2015 has been a very busy year here at the History of Parliament Trust!
Of course much of this has been due to the important political anniversaries we’ve been marking this year. These began in January, when Parliament launched their year of celebrations with the ‘Beginnings of that Freedome’ exhibition in Westminster Hall on the anniversary of Simon de Montfort’s 1265 Parliament. We were delighted to have prepared the text for this exhibition, and to be a part of many of the ‘Parliament in the Making’ 2015 celebrations. These included the 600 year anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, which we marked in October with our ‘Band of Brothers’ booklet investigating the Parliamentarians involved in Agincourt.
For us, the biggest events came in the summer to mark the 800-year anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta. 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 Magna Carta and Simon de Montfort 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 in what turned out to be a fantastic conference. We’re hoping to repeat this success next year with our jointly-organised conference on ‘Speaking in Parliament: history, politics, rhetoric,’ which will take place over 6-7 April 2016 at Queen Mary, University of London (more details here).
Also during the summer we published our commemorative 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. You can read extracts from our book in our ‘Story of Parliament’ series on this blog and purchase the book from the House of Commons bookshop here.
This was not our only publication this year, as in the spring we released the Proceedings in Parliament 1624: The House of Commons digitally, hosted by British History Online. This gives researchers free online access to the Commons’ debates during the final Parliament of the reign of James I (more details here). We also released new online educational materials in January, perfect for KS3 school history teachers, following the progress of 19th Century electoral reform. There were prize-days for our 2014 education competition winners and the winner of our 2015 undergraduate dissertation competition winner has already been announced. Watch this space for an announcement on the 2015 schools competition winner early in the New Year.
Our oral history projects have continued to thrive this year. Our ‘From the Grassroots’ project in Devon finished a great success. We interviewed over 70 grassroots activists from the county and sharing some of the insights from this fantastic new archive in our travelling exhibition (launched with the help of some of Exeter’s important political figures) and adding plenty of new material to the ‘From the Grassroots’ website this summer. Our project interviewing former MPs continues, with over 100 recordings now available in the British Library and plenty of material from the project available on this blog.
Of course the main work of the History of Parliament has continued throughout the year, with our fellows researching and revising biographies. Some of their insights into modern day events we’ve shared with you all on here – such as our series on historic elections in the run-up to May’s General Election; our Director’s definitive article on young MPs after Mhari Black’s surprise election and some historic perspectives on the migration crisis in the medieval period and the 18th century. We’ve heard from all of our sections, including ‘The battle of Northampton and the strange death of Sir William Lucy MP’ from the Commons 1422-1504 section; ‘The boy who saved a King’ from the House of Lords 1603-1660 section and ‘The uses of a parliamentary diary in the making of a royalist: the case of Henry Townshend of Worcestershire’ from the Commons 1640-60 section. The Victorian Commons have of course been keeping you up-to-date on their own blog, but Kathryn Rix has also been publishing our series on MPs who died in WWI throughout the year – and to continue in 2016.
And we’ve been very busy preparing for our major event in spring 2016: the publication of our long-awaited first volumes on the House of Lords, covering the period 1660-1715. Watch this space for more on that!
After such a busy year, all that is left is to thank you all for your continued interest and support, and wish you the very best for another great year in 2016.