Luc-Andre Brunet’s article in Contemporary European History

Luc-Andre Brunet, Lecturer in Twentieth Century European History, has published ‘The Creation of the Monnet Plan, 1945-46: A Critical Re-evaluation’, in Contemporary European History. Drawing on an extensive range of French archival sources as well as Jean Monnet’s papers, this article challenges several commonly held views regarding the establishment of the Monnet Plan by re-examining the domestic political context in post-war France. It reveals that the distinctive ‘supra-ministerial’ structure of the Monnet Plan was developed only after, and in direct response to, the October 1945 legislative elections in which the French Communist Party won the most seats and subsequently gained control of France’s main economic ministries. Furthermore, Monnet managed to convince communist ministers to surrender important powers from their ministries to Monnet’s nascent planning office on false premises, a finding that challenges the usual depiction of Monnet as an open and honest broker.

Luc-Andre Brunet interviewed by LSE Ideas about his new book Forging Europe

LSE Ideas interviewed Luc-Andre Brunet, Lecturer in Twentieth Century European History, on his new book, Forging Europe: Industrial Organisation in France, 1940–1952. Forging Europe is a detailed and original look at the radical reorganisation of French heavy industry in the turbulent period between the establishment of the Vichy regime in 1940 and the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the forerunner to the European Union, in 1952. By studying institutions ranging from Vichy’s Organisation Committees to Jean Monnet’s Commissariat GĂ©nĂ©ral du Plan (CGP), Luc-AndrĂ© Brunet challenges existing narratives and reveals significant continuities from Vichy to post-war initiatives such as the Monnet Plan and the ECSC. Based on extensive multi-archival research, this book sheds important new light on economic collaboration and resistance in Vichy, the post-war revival of the French economy, and the origins of European integration.

Notes on sources: Museum visitor comments books and the history of immigration to Britain by Samuel Aylett

The second in a series of blog posts on sources used by our PhD students, Samuel Aylett’s post on his own blog, Legacies of the British Empire, looks at how Museum visitor comments books shed light on contemporary attitudes to immigration and migrants. The blog post can be found by clicking on the link below:

Samuel’s blog with other posts related to his PhD research can be found here:

Ferguson Centre Director awarded an AHRC Research Networking for International Development (GCRF) grant

Centre Director Sandip Hazareesingh has been awarded an AHRC Research Networking for International Development (GCRF) grant for a 12-month pilot project on ‘Changing Farming Lives in South India, Past and Present’. The project’s main aim is to explore the potential of various aspects of history, film, and sound, to document and support small farmer creativity and resilience to food, biodiversity and climate issues in south India. It will be carried out in collaboration with a Karnataka-based NGO, Green Foundation, which works with local smallholders to promote biodiversity conservation and sustainable agriculture. The AHRC peer reviewer for the project wrote: ‘This is an ambitious project which has the potential to produce long-term beneficial contributions to knowledge of significant cultural practices, as well as contributing to the sustainability of those practices through a heritage record of them’.

Crime, Policing and Technology in the 20th century seminar, Friday 10th November 2017

On Friday 10th November 2017, the International Centre for the History of Crime, Policing and Justice at the Open University will be hosting the next event in its regular seminar series. Four papers will be presented, paper titles and presenters are below. Full details of the seminar, including how to reserve a place, are in the document at the end of this blog post; please click on the link to access the document.

Alison Adam (Sheffield Hallam University)

Science in the service of detection: the British ‘scientific aids’ movement of the 1930s

Ian Burney (University of Manchester)

Spatters and Lies: Technologies of Truth in the Sam Sheppard Case, 1954-1966

Chris Williams (Open University)

The Home Office, Information and Communications, 1950-1975

Paul Lawrence (Open University)

The Curious Case of the Adoption of Photo-FIT

Crime Policing and Technology – Seminar Day Programme 10Nov2017


Notes on Sources: Vestry Minutes by Louise Ryland-Epton

This is the first in a series of blog posts by Open University History PhD students on the primary sources they are using for their doctoral research.

For many towns and villages in the Georgian period (1714-1830) the vestry or vestry meeting was the main organ of local government. They were called vestry meetings because these gatherings were often held in the church vestry room after Sunday worship, when the parishioners would meet and make decisions concerning welfare provision, the maintenance of roads and law and order in their parish. In fact, vestry meetings covered virtually anything that concerned the local community.

Many English county archives contain the minutes of these meetings. One example is the Cirencester vestry minutes held at the Gloucestershire Archives in Gloucester. The minutes are bound in a weighty tome that records nearly three hundred years of parish history in this Cotswold town. The vestry minutes provided source material that formed the backbone of my MA project, and will be an important source for my PhD research. These vestry minutes are at times wonderfully detailed, yet at other times frustratingly sparse. The minutes depict local reactions to events such as small pox epidemics, wheat famines, central government policy and the Napoleonic Wars. Close study of the minutes reveals the impact of the industrial revolution and Gloucester’s economic decline and restructure. Occasionally the information within the minutes can help draw out individual stories, such as that of a local magistrate who misappropriated hundreds of pounds of charity funds.

Unfortunately not all English parishes recorded information in the same detail. Many vestry minutes only provide a list of annual appointments to local offices. Minutes are often fragmentary or lost to history. As vestry minutes only provide one perspective on local history, they need to be looked at along with other sources. There is always the frustration of hours of research among these sources with nothing tangible at the end of it. But the Cirencester vestry minutes manuscript provided me with one of those rare “Eureka!” moments which debunked arguments and interpretations by historians that I had read in the secondary literature. This encouraged me to question existing scholarship and sent me in the direction that would result in my PhD research.

Vestry minutes are a source of continuous fascination for me, often exasperating but providing a wealth of material that is surprising and insightful.

Louise Ryland-Epton is a PhD candidate at the Open University researching eighteenth century poverty, welfare legislation and the inner workings of the Georgian state. She has a blog, Georgian Perspectives, where she has written more about the information found in vestry minutes:

A page from the Circencester Vestry minutes. Reference: P86/VE/2/1. Reproduced with the kind permission of Gloucestershire Archives

Donna Loftus’s article in Social History

Donna Loftus, Senior Lecturer in History, has published an article entitled “Time, History and the making of the industrial middle class: the story of Samuel Smith” in Social History. The article argues that anxieties about the decline of industry and the future of liberalism at the end of the nineteenth century fuelled a small explosion in life writing and popular history. Accounts combined anecdotes about everyday life and reminiscences of the great civic age in a network of texts that attempted to recreate the associational life of the industrial middle class and present it as the foundation of national progress. However, slips in time between retrospection, nostalgia, memory and history reveal the complexity of late-Victorian anti-industrialism and the tensions in liberalism between a political culture that was inclusive and open and a social world that was not. The article combines a deep reading of the autobiography of the cotton magnate and liberal politician Samuel Smith alongside popular local history and collective biography. In so doing it shows how life stories were consciously composed as history, intent on shaping the provincial middle class as a historical force at a time of uncertainty about the future of industry and of liberalism.

Paul Lawrence’s article in The British Journal of Criminology

Paul Lawrence, Asa Briggs Professor of History, has recently published an article entitled “The Vagrancy Act (1824) and the Persistence of Pre-emptive Policing in England since 1750” in The British Journal of Criminology (May 2017). This article argues that research into preventive and pre-emptive crime control in the United Kingdom has marginalized the historical persistence of the power to arrest and convict on justified suspicion of intent. It traces the genesis of this power in statute law (particularly the Vagrancy Act of 1824) and demonstrates its consistent use in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Overall, the article argues that ‘pre-emptive’ arrest and conviction on suspicion of intent have been a significant component of UK police powers since the later eighteenth century, and seeks to demonstrate the value of historical criminology in problematizing contemporary debates.


John Slight awarded Trevor Reese Memorial Prize

The Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICWS) has awarded Dr John Slight the Trevor Reese Memorial Prize for his publication for his book ‘The British Empire and the Hajj’, which explores the interactions between imperialism and Islamic practice.

Established by the institute in 1979 the prize, awarded every three years, recognises the author of a piece of work that has made a wide-ranging, innovative and scholarly contribution in the field of Imperial and Commonwealth History. It is dedicated to Dr Trevor Reese, a distinguished scholar of Australian and Commonwealth history, who was Reader in Imperial Studies at ICWS until his death in 1976. He was the author of several leading works, and was both founder and first editor of the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History.

Professor Philip Murphy, the institute’s director, said: “The panel of judges has identified an extremely worthy recipient of this year’s Trevor Reese Memorial Prize in John Slight’s excellent book. It is a remarkably thorough and engaging piece of multi-archival scholarship, and a major contribution to our understanding of how the British Empire interacted with the Muslim world. I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to Dr Slight.”

Commenting on his award, Dr Slight said that “I am very honoured to receive this prize. The interactions between imperialism and Islamic practice form an important part of the imperial experience, which I explored in ‘The British Empire and the Hajj’, but is a phenomena that extends far beyond the case of Britain alone. I am extremely pleased that this particular historical story has been recognised by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies.”

Georgian Perspectives Blog

Announcing a new blog ‘Georgian Perspectives’ launched by Louise Ryland-Epton, a PhD candidate with the History department at The OU. 

Louise writes:

I am a PhD candidate at the OU researching eighteenth century poverty, welfare legislation and the inner workings of the Georgian state.  I wanted to blog because I have been spending a lot of time in archives recently and sometimes I come across things which whilst not relevant to my current research is maybe unusual, surprising or tragic.  I am also interested in how history has parallels or resonances with what is happening today.  So one post deals with the creation of an early soup kitchen in a town which today has a food bank.  These responses to food crisis are two hundred years but both have very similar objectives.  A blog is great as it allows me to focus on individual stories which would not otherwise be told in an engaging way which I hope is interesting.

Click here to visit Louise’s blog ‘Georgian Perspectives’.