Jefferson’s famous freckles in his official portrait?

At an institutional level, the issue of universities as ‘bad neighbours’ was invoked a couple of times, with more public engagement efforts to reach out to local community groups and projects flagged as one way in which this might be improved. It struck me that for many staff and students who have moved to a new city/region/country for a university role, often several times (such as myself), such practices might also serve to foster greater attachments to new locations and communities and social inclusivity, even if for short periods. Where feasible, even small shifts to local archives might unearth unexpected materials and more nuanced analyses of regional differences, but also give researchers greater connection to the new area, and contribute to local history.

Dr Emily Cock
Leverhulme Early Career Fellow
Cardiff University/Prifysgol Caerdydd

Top Image: Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff (Wikicommons).