Today’s blog is the first from Stephen Roberts in his new position as Director of the History of Parliament…
It is a privilege to be taking over as Director of the History of Parliament, which has for many decades now been one of the UK’s leading historical research organisations, and which is currently engaged in a range of projects, some of long standing and others new.
My own historical specialism is that of Britain in the mid-seventeenth century, a turbulent period in the life of the country. It was also a period when Parliament played the widest range of parts in the life of the nation: some Parliaments met only for weeks and others were purged of Members, including by force, but one, the Parliament of the Commonwealth, wielded executive power and ran the country as supreme authority. The period provides an interesting vantage point from which to look retrospectively at earlier Parliaments before 1640 and forwards to those which followed a return to a measure of political stability after 1660.
Before I came to the History of Parliament in 1997 as editor of the House of Commons 1640-1660 volumes, I worked for many years as a tutor and organiser for the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA), the country’s largest voluntary adult education body, and have played a part in the governance of a number of historical societies, including the Worcestershire Historical Society and the Dugdale Society. I am president of the Devon and Cornwall Record Society and a vice-president of the Cromwell Association. I am proud of my roots and heritage in South Wales, and have authored or edited a number of publications on Welsh history.
This is a busy and exciting time here at the History of Parliament. We have some major academic projects coming to fruition over the next few years: our volumes on the House of Commons 1422-61 and on the House of Lords 1604-29. The House of Commons 1640-60 will follow closely on these. We are developing our programme of events and activities aimed at the public at large, and this year these include a series of events with Parliament as the venue. Among these are a debate on the 1867 ‘Second Reform Act’, a flavour from our recent conference on popular sovereignty and, with our partners at UK Parliament Vote 100, events around the legislation extending the vote to women a hundred years ago.
Preparatory spadework has been in progress for a while now on a new project which will add to our series of volumes: on the House of Lords 1715-90. We begin 2018 with the appointment of an editor for this Section, which marks the shift up into another gear into what becomes our third major project on the history of the House of Lords.
Meanwhile, we have also been strengthening our team involved in reaching the widest possible public. We now have an Assistant Director responsible for Communications and Publications, and have recently appointed to the team a Public Engagement Officer, in recognition of our obligations to the taxpayers who fund our work. We hope to be opening up some new ventures in social media, and we look forward to keeping those who follow our activities, whether in traditional print or online, posted with future developments.