It’s been a busy summer already at the History of Parliament. As I’m sure you know during the course of 2015 we’ve been celebrating, along with many others of course, a number of important anniversaries in parliamentary history. The two most important of these – the sealing of Magna Carta in 1215 and Simon de Montfort’s 1265 parliament – formed the inspiration for two major events for us in June and July.
Firstly, we launched our latest book: ‘The Story of Parliament: Celebrating 750 years of Parliament in Britain’, published in collaboration with St James’s House. The book explores the history of the British Parliament from its medieval origins (including the role of Magna Carta) until the present day, with sections written by leading historians of political and parliamentary history – including of course many of our research fellows! It aims to bring together the extraordinary story of Parliament’s development, and its involvement in all aspects of life: society, the economy, culture and belief.
The book was launched in a very apt venue – the cloisters of Westminster Abbey – on June 22nd. It is available to purchase through the Houses of Parliament shop, priced at £14.99.
Only a week later we were delighted to host the annual conference of the International Commission for the History of Parliamentary and Representative Institutions. Following the themes of the two anniversaries, ‘Making Constitutions, Building Parliaments: Constructing Representative Institutions, 1000-2000’ explored the origins and developments of parliaments across the world in venues at King’s College, London, Royal Holloway, University of London and in Portcullis House, UK Parliament.
Nearly 150 speakers from Europe, the US and Latin America gave papers on their specialist research and we held round tables on digitisation of parliamentary archives, oral history and parliamentary research, analysing parliamentary discourse and national parliamentary projects such as our own. Our two fantastic plenary lectures – Professor David Carpenter (KCL) on ‘Simon de Montfort, Magna Carta and the development of Parliament’ and Professor Colin Kidd FBA (University of St Andrews) on ‘Founding myths and their Discontents: the British and American Constitutions compared’ were enjoyed by both delegates and members of the public.
Professor Adam Sutcliffe welcomed us to King’s College at a reception in the Old Rolls Chapel (now party of the Maughan Library, KCL); Professor Jonathan Philips welcomed us to Royal Holloway with a reception on the hottest day of the year following our plenary lecture; Professor Lord Norton of Louth, one of the History of Parliament’s trustees welcomed us to Parliament at a reception in the Speaker’s House by kind permission of Mr Speaker (and we were lucky enough to have an impromptu talk from Pugin expert Rosemary Hill). The conference-goers had the opportunity to benefit from tours of the picture gallery at Royal Holloway, Runnymede meadow and the Palace of Westminster. We ended the conference on Friday night with a dinner in the Members’ Dining Room, Palace of Westminster.
Many thanks indeed to all who contributed to both our latest publication and to a fantastic conference. Special thanks to all at the History of Parliament, KCL, Royal Holloway, UK Parliament 2015 Anniversaries and the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Organisational Committee for their support. With these events done we’re now back to normal – and preparing for our next publication!
Thanks also to our conference delegates for these photographs!