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.

Propose a Camden Volume

RHS Literary Director Andrew Spicer explains the process of proposing a volume to our Camden Series of edited primary sources.

The Royal Historical Society publishes two volumes in the Camden Series each year, more than 325 have appeared to date. But the Society is always on the look-out for new proposals! The aim of the series is to make available to historians, researchers and students, editions of historical sources or unpublished manuscript material on an aspect of British history. Each volume is peer-reviewed and is accompanied by a scholarly introduction to the subject and the material.

The Camden Series predates the RHS: some 160 volumes were published by the Camden Society, established in 1838 ‘for the publication of early historical and literary remains’. The societies amalgamated in the late nineteenth century with the first two jointly published volumes – the papers of Sir Edmund Nicholas, and on the Archpriest Controversy – appearing in 1897. The chronological range of the series has broadened out from the initial focus on the medieval and early modern periods to embrace the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and since the 1980s, the twentieth century as well, up to the observations of the archbishop of Canterbury’s envoy to the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. As part of the RHS’ 150th anniversary last year, we worked with Cambridge University Press to make a collection of volumes from the series freely available.

The term ‘British’ history is rather broadly defined. It encompasses not only sources relating to individuals and institutions within the islands of Britain and Ireland but has also come to include British interests – whether diplomatic, legal, military, political, religious, etc. – outside the archipelago as well as the affairs and activities of Britons and Irish people overseas. The series is also becoming more inclusive – although there is always plenty of scope for improvement – with volumes, for example, on the diaries and writings of early modern women. In 2011, the society published the minutes and papers relating to the building of the East London mosque in the early twentieth century reflecting on the aspirations of the Muslim community in London to have a mosque that befitted the capital city of a world empire. The most recent volume is Jo Ann Moran Cruz’s An Account of an Elizabethan Family: the Willoughbys of Wollaton by Cassandra Willoughby, 1670–1735. An indication of the range of subjects covered by the recent volumes can found on the RHS and Cambridge University Press websites.

What is it like to work on a Camden volume? My fellow RHS Literary Director Richard Toye recently co-edited the diaries of the Liberal politician Cecil Bisshopp Harmsworth (1869–1948), the younger brother of the influential newspaper proprietors Lords Northcliffe and Rothermere. Besides the insights it provides on Westminster politics, the volume also details the constituency life and electioneering of an MP in the early twentieth century. In the RHS Newsletter, Toye describes what it is like to turn a manuscript into a Camden volume, reflecting on both the challenging and satisfying aspects of the process. The volume has increased awareness of Harmsworth’s career, such that he is now to be included in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Typically, volumes for the Camden Series are between 80,000 and 120,000 words in length, including the introduction and all the normal scholarly apparatus. Shorter texts will be considered but those under 60,000 words are more appropriate for a Camden Miscellany. Each volume requires an introduction providing details about the edited source, including where appropriate how and why it was generated, as well as contextualising and assessing the significance of the material. The volumes are published by Cambridge University Press both in hard copy and are available electronically through their Cambridge Core platform.

The RHS considers proposals throughout the year, although the main forum for discussion are the Publications Committee meetings in late February and September. Proposal forms can be found on the RHS website; these need to be submitted with a sample of the edited source material for peer review. Responsibility for the Camden Series is divided between the literary directors with me (Andrew Spicer) overseeing the medieval and early modern volumes, and Richard Toye those relating to the period after 1750. If you have an idea for a volume, please get in touch (literary.directors[AT]; we are happy to discuss potential Camden publications in advance of a formal proposal.

Prof. Andrew Spicer
RHS Literary Director
Oxford Brookes University

New Camden Volume on Elizabethan Family

Jo Ann Hoeppner Moran Cruz describes the extraordinary insights into an Elizabethan family provided in her new volume in our Camden Series of edited primary sources, and how she has used its material in undergraduate teaching and for training graduate students.

morancruzMy new Camden volume, An Account of an Elizabethan Family: The Willoughbys of Wollaton by Cassandra Willoughby (1670–1735), opens a window on Elizabethan marriage, gender and patriarchal expectations. Through an edition of surviving sixteenth-century copies and original letters and accounts from the Middleton family archives, we view intimate details of the marriage of Elizabeth and Francis Willoughby. The marriage was, not to put too fine a point on it, difficult, tempestuous and, in the end, destructive. Among the indignities that Elizabeth Littleton Willoughby suffered were imprisonment in her own home (to be guarded by the servants), an impecunious banishment from her family, ongoing demands for obedience from her husband, and enduring undermining by her sister-in-law. With her reputation at stake, Elizabeth sought support from Queen Elizabeth and stood on the strength of her Littleton family heritage, arguing with her husband that her first allegiance was to the Crown rather than to him. As the introduction concludes, however independent-minded Elizabeth Willoughby tried to be, she could not afford to forego the support of her father, brothers, husband, sons-in-law, or male friends of the family. Her struggles through twelve pregnancies, resulting in six surviving daughters, left her sick in body and ill in spirit. While this edition also continues with details of Francis Willoughby’s hurried and financially disastrous second marriage, as well as with details from the lives of their six daughters, it is Elizabeth Willoughby who steals the show.

The edition tells the Willoughby family story through the pen of a descendant, Cassandra Willoughby, who, in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, copied down, synthesized and described letters and accounts of the family from the 1540s forward. The cache of materials from which Cassandra drew her Account was mostly located at Wollaton Hall outside Nottingham, one of the principal residences of the family. The text provides an intimate portrait of a family that was, at times, and perhaps particularly for the women, an unhappy one. Within a patriarchal society, Elizabeth Willoughby, married at age eighteen, essentially failed to flourish, and her six daughters, who often seem to have been as strong-willed as their mother, were left, together with their husbands, to pick up the pieces.

Wollaton Hall (Wikicommons)

Years back I chanced upon a 1911 Historical Manuscripts Commission volume containing a description of the privately-owned Middleton family archives, which are now kept in the University of Nottingham’s Manuscripts and Special Collections. My initial interest in the Middleton material focused on what the surviving documents could tell us about education in the Tudor period; the surviving materials offer details with regard to books, music, schooling and literacy. Beginning with accounts for primers and other elementary books, Cassandra’s manuscript, together with surviving account books and other materials in the Middleton archives, provide evidence for schooling, the reading interests of the family, the library that they built up, and a culture in which correspondence played a pivotal role. But further exploration of this archive of letters, deeds, marriage settlements, wills, inventories, and other personal and administrative documents, suggested that it would be worthwhile to go beyond these interests to a larger exploration of the family.

The letters in particular, whether written by household staff, corrected by staff, written in the hands of family members or received by them, are fascinating to read and certainly captured the attention of Cassandra Willoughby when, at age 17, she moved into the imposing but neglected family residence of Wollaton Hall. Cassandra’s compilation or Account is written in a clear late seventeenth-century/early eighteenth-century hand, unlike the original letters from the sixteenth century, which she clearly had some difficulty reading. As a consequence, the manuscript itself (or a good copy of it) is an excellent place for scholars to start with the archives and for students to start with a paleographical project. It gives students an initial experience reading a handwritten primary text. Various of the graduate students I have worked with have tried their hand at editing aspects of the material, and this has been valuable training for their own research careers.

I have used the text both at the undergraduate and graduate level where it has been much discussed by undergraduates and has been a mine of information for graduate students who are interested in the experience of women in Elizabethan culture. Undergraduates have read the Account in a course on Women in Medieval and Early Modern England, and also in an undergraduate course on Women and Power in Europe, 800-1600. They read it within a larger contextual understanding of the role of women in late medieval and early modern culture. They may also read it from the perspective of the life of members of the upper-gentry in Elizabethan England. It is a perfect vehicle for teaching undergraduate students about the richness of archival work, the inherent human interest of history, the values of an upper-class Elizabethan family, and specifics with regard to the material life of the time – clothing, travel, food, entertainment, and houses.

Both undergraduate and graduate students are intrigued by the personalities of the writers, the varieties of marriages described in the text, the way wives and daughters were treated and sometimes abused, the agency of the women, the role of Queen Elizabeth and much more. Not only does the text provide insight into the Willoughbys, but it also includes remarks on other family members and neighbours and their marriages. The text is rich in information on the role of servants within the household, including orders for the household staff, wages, personal correspondence, rivalries, gossip, intrigue, and social status. Most recently a graduate student has become interested in the culture of correspondence and has been engaged with the correspondence surrounding the 1587 marriage of Dorothy Willoughby and Henry Hastings. The manuscript tells us something about the religious leanings of particular families and individuals and how they negotiated the boundaries between Catholics and Protestants of various persuasions. It provides extensive examples of land sales, loans and indebtedness (particularly as a consequence of the construction of the new Wollaton Hall) to the point that some members of the family spent time in debtors’ prison. Correspondence with the royal court, particularly with Lord Burghley, and issues rising to a national level, as well as the politics of local authorities and rivalries are embedded in the text.

For those who might want to examine an expanded chronological perspective, the introduction to this volume provides information and sources to explore. For family letters prior to the 1540s, Mary A. Welsh has published Willoughby letters from the first half of the sixteenth century in the Transactions for the Thoroton Society, vol. 24 (1967): 1-98, while A.C. Wood published, in 1958, The Continuation of the History of the Willoughby Family by Cassandra Duchess of Chandos which is the second volume of Cassandra’s Account and takes her family story into the 1690s. Perhaps the best secondary source, that provides an entrée into the family dynamics as well as an in-depth study of the renovation of Wollaton Hall, is Alice Friedman, House and Household in Elizabethan England: Wollaton Hall and the Willoughby Family (Chicago, 1989).

Published with the permission of the present Lord Middleton, this volume makes accessible to a wider audience Casandra Willoughby’s account of her ancestors. It provides not only invaluable insights into the day to day life and tribulations of a prominent Elizabethan family, it also reveals the exceptional character, spirit and misfortunes of Elizabeth Willoughby.

Dr Jo Ann Hoeppner Moran Cruz is Associate Professor of History at Georgetown University.

Gladstone Rings a Bell

Dr Matthew Champion reflects on time and bells after hearing that he had won this year’s Gladstone Prize for his recent first book.

When I first heard that my book, The Fullness of Time: Temporalities of the Fifteenth-Century Low Countries, had won the Royal Historical Society’s Gladstone Prize, the first thing that came to mind was Gladstone St, Moonee Ponds, a street tucked behind the main shopping drag of my home suburb in Melbourne. I know I should have been thinking about the PM, but on actually receiving the prize, my mind kept turning even more stubbornly to this street, doubtless named after the Grand Old Man, but a million miles away from London.

Gladstone St isn’t really a beautiful place – if it ever was, that was destroyed when a massive new branch of the Australian Tax Office was built there in the 1990s (Gladstone PM might have been interested in that). From my family home a few blocks away, the new building changed the horizon to the west – you didn’t notice it much except at certain times – its hulk hunched over the sun in the west.

Buildings_in_Moonee_Ponds.JPGAustralian Taxation Office (1991). 6–20 Gladstone St, Moonee Ponds

At our house, every Sunday morning, the sound of the bells of the Greek Orthodox Church of St Dimitrios, opposite the Tax Office on Gladstone St, would reach us as we played in the garden. I’d take a rake, or old cricket bat, and hit the pole of the washing line to copy the changing patterns. It probably annoyed the hell out of our neighbours. When I go back to visit my parents, sometimes I hear those bells, and am taken to the feeling of a bright Sunday morning in a crisp Melbourne March.

I’m pretty sure that I didn’t end up writing a section of my book on the marking of time through bell-ringing in the fifteenth century as a direct result of hitting a washing line as a six-year-old. But there are few direct results of anything if we pay attention to time: our experiences loop back over each other; at particular times, moments from the past seem closer or more distant. Perhaps without those Gladstone St bells, I wouldn’t have been as interested in sounds when it came to writing my PhD at Queen Mary in London. Certainly, much of The Fullness of Time could be read as me whacking the rusty washing-line of the sources with a dented old cricket bat in an attempt to summon into being the times and sounds of the past.

Take, for example, the bells of the Premonstratensian Abbey of Park. This is a large monastery just outside the university city of Louvain, modern Belgium. It is the place where Erasmus would ‘discover’ a copy of Lorenzo Valla’s Annotationes on the New Testament, with radical results for the history of scholarship. There, in 1479, the reform-minded Abbot, Thierry van Thulden, installed a new clock. We know the clock played a melody – the Marian chant Inviolata et casta es Maria (You are inviolate and chaste, Mary). The melody can be found in Premonstratensian liturgical manuscripts from the region, and is particularly fit for ringing on bells, with repeated notes and a small range.

These bells were the perfect emblem of the kinds of time I was repeatedly finding in sources from across the region. They used the most up-to-date technology, often seen by earlier scholars as introducing a rupture in the fabric of sacred time, to sacralize time more precisely – to deploy precise measurement of time to tie time more precisely to eternity. By marking each hour with a chant which made present the past moment of Christ’s incarnation in Mary’s womb, the present moment of the bells’ sounds (and the evocation of the prayer-chant), and the future protection of the Virgin Mary over the monastery, time was filled out with sacred resonance. This was one of the kinds of fullnesses that I sought to think about in my book.

The other kind of fullness was a kind of historical practice which did not shut down conversations across different media, different disciplines, and different fields of historical analyses: a full history. Understanding the clock at Park, for example, requires the history of an object, an institution, of rituals and liturgy, of individuals like the Abbot, and of a melody. The melody ended up being connected to the political history of the Dukes of Burgundy and their particular deployment of Marian piety to forge their new territorial unit – the Burgundian Low Countries, a mishmash of territories with competing social and political structures, where symbol and ritual played a central role in communication between lords, cities and subjects.

The clock’s history is also a history of images and built environments. Its bells were installed in a new tower in the monastery church. A couple images of the old monastery survive in the works of seventeenth-century antiquarians.

M Champion Abbey of Park.JPGThe Abbey of Park, from J.B. Gramaye, ‘Antiquitates illustratissimi ducatus Brabantiae’ (Brussels, 1610). Reproduced by permission of the Master and Fellows of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.

The monastery itself, which you see in this image, was largely rebuilt or destroyed in later centuries, though its setting beside its medieval fishponds is a reminder of the ways in which the marking of time through feast and fast radically reshaped Europe’s environments.

CHAMPION RHS Image 3.JPGThe Premonstratensian Abbey of Park. Photographed by author (2013)

The tower which is the most likely candidate for the bells is the little one beside the m of Dominorum in the 1610 image. Joanne Anderson at the Warburg kindly pointed out to me it is also a visual structure similar to the kinds of elaborate architectural ‘houses’ for the Eucharist which were being installed in churches across the Low Countries in the period. So here, again, we might see a resonant body of sources pointing towards the co-habitation of the eternal in the precisely temporal.

This is a long way from Gladstone St – but the possibilities of this kind of history help me understand it in new ways: I don’t have to see St Dimitrios’ church as a dying remnant of a kind of sacred time antithetical to the measurement of the modern secular hours. Instead, the time of that little church might be seen as part of a world full of varieties of sacred and secular time: a time for prayer, a time for play; a season for tax returns, a season for cricket, and a season for hanging clothes on the line outside (less of that in Britain, but even that climatic distinction is, of course, subject to change). And I can see a history of the architectures of time, and architecture in time, as another complement to a fuller transdisciplinary practice of history.

Dr Matthew Champion is Lecturer in Medieval History at Birkbeck, University of London.

Top Image: Dr Matthew Champion with RHS President Prof. Margot Finn.

New Historical Perspectives

‘New Historical Perspectives’ (NHP) is our new Open Access book series for Early Career Researchers, a partnership between the RHS and the Institute of Historical Research. As the first tranche of finished manuscripts begins to arrive, Penny Summerfield – one of the series’ editorial convenors – reflects on the formation of NHP and its work to create a new list of OA monographs.

‘New Historical Perspectives’ was launched in April 2016, with Professor Simon Newman and myself as co-editors, as an Open Access publishing venture under the joint auspices of the RHS and IHR and with support from Economic History Society and Past and Present. The Editorial Board (EB), characterized by equal numbers of men and women and a diverse range of expertise, was in place by June 2016. We had no idea whether the idea of Open Access publishing would appeal to the early career researchers (ECRs) we wanted to attract. RHS had agreed that they should be within ten years of receiving their PhDs from British or Irish universities.

Helped by the Publishing Workshops organized by Jonathan Newbury from IHR, we have received 23 proposals since June 2016. Eleven of these have been accepted, following scrutiny by the editors and Editorial Board members and rigorous peer review by leading experts in their specific fields. Eight of the successful proposals are for monographs, three are edited collections. The series is not themed, and its openness in terms of subject matter and chronology has brought in proposals relating to periods from the fourteenth to the twentieth centuries and topics as varied as medieval scholasticism, and masculinity and danger on the Grand Tour.

NHP offers an opportunity to rewrite a PhD thesis for publication, and this has evident appeal to authors, especially in view of the negativity of some publishers towards theses. Our view is that some of the most creative and thoroughly researched work is invested in PhDs, which are often the source of the ‘new perspectives’ we wish to encourage. However, every PhD thesis needs development before it can become a useful and readable book. The comments of EB members, and the often quite lengthy reports of peer reviewers, are an essential part of that process, as are the Author Workshops that we offer each of our authors.

These workshops involve two or more experts in the field, plus an EB member and one of the Co-Editors, meeting with the author for half a day to discuss a near-to-final draft. We have held four such workshops so far and the feedback from authors has borne out our initial hunch that in-depth conversations about a book in preparation are extremely useful to novice monograph authors, probably more so than further written reports. The experts who have agreed to join the workshops have given really valuable service, and, like the authors, they seem to have enjoyed the experience. We ask for finalized manuscripts to come in within about six months of a workshop, and so far we are just about on target, with the first four titles due out in Spring/Summer 2019.

On publication each NHP title will be appear on the IHR’s Open Access books platform, with copies of the work available as OA downloads, eBooks and in hard and paperback formats. As with current IHR publications, each New Historical Perspectives title will also feature on JSTOR’s OA books platform, increasing discoverability and the option to access and share a book at the chapter level.

We are open to non-standard forms of publication, such as short-form works, and also to proposals for edited collections of essays. In this case the lead editor and at least half the contributors need to be ECRs, but they may work with more experienced historians. We have accepted three edited collections on condition that they are thematically coherent and characterized by a rigorous approach to the editing process. Editors of such collections do not get an Author Workshop – which would become a major conference-style event if all the contributors were to be involved – but the complete manuscript is of course subject to peer review.

Simon Newman moved on in June 2018, after sterling service, to be replaced by Jane Winters who, as professor of digital humanities at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, has particularly relevant expertise in Open Access publishing. The Editorial Board is composed of admirably committed members whose scrutiny of proposals and reports, care of authors, and input to shaping the series, is invaluable.

My term of office ends in Spring 2019 and I’ll use this opportunity to say how interesting and satisfying the role of co-editor of NHP is, in the hope that this will encourage potential successors!

Professor Penny Summerfield
Co-editor, New Historical Perspectives
University of Manchester

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.