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Recent Publications by our History Team

Congratulations to former UG History staff member Dr Anna French on the publication of her new book Children of Wrath: Possession, Prophecy and the Young in Early Modern England (Ashgate, 2015). Layout 1This book explores questions surrounding early modern childhood, focusing especially on some of the extreme religious experiences in which children are documented: those of demonic possession and godly prophecy.

For more detail see: http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9781472443694


Congratulations also to former PhD student Dr Carrie Howse on part 3 of her family history and memoir You’ll Never Walk Alone (emp3books, 2015). The press release for Carrie’s latest book offers the following insight:

In the final part of her family trilogy, award-winning historian Carrie Howse describes how she escaped her dysfunctional home-life to train as a nurse. Both moving and funny by turns, You’ll Never Walk Alone paints an evocative and realistic picture of a general hospital in the 1970s. This is a gripping and heart-warming true story, with an ending that is both unexpected and inspiring.youll-never-walk-alone

In the extract from the back cover:

When I told my mother that I wanted to train as a nurse, she reacted as if the end of the world was nigh. Her habitual attitude towards me, of patronising, disdainful disapproval and petulant, pained indignation, clearly conveyed the message that I was A Disappointment. As far as Mum was concerned, my sole purpose in life was to FIND A HUSBAND – and I had failed. It was August 1970, less than three months before my eighteenth birthday, and there was still no ring on my finger. Where had she Gone Wrong?


Dr Christian O’Connell has also published his first manuscript, entitled Blues, How Do You Do? Paul Oliver and the Transatlantic Story of the Blues (University of Michigan Press, 2015). BHDYDThe book explores the birth of transatlantic interest in African American music during the 1950s and 1960s, and examines the role of this scholarship on the representation of the blues and African American culture during the famed ‘blues revival,’ which was very much in contrast to the political activism that affected African American life in the post-war era. Christian bases his research on the work of the most prolific and influential blues historian, the British scholar Paul Oliver, who he also interviewed over a three year period. For more information see: https://www.press.umich.edu/8108011/blues_how_do_you_do


Prof Melanie Ilic is co-editor with Prof Dalia Leinarte (University of Vilnius) of The Soviet Past in the Post-Socialist Present: Methodology and Ethics in Russian, Baltic and Central European Oral History and Memory Studies (Routledge, 2015). Melanie BookThis collection examines practical and ethical issues inherent in the application of oral history and memory studies to research about the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe since the collapse of the Soviet bloc. Case studies highlight the importance of ethical good practice, including the reflexive interrogation of the interviewer and researcher, and aspects of gender and national identity.

For more detail see: http://www.tandf.net/books/details/9781315678191/

Isn’t it ironic? How history bridges the chasm of sensitivity

This week’s post comes from Briony Eddy, who is in her third-year studying English Literature and History at the University of Gloucestershire.


“In light of the recent surge of global terrorism hitting every form of social media and news headlines, I have been inclined to wonder what will make the history books in years to come. How will our generation be depicted, and are we aware of the images we are creating for ourselves? Or does it not matter? Will the historians of the future talk about the day that Facebook turned red, white and blue? If so, will they also nonchalantly scroll over videos of Syrian children being dragged out the rubble as a result of French air raids? Will they discuss the disputes that were had over which terror attack was worse in a bid for one-up-manship? Or will these be omitted from the history books that will resonate with the phrase ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’, and simply recall the day that England stood in union with France at a football match?

As global headlines reach our televisions, radios, mobile phones and all other forms of social media with increasing speed, journalists are having to produce increasingly more shocking headlines to capture their intended audiences on news articles which have already been heard, watched or ‘re-tweeted’. Although at the time of Princess Diana’s death numerous forms of the social media platforms that we use today did not exist, I would just like to compare two headlines from different decades of the 20th century in order to represent the growing insensitivity of our society.

This following front page was published by the News of the World on the day of Princess Diana’s death.diana

Half a century prior to this, The News Chronicle (now the Daily Mail) published a newspaper headline identical to this but featuring the name of Hitler – ‘HITLER DEAD’.


It does not take a historian to detail the differences between these two very different historical moments, or how these headlines would have affected society in two very different ways. However, what I find most worrying in these headlines, is the lack of sensitivity and humanity, particularly regarding the late Princess Diana. Is this a reflection of a society lacking in compassion, or is it a result of increasingly shocking journalism that is desensitizing our emotions? Herein lies the irony. It has been a habit of society to desensitize the past, whether it is through numerous forms of public history (i.e. museums and National Trust sites), in television documentaries and films or even in the realm of education. So much emphasis is put on remembering the past -‘lest we forget’ bhitlerthumbut for what purpose? Unarguably, occasions such as Remembrance Day serve the purpose of paying respects and remembering those who fought for us. However, surely the reason we are taught history is to learn from the past. Unfortunately, for Great Britain it would appear that the purpose of our history is to remember our strength as an imperial conqueror, an innovator in industry, a saviour in times of war and very rarely at fault. However, the news headlines often offer a different story, one of political and social scandal, one in which our economy is on the brink of recession, one in which the truth is rarely omitted but exaggerated. Therefore, at what point do the actions of today become desensitized in the history of tomorrow?


Perhaps, if history was more accurately reported and society did not have the cavalier attitude and reassurance that ‘Great Britain’ will ultimately be portrayed as a hero in the fight against ISIS, we might be able to drop our inhumane attitude towards those fleeing from the very war zones that we are creating. Just because the history books tell us that we rescued thousands of war victims during the persecution of the Nazi’s does not mean that we have done our part. If history is repeating itself, then surely we must repeat the actions that have been portrayed with the most positive results. Although it may be considered narcissistic, we must be conscious of what today’s newspapers say, and treat today’s shocking headlines as the titles of tomorrow’s history books that will document our generation. Perhaps then we may re-consider our actions.”


Why I Study History

This post comes from our third-year undergraduate student, and current President of the History Society at the University of Gloucestershire, Kathryne Ellinger.

If you are a fellow History student, I’m guessing that you endure the same reaction as I do when you tell people that you study History. It is nearly always the same reaction: ‘what are you studying? History? But why?’ This might also be followed by a statement that they believe will save the conversation, such as, ‘I was always really terrible at History at school and I found it boring’. However, I think the reason behind this never-ending response is because society collectively tells Humanities students that their degrees are pointless. Even Barack Obama in January 2014 stated that ‘folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art History degree.’ While Obama wasn’t criticising the discipline, he highlighted the underlying problem that people believe History students are not equipped for the working world.

President Barack Obama made the comments at a speech at a General Electric plant in Wisconsin, January 2014

President Barack Obama made the comments at a speech at a General Electric plant in Wisconsin, January 2014

To that I respond with: ‘you are wrong’. Throughout my three years of studying History at the University of Gloucestershire, I have learnt many skills that I never believed I would gain. Before the degree, I had no idea how to write an academic and well-structured essay (or even an e-mail), and often let my dyslexia get the better of me. Before studying History I could not think independently, rather, I did what the teachers, my family and friends expected. I couldn’t even create a persuasive argument, let alone stand up and argue what I believed in a classroom or in front of my lecturers. I would have never been able to analyse and critique what the ‘experts’ say. Instead, I used to passively believe everything I read. I had never worked in a team before, and wouldn’t have guessed I would have been a project manager. This role was an opportunity given to me in a second year module where I had to organise and manage four sub-groups in creating a historical artefact. As a result of my degree, I now read actively, analysing the work and views of historians, and from this I try to form my own opinions on the past. Aside from all the new skills I have learned, I have had an incredible two and a half years studying my favourite subject, and realised that I have a passion for Georgian Britain, which is a period that I knew very little about before coming to university. I even got the chance to study subjects outside of History which has furthered my knowledge in other areas.

Kathryne the Showcasing History trip to Stonehenge in 2015

Kathryne at the Showcasing History trip to Stonehenge in 2015

Ultimately, studying History has made me a more inquisitive, intelligent, well-rounded and independent thinker. Before starting the course, I wasn’t as comfortable discussing some the major issues and social injustices which take place around the world and even here in the UK. I would never change my choice to study History. Employers, no matter what the people tell me, will recognise the incredible skills that I have developed through my time studying this subject at the University of Gloucestershire.

To find out more about life as a History student at the University of Gloucestershire, check out the Flickr gallery and join the Facebook group: History @ University of Gloucestershire.

Reflections of Black History Month: Bonnie Greer & Gary Younge at FCH

October has been a busy month this year in Cheltenham. In addition to the renowned Cheltenham Literature Festival at the beginning of the month, there have been a number of events for Black History Month in Cheltenham including the visits of George the Poet, the Egyptian Spirits Belly Dancers, film screenings, African Art Competitions and musical evenings. I even contributed my own performance of the musical documentary ‘The Discovery of the Blues’ at the Frog & Fiddle pub in one of the last events of the month. The highlights, however, were undoubtedly the guest lectures at FCH by the dramatist and critic Bonnie Greer OBE, and The Guardian journalist and author Gary Younge. I was involved in the organization and planning of these talks, and while they brought a real sense of prestige to the month’s events, they also provoked questions much-needed reflection on the meaning and significance of Black History Month overall.

Bonnie Greer and Prof. Neil Wynn

Bonnie Greer and Prof. Neil Wynn, FCH, University of Gloucestershire, 14th Oct 2015

Bonnie Greer’s talk on ‘Disruption and Insouciance’ followed by a Q&A with Professor Neil Wynn, centred on the questions raised by David Olusoga, who argued that the whole idea of BHM needs a ‘rethink’. Essentially, Olusoga suggests it is time to drop the ‘hero worship’ of black leaders and activists who are continually framed as quasi-superhuman inspirations. Greer borrowed this argument to challenge the simplistic idea of ‘diversity’ which is reflected in the political uses of the BME category, and adopted more widely in the arts. She argued that we are living in a time of significant social, cultural and political change, and the way we think about racial or ethnic ‘diversity’ must be more nuanced, more complex than as it currently exists. To close her talk, Greer read an extract from her new forthcoming novel ‘Till’, based on the life of Emmett Till, a young boy brutally murdered in Mississippi in 1955 for allegedly flirting with a white woman.

Gary Younge, FCH, University of Gloucestershire, 20th Oct 2015. Photo by Lucy Harris www.lucyharrisphoto.co.uk

Gary Younge, FCH, University of Gloucestershire, 20th Oct 2015. Photo by Lucy Harris http://www.lucyharrisphoto.co.uk

Gary Younge’s talk – ‘reclaiming the lost voices of Black History’ – began on the premise that BHM in reality should not exist. A society in which racism has been extinguished no longer needs to correct the wrongs of historical representation. However, we know that is unfortunately not the case. His critique focused on the way BHM reflects the way history is generally told and the way in which we like to experience it – that is – in the form of stories about leaders, struggles, and victories. For Younge, this means that while we remember and ‘heroize’ black icons, we also forget the many intricacies of the past. He used the example of Claudette Colvin, the 15-year old African-American girl who refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, eight months before Rosa Parks took the same iconic stand that sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Subsequently, Colvin’s story in history books is limited to this one moment: the ‘nearly’ girl that didn’t fit the bill of the Civil Rights movement. Colvin did not become the icon that Parks became, but this does not mean she didn’t take part in the boycott, or experienced other aspects of the movement throughout her life. Younge argued Black History Month should be used as an opportunity to recover these ‘forgotten’ stories.

Me (left) and Vincenzo Colonna (right) at 'The Discovery of the Blues: A Musical Documentary', Frog & Fiddle, Cheltenham, 26th Oct 2015

Me (left) and Vincenzo Colonna (right) at ‘The Discovery of the Blues: A Musical Documentary’, Frog & Fiddle, Cheltenham, 26th Oct 2015

Overall, these talks by Greer and Younge achieved the desired aim of informing and provoking thought, and it is left to us to decide on the next steps we can take in our lives to fully appreciate the complexities of history, and to look beyond the familiar stories of the same old heroes. May the next BHM be as fascinating and thought-provoking as this one has been!

Former student Micky Gibbard obtains PhD funding

We always love to hear what our former students are doing. This week, former undergraduate student Micky Gibbard has been in touch to report back on his success in obtaining funding for his PhD, and offers some advice for students starting their studies at Gloucestershire

As Gloucestershire starts its new academic year minus a couple of familiar faces I will be starting my PhD in Dundee, following the recently displaced Iain Robertson north of the border. A Cheltenham local, I graduated from Gloucestershire in 2013 and immediately went up to Durham to study for an MA in Early Modern History. Despite studying elsewhere however, I have an incredible fondness for my time at Gloucestershire, the History Department and its staff who I now regard not only as my former tutors, but my friends. The History Department at Gloucestershire very much put down the foundations for my further study and the consistent help from staff both past and present has been the major contributing factor in attaining PhD funding from the Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities. Micky G

The vast majority of my research to date has looked at cartography and surveying between the sixteenth and eighteenth century (on which the university library has many excellent books, if any new undergraduates are that way inclined…). My PhD will be slightly different and although incorporating the history of surveying and cartography, the main focus will be on the principles of improvement and the foundation of new planned settlements in rural Scotland throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries – something which I’m yet to comprehend and which I very much hope will change over the next three years – I will keep you updated! Some advice for the new undergraduates: continue the history society and get involved. Founded in 2013 by a small group of my friends the society went from strength to strength with many (quite liquid) historical discussions. Above all else, however, print your source sheets and forget them at your peril!

A New Start!

The start of the new academic year is here! Today we welcome back returning students embarking on their final year, those beginning their second year, and let’s not forget our part-time students who are at various stages of their academic studies. A special welcome goes to all our new students starting Induction Week today, we hope you are all settling in and that you enjoy the full schedule of activities for your first week at the University of Gloucestershire.

FCH Campus

FCH Campus

It has been a busy summer for the History team, not only in terms of research and preparing for the new year, but also because we have undergone a number of changes. First of all, congratulations and farewell are in order to two members of staff, Dr Anna French and Dr Iain Robertson – both regular contributors to this blog – who have begun exciting new journeys elsewhere. Anna will be taking up a new post as Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Liverpool in October, whereas Iain started his new job as Reader in History at the University of the Highlands and Islands on the 1st September. Iain’s departure means that Christian O’Connell is the new Academic Course Leader in History. While we are sad to see Anna and Iain leave, we are also very happy to welcome two new members of staff. First of all, early modern specialist Erin Peters is joining us after completing her PhD at the University of Worcester on print culture in Restoration England. She will be starting with us on the 28th September and begins the semester  by teaching on HM4404 Renaissance & Reformation, HM5403 Religion, Superstition & Fear and HM6403 Protestantism and Puritanism. We also welcome David Howell, a Lecturer in History and Heritage who is joining us to teach HM5404 Crime, Violence and Disorder and HM6405 Social Conflict in Nineteenth Century Rural Britain. 

Gary Younge

Gary Younge

Bonnie Greer

Bonnie Greer

Beyond the start of courses, there is also lots going on at Gloucestershire this term. We have lots to look forward to in terms of extracurricular activity at the University. We previously published the Gloucestershire branch of the Historical Association program. All our students get free access to these fascinating talks which are normally held at our Park Campus. We also have a number of exciting events for Black History Month in October. This year, the School of Humanities has teamed up with the local council, the African Community Foundation and local community to organise a number of events. We are very excited to host talks by the African American dramatist and critic Bonnie Greer on the 14th, and lead writer for The Guardian and The Nation Gary Younge on the 20th October.

To look at a full list of events for Black History Month click here. Remember to check out our Black History Month competition, which ends on the 27th September.  We will also shortly be announcing a list of events for our Showcasing History series, which was so successful last year. Make sure you follow the blog to keep up to date with all the events, but also join the Facebook Group and follow us on Twitter.

Historical Association – New Branch Program released

GarveyAs we await the start of the new academic year, we are drawing up a number of plans for our extracurricular activities for the year ahead. Next month, a number of events will take place at FCH for Black History Month, including talks by Bonnie Greer and Gary Younge. We are also putting together a list of events for the Showcasing History series, which are designed to get staff and students engaging with historical issues outside the classroom (more on these to follow on our blog soon).

Before all this however, the Gloucestershire branch of the Historical Association has just published its program for the coming year [download PDF]. A number of exciting talks by noted academics and scholars are in stock on topics including the Indian Ocean Slave Trade, Marcus Garvey, the battles of Agincourt and Gallipoli, Henry III, the Armenian Genocide, and American Civil War and others. See the attached program for more information.

Indian Ocean Slave TradeDue to our relationship with the HA, our students can attend talks for free, but they are also encouraged to join the HA and support the organization. The talks are normally held in the Teaching Block of Park Campus in Cheltenham. The first HA talk of the new year will be held on Monday 21st September at 8.15 at Park Campus. For more information, visit the HA website. You can also keep up to date with events by joining our Facebook group.


This blog provides a forum for the students and staff of History at the University of Gloucestershire. Here, we’ll post news on our teaching, student experiences, research, publications, resources, events, and anything else even remotely connected to studying history at Gloucestershire.

There are also short bios of our teaching staff, along with some contact details, and a whole bunch of useful links. Enjoy, and please don’t hesitate to leave a comment!


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