General Interest, Walks and Visits

The HA Annual Conference is a unique opportunity to join the history community on a weekend of engaging history. In the general pathway, you can enjoy lectures from academic researchers on every aspect and period of history, improving your knowledge and exploring new sources and areas of historical interest. This year, the pathway has been expanded to include a dedicated visits and walks strand.

Visit to Bournville

Birmingham is a city with a history of industrial change and innovation. On Friday morning, there is an opportunity to join us for a walking tour of the Bournville village designed and built by the Cadbury brothers for their workers:

‘In 1878 George and Richard Cadbury moved their successful chocolate factory from its location in the centre of Birmingham, [which] they had outgrown, to the countryside and fresh air of what was to become Bournville. 

The new site was 14½ acres of greenfield located between the villages of Stirchley, Kings Norton and Selly Oak, about four miles out of the bustling city centre…

It was the aim of the Cadbury brothers to build a village that would provide better, safer, and healthier lives for those who lived there. This would be established through larger and cleaner housing, outdoor areas, and green spaces for exercise. The shared vision for the village planned to improve the lives of those living and working in Birmingham.’ (Bournville Village Trust)

The village went on to inspire social housing across the country. Led by one of the Bournville Village Trust’s expert heritage guides, this walk will explore the history of the village, the family behind it and some of those that lived there. 

The coach will depart at 10:30 for an 11:00 walking tour of 60 to 90 minutes, followed by a return journey by coach. Please note that this visit does not include Selby Manor.

Friday: 10.30–13.00

Slaves, Celts and sagas in Viking Age Iceland
Chris Callow
University of Birmingham
Slavery was a common phenomenon across societies in medieval northern and western Europe. This talk will investigate some of the evidence for enslaved people having been present in Iceland immediately after it was first settled by Scandinavians and others, just before 900 C.E. It will consider why sagas of Icelanders, such as Laxdæla saga and Njáls saga, say what they do about slaves (who are often said to have been Irish). Saga accounts of male and female slaves are often mentioned in popular and more specialist books about the Vikings, but what do such accounts really tell us about slavery, raiding and relations between ‘Celts’ and ‘Vikings’? And can the study of archaeology and place names help us to understand them better?

Friday: 10.45–11.45

Henry VIII’s narrow escape: the struggle for Sawley Abbey in 1536
Steve Illingworth
This talk, based on original research, tells the story of the struggle for Sawley Abbey in northern England in 1536 and how close Henry VIII came to a disastrous defeat there against the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion. It will be seen that Henry enjoyed great fortune and a very narrow escape. Only a last-minute truce prevented Sawley Abbey from destroying the English Reformation and changing the entire course of the country’s future history.

Steve Illingworth is a former secondary school history teacher, educational consultant and university lecturer in history education. He now works part-time with trainee teachers, as well as researching and writing various historical books and articles.

Friday: 10.45–11.45

Art, commerce and the British suffrage campaigns

Zoe Thomas

University of Birmingham

This talk explores the outpouring of artworks produced in support of ‘the cause’ by professional artists, commercial businesses and unnamed campaigners alike, and positions these activities amid the wider context of women’s politicised creative production that spanned the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Examining suffrage through the lens of art and commerce allows for a productive reconceptualisation of the campaigns, and is an analytical framing deserving of greater attention. Moving away from prioritising celebrated leaders or organisational politics, this talk will instead bring to the fore the breadth of politicised art, behind-the-scenes creativity and little-studied intersections between the campaigns and a burgeoning women-focused artistic and commercial culture.

Friday: 12.00–13.00

Revisiting the records of Coalbrookdale: making and selling cast iron pots
Karin Dannehl
University of Wolverhampton
This talk will draw on older findings and more recently collated data and information to consider the nature of a site that is famous for its cast iron bridge. The entries about consignments of hollow-ware – who, where and how much – are not an obvious source of exciting finds, but they can be made to yield helpful insights into a part of what kept Coalbrookdale going in the first third of the eighteenth century.

Friday: 12.00–13.00

Visit to Birmingham School of Jewellery

The School of Jewellery is the largest in Europe and is internationally renowned for specialist courses led by tutors with extensive industry experience. Founded by the trade in 1890 in the heart of Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, the School of Jewellery has been providing skills to the industry ever since.

‘Within the School, we teach a variety of subjects: Contemporary Jewellery and Object-making; Traditional Jewellery and Silversmithing; Horology and Gemmology. Our courses run from our Foundation Level 3, to HND, right through BA, MA and PhD and we are proud of the number of our graduates who work at all levels of the trade, locally, nationally and internationally.’
Visitors to the School can expect to see a huge variety of work in an exciting environment that juxtaposes ancient techniques with the most up-to-the-minute digital technology, all delivered by a creative and passionate staff.

The tour will be led by Dauvit Alexander and Dr Sian Hindle, both of whom teach at the School:

‘Dauvit Alexander has taught at the School of Jewellery since 2015, concentrating mainly on fine-jewellery techniques, especially optical diamond setting. His own work fuses these approaches to recycled, junk materials, adding value to things other people throw away. His research interests focus on the social messaging potential of jewellery.’

‘Dr Sian Hindle leads and teaches on the MA Jewellery and Related Products course and is responsible for co-ordinating the research programmes at the School of Jewellery. Her own areas of interest are around jewellery and identity and the role that provenance, material and form can have in shaping that identity.’

The coach will depart at 14:00 for a 14:30 tour. Participants can return to the Conference venue by coach at 16:00 or are welcome to spend time walking around the Jewellery Quarter afterwards and make their own way back.

Friday: 14.00–16.00

Prince Rupert’s burning love to Birmingham: the impact of the English Civil War in the West Midlands
Ann Hughes
Keele University (emeritus)
This lecture will discuss the impact of the English Civil War in Birmingham and the surrounding region. It will look at how and why people took sides, at the human and financial costs of war, and at the longer-term political and religious changes that occurred and how they were remembered.

Friday: 14.00–15.00

Ditch the witch: the past history of misogyny in politics
Sarah Richardson
University of Glasgow
When Australian opposition leader Tony Abbott stood in front of a placard emblazoned ‘Ditch the Witch’ to criticise the then prime minister, Julia Gillard, the world was appalled at such blatant misogyny. However, such behaviour has a long history. This session looks at the role of women in political life in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Britain and how they navigated male hostility and prejudice.

As well as gaining an appreciation of current historical research on gender and political culture, participants will understand the connections and comparisons between the past and the present, particularly relating to women, citizenship and their opportunities for participation in hostile environments.

Friday: 14.00–15.00

The queen, the concubine and the crusaders

Natasha Hodgson
Nottingham Trent University
Jonathan Phillips
Royal Holloway, University of London

In the public imagination, the Crusades are predominantly associated with men: a stage for knights, battles and manly endeavour. But this was not always the case. This lecture covers an extraordinary phase in the Crusade of King Louis IX of France, when his wife, the heavily pregnant Marguerite, and Shajar al-Durr (meaning ‘Tree of Pearls’), a former concubine and by this stage the regent of Muslim Egypt, took control of their respective forces and steered the conflict forwards. Interleaving these two remarkable stories, Natasha Hodgson and Jonathan Phillips will show how and why the two women were able to exert such power at moments of extreme military and family crisis for both sides.

Friday: 15.15–16.15

What can you learn from a cookbook (other than how to cook)?
Rebecca Earle
University of Warwick
You can learn the history of just about anything from a cookbook. Cookbooks help us to understand the Second World War. They are rich sources for studying the lives of women in the past. They form part of the history of the scientific revolution and the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Cookbooks reveal the impact of colonialism, the pervasive nature of racism and the emergence of nationalism. They are a great way in which to chart the rise of consumerism and the emergence of new cultural trends. This lecture explores the value of cookbooks as historical sources, and also encourages participants to investigate the family histories embedded in the cookery books and notebooks containing their grandmothers’ recipes that clutter their own bookshelves. Cookery books, in short, are a remarkable and powerful window into the past.

Friday: 16.45–17.45

Walking tour of Birmingham

It wouldn’t be an HA Conference without a walking tour of the local area. An expert local guide will reveal the history of this important industrial city and how it has led and developed social change over the years. Visiting parts of the intricate canal network, taking in some of the grand buildings that demonstrate Birmingham’s growing wealth in the nineteenth century, and peeling back the layers of cultural diversity will be key areas of focus.

Saturday: 10.45–13.00

The subaltern in the forgotten European colony: the Cypriot peasant under British rule
Panikos Panayi
De Montfort University
Discussions of imperialism and decolonisation tend to ignore smaller British colonies, as well as those that fall outside the global reach of the Empire. Cyprus, under British control of various types from 1878–1960, simply receives attention in connection with the violent struggle against British rule in the 1950s and as the epitome of ethnic conflict between Greeks and Turks. This approach ignores the majority of the Cypriot population: the peasantry. My lecture will focus on two themes. First, it will ask why the Cypriot peasant has received no attention, either from historians of empire or from mainstream historians of Cyprus. Second, it will discuss the interaction between the Cypriot peasant and the Anglocracy, outlining the key elements of modernisation in the countryside, which, while generally benefitting the Cypriot people, generally viewed them as part of the landscape and did not impact in their domestic lives.

Saturday: 10.45-11.45

Vexatious women and the early East India company
Karin Doull and Susie Townsend

Independent historians

The early 1600s saw the development of commercial exploration as merchant traders set off around the world to secure markets and trade. The East India Company used this century to instigate its control over spices, indigo and textiles. While women were key contributors to the mercantile and professional life in the big cities, as well as investors and stockholders in the various trading companies, they were strongly discouraged from direct involvement. This talk will introduce a series of women who proved to be ‘troublesome’ for the East India Company, both in England and in India. The talk will place these women within their historical context to allow a more nuanced view of the early years of the East India Company.

Saturday: 10.45–11.45

‘Contrary to her profession as a midwife’: skill, scandal and the licensing of early modern midwives
Sarah Fox
Edge Hill University
In 1663, Anne Knutsford, licensed midwife of Nantwich, Cheshire, was issued with an inhibition against practising midwifery for ‘lyeing, sweareing and curseing’, among other allegations. As if to confirm the charges, Anne allegedly ‘abused the authority of this court when the inhibition was served upon you & left with you, saying it should serve to wipe your arse with or to that effect’. According to her neighbours and local women, Anne ignored the order and continued to deliver babies for local women. Anne’s combative and direct approach, along with the concerns of her neighbours, offers a fascinating insight into midwifery care, community and neighbourly interactions, and narratives of women’s skill and occupational responsibility in the early modern North.

Saturday: 12.00–13.00

‘Ripe for Dachau’: the German people and the concentration camps

Paul Moore

University of Leicester

Paul Moore is a lecturer in modern European history at the University of Leicester. His research interests include: the meaning of the concentration camp in Germany prior to 1933; propaganda and the media in Nazi Germany; the social history of the Third Reich; paramilitary violence in the late Weimar Republic; and the post-war occupation and denazification of Germany. His publications include The View from Outside: the Nazi concentration camps and the German public, 1933–1945.

Saturday: 12.00–13.00

A most wanted man: early modern intelligence-gathering at the Tower of London
Dannielle Shaw
University of East Anglia
Through analysing local administrative records, state administrative records and personal correspondence, this paper provides several examples of early modern intelligence at the Tower of London. The paper provides us with hitherto unexamined examples of commissioning, extracting, brokering and obtaining critical intelligence and information. In doing so, it makes the case for re-examining the often-overlooked contribution of Elizabethan and Jacobean administrators to the history of intelligence-gathering in early modern England, here focusing on the position of the Lieutenant of the Tower of London.

Saturday: 14.00–15.00

Double monasteries in early medieval England
Katharine Sykes
University of Birmingham
In this paper, I will explore the rise and fall of double monasteries – religious communities that housed both men and women within the same institution – from their origins in the seventh century to their disappearance in the ninth and tenth centuries. I will examine the different forms of evidence that we can use to identify double monasteries, from textual sources to artefactual or burial evidence, and some of the main debates about their role within early English society.

Saturday: 14.00–15.00

Understanding Henry V: my life with a famous medieval king

Anne Curry

In this talk, former HA President Anne Curry draws on her recent publications on Henry V’s conquest of Normandy, and on his funeral and commemoration in Westminster Abbey, to present new insights into this remarkable medieval king.

Saturday: 15.15–16.15