Alex Walsham

Alex Walsham

Letter from the Chair

The Lent Term is underway with all lectures, classes and supervisions online. The renewed lockdown is proving challenging for all the Faculty's staff and students, as it must be for all our alumni across the UK and around the world.

This newsletter features a range of fascinating articles: from Bronwen Everill's preview of her book on ethical capitalism, to George Severs on the public history of HIV/AIDS in Britain. We've also organised three alumni lectures in February and March, the details of which you can find below – please do take the opportunity to tune in.


For details on new appointments, grant awards and our information sessions for prospective students, you can read my full letter below.

The Beast from the East 2 has arrived in Cambridgeshire and it is snowing outside my window as I write. The Lent Term is underway with all lectures, classes and supervisions online. The renewed lockdown is proving challenging for all the Faculty’s staff and students, as it must be for all our alumni across the UK and around the world in different ways.

This newsletter features a range of fascinating articles on topical themes. Bronwen Everill provides a foretaste of her important recent book, Not Made by Slaves: Ethical Capitalism in the Age of Abolition (2020). PhD student George Severs writes about the public history of HIV/AIDS in Britain, while Rob Bates reports on his plans to pursue further research on US military pension policy after the American Civil War. Uma Suri and Eliza Pepper, two of our current second-year undergraduates, reflect on their experience producing a history podcast last year.

Please take the opportunity to tune into the three lectures we have organised for alumni: John Arnold on medieval heresy; Andrew Arsan on revolution, freedom and the Arab twentieth century; and Ulinka Rublack on the triumph of fashion. We are also pleased to announce that Professor Samita Sen will be delivering her inaugural lecture as Vere Harmsworth Professor of Imperial and Naval History on 9 March on Zoom. Happily, this will enable many more to participate in marking Samita’s appointment to the chair than usual. Further information about how to register for this event will follow.

In January we welcomed Dr Daniel Knorr, our first lecturer in modern Chinese history, who joins us from the University of Chicago. In April, Dr Dror Weil, a specialist on early modern East Asia will take up his post, further widening the range of the Faculty’s expertise. The Faculty has recently advertised a post in Black British History, reflecting our commitment to advancing the agenda of equality, diversity and inclusion. It is also excellent to report that we have been awarded a grant to support a three-year lectureship in Modern Irish History, which will shortly be advertised.

Finally, do pass on details about the information sessions we are running for prospective students to anyone who may be interested.

The days are gradually lengthening and snowdrops and other small signs of spring are starting to emerge. I very much hope that when our next newsletter is published better times will be firmly on the horizon for us all.

Alex Walsham
Chair of the Faculty

Bronwen Everill

Ethical Capitalism, in the Age of Abolition and Now

Bronwen Everill
Looking at attempts to combat the slave trade and enslaved labour in the nineteenth century can help us to better understand the ways that consumption and politics are linked
Bronwen Everill


There’s a saying that history doesn’t repeat itself, but that it often rhymes. In the case of my new book, Not Made By Slaves: Ethical Capitalism in the Age of Abolition (Harvard, 2020) the research and publication were bracketed by the spread of two deadly viruses: Ebola in 2014 and COVID-19 in 2020.


In 2013, I was awarded a three-year Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship to begin work on a project entitled African Trade and Ethical Consumption in the Atlantic World. I imagined it would build on my fieldwork experience in Sierra Leone and Liberia (the subject of my first book). When Ebola cut off access to those countries, I found myself in Senegal and Gambia instead. The archives in Senegal and Gambia – including the valuable oral archives at Fajara in Gambia – reshaped the project.

The Faculty will host three lectures in February and March 2021

Public Lectures on Heretics, Protest, and Fashion Coming Up

Not being able to hold events in person is not stopping the History Faculty from hosting public events. In the coming weeks, the Faculty will offer three online lectures that ask some fascinating questions: How heretical were heretics? How far back do the roots of the ‘Arab spring’ go? How has fashion changed the world?

Open to the public and aimed at a general audience, the talks will take place as webinars and enable the audience to ask questions about Faculty research and recent trends in European, Middle Eastern, and Global History. We warmly welcome alumni, their friends, and their families to attend.

Public lectures - image of three lecturers

Further information and booking

All the events will take place at 5 PM (GMT). Click here for complete descriptions of the lectures and links to register for tickets. We hope to see you there.

Professor John Arnold will talk about medieval heresy. Returning to a topic on which he began his career, Professor Arnold will explore how inquisitorial evidence about the ‘Cathars’ in southern France distorts faith traditions labelled ‘heretical’.

Dr Andrew Arsan, who won a 2018 Philip Leverhulme Prize for his work on modern Arab political thought, will put the ‘Arab spring’ in context. His lecture will chart a century of contests over individual rights and collective freedom that culminated in the uprisings across Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and Syria in 2011.

Professor Ulinka Rublack will talk about the global history of fashion. Drawing on research from her current book project, Professor Rublack will examine how a thirst for fashion became such a prominent part of life in Europe and around the world since 1300, and shaped trade, innovation, and transnational connections along the way.

George Severs

It's a Sin

The public history of HIV/AIDS in Britain

'In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is perhaps no surprise that a TV programme covering the history of a recent public-health crisis has found an enthusiastic audience. I have been eagerly awaiting the release of Russell T Davies’ new series It’s a Sin because, just as my PhD dissertation does, it explores the HIV/AIDS epidemic and responses to it in England', writes George Severs.

Rob Bates

Heading abroad: a PhD candidate plans for his year at Harvard


Rob Bates

'My doctoral research explores the development of US military pension policy after the American Civil War. During my year abroad, my research will show that the USA’s incipient welfare state was more impressive in prospect than it was in practice. Understanding how governments develop policy in reaction to crises – how they go right, and how they go wrong – seems even more urgent today than it did a year ago,' writes Rob Bates.

Victoria Francis remembers Trinity in 1979

Victoria Francis at a garden party


'I grew up with a small castle at the end of the garden (this is not particularly unusual in Wales). It fired my interest in History, which I took as one of my A-levels. In 1979 I won a place to read History at Trinity. Over the next three years, in between swanning around in vintage frocks, discovering gin and doing a lot of singing, I also became aware of a much wider and deeper perspective on History.'

Repeat Prescription

During the first lockdown, first-year students Uma Suri and Eliza Pepper created a podcast, Repeat Prescription, to explore how the pandemic is being historicised. The project became an opportunity to chat with historians and journalists about the extent to which the media could draw historical parallels and whether this media frenzy had any precedents.

Read more


Martin Albrow reflects on the life of John S Nurser (1929–2020)

Martin Albrow (Peterhouse 1955) pays tribute to his former supervisor and eminent theologian John S Nurser (Peterhouse 1945), in this moving personal memoir. Celebrate John's illustrious life as religious historian, including the publication of his 2005 masterpiece For all peoples and all nations: the Ecumenical Church and Human Rights, through Martin's words.