Despite everything that was thrown at us this year, 2021 was as busy as ever for the History of Parliament! With online outreach, multiple events, and even an in-person celebration or two, here’s Connie Jeffery with a round-up of 2021 at the HPT…
2021 began with the long-anticipated publication of our House of Lords 1604-29 volumes, edited by Dr Andrew Thrush. Based on detailed manuscript research in 120 archives and containing over 280 biographies and a ground-breaking Institutional Survey, these volumes provide an unrivalled study of the early Stuart upper House. To celebrate the publication, in April we hosted an online event with members of the Lords 1604-29 research staff coming together to discuss the volumes and the new discoveries made during the project. Our early modern team are now working on the House of Commons 1558-1603 project, which you can follow in our First Elizabethan Age blog page. In November we were lucky to finally come together to mark the publication in person with a reception at Speaker’s House. This event was the first time that many of our colleagues had been together in over eighteen months. We celebrated both the Lords 1604-1629 volumes and the publication of our Commons 1422-1461 volumes, which had been released back in 2020. We are very grateful to the Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle for his kind words during the reception, as well as to Dr Thrush and Dr Linda Clark, editor of the House of Commons 1422-1461, for their speeches- and for waiting so long for an official launch!
Dr Paul Seaward resumed his role as Director of the History of Parliament in 2021, after a three- year British Academy/Wolfson Foundation research secondment. We are very pleased that Dr Stephen Roberts, who sat in the director’s chair when Paul was away, remains a presence at the History of Parliament and were delighted to hear that he was welcomed into the Learned Society of Wales in the spring. One of Paul’s first jobs was to mark an important date in the our history: the 70th anniversary of the History of Parliament receiving funding to recommence the work started by our founder Josiah Wedgwood some 20 years earlier. In June Paul was invited to give a presentation for the British Academy’s Summer Series. Given in collaboration with official Parliament photographer Jessica Taylor, the session titled ‘Picturing politics, framing Parliament’ saw them discuss images of Parliament in the 19th c. and beyond.
Throughout the year we continued the new tradition of online events and programming at the History of Parliament, including working with many external partners. In February we came together with Queer Britain and the APPG for Global LGBT+ Rights to mark LGBT History Month, as History of Parliament trustee Chris Bryant, MP, discussed his recently published book, The Glamour Boys. We also collaborated with Goldsmiths’ Centre for Queer History and Parliament’s Visitor Services department in September to mark (a delayed!) Pride Month with a discussion of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, featuring reflections from those directly impacted by the Act.
We are grateful to Chris Bryant for his continued support for the History of Parliament, as he logged online with us once again in November, this time alongside our director Dr Paul Seaward for UK Parliament Week. Together they discussed how to tackle parliament’s history, what it means to them and whether it matters to the politics of today. The Institute of Historical Research Parliaments, Politics and People seminar also continued in its new online format throughout the year, with Q&A sessions run on Zoom. Finally, we saw out the year with a collaborative event with the Parliamentary Archives and House of Lords Procedures and Privileges committee, discussing the importance of the 1621 Parliament. We were joined online by House of Lords clerk Chris Johnson, Deputy Speaker Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall, David Prior from the Parliamentary Archives and our own Dr Andrew Thrush, who discussed the importance of the House of Lords standing orders both today and in 1621, when they were first written.
In September Dr Robin Eagles, editor of our Lords 1715-1790 project, was part of the organising team behind the Bath 250 conference, marking the 250th anniversary of the Bath Assembly Rooms. The hybrid event saw two days of online papers and discussion, with the final keynote delivered at the Assembly Rooms in person and ending in a Georgian dance recital! However, for our Georgian Lords project, 2021 was all about Robert Walpole. April marked the 300th anniversary of Walpole becoming the first so-called ‘Prime Minister’ and throughout the year we published blogs and videos exploring his rise and influence. The anniversary also provided inspiration for our latest publication with St James’s House; in September we donned our finery and headed to Westminster Abbey for the launch of 300 Years of Leadership and Innovation, a publication written to celebrate 300 years of leadership, industry and innovation across the full spectrum of British society.
In March our colleagues Dr Emma Peplow and Dr Priscila Pivatto delivered the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art International Women’s Day Lecture, discussing the experience of female MPs as described in our Oral History Project. The easing of restrictions and COVID in the summer enabled our new batch of volunteer interviewers to undertake online training sessions under the guidance of Emme Ledgerwood. Whilst COVID prevented any new interviews from taking place in 2021, we are looking forward to getting out and interviewing again in the New Year!
Much like in 2020, this year our online output and social media presence was more important than ever. We continued to produce videos for our Parliamentary Leadership Youtube series, and our long-standing collaboration with Royal Holloway, University of London, saw us produce new videos on Margaret Wintringham, Robert Walpole, Constance Markievicz and Maureen Colquhoun. We had a record number of views on our blog site, hit 16,000 followers on Twitter and even tried our hand at podcasting! We’re already looking forward to our online plans for 2022- so watch this space… We also carried on our tradition of running yearly competitions for both A Level and dissertation-level students. Congratulations to Joe Williams from Dulwich College for winning our Sixth Form Essay Prize. The winner of the Dissertation Competition will be announced early in the New Year.
Finally, in November we said goodbye to our Public Engagement Manager Sammy Sturgess. A member of the History of Parliament Team since 2018, Sammy transformed our presence both online and in person, expanding our social media output and establishing collaborations with external partners that will continue for many years to come. Sammy’s positive energy and passion for engaging our historic community came across in all of her work, and she will be sorely missed!
Thank you all for your continued support throughout what has been another difficult year for us all. As ever, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via email, Twitter or Facebook with questions, queries and suggestions.
Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2022!