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’. 

PhD Research Day 2017

A PhD research day took place in The Open University Library Seminar rooms 1-2, Milton Keynes, on 26 May 2017. The event was organised by Dr Silvia De Renzi and Dr Anna Plassart and provided OU History department PhD candidates an opportunity to present their work and exchange ideas.

For further details, see the full programme below.


  • 10.00: Registration and coffee
  • 10.20: Welcome and introduction
  • 10.30: Chris Mains, ‘Plots and religious conflicts in Elizabethan time: the view of Sir Robert Cecil’
  • 11.10: Katherine Lucas, ‘Developments in the political thinking of Wolfe Tone’
  • 11.50: Break
  • 12.00: Louise Ryland Epton, ‘Welfare provision in the late eighteenth century’
  • 12.40: Lunch
  • 14.00: Lucinda Borkett-Jones, ‘Representations of Anglo-German relations before the First World War’
  • 14.40: Sam Aylett, ‘Museums and the legacies of the British Empire: key questions and methods’
  • 15.20: Coffee break
  • 15.30: Tom Probert, ‘The changing historiography of counterinsurgency: from minimum to exemplary force’
  • 16.10: Concluding remarks


Catherine Lee’s article in Women’s History Review

Catherine Lee, Honorary Associate, has recently published an article entitled ‘“Giddy Girls”, “Scandalous Statements” and a “Burst Bubble”: the war babies panic of 1914–1915’ in a special themed issue of Women’s History Review on ‘Representing, Remembering and Rewriting Women’s Histories of the First World War’ (online, print issue forthcoming early 2018). The article investigates the moral panic surrounding the alleged impending birth of ‘war babies’ to thousands of unmarried young women and girls, said to have been fathered by men recently departed for the Western Front in late 1914. The rumour ultimately proved to be largely unfounded – but not before it had attracted widespread press and public attention.

Criminal Justice History seminar, 24 March 2017

The Open University’s criminal justice history centre, (the ICPCJH) is holding the latest in its series of criminal justice history seminars on Friday 24 March 2017.  The event is being held in Library Seminar Rooms 1&2 , Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, from 10.30am to 3.30pm.

The speakers and topics are:

(11.15) Donald Fyson, Laval University, Canada – “The Spectacle of State Violence: Executions in Quebec, 1759-1872”

(12.15) Maryse Tennant, Canterbury Christ Church – “The Police That Never Was: Peel, Melbourne and the Cheshire Constabulary (1829-1857)”

(2.15) Chris Fevre, Dundee University –  “The origins of black community resistance to policing in London, 1945-1959”

To register a place please email If you are not an OU staff member or student you will need to pay £10 for lunch.  Please send cheques made payable to ‘The Open University’ for the attention of Carol Fuller, School of History, Religious Studies, Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The Open University, Walton Hall, MK7 6AA.

New collaborative Studentship with the Imperial War Museum

Thomas Probert will be joining us in October, to study ‘The Impact of Post-war counterinsurgency on British Service Personnel’. The doctoral supervisory team is Karl Hack (History), Alex Tickell (English), and Simon Innes-Robins (Imperial War Museum).  Thomas has an MSc in War and Psychiatry, and experience of service in the British Army, and so brings a wide range of experience and training to bear. This is a particularly exciting collaboration for us, combining as it does History, English, and heritage and memory.

Women and Gender in Early Modern Britain and Ireland: A Conference in Honour of Anne Laurence

Organised by members of the History Department (Gemma Allen, Suzanne Forbes, Amanda Goodrich, Karl Hack, Janice Holmes and Neil Younger), ‘Women and Gender in Early Modern Britain and Ireland: A Conference in Honour of Anne Laurence’ was held at the Institute of Historical Research in London on the 4th June 2016.

Anne Laurence addressing delegates at the Women  Gender in Early Modern Britain and Ireland Conference
Anne Laurence addressing delegates at the conference

This highly successful event, attended by over sixty delegates, celebrated the research of a recently-retired member of the History Department, whilst showcasing new directions in women’s and gender history. Speakers included Amanda Capern, Amy Erickson, James Daybell, Jane Humphries, Mary O’Dowd,  Judith Spicksley, Rosalind Carr, and Frances Nolan. Follow this link to access the full conference programme.

Women and Gender Conference
Delegates at the Women and Gender Conference, 4 June 2016

Representing the History Department amongst the speakers was Gemma Allen who talked about her new research uncovering the important (but hitherto ignored) role of the early modern ambassadress, whilst Janice Holmes reflected on the significance of Anne Laurence’s long academic career.

Janice Holmes addressing delegates at the conference

Delegates described ‘feeling suitably inspired after a wonderful conference honouring the career of Anne Laurence’ and noted that it was ‘a privilege and a pleasure to see such accomplished historians … in action’.

The Open University History Department and the conference organisers would like to thank all of the speakers and delegates for making the conference such a success.

Neil Younger on Drama, politics, and news in the Earl of Sussex’s entertainment of Elizabeth I

Neil Younger has recently published an article on a previously unknown entertainment of Elizabeth I at New Hall in Essex, and the political and cultural contexts surrounding this event.

Drama, politics, and news in the Earl of Sussex’s entertainment of Elizabeth I at New Hall, 1579‘ appears in The Historical Journal, Volume 58, Issue 02, June 2015.

Listen to Neil talking about this research on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Making History’.


New Publication: Historic New Lanark

historic lanark coverEdinburgh University Press has just brought out a new updated edition of Historic New Lanark by Ian Donnachie, Emeritus Professor of History at the Open University, and George Hewitt.

According to Gregory Claes, Professor of the History of Political Thought at Royal Holloway, London, this ‘admirably concise, readable and informative introduction … provides the best account of the famous New Lanark Mills’.

For further information, please click here to visit the publisher’s website.