Review of the year 2013

As 2013 draws to an end, we’re looking back at another busy year at the History of Parliament, ready for another exciting year in 2014!

Our five research sections have been busy as normal – not just researching but revising articles in preparation for publication dates. Luckily, some of them have found the time to share what they’re doing with you all on this blog. Our Commons 1422-1504 section, for example, discussed Henry VII’s first parliament in May and in July saw links between the drama of Australian politics and the Wars of the Roses. The Commons 1640-60 section also found similarities between July’s revolution in Egypt and Civil War London, and in April explored the famous quotation from the Putney debates: ‘the poorest he that is in England hath a right to live as the greatest he’. We heard more on the Levellers from Phil Baker (of the 1624 diaries project), who wrote on recording speech in Early Modern Parliaments and at the Putney debates before providing us with daily tweets from each day of the debates in November.

Staying in the early modern period, the Lords 1603-60 section looked back on the wedding of James I’s daughter on Valentine’s day. Reviews of the recently-published Commons 1604-29 volumes kept coming in, including one from the Journal of British Studies, which wrote that the impact of the 1604-29 volumes was ‘the historiographical equivalent of Galileo squinting at Jupiter to CERN’s large Hadron Collider.’ From the Lords 1660-1832 section we had posts on John Wilkes in April, and one of our most popular posts of the year after the birth of Prince George on the ‘warming-pan baby’.

The Victorian Commons have been blogging and tweeting their materials with you, as well as sharing all their research to date on their preview site. They still had some time to blog for us, with posts on the man who brought us bank holidays and the first election by secret ballot in Britain. There will be plenty more to come next year!

We sadly said goodbye to two members of staff this year. Dr Henry Miller, formerly of the Victorian Commons, was appointed as lecturer at the University of Manchester and Dr Beverly Adams retired in October. We wish them both all the best for the future.

It’s been another busy year for us events-wise. Our ‘Parliaments, politics and people’ seminar saw its normal wide range of seminars, everything from Rhodri Morgan on Welsh devolution to early 15th century Moldovan monarchs. After Hurricane Sandy disrupted our 2012 lecture, we held two ‘annual’ lectures this year. Dr Amanda Foreman gave her rescheduled talk on ‘How to make friends and corrupt people: the Confederate Infiltration of Parliament during the American Civil War’ and Baroness Patricia Hollis’s ‘The Hopes of the Suffragettes: Were they realised?’ was also televised for BBC Parliament. In April we hosted a colloquium with the Centre for Early Modern British and Irish History at Oxford University on ‘Writing the History of Parliament in Early Modern England’, which explored the ways in which contemporaries conceived of parliamentary history between 1509 and 1642. In May our 1640-60 section hosted a colloquium on State Formation and the Long Parliament. Next year we have an exciting conference planned at the British Academy with the Pears Institute for the study of Anti-Semitism, Birkbeck  College, University of London, on ‘Parliaments and Minorities’ – see here for the full details (and how to attend).

2013 has been another good year for our oral history research. Our national oral history project, which intends to interview all former MPs, now has 86 completed interviews and 57 are available in full at the British Library. In May, the interviews featured on Radio Four’s ‘Archive on Four’ and an exhibition of photographs of some of our interviewees by Michael Waller-Bridge was also held in parliament. In conjunction with this we launched our oral history website section where you can read short biographies and listen to clips from some of our interviews to date. Watch this space in 2014 for more – we’ll be expanding our website and also include pages on themes that emerge from the interviews, such as the experiences of women MPs (which I blogged about in November).

More exciting oral history news came in July, when we received Heritage Lottery Funding for a new project: ‘From the Grassroots’. This project, based in Devon, will build on our national project and focus on the local side of politics, collecting the memories of political life from activists and ordinary people. We started in November, having appointed Dr Kayleigh Milden as project coordinator. There are plenty of ways for you to get involved – see our website for details. Keep watching for news of a launch event and plenty more from ‘From the Grassroots’ over 2014.

And it’s been another good year for our website! We started well in January, winning the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Digital Prize for the best digital resource supporting eighteenth-century studies. In February, our articles were added to the fantastic ‘Connected Histories’ website . We’ve also been adding plenty of new content, in particular our new schools section, which has complete materials for 11-14 year olds on the Reformation. We’re extremely excited to have these dedicated materials, and our 2014 KS3 competition will be based on them. 2013 was a wonderful year for our schools competitions as well – we had many fantastic entries for our KS3, A level and dissertation competitions. The standard was so high it’s taking us some time to choose the winners, but watch this space for an announcement shortly.

We hope you all had a wonderful 2013, and hope you enjoyed following us on this blog and elsewhere. Here’s to 2014!


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