2022 has been a bumper year for the History of Parliament, as we settled into a ‘new normal’ of events both online and in person, launched new projects and publications, and continued to grow our online outreach. Here’s our Public Engagement Manager Connie Jeffery with a round-up of another busy twelve months…
After two years of uncertainty and unsettled working, for the History of Parliament 2022 was an opportunity to resume postponed projects, embrace new methods of working, and, importantly, come together in person once more. In the spring Parliament opened its doors for events once again and in May our staff and trustees gathered to acknowledge the work produced over recent difficult years. For many, this presented a long-overdue opportunity to see colleagues in the flesh and provided the chance to thank and pay notice to staff members who retired or left the History of Parliament during the online years. In October staff and supporters visited Parliament once again, this time for the History of Parliament’s Annual Lecture 2022. A sell-out audience listened to Professor Chris-Given Wilson, Emeritus Professor of Medieval History at the University of St Andrews and former member of the History of Parliament’s editorial board, present Parliament, Politics and Pandemics in Later Medieval England– a lecture two years in the making!
2022 saw the 150th anniversary of the 1872 Ballot Act, an event marked with two events of different sorts by the History of Parliament. On the anniversary of the Act’s passing, we came together online with the Parliamentary Archives to discuss the build-up to this Act and the influence that it had on the electoral machine. Following an introduction from the History of Parliament’s House of Commons 1832-68 editor Dr Philip Salmon, we heard from Dr Benjamin Jones (Central Queensland University) on the importance of Australia’s earlier adoption of the secret ballot, Dr Kathryn Rix (History of Parliament) then explored the first by-election to utilise the new election system, in Pontefract, and finally Dr Gary Hutchison (Durham University) discussed the impact of the Act on the country’s electoral culture. A full recording of this online event can be viewed on our YouTube channel.
Two months later we gathered in person at the Institute of Historical Research at Senate House for a symposium in honour of Valerie Cromwell, who was Reader in History at the University of Sussex and Director of the History of Parliament Trust between 1991 and 2001. Voting reform 150 years on from the 1872 Ballot Act, held in collaboration with History & Policy, saw many academics come together to consider the culture and conduct of Victorian elections and the circumstances that led to the passing of the Act. Our thanks to History & Policy for their collaboration in this event. A recording of the symposium can be viewed on the IHR YouTube Channel.
Our links with the IHR also continued throughout the year, with the History of Parliament-led Parliaments, Politics and People seminar running both online and hybrid sessions. More information about the seminar, including an archive of all previous papers, can be found on our WordPress site. This year our blog site also became home to a new series, Revolutionary Stuart Parliaments, launched to tie in with our newest project, the House of Lords 1640-1660, and our researchers discussed a variety of topics on our main blog page, including short-serving Prime Ministers, Parliaments away from Westminster, and Speakers of the House. You can find out which of our 2022 blogs proved most popular in this year’s Top of the Blogs chart!
2022 was a very busy year for the History of Parliament’s Oral History project, with interviews finally resuming and many new former MPs signing up to be interviewed. Under the guidance of Dr Emmeline Ledgerwood, Oral History project manager, and Dr Emma Peplow, Head of Oral History, 13 new interviews were completed in 2022 and all will be deposited into the British Library’s sound archive in the new year. We continued to host regular seminars for all Oral History volunteer interviewers, allowing participants to share their experiences of interviewing and discuss the challenges and lessons that may come from our project. Following these seminars one of our interviewers, Peter Reilly, wrote about his interview experience in two blogs for our WordPress site, reflecting on the personal side of oral history and some of the interesting topics that arose. A successful year for the project ended with a workshop on 12 December, where volunteers were invited to think about how our interviews are used after they are recorded and archived, for example by academic research projects and journalists.
Dr Emma Peplow and Dr Priscila Pivatto also continued their work with the History of Parliament Oral History archive throughout the year, presenting their research at several external events. In May they came together with the London Transport Museum for an online workshop focusing on women’s safety in the workplace, as part of the Women’s Histories in Organisations network. In this event, Dr Peplow and Dr Pivatto presented clips from the Oral History Project relating to how female former MPs felt about their place in Parliament. This theme was also picked up on in September, when Dr Peplow and Dr Pivatto hosted a panel discussion as part of the Mile End Institute’s Breaking the Glass Chamber: Women, Politics and Parliament, 1945-1997 conference. The History of Parliament was also delighted to sponsor this ground-breaking three-day conference.
In a year of many news-worthy national and political events, the History of Parliament team was kept in demand across all types of media. Many of our research staff made radio appearances, with Dr Robin Eagles from our Lords 1715-1790 project becoming a regular voice on BBC local radio! Dr Eagles was also invited onto Dan Snow’s HistoryHit podcast in October, discussing if the 3rd Earl of Bute should be in the running for the title of ‘Britain’s worst Prime Minister’, and Dr Philip Salmon lent his expertise to a Parliamentary Education Service podcast on the history of the secret ballot. Keep an eye (and ear!) out in 2023 as we make our own foray into podcasting…
But back to 2022! Despite some uncertainty over the status of Twitter, our own social media output continued to prove popular this year. In fact, at the start of December, the Georgian Lords Twitter page hit 6,000 followers, with the Victorian Commons page not far behind and our main handle inching towards 17,000! Those who have moved away from Twitter will be pleased to know that we are now on Mastodon too, posting all of the usual content. Throughout the year we continued to work closely with Royal Holloway, University of London to produce videos and look more closely into the place of parliamentary history in the curriculum; a collaboration that will continue into the new year and will result in lots of new videos on our YouTube channel. Teachers and academic contacts can also now find us on LinkedIn, where we will be sharing our education resources, including soon announcing the winner of our 2022 Undergraduate Dissertation Competition.
Finally, 2022 saw us say goodbye to some colleagues and welcome new faces into the fold. In December we said goodbye to Dr Charles Moreton, Senior Research Fellow in our Commons 1422-61 and 1461-1504 projects, and earlier in the year Dr Vivienne Larminie, Assistant Editor of our House of Commons 1640-1660 project, left us as work on the long-awaited Civil War project drew to a close. Our thanks to both for their long service and brilliant work for the History of Parliament. In incoming news, at the end of this year we were delighted to welcome two new members of staff to the team: in October Kirsty O’Rourke took up the role of Public Engagement Assistant, and in December Jonathan Mackman joined the Commons 1461-1504 project as Post-Doctoral Research Assistant. We can’t wait to see what work they produce.
Many thanks to all of our staff and supporters for another brilliant year at the History of Parliament. As ever, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via email, Twitter or Facebook with questions, queries, and suggestions.
Here’s to a happy and healthy 2023!