Friday, 9 January 2015

New History Lab Showcase!

Ready to return to from the weeks of debauchery to continue forging the intellectual future? Our first lab of 2015 will feature short talks from committee members Katie, Matt and Sam. Should be something to appeal to everyone!

(This lab will be in Attenborough 208, not our usual room)

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Up an' at 'em, Jed Jaggard

A recording of Jed's lab on historical re-enactment from November 28th. Not long till labs start now!

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The Story of Leicester, Siobhan Begley

Back in October Siobhan Begley came and told us the history of Leicester from the Romans to the present. You can now hear that here, and Siobhan's book The Story of Leicester can be found in the university bookshop (and elsewhere)

Monday, 15 December 2014

New History Lab podcast - Black Friday

Dan, Joe, Katie and Sam discuss consumerism and Black Friday
We also refer to Adam Curtis' documentary series The Century of the Self, the recent BBC series The Men Who Made Us Spend and Edward Bernays' Torches of Freedom campaign to get women smoking. And a novel which Dan will add in the comments ;)

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Saturday, 6 December 2014

New History Lab Podcast - Richard III news

Dan, Joe, Katie and Sam discuss the recent news on Richard III
At the time we were discussing the news presented here, the University later put up another page with more detail on the implications (or not) for the royal line

Doctor Who and History

Last lab of 2014!

Tuesday, 2 December 2014


Parks and Recreation's moustachioed libertarian Ron Swanson says "never half-ass two things: whole-ass one thing". Today I worked for six hours in the library IT Helpzone, spent two hours recording a podcast (don't worry, it will be edited!), have done some reading for a seminar on Friday and have another article to read before bed. In the next month and a bit I'll be writing PhD proposals and a masters essay, while working two part-time jobs. Plus Christmas. I'm writing this while sort-of watching Spaced on 4od. I'm about as far from following Swanson's advice as I can get.

So, would I recommend this? Well, no, don't be daft. If you can find a way of studying full-time, that's almost certainly the way to go. Of course, if you've got a job which relates to the studying you want to do things might be different. But in general I'd go with Ron.

Which isn't to say it can't be done. I sort of play a mental trick on myself by thinking of all these various things as ultimately being one thing. While working in a supermarket is unlikely to help me study the peripheries of colonial cities in Africa, for the moment it is necessary for me to do the former to enable the latter. Having clear objectives allows me to cast everything I do as part of a greater goal. I'm also capable of achieving an incredibly little when I don't have clear aims ;)

Having said that, I'm not up for doing this indefinitely. By the time I finish my MA next September it will have taken two years of my life (really more like three) as well as all my money and a considerable portion of my creative energies. I am dedicated to creation of knowledge, which is the ultimate aim of academia, but there reaches a point where one's calling has to start paying. It can't be a hobby indefinitely. Quite apart from its affect on me personally, I can't see it being great for academia. The age of the amateur is long over. 

I am in the last university course that I will pay for. If academia wants me any longer, it can pay me.*

*[contains strong language]

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Podcast 2: Dan, Jennie, Matt and Sam discuss World War One

Following Adam Prime's lab 'One Hundred Years of the First World War', some committee members gathered to discuss the issues. And the Sainsbury's advert!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

A prelude to Friday's Lab: Up An' At 'Em!

The visual has the capacity to be incredibly powerful. We have recently seen how much so at the Tower of London: 888,246 ceramic poppies were planted to commemorate the outbreak of the First World War, each poppy representing a British military fatality. Images of the installation have spread across the world - it is, after all, a striking sight.

The importance of this installation extends beyond London and indeed, beyond the First World War. It demonstrates how and why we need the visual in our approach to history. A textbook can be plonked onto a desk full of dates, names and numbers. But can we really expect children of any age to fully appreciate what the textbook is attempting to convey without any effort to bring it to life for them? The effect of the poppy installation lies in its ability to represent a vast number of military fatalities; to generate the shock of realisation that the sea of red is also a sea of individual human experience. It has been instrumental in igniting interest in the First World War amongst children and adults alike.

I find it difficult to stray from the theme of the First World War. On a trip to the First World War battlefields of northern France and Belgium my history teacher single-handedly put me on the path to becoming a historian. He marched us out of the trenches at the Somme; he read a soldier's poem to us by his grave; he said the Exhortation under the arch of the Menin Gate. The Last Post is imprinted in my mind. It may also be simple coincidence that one of the most memorable theatrical performances I have seen was R. C. Sheriff's Journey's End. The aural - as well as the visual - feeds our imagination.

The impact of the visual is not limited to the twentieth century - it transcends all time and place. I have recently written a blog for the New History Lab on the current BBC2 documentary series Secrets of the Castle. I discussed how the construction of a thirteenth-century castle - Gu├ędelon - can spark our interest (see the blog for further details!) Being able to see (and hear) a modern interpretation of how a medieval scene may have looked and sounded takes us one step closer to understanding it.

But with projects such as Gu├ędelon, it is the human element which makes it so compelling. How else can history - effectively a study of human experience - be brought to life? This Friday 28th November, the New History Lab will be hosting a talk given by Jed Jaggard. Jed is a professional historical re-enactor (of all periods!) and founded Up an' At 'Em History! (, an organisation which, quite literally, provides hands-on history for everyone. He will be discussing the importance of the visual in heritage and education, both being an integral part of history beyond (and including) the academic discipline. Jed is a great believer in the representation of the past, as long as it's as accurate as possible.

People in Jed's profession play an incredibly important role in our understanding of history; they encourage the younger and older generations alike and nurture a love of the subject. They are living history. As we all know, history is not - and never should be - confined to academia or a dusty old textbook at school. Its tales are for everyone to enjoy. I am so looking forward to welcoming Jed to Friday's Lab, and I hope to see you there!