UoA 62: History

The Department aims to be an internationally regarded centre of historical study by adopting innovative approaches to the whole span of human history from 3000 BC to the recent past, ranging geographically from the Ancient Near East to Europe and the Americas.  To do this it provides a rigorous yet supportive intellectual environment; invests heavily in younger staff; employs fully the exceptional research resources available locally; provides the funds to pursue research abroad; and interacts extensively with scholars worldwide.  Our broad range of expertise particularly facilitates the development of comparative history.

The Department has been very active and changed considerably since the last RAE. The outputs of our 49 category A and 2 category C staff comprise:

79 essays in edited collections
66 articles in refereed journals
42 monographs
5 edited collections of essays
3 editions, including one online
2 published public lectures

99 doctorates have been awarded in the assessment period; 159.5 doctoral studentships have been funded, 30 by the Research Councils; and our total external research income has been £19.27 million. We have also hosted 29 externally-funded post-doctoral fellows and over 200 visiting scholars.  We have used many of our 22 new category A appointments to pioneer the development of transnational history and to enhance our commitment to cultural and intellectual history.

This submission comprises three of the four centres of historical research at UCL: the History department, the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, and the historians in the Science and Technology Studies department (hereafter ‘History’, ‘Wellcome’ and ‘STS’, and ‘Department’ for all three.) The fourth is the History department of UCL’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies which is being returned with the rest of SSEES to UoA51 because of the area studies nature of the School.

The Department is a new combination for RAE purposes: each was returned to separate UoAs in 2001. This reflects UCL’s policy to submit more ‘natural’ groupings to RAE2008. However, as RAE 01/2006 (N) recognizes, ‘RAE departments are often not identified with a single administrative unit within an HEI’. This is the case here. History, Wellcome and STS are each ‘departments’ at UCL. Nevertheless, they enjoy a common research environment and infrastructure, important research links and, in particular, embrace a similar research ethos and strategy, notably:

  • Linking ancient, medieval, early modern and modern history: this chronological breadth is very unusual, allowing comparisons and cross-fertilisations very rarely enjoyed elsewhere.
  • Interdisciplinary research: through working with colleagues in, and exploring the ideas and methods of, other disciplines and institutions, including at the postgraduate level.
  • International interaction and orientation: through a commitment to transnational and global history, overseas visitors, a high intensity of international conference participation, European and Asian research and training networks, considerable involvement in major learned societies and editorial work for leading academic journals. (One-third of category A staff are from overseas.)
  • London interaction: through considerable participation with the research institutes of the University of London’s School of Advanced Studies (SAS), colleagues at other colleges, notably Imperial and SOAS, the BM, BL and other learned institutions.
  • Selective project work: scholars are given a high degree of freedom to make best use of the exceptional facilities nearby, but we look selectively to the AHRC, ESRC, Wellcome etc to fund more resource-intensive research.
  • Career development for junior staff: a well structured career development programme for junior staff, including a mentoring programme and continual interaction with more senior colleagues across the Department.
  • PhD programme: large numbers of students, with considerable emphasis upon skills training and career development to produce the next generation of scholars.

Catholicity, openness and excellence are our watchwords.

There are 49 category A staff in this submission (29 History, 14 Wellcome and 6 STS). Notably, 22 of these have been appointed since 1 January 2001, with 7 since 1 August 2003 being formally Early Career Researchers. This considerable rejuvenation has been used to maintain our chronological, geographical and thematic range, though with a particular emphasis upon further developing transnational, cultural and intellectual history.

Diversity, range and methodological pluralism are central to our research ambitions. The Department is committed to allowing scholars a high degree of freedom to pursue their evolving intellectual interests. This means that there is considerable flexibility of approach and the absence of unduly prescriptive research themes. None the less, some general points stand out.

The Department includes unusually wide chronological research interests, from the Ancient Near East and the classical world, through the medieval and early modern eras, to the contemporary world. This range, particularly the integration of ancient history with medieval to modern history, distinguishes the Department from most, if not all, others within the UK. Moreover, many colleagues cross major chronological divides and in some cases actively bridge them, for example Nutton in ancient and Renaissance history and d’Avray in medieval and modern.

Our commitment to temporal breadth is matched by the extent of our spatial concerns. For category A staff, geographically, 9 of the ancient historians work on the classical world or Ancient Near East (the 10th works on China). Amongst non-ancient historians, 14 work mainly on the history of continental Europe, 15 on Britain, 4 on the USA, 2 on Latin America, 3 on Asia and 1 on Anglo-American history. (History provides particular expertise in the history of Latin America and the USA as part of the division of labour within the wider University of London.)

In recent years research within the Department has increasingly abandoned the framework of the nation state – though that framework has always been less important in ancient and medieval history. In part this has happened within the more established comparative, international and global history approaches, for example: Abel in the Caribbean and Colombia; Bhattacharya in Britain and South Asia; Burk and J. Gregory in Britain and the USA; and Jacyna in Britain and France. However, we have particularly sought to champion the development in Britain of transnational history: for example, Körner’s work on cultural history in Italy, France, the Hapsburg Empire and Germany; Lo’s innovative work on different medical practices in ‘East’ and ‘West’; and Rieger’s work on the cultural significance of new technology in Britain and Germany. Further elements in our development of transnational history include: involvement in establishing the Eurodoctorate scheme (detailed below); the major AHRC-funded project, ‘The American Way of Life: Images of the United States in 19th Century Europe and Latin America’; and Wellcome’s work towards a series of publications on the history of global medicine.

While the range of themes pursued by members of the Department is broad, many are engaged in exploring the intersections between intellectual, cultural and social history. One particular linking feature is a consideration of different forms of knowledge and rationality. A shared aim is to challenge and correct some entrenched teleologies in traditional historiographies (e.g. ‘the rise of the West’).

Finally, we stress the collaborative orientation of the Department. We are part of an unusually rich network of research connections, which helps us to extend our comparative reach and our capacity to develop new methodological and theoretical approaches to history. We work closely with colleagues in other parts of UCL (SSEES; History of Art; the German, Italian and Spanish Departments; Anthropology; Archaeology; Greek and Latin; European Social and Political Studies; the Bentham project in Laws; the Institute for Health and Human Genetics), other parts of the University of London (Queen Mary; SOAS; KCL; Royal Holloway; historians of science at Imperial; and the School of Advanced Study, especially the Institute of Historical Research, the Institute for the Study of the Americas and the Institute of Classical Studies); and, through the many seminars and conferences we are engaged in, with many other scholars worldwide.

Download full text of the RA5a statement for History (pdf 184Kb)

Staff names below link to submitted publications:

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