Review of the Year 2020

2020 was a year like no other, a statement to which we can all attest. The Covid-19 pandemic created many new challenges from an operational perspective at the History of Parliament Trust. Despite this, we managed to publish research, offer events, run competitions for students, and more. Here’s Sammy Sturgess with a round-up of 2020 at the HPT…

In April 2020 we published the long-awaited House of Commons 1422-1461, edited by Dr Linda Clark. Although we were unable to celebrate with our planned launch party in Parliament, the volumes were the inspiration for our workshop, Law and Consent in Medieval Britain, which took place online in October in collaboration with the German Historical Institute London. We enjoyed international engagement at this event, which was made possible, like so many of our events at the moment, by Zoom. Our team of medievalists, headed up by Dr Hannes Kleineke, are now busily working on the volumes that will follow the published set for the period that witnessed the Wars of the Roses: 1461-1504. Be sure to keep an eye on their blog page, the Commons in the Wars of the Roses, to keep abreast of their research.

A new House of Lords project also commenced in 2020. As the House of Lords 1604-29 is nearing publication, research on the Elizabethan House of Lords (1558-1603) has now begun. Click here for the latest on all of our ongoing research projects that, despite the problems faced by archive and library closures, continued throughout the entirety of 2020.

In July 2020 Dr Emma Peplow and Dr Priscila Pivatto, the duo responsible for the History of Parliament’s Oral History Project, published a collection of extracts from the interviews collected for the project so far (the archive of which is held at the British Library). We learnt more about the collection of extracts represented in The Political Lives of Postwar British MPs: an Oral History of Parliament and future plans for the project during Emma and Priscila’s conversation with Dr Rob Perks, Lead Curator of Oral History at the British Library on Zoom in October. The project was due to hold training for new volunteer interviewers back in April, but unfortunately, this is still on hold. In the meantime, Emma and Priscila have been holding seminars for project volunteers online. If you’d like to find out more about the plans for the project or volunteering, please contact Dr Emma Peplow: epeplow@histparl.ac.uk.

We were lucky enough to squeeze in one in-person event in Parliament in January 2020 in collaboration with Jacqui Turner, Associate Professor of History at the University of Reading and the Astor 100 project. Our panel, which consisted of some key contributors to the project (that ran throughout 2019), considered the highs, lows and impact of the project to the mainstreaming of women’s political history. Unfortunately, we had to cancel or postpone all other events planned in Parliament for 2020 in line with government guidance on Covid-19. However, all was not lost! Over the summer our public engagement team coordinated a programme of online events for the autumn term within which they managed to incorporate many of the topics that had been planned for physical events, both in Parliament and elsewhere.

In addition to the aforementioned academic workshop, the team assisted Dr Robin Eagles in facilitating an afternoon of papers and discussions in September to mark the 300th anniversary of the South Sea Bubble Crisis. Many of our research staff contributed to a session that the HPT offered at the School of Advanced Studies’ online version of History Day in November – the video that we produced for the event The History of Parliament and Local History is available on our YouTube channel. Moreover, our team of convenors who manage the IHR Parliaments, Politics and People seminar made provision for the seminar to continue online in the autumn term. Head over to the IHR website for the 2021 online programme.

Chris Bryant MP

The History of Parliament’s Annual Lecture also took place in an online format this year. Chris Bryant, MP for Rhondda and Trustee of the History of Parliament, delivered the lecture on Zoom in November. If you missed it, a version of his lecture, ‘Parliament in a National Crisis’, will be available via our blog in the coming weeks.

2020 also marked the 200th anniversary of the Queen Caroline Affair and the public engagement team, after adapting their original plans, collaborated with the Parliamentary Archives and the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art to deliver an online event which discussed the affair’s impact on the politics of the day and political culture. If you would like to catch up on our activities see the QueenCaroline200 hashtag on Twitter or to learn more about the affair these blogs and videos might be useful: Divorcing a Queen: George IV vs. Caroline of Brunswick and Divorcing a Queen: the Queen Caroline affair and popular protest.

We had to adapt our activities with schools and universities too. This led to a reinvigorated version of our A Level essay prize during the summer term. We received many excellent entries on a wide range of topics about political and parliamentary history, but our winner was Nicholas Stephenson from Denbigh School with their essay ‘The Winter of Discontent: Callaghan’s Last Stand’. Congratulations! Teachers, we’ll be running the competition again in 2021, so look out for details after Easter. The extended deadline for our annual undergraduate dissertation competition has now passed and judging will take place in the coming weeks – watch this space for the winner. We also managed to host an intern from the Goldsmiths history programme for the second time before the first lockdown began in March. Unfortunately, we’re unable to host an intern in 2021, but are looking forward to collaborating with Goldsmiths again in 2022. We’re continuing to explore opportunities for digital engagement with university departments so please get in touch if you are interested in working with us.

In case you missed it, the HPT is now on YouTube. Head over to the channel for videos about parliamentary figures and events from the medieval to the modern, as well as to get behind the scenes glimpses at how we do things at the History of Parliament Trust.

Finally, in December our Director, Dr Stephen Roberts, retired. We are welcoming back former Director, Dr Paul Seaward, who has been on a British Academy/Wolfson Foundation research secondment for the last three years. Welcome back, Paul!

Thank you all for your continued support throughout what has been a testing year for us all. As ever, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via email, Twitter or Facebook with questions, queries and suggestions.

All the best for 2021.

S.S.

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