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History Faculty news items

Professor Richard Evans wins the 2015 Leverhulme Prize for Humanities and Social Sciences

last modified Sep 29, 2015 02:47 PM

Professor Sir Richard Evans has been awarded the 2015  Leverhulme Medal and Prize for Humanities and Social Sciences, for his significant contribution to the field of Modern German History.
The Prize is awarded every three years for significant contribution to knowledge and understanding within the humanities and social sciences.

The award is made in partnership between the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust.

Dr Helen Roche wins the German History journal's Best Article of 2015 Prize

last modified Sep 10, 2015 02:45 PM

Congratulations to Dr Helen Roche, whose article "Surviving Stunde Null: Narrating the fates of Nazi elite-school pupils during the collapse of the Third Reich" has been awarded German History journal's Best Article of 2015 Prize. 

The article will be published in the December issue.


Dr Roche is an Alice Tong Sze Research Fellow at Lucy Cavendish College


Cambridge News: Ask an Academic Sept 9th

Dr Andrew Arsan joint winner of RHS Gladstone Prize

last modified Jul 24, 2015 09:45 AM

Congratulations to Dr Andrew Arsan who is the joint winner of the Royal Historical Society's Gladstone Prize which is given for a work of history on a topic not primarily related to British history that is the author’s first sole book publication.

On Dr Arsan's book: Interlopers of Empire: The Lebanese Diaspora in Colonial French West Africa (Hurst, 2014) the judges commented:

Interlopers of Empire"This is a deeply researched and at times quite riveting story of the largest non-African diaspora of West Africa, namely the Lebanese who immigrated to French West Africa. Arsan’s sophisticated, deeply researched and highly crafted study illuminates Eastern Mediterranean men and women adjusting to life in a new environment, and the particular roles they came to play in the economy and society of French West Africa.

This is transnational history of the very best kind, showing a profound understanding of both host nations and immigrants, and shedding light on migration, empire, politics, race and economics through the stories of individuals and family businesses.”

More information

Professor Peter Mandler elected Fellow of the British Academy

last modified Jul 20, 2015 09:46 AM

Our warm congratulations to Peter Mandler on his election as an FBA. This is in recognition of both Peter's rich and diverse scholarship in the cultural, intellectual and social history of Britain and America and also his prodigious service to the historical profession, most recently as President of the Royal Historical Society (2012-16).

First-year undergraduate is joint winner of the J. C. Holt Essay Prize

last modified Jun 23, 2015 02:19 PM

First-year undergraduate historian Daniel Armstrong, of Downing College, has been announced as the joint winner of the J. C. Holt Essay Prize, a national competition for the best undergraduate essay on Magna Carta.

The prize, organized by the Magna Carta Project, commemorates Professor Sir James Holt, whose seminal book on Magna Carta is being reissued in a new edition by Cambridge University Press.

Daniel received his prize from Melvyn Bragg at the first day of the Magna Carta Conference, marking the 800th anniversary of 1215, which was  held at the Maughan Library, London, 17th-19th June.

Cambridge undergraduates joint winners of the Society for the Study of French History's Undergraduate Dissertation Prize

last modified Jul 13, 2015 11:08 AM

The Society for the Study of French History awarded its 2014 Undergraduate Dissertation Prize to two Cambridge History graduates.

Congratulations to Katherine Bulteel with her dissertation  ‘The Use of Religious Justifications of War during the Albigensian Crusade and the Conquests of James I of Aragon’.

And congratulations to Georgina Whittington, with her dissertation ‘Representations of Joan of Arc in French Schools, c.1880 – 1914’.

Professor Alexandra Walsham awarded AHRC funding for major project the Reformation

last modified Jun 16, 2015 04:40 PM

Reformation Studies image

Remembering the Reformation

Congratulations to Professor Alexandra Walsham, who has been awarded AHRC funding for a major project on 'Remembering the Reformation'. This will be undertaken in collaboration with Professor Brian Cummings of the Department of English at the University of York. The full value of the award is £831,000, shared between the Universities of Cambridge and York.

This interdisciplinary project will begin on 1 January 2016, and run for three years, coinciding with the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's protest against the Church in 1517. One of its outputs will be a digital exhibition, which will involve partnerships with Cambridge University Library, Lambeth Palace Library, and York Minster. Two postdoctoral research assistants will be appointed for the duration of the project.

The Reformation is regarded as a pivotal event in the history and heritage of England, Europe and the world and it has decisively shaped politics, culture, and society in the centuries since. The violence and turmoil of the intense conflicts to which it gave rise continue to divide communities and have left a lasting imprint upon the landscape, physical environment, and literature of Europe. Memory of the events and individuals has been embodied in a vast array of material objects, images, rituals, traditions and texts. Yet little critical attention has been paid to the process by which enduring assumptions about the significance of the Reformation came into being.

Bringing together historians and literary scholars, the project will deploy approaches and methods from a variety of disciplines to develop new insights about the formation and fragmentation of cultural memory. It will illuminate the process by which public and private perceptions of the past were forged and assess their role in the creation of religious, political and social consensus, conflict and identity. The project will examine how the Reformation has shaped modern historical consciousness and interrogate its legacies. By focusing upon the agency and influence exercised by the memory of these events, it raises questions of ongoing concern and contemporary relevance.

Sir Christopher Clark

last modified Jun 15, 2015 09:52 AM

Many congratulations to Professor Chris Clark, FBA, who has been created a Knight Bachelor in the recent Queen's Birthday Honours List for his services to British-German relations.

This is tribute to the remarkable global impact of Chris' books 'The Iron Kingdom' and 'The Sleepwalkers', especially in Germany, and to the work he has done behind the scenes, not least in helping to set up the new Cambridge-DAAD research hub for German Studies.

Six Faculty members receive promotions

last modified Jun 15, 2015 09:50 AM

We are delighted that six members of the Faculty have been successful in the latest University Promotions exercise. Congratulations to:

Andrew Preston (Professorship)

Nora Berend and Tessa Webber (Readerships)

Natalia Mora-Sitja, William O'Reilly and Sarah Pearsall (Senior Lectureships)

For full details see

Dr Joel Isaac awarded a Pro Futura Scienta Fellowship

last modified Jun 11, 2015 02:19 PM

Congratulations to Dr Joel Isaac who has been awarded a three-year Pro Futura Scienta Fellowship (2016-19) This will begin in the autumn of 2016 with a year at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, followed by two years in Cambridge at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities.

More information can be found at the Swedish Collegium website

Dr Melissa Calaresu awarded a Mellon Teaching Fellowship

last modified Jun 08, 2015 11:37 AM

Dr Melissa Calaresu has been awarded a Mellon Teaching Fellowship at the Centre for Disciplinary Innovation at CRASSH for Michaelmas 2015 to teach a graduate seminar with Dr John Robb in the Department of Archaeology.

The seminar, on material culture, is designed ‘to encourage dialogue across disciplines, stimulate research-led teaching, or pilot a course for a new MPhil or Tripos paper’.

Melissa has also been awarded funding from the Newton Trust for a year's research leave in 2016 in order to complete a book project. This scheme has been established 'to support high-quality research among established CTOs in the University'.

Chris Bayly on the radio - podcast now available

last modified Jun 11, 2015 10:35 AM

The late Professor Chris Bayly was heard on a BBC Radio 4 programme on Tuesday 9th June on .

The programme is now available on iPlayer.

Incarnations is a history of India that has been running over the past few week. The particular programme was on Bengali scholar and reformer Rammohan Roy. It includes extracts from an interview recorded with Professor Bayly.

Cambridge tops Guardian league tables for History - again!

last modified Jun 01, 2015 08:51 AM

In the Guardian's University League Tables 2016 for History, Cambridge is ranked top of 94 institutions teaching the subject in the UK, with an overall excellence score of 100/100. We are delighted to have achieved this top rank for the third year running. Congratulations to students, colleagues and staff!

Michael O’Brien (1948-2015): A Man of Words

last modified May 15, 2015 03:38 PM

Michael O'Brien


Following hard on the sudden death three weeks ago of Chris Bayly, the Faculty has been shaken anew by the passing of Michael O’Brien, Professor of American Intellectual History, just a few months before his retirement.  Michael was diagnosed before Easter with advanced cancer. He did not respond to treatment and died peacefully at home on 6 May.


A graduate of Trinity Hall, Michael spent a quarter-century teaching in the United States but returned here in 2002. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2008.

Despite a public persona of studied understatement, he was a very committed member of both the Faculty and of Jesus College, and had an inspirational impact on his doctoral students, for whom he cared deeply. As a colleague, Michael could always be relied upon to get jobs done quickly, efficiently and without fuss.  He was a man of quiet passions, including golf, jazz and Spurs, but his deepest passion was words. He said little but wrote much, cherishing the craft and artistry of writing.  

Although Michael’s historical interests were eclectic, he was pre-eminently a scholar of the intellectual and cultural life of the American South. But he brought to this a deep and capacious understanding of European intellectual history, which helped him both to comprehend and also transcend the exceptionalist myths of the South’s self-image.  His magnum opus Conjectures of Order: Intellectual Life and The American South, 1810-60 (2004) won numerous awards including the Bancroft Prize – America’s premier history award.

Michael was also an accomplished essayist and biographer. His elegant little miniature Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journey in the Last Days of Napoleon (2010) was, like Conjectures, a nominated finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.  Michael’s work was regarded with the utmost seriousness in the country about which he wrote: there can be few higher accolades for a historian.


Guardian obituary

Andrew Preston appointed a Distinguished Lecturer of the Organization of American Historians

last modified May 12, 2015 09:29 AM

Congratulations to Dr Andrew Preston who has been appointed as a Distinguished Lecturer of the Organization of American Historians. The appointment was announced in April at the 2015 annual meeting of the OAH in St Louis. This is a signal honour for Andrew because those selected are overwhelmingly American scholars.

For more information on the award, see

Chris Bayly (1945-2015): with respect and affection

last modified Apr 24, 2015 02:44 PM

Chris Bayly

The Faculty has been shocked at news of the sudden death on 19 April 2015 of Professor Sir Christopher Bayly, FBA, following a heart attack in Chicago. There will many occasions in the future for personal tributes and memorial events. At this point we wish simply to remember an immensely distinguished historian and a valued colleague.

Chris Bayly came to Cambridge after his undergraduate and graduate years in Oxford and held the Vere Harmsworth Chair of Imperial and Naval History from 1992 until his retirement in 2013. Here he published a series of hugely influential books that redefined Indian history, progressively expanding from his doctoral work on Allahabad to integrate the history of the sub-continent into the wider currents of regional, imperial, intellectual and global history, including his magisterial 2004 volume The Birth of the Modern World: Global Connections and Comparisons, 1780-1914.

His standing in the profession was reflected in election as a Fellow of the British Academy (1990), award of the Wolfson History ‘Oeuvre’ Prize (2004) and a knighthood for services to history (2007). Chris was also a trustee of the British Museum. Among his many contributions to Cambridge, he served as Director of the Centre of South Asian Studies and as President of his college, St Catharine’s.  Over these decades, he supervised scores of graduate students, many of whom went on to pursue their own distinguished careers.

This brief recital of books and honours cannot begin to do justice to Chris’s influence as an inspirational colleague and teacher, which the Faculty will be recalling in coming weeks. He died a month before his seventieth birthday, at the start of a retirement divided between Cambridge, London and Chicago that promised so much in terms of fruitful new work. His untimely death is a huge loss.



Daily Telegraph 

Peter Mandler elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

last modified Apr 23, 2015 10:48 AM

Peter Mandler was one of seven historians, U.S. citizens or residents, elected to the Fellowship of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Academy announced on 22 April.  The Academy, founded in 1780, consists of 4,600 Fellows and 600 Foreign Honorary Members and reflects the full range of disciplines and professions: mathematics, the physical and biological sciences, medicine, the social sciences and humanities, business, government, public affairs, and the arts.

Dr Duncan Needham awarded the Thirsk-Feinstein PhD Dissertation Prize

last modified Apr 07, 2015 04:44 PM

The Economic History Society has awarded Dr Needham the prize, for the best doctoral dissertation in Economic and/or Social History.

More information about the award can be found here

Dr Julie Barrau wins the Prix Saintour

last modified Mar 31, 2015 05:14 PM

Warmest congratulations to Dr Julie Barrau who has been awarded the 2015 Prix Saintour for her book: Bible, Lettres et Politique: L'Écriture au Service des Hommes à L'époque de Thomas Becket (Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2013).

The prize is awarded by the Académie des Inscription et Belles Lettres for the best book on the Middle Ages or Renaissance. The formal awards ceremony will take place in Paris in November.

History Faculty Tops University Funding Awards for Doctoral Students

last modified Mar 24, 2015 09:21 AM

We are delighted that 31 applicants from the History Faculty have secured prestigious University awards in recent decisions on doctoral funding. In the competition for the Vice-Chancellor's Awards, 21 of the 96 award-winners came from History. Of the 80 students receiving awards under the Cambridge International Scholarships scheme (CISS), 10 are from the Faculty.

For a full list see the Cambridge Trust website
Our congratulations to the successful students - evidence of the competitive quality of history at Cambridge. And grateful thanks to Cathy Butler, Alison Bashford, Andrew Preston and other colleagues and staff, who worked so hard against very tight deadlines to process and evaluate the applications.

'Treasured Possessions': Three Cambridge Historians Co-curate Major Exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum

last modified Mar 18, 2015 10:09 AM

On Tuesday 24 March 'Treasured Possessions from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment' will open at the Fitzwilliam Museum. This major exhibition is co-curated by three of the Faculty's leading early modern historians - Melissa Calaresu, Mary Laven and Ulinka Rublack - together with Vicky Avery, Keeper of Applied Arts at the Museum.

Treasured posse

We are delighted at their pioneering collaboration with staff at the Fitzwilliam in bringing to life three hundred striking objects from the Museum's collection, many of them rarely on display. The exhibition grows out of the research of Ulinka, Mary and Melissa and offers new perspectives into taste and fashion, clothes and food, shopping and trade over three centuries.

Further details (including short films) will appear on this website over the coming weeks but a taster is available here.

Running simultaneously is 'A Young Man's Progress' - an imaginative exploration of fashion that combines modern photographs with images from the sixteenth century. This has been developed by Ulinka Rublack in collaboration with artist-photographer Maisie Broadhead and fashion designer Bella Newell.
More information:
The First Book of Fashion
A Young Man's Progress
The Faculty looks forward to further collaboration with the Fitzwilliam, combining the rich collections of the Museum with the passionate scholarship of our historians, as they unlock for the twenty-first century the material culture of the past.

Collaborative AHRC PhD Studentship in the History of Collecting in Britain, 1850-1900 - to start in Michaelmas Term 2015

last modified Mar 12, 2015 10:42 AM

The Faculty of History, University of Cambridge, in partnership with the British Museum, invites applications from suitably qualified UK/EU candidates for a full-time Collaborative Doctoral Award Fellowship for the period 1 October 2015 to 30 September 2018, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, to conduct research on the theme of the history of collecting in Britain, 1850-1900, with particular reference to the formation of collections of Renaissance decorative arts which are now in British museums.

More information

Professor Alison Bashford appointed Trustee to Royal Museums Greenwich

last modified Feb 18, 2015 03:39 PM

Professor Bashford is one of three new trustees, appointed by the Prime Minister, to the board of the Royal Museums in Greenwich. Her appointment runs fo the next four years, until January 2019.

The Royal Museums at Greenwich are the National Maritime Museum, Queen’s House, the Royal Observatory and the Cutty Sark.

More information on the appointment

Further honours for Professor Chris Clark, author of 'The Sleepwalkers', including his own German TV series

last modified Feb 12, 2015 03:42 PM

Congratulations to Chris Clark whose recent awards include Honorary Doctorates from the University of Birmingham and the University of Ghent, the D'Arenberg Prize for History, Brussels, the Prix Madeleine Laurain-Portemer de l'académie des sciences morales et politiques, Paris, and the 2015 Laura Shannon Prize from the University of Notre Dame.

As further testimony to his unique impact on history writing in Germany, Chris has been presenting a series entitled 'Deutschland-Saga' for ZDF/Terra X. Directed by Gero von Boehm, the first three films captured audiences of around 5 million viewers before Christmas. Three more programmes will be screened in March 2015.

To experience for yourself Chris' avuncular journey through German history and myth go to

Professor Megan Vaughan awarded major Wellcome Trust grant

last modified Feb 12, 2015 03:39 PM

Congratulations to Megan Vaughan who has been awarded a prestigious Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award for £854,000 running over five years from October 2015. The project is entitled: Chronic Disease in Sub-Saharan Africa: a critical history of an 'epidemiological transition'.

Two History students are named Gates Cambridge 2015 Scholars

last modified Feb 13, 2015 09:27 AM


Two History students, Ms Cameron Langford (MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History) and Miss Anisha Bhat (MPhil in World History), are among the 40 American Scholars awarded a prestigious Gates Cambridge 2015 Award to pursue their full-time graduate studies at the University of Cambridge. We warmly congratulate them on their success.


CAMPOP featured by Economic and Social Research Council as one of greatest achievements in social science research over the last half-century

last modified Feb 05, 2015 02:40 PM

50 achievements

To mark ESRC's 50th anniversary they are celebrating the social sciences and how they have contributed to society. Throughout the year they will highlight selected achievements within social science research over the last 50 years - some well-known, others that deserve wider recognition - but all important works of research that have had a major impact on our lives.

CAMPOP population studies

Birmingham early 1900sThe Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure (CAMPOP), funded for many years by SSRC/ESRC, has transformed our knowledge of Britain's past. The group, founded in 1964 by Peter Laslett and Tony Wrigley, used parish register data to develop estimates of England's population as far back as the 16th century. Thanks to this we know a great deal more about the demographic and family history of England than we do of any other nation.

CAMPOP also provided important knowledge about the demographic transition in Britain in more recent times, analysing census data from Scotland, England and Wales. The group's research has shed light on areas ranging from child mortality and family structures to housing and employment, and was crucial in revolutionising our understanding of how industrialisation first occurred in world history.

The research group has been innovative in its methods of data collection and analysis, involving amateur and family historians in data gathering. A recent development has been an expansion of work using GIS (Geographical Information Systems), which is already producing many new insights.

More information on ESRC's selected projects

Dr Anna Abulafia appointed to Oxford Chair

last modified Jan 09, 2015 09:47 AM

Warm congratulations to Anna Abulafia on her appointment to the Humanities Professorship of the Study of the Abrahamic Religions in the Faculty of Theology and Religion at Oxford from 1 April 2015. She will be a fellow of Lady Margaret Hall.

Anna has been an energetic and valued member of the History Faculty for many years: we shall miss her committed teaching and her involvement in Faculty Board and various committees. We wish her well in her new role.

Cambridge History Faculty tops REF 2014 rankings for strength and depth

last modified Jan 07, 2015 11:17 AM


Cambridge historians have come top of the REF 2014 results for Research Intensity. 

‘Times Higher Education’ (1 January 2015) places us first out of 83 history departments in the UK when quality and quantity are combined.

‘Research intensity’ takes the grade point average for overall quality and weights it according to the proportion of eligible staff submitted. Cambridge History’s 100% submission rate contrasts with some history departments that chose to exclude 20% or even 25% of their academic staff.  

-          We submitted a total of 115 historians whose work spans the globe and covers two millennia.


-          Over 80% of our publications were judged by the REF History Panel as either 4* 'world leading' (44%) or 3* 'internationally excellent' (37%). 


-          We also had the highest proportion in the UK (50%) of history impact case-studies that were judged 4* ‘world leading’. 

REF 2014 underlines Cambridge’s claim to be a Faculty that combines strength and depth, scholarly quality and public outreach – in short, one of the leading history departments in the world.   

REF 2014: Over 80% of the History Faculty's work has been judged 'world leading' or 'internationally excellent'

last modified Dec 19, 2014 10:12 AM

Over 80% of the History Faculty's work has been judged 'world leading' or 'internationally excellent' in the data released yesterday in the Research Excellence Framework 2014. Taking account of publications, impact and the overall research environment the REF History Panel ranked 44% of the work as 4* ('world leading') and 37% as 3* ('internationally excellent') - a total of 81%.

Cambridge History excels in the breadth as well as the quality of its research, submitting the work of 115 academic staff for the REF - in contrast with many history departments who were more selective and submitted only 30 to 40 academics. Combining quantity and quality in the REF's weighted results, the History panel placed Cambridge second in the rankings that will determine all-important funding allocations in 2015.

PhD student receives a 'high commendation' from the Pacific History Association

last modified Dec 15, 2014 09:11 AM

Kate Stevens, a PhD student at the History Faculty has received a 'high commendation' from the Pacific History Association at their annual conference in Taiwan, for her essay, ''The Law of the New Hebrides is the Protector of their Lawlessness': Criminal Justice and Imperial Rivalry in the Early Condominium.' It was the runner-up for the Niel Gunson Prize 2014, awarded by the Association and the 'Journal of Pacific History.'

Next year, Kate will take up a post-doctoral position in the History department at the University of Otago, New Zealand connected to a project on the consumption history of coconuts in the Pacific world.

Leverhulme Major Research Fellowships for Jon Parry and Alexandra Walsham

last modified Dec 10, 2014 03:19 PM

Our congratulations to Professors Jon Parry and Alexandra Walsham on each winning highly competitive and prestigious three-year Major Research Fellowships awarded by the Leverhulme Trust.

Jon Parry's project is entitled 'Britain and the Near East, 1825-1882'. This aims to explore and explain British policy and attitudes towards the near eastern part of the Ottoman Empire (mostly Egypt, Syria, Palestine and Iraq) during the period of greatest British power, a topic that has been strangely neglected. The approach encompasses religious and cultural attitudes as much as the political and economic. It starts from the belief that the inter-relationship between these various attitudes is the key to understanding the growth and limits of British influence in the region.

Alex Walsham will be working on 'The Reformation of the Generations: Age, Ancestry and Memory in England 1500-1700'. Her project will use the concept of generation as a tool for investigating the intersections between the histories of the family, the perception of the past, and England's protracted and plural Reformations. A social history of ideas and their practical ramifications in culture and piety, it seeks to explore how age and ancestry were implicated in the ongoing religious turmoil of the 16th and 17th centuries. It hopes to shed light on how confessional and social identities were forged and to illuminate the role of the Reformation in reconfiguring assumptions about time, history and memory.

In memoriam: Arthur Hibbert

last modified Dec 04, 2014 09:17 AM

Arthur Hibbert, who has died aged 94, was for many years a Lecturer in Medieval History at Cambridge, and was a Fellow of King’s from 1948 to 2014.  Those who knew him will remember a kind, thoughtful and highly intelligent teacher who knew how to illuminate corners of the medieval world that were often little studied and rather unfashionable – in Britain in his day, that is to say, but no longer.  He was well abreast of the exciting, innovative research in medieval social and economic history that was being conducted in France by historians such as Georges Duby, and became particularly fascinated by the history of heresy and religious dissent.  His Special Subject on ‘The Origins and Early Stages of the Albigensian Crusade, June 2014-April 1216’ was lampooned by Varsity for its supposed obscurity; but since he taught it the radical heresy of the Cathars or Albigensians, with its belief in its most extreme form in two rival Gods, one good God who is master of the spiritual world and one evil one, master of the material world, has become one of the strongest areas of study in medieval history. 

Arthur Hibbert had come to Cambridge from a Leicester grammar school that produced several distinguished historians, including J.H. Plumb.  His undergraduate career was interrupted by war service in an ambulance brigade, and he was taken prisoner.  On his return to Cambridge he secured a starred First in the Historical Tripos.  It is said that his Director of Studies, Christopher Morris, asked him which questions he had answered on a particular paper.  He said that there had been twelve questions, eight of which he could do easily, but four of which were more of a puzzle.  So he did those.  And that was typical of him.  M.M. Postan lined him up to do for medieval economic European history what Postan was doing for medieval English economic history, and he went off to Barcelona to study the emergence of the city as a great force in Mediterranean trade, writing a dissertation that won him his Fellowship at King’s.  Alas, he never produced a Ph.D. (it was an era when many high-fliers did not bother with doctorates), and only one very short article on his Catalan merchants was ever published.  His Marxist orientation was revealed in a much-cited article about the origins of the medieval town patriciate, published in the new journal Past and Present in 1953; the article ranged from Italy to Flanders and England, and it was incisive and challenging, and also based on deep learning.  After that a long and valuable article on the economic policies of medieval towns in the Cambridge Economic History of Europe edited by Postan just about completed his oeuvre.   The only book with his name on its spine was a little edition of a famous collection of town plans by Braun and Hogenberg (of c.1600), where he wrote a brief and elegant introduction.  A ground-breaking lecture at the annual conference on early medieval history at Spoleto, delivered in the presence of the academic baroni of medieval history, was left unpublished.

He never committed anything to print concerning his new-found interest in popular religion.  A book he agreed to write for Hutchinson on the medieval Mediterranean, to accompany the famous volumes by C.R. Boxer and others on seaborne empires, never materialised.  He came from a generation that placed an emphasis on teaching rather than writing; his colleagues at King’s, the kindly Christopher Morris and the eccentric John Saltmarsh, were not exactly prolific either.  His own teaching career was sadly interrupted by the illness and death of his first wife, and he began to suffer such severe back pain that he attended examiners’ meetings lying on a stretcher.  At his peak, he was an inspiring teacher, and supervisions could go on for hours.  One might have brought along an essay on something as humdrum as the administration of medieval France, but after a few glasses of neat vodka the subject would have become Spinoza and pantheism.  Cambridge supervisions are not like that any more, and when I moved from King’s to become a Fellow of Caius I discovered that there were more focussed ways of teaching Part I papers that produced rather more Firsts; but I don’t think Arthur Hibbert’s supervisions did me any harm – rather the contrary.

David Abulafia

PhD student wins African Studies Association prize

last modified Nov 28, 2014 10:17 AM

History PhD student Catherine Porter has won a prize for the best graduate student paper presented at the ASA Annual Meeting in 2013.

In 2001, the ASA Board of Directors established an annual prize for the best graduate student paper presented at the ASA Annual Meeting in the previous year. The 2014 award goes to Catherine Porter, PhD candidate, Cambridge University, for her paper, “Bound and Unbound Identities: The Reconstruction of Katanga's Nationhood Struggle.”

In memoriam: Professor William Brock

last modified Nov 26, 2014 11:17 AM


Professor William Ranulf Brock, who died on 12 November at the age of 98, was a major figure among the first generation of British scholars to engage with the history of the United States in a thoroughly professional way.  It was, however, for his early work on British history that he was originally appointed as a University Lecturer in the Faculty in 1949.  A Scholar and Prize Fellow at Trinity College before the Second World War, in 1941 he published Lord Liverpool and Liberal Toryism, a historiographical landmark that was to remain on the Faculty Reading List for many decades.  After wartime Army service in which he was stationed in Jamaica (“no storm trooper landed when I was defending the island”, he later observed), he taught briefly at Eton before returning to Cambridge in 1947 to take up a Fellowship at Selwyn College.  It was to meet the needs of the Faculty that he switched to American History in 1952, a process facilitated by a Fellowship from the Commonwealth Fund, and he was later to hold visiting professorships at a number of American universities.  In 1967 he was appointed Professor of Modern History at the University of Glasgow, but on his retirement in 1981, he returned to Cambridge, resuming his Fellowship at Selwyn and participating actively in the Faculty’s American history seminar.  He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1990.

Of Brock’s nine books on American history, the most notable are An American Crisis (1963), Investigation and Responsibility (1985) and Welfare, Democracy and the New Deal (1988).  Focusing respectively on the later 1860s, the late nineteenth century and the 1930s, they manifested a broader chronological range than most American historians of the United States.  All were based on research in little-used primary sources and made original contributions to the historiography that have continued to be recognized as significant.  As a supervisor of graduate students, Brock was involved and nurturing, and several of his students gained university positions; in 1983 eight of them contributed to a volume dedicated to him, The Growth of Federal Power in American History.  His interest in the work of younger scholars, and encouragement of them, extended well beyond the ranks of his own students, and a number still remember gratefully the warm and enlivening hospitality offered by William and his wife, Helen (who predeceased him).

In memoriam: Dr Rosalind Brooke

last modified Nov 26, 2014 11:17 AM

Rosalind Brooke, who died on 17 November, was a distinguished and innovative scholar whose major contribution to medieval history lay with her studies of the early Franciscans and of popular religion. 

Her career started at Girton College and she prepared a PhD under the direction of Dom David Knowles.  She related that she turned up to see him in the first few days as  a graduate student, explained what she planned to do, and was told, “Very well, I shall see you in three years’ time!”  No doubt she saw rather more of Dom David in reality, but her PhD thesis was  a great success, and was published under Knowles’ auspices in the series Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought. 

Her marriage to Christopher Brooke eventually took her with him to Liverpool and London, though without the permanent position that she certainly deserved.  However, she continued to publish works of lasting significance: an edition of early texts about St Francis for the Oxford Medieval Texts, a concise and thoughtful book entitled The Coming of the Friars that dwelled in particular on the heresies of the Cathars and Waldensians to which in many respects the Dominicans and Franciscans were a response, and a large and widely acclaimed book on popular religion in the Middle Ages, written jointly with Christopher Brooke.  Her work was rewarded with the degree of Litt.D., and her diminutive figure would appear encased in the scarlet gown of the degree. 

She also supervised undergraduates for the medieval European history papers in Part I after Christopher returned to Cambridge as Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History in 1977.   She will be much missed for her contagious enthusiasm and her many kindnesses to younger scholars, to which I can bear witness.

David Abulafia


The funeral Service for Rosalind Brooke is at 1.45pm Monday 1st December in Gonville and Caius College Chapel;
followed by 3.15pm at Cambridge Crematorium East Chapel (the small one).
Members of College should wear gowns.

John Gallagher presents BBC radio documentary on historical language-learning

last modified Nov 17, 2014 10:09 AM

John Gallagher, a Junior Research Fellow in History at Gonville & Caius, wrote and presented a 20-minute documentary based on his research for BBC Radio 3. Titled 'A Journey into the Foreign Language Phrasebook', the programme uses original sources and discussions with experts to explore the first printed texts written for early modern English learners of foreign vernacular languages. It can be found here on BBC iPlayer, and begins at the 25:00 minute mark.

Beyond the Kremlin: Dr Mark Smith's blog on Russian history

last modified Nov 14, 2014 11:25 AM

Russia is at the centre of world events. What about its history? Dr Mark Smith, our new colleague in Soviet history, is a veteran blogger whose posts range widely over the past and present of the country that Churchill called 'a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma'.

Recent posts include the historical origins of Vladimir Putin, how the Scottish referendum helps us understand Russia, how Russians conceptualize the phases of their history and what does the history of consumption and material culture mean when studying a communist society.

Take a look for yourself

Sachiko Kusukawa wins Pfizer Prize for outstanding book in the history of science

last modified Nov 20, 2014 10:07 PM

Congratulations to Sachiko Kusukawa who has been awarded the 2014 Pfizer Prize by the History of Science Society for her book Picturing the Book of Nature (University of Chicago Press, 2012). This prize is awarded in recognition of an outstanding book dealing with the history of science.

In her book, Dr Kusukawa explores how pictures constitute knowledge and specifically how images entered printed books in the 16th century, when such figures as Andreas Vesalius and Leonhart Fuchs published their path-breaking texts full of pictures of human anatomy and medical botany. According to the prize committee, 'Kusukawa brings to bear a formidable historical and art-historical scholarship, creating a work as erudite as it is lucid.'

The History of Science Society awarded the prize (worth $2,500) to Dr Kusukawa on 8 November at its annual meeting in Chicago.

Dr Renaud Morieux awarded the Philip Leverhulme Prize

last modified Nov 20, 2014 10:14 PM

Dr Renaud Morieux is the recipient of a Philip Leverhulme Prize. The award "recognise the achievement of early career researchers whose work has already attracted international recognition and whose future career is exceptionally promising."

Dr Sarah Pearsall wins two awards from the Western History Association (USA)

last modified Oct 24, 2014 09:35 AM

Congratulations to Dr Sarah Pearsall. Her article entitled '"Having Many Wives" in Two American Rebellions: The Politics of Households and the Radically Conservative', which appeared in the American Historical Review in October 2013, recently received two awards from the Western History Association. One was the Arrell M. Gibson Prize for the best essay of the year on Native Americans; the other was the Jensen-Miller Award for the best article on women and gender in the North American West.


An extract can be found here

'Selling the Exotic', research project led by Dr Emma Spary, gets Leverhulme award

last modified Oct 22, 2014 01:20 PM

Pharmacopée_CharasThe project ‘Selling the Exotic’ arises out of earlier research into the history of food, drugs and knowledge in the period 1670- 1730. At the start of this period, coffee was drunk by a mere handful of Levantine merchants. By 1730, however, the drink had become ubiquitous among the elite, and would soon become ubiquitous among poor consumers too, as colonial cultivation expanded. Initially introduced and used as a medicament, coffee soon came to be drunk primarily for pleasure. Although coffee’s history has been well researched, elite consumers around 1700 were enticed by the promise of many other new foods and drugs from far afield. Where such luxuries would formerly only have been accessible to rulers and courtiers, the eighteenth century marked both the rise of shopping and the emergence of a non-courtly elite consuming public. Wealth rather than rank began to be a determining factor in access to these new substances. These changes were part of wider shifts in the meaning, importance and consumption of exotic foods which accompanied the gradual abandonment of traditional diets among early modern Europeans in favour of exotic, colonial and introduced foods. 

How and why some exotic plant materials made the transition from unfamiliar and exotic to quotidian, or from medicine to food, is a question that has received comparatively little historical attention. The French case differs from studies of the English or Dutch situation in several important ways. Firstly, both manufacture and commerce were far more strictly regulated in France, with most merchants operating within a strictly policed guild system. Therefore, the effects of Crown policies upon product availability, advertising and innovation were more significant here than elsewhere. Secondly, France was by 1700 renowned across Europe as the capital of fashion and cuisine. Cuisine was, both inside and outside France, seen as a phenomenon centred upon the court. The project lays emphasis upon studying the knowledge culture of the French court and metropolis, in order to explain how elite consumers encountered and understood the new plants they ingested. To that end, the project will investigate medical and scientific institutions and practitioners in order to show how far changing practices of consumption and shopping proceeded in parallel with the investment of botany with a new credibility, and how far both of these phenomena were linked to Crown commercial policy. Such changes both affected and were affected by transformations in global trading patterns, contemporaneous with European colonialism, which moved the focus of European maritime trade towards new colonies, particularly those in the Atlantic world, and diminished the importance of trading posts in Old World ports. 

Courts and cities, places with a high concentration of elite residents, were quick to take up new foods and drugs. Some exotic spices and drugs, such as clove, ginger and cinnamon, were already consumed in the Middle Ages, but their consumption changed in several ways during the early modern period. These new consumption habits related closely to attempts by elites to distance themselves from an expanding urban poor. The merchants who sold such goods were themselves innovators and entrepreneurs. The project will show how exotic plant materials were processed in city workshops and laboratories, and bought and consumed in in the metropolis and at court. 

Exotic plant imports such as spices, sugar and rare drugs had been consumed for centuries in Europe. But between 1670 and 1730, the consumption of exotica moved from being the preserve of princes and rulers to becoming more widespread, just as new understandings of ‘the exotic’. How far, and for which goods, can changes in consumption be documented using extant records of merchant activities? The case of coffee provides a well-documented baseline for these transformations, but the situation is far less well understood for other plants, particularly in the French setting. The project will investigate whether better-known cases like coffee or sugar are representative of a wider embrace of and interest in exotic foods and drugs in the French metropolis. Current interest in Atlantic studies has yielded outstanding work on British and Iberian exotic. France has been unaccountably absent from this literature, despite its growing overseas empire after 1660. 

The French Crown had a close relationship with trade in the capital city, via the guild system and monopoly trade privileges on particular goods. Courtiers such as the royal banker Samuel Bernard and the duc d’Estrées dealt personally in exotic goods. The Crown also had a direct relationship with scientific enquiry via the royal academies, founded in the seventeenth century. The plant collections in Royal and noble gardens were part of the manifestation of prestige, exemplified in the extensive series of plant illustrations commissioned by monarchs and ministers, known as the vélins. The Crown’s interest in such exotica was also closely tied to ministerial concerns to insert French sea trade into the global maritime commerce dominated by the Dutch and English. How far were these goals of prestige and commerce linked? To what extent did they shape the conditions of trade and consumption in the metropolis or at court? Conversely, gardens and exotic nature also generated questions about why there was such a diversity of plants around the globe and whether they were appropriate for European consumption. 

The project will investigate the cultures of invention, curiosity and knowledge which led metropolitan and courtly consumers to seek out new exotic plant materials for enjoyment and autoexperimentation. What role did new practices like advertising and shopping play in food and drugs commerce? Louis XIV's support for the new drug ipecac and its medical advocate Jean-Adrien Helvétius helped to start a fashion for exotic plant remedies in France, sustained by high-profile cures and the support of leading doctors, and manifested in a flurry of health manuals and scientific lecture courses. Meanwhile, print culture and chemical analysis offered conclusions about the properties and effects of plant materials. How important were celebrated cases or well-placed elite patrons in increasing the consumption of new botanical commodities? How were such patronage relationships and 'celebrity cures' made known to consumers? 

The urban artisans who processed and sold exotic plant materials—apothecaries, grocers, perfumers, distillers, gardeners, nurserymen—though sometimes wealthy, were not of high social status. Yet during the period addressed, merchants began to serve as Crown advisors. Some even entered the elitist scientific sanctum, the Royal Academy of Sciences. What was the relationship between traditional and new kinds of learned expert? To what extent did formal knowledge (botanical, chemical) direct private consumption and State policy? By the 1750s, botanical experts had become indispensable mediators between the Crown and botanic resources, yet we know little about how this was accomplished. 

How did French botanical and medical practitioners lay claim to plant expertise? A new interest in classification arose in the years around 1700, both in institutional settings such as the Jardin du Roi in Paris and in wider literate culture.  The existing secondary literature on botany in this period focuses on taxonomy; this project will take an entirely different tack, addressing the emergent relations between economic botany, urban enterprise and consumption. The methodology adopted integrates cultural and political history with the history of science and medicine in new ways, and will allow us to illustrate how changes in Crown policy and new scientific or medical knowledge-claims affected commerce and consumption. The project embraces a substantial corpus of unused or understudied source materials, including inventories and accounts, pharmacopoeias, correspondence, memoirs and images. 

This project is as much about the politics of plant knowledge as about the knowledge itself; it will aim to show how the making of knowledge about plants was implicated in the trade and consumption of plant commodities.

The History Faculty and Trinity College participate in a Major European Research Council-funded project on 'Genius Before Romanticism'

last modified Oct 07, 2014 10:13 AM
The award of a substantial European Research Council Grant to Dr Alexander Marr of the Department of History of Art has led to a five-year project to study the notion of genius in the three centuries before the Romantic period. The 'Genius Before Romanticism' project will examine notions of unique talent, heightened imagination, and extraordinary creativity in art and science by exploring the language, theories, practices and products of ingenium (ingenuity) from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries. Two members of the History Faculty are involved in the interdisciplinary project, which also involves the Departments of History of Art and of History and Philosophy of Science, and which is based at the Centre for Research in Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities (CRASSH). The Senior Research Investigator is Dr Richard Serjeantson (Lecturer in History, Trinity College), while Dr Sachiko Kusukawa (Lecturer in History and Philosophy of Science, Trinity College) serves on the Advisory Board.

Dr David Motadel wins the 2014 Fraenkel Prize

last modified Oct 07, 2014 10:12 AM

Congratulations to Dr David Motadel on being awarded the Fraenkel Prize, one of the leading prizes in contemporary European history, for his book Islam and Nazi Germany's War. This will be published by Harvard University Press later in October 2014.

Robin Mills appointed to a Lectureship at King's College, London

last modified Sep 30, 2014 09:02 AM

Robin Mills, who has just finished his PhD dissertation on 'The Origins of Religious Belief in the British Enlightenment' under the supervision of Dr Richard Serjeantson, will take up a position as Lecturer in the History of European Political Ideas in the History Department of King's College, London, at the start of this academic year. 

Memorial service for Professor Sir James Holt - October 25th

last modified Sep 25, 2014 12:30 PM

The service is to be held in Great St Mary's Church, Cambridge at 3.30pm on Saturday 25 October.

It will be followed by a reception at Fitzwilliam College and it would be helpful if those planning to attend the latter could notify the Master's Secretary, Mrs Deborah Jordan (

Professor David Reynolds explores the ‘Long Shadow’ of the Great War on BBC 2

last modified Sep 19, 2014 10:26 PM

Professor David Reynolds, Chair of the History Faculty, presents a series of three BBC2 programmes on Wednesdays at 8pm (24 September, 1 and 8 October) based on his prize-winning book ‘The Long Shadow: The Great War and the Twentieth Century’ (Simon & Schuster, 2013).

The films are entitled (1) Remembering and Understanding, (2) Ballots and Bullets and (3) Us and Them – dealing respectively with the themes of memory, democracy and nationalism.

The last episode on 8 October considers the evolution of the United Kingdom from the Irish Home Rule crisis of 1914 to the Scottish referendum of 2014, in comparison with what has happened to the lands of the former Habsburg Empire over the last century.


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Documentary film by PhD student Marta Musso shortlisted for LSE Research Festival prize

last modified Sep 16, 2014 10:43 PM


Marta Musso is a PhD candidate in Economic History under the supervision of Prof. Martin Daunton.

Her research project analyses the role played by the oil industry in the Algerian decolonization process. “Oil will set you free?” is a documentary teaser on her dissertation, made for the 2014 LSE Research Festival which aims at presenting academic research to a wider audience through photography, posters and films.

This year’s winner of the film prize was Emma Dyer, PhD student at the Cambridge Faculty of Education, with the documentary “Child vs book”


Oil will set you free:

 LSE Research Festival:

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