Doctoral Masterclasses 2016-17

The department is delighted to announce this year’s series of masterclasses for HCA doctoral students.


Methodologies of Military History

Antony Beevor in Conversation with Sarah Howard

Tuesday 29 November 2016, 18:00-19:30

Dreyfus Room, 28 Russell Square

John Keegan’s The Face of Battle started a transformation in the study of military history, leading eventually to the New Military History drawing on cultural and social methodologies to study war. However detailed reconstruction of battle is still a source of vital historical knowledge; the provision of artillery rounds to Operations Mars and Uranus for instance provides invaluable insights into how Soviet leaders valued the lives of their men, and understood their responsibilities as commanders. Too often discussed as opposing methodologies, this masterclass seeks to explore how historians select and analyse military sources, and apply different approaches to studying the military, and battle, with a focus on how they can complement one another.


Too much, from too little; how to deal with a dearth of sources

Dr Valentina Arena (UCL)

Monday 12 December 2017, 18:00-20:00

Dreyfus Room, 28 Russell Square

Classicists have long worked with the challenge of reconstructing the past from a very small number of vivid and powerful sources. This fuels exceedingly close reading of these texts, and a great deal of debate as to how representative their authors are, and how reliable they are. In extrapolating from such sources historians face a minefield of logical fallacies. All historians – even those working in the modern era – should be aware of these challenges. Dr Valentina Arena will unpack how she goes about analysing classical sources, and the limits of what can be recovered.



Dissecting Transnational Histories

Dr Tanya Harmer (LSE) 

Wednesday 15 February 2017, 18:00-20:00

Room MAL 354, Main Malet Street Building

The transnational approach is a common aspiration in historical research, but the practical methodological implications remain imprecise. Dr Tanya Harmer will discuss approaches to transnational methodologies, drawing on Dr Harmer’s research into Chilean solidarity movements, and the history of the revolutionary left in South America. This masterclass will explore the practical research methods used in transnational history, their strengths, and pitfalls.



The archive: old and new thinking about its status

Professor John Tosh (Roehampton University)

Tuesday 7 March 2017, 18:00-20:00

Dreyfus Room, 28 Russell Square

Does the archive enable our research or constrict it? Are the records of government a neutral objective record of bureaucratic procedure or a sinister instrument of power? In recent years the archive has become the subject of unprecedented critique. In this workshop I will set the scene by recalling the innocence which characterised the huge effort invested in archival research in the 19th century. 20th-century scholars expanded the definition of the archive to encompass a plurality of local and informal records. Recently historians have become particularly attuned to the significance of what is not in the archive, on account of loss, destruction or concealment. Colonial societies starkly demonstrate that the archive is not only a record of government, but an instrument of government, entrenching stereotypes of both the governed and the governors.



Mansions of Misery: The Marshalsea Debtors’ Prison

Professor Jerry White, presenting his new book

Tuesday 14 March 2017, 18:00-20:00

Dreyfus Room, 28 Russell Square

In Mansions of Misery, acclaimed chronicler of the capital Jerry White introduces us to the Marshalsea’s unfortunate prisoners – rich and poor; men and women; spongers, fraudsters and innocents. We get to know the trumpeter John Grano who wined and dined with the prison governor and continued to compose music whilst other prisoners were tortured and starved to death. We meet the bare-knuckle fighter known as the Bold Smuggler, who fell on hard times after being beaten by the Chelsea Snob. And then there’s Joshua Reeve Lowe, who saved Queen Victoria from assassination in Hyde Park in 1820, but whose heroism couldn’t save him from debtors prison.

The Times review of Mansions of Misery:



Tuesday 4 April 2017,  18:00-20:00

Sarah Dunant

The author, broadcaster and critic will be discussing the relationship between history, fiction, and historical fiction, based on her forthcoming novel, In the Name of the Family


Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First

Professor Frank Trentmann discusses his new book

Thursday 11 May 2017, 18:00-20:00

Dreyfus Room, 28 Russell Square

What we consume has become the defining feature of our lives: our economies live or die by spending, we are treated more as consumers than workers, and even public services are presented to us as products in a supermarket. In this monumental study, acclaimed historian Frank Trentmann unfolds the extraordinary history that has shaped our material world, from late Ming China, Renaissance Italy and the British empire to the present. Astonishingly wide-ranging and richly detailed, Empire of Things explores how we have come to live with so much more, how this changed the course of history, and the global challenges we face as a result.

The Guardian review of Empire of Things:



Heligoland: Britain, Germany, and the Struggle for the North Sea

Professor Jan Ruger discusses his new book

Wednesday 17 May 2017 , 18:00-20:00

Room 421, Malet St. building

Drawing on a wide range of archival material, Jan Ruger explores how Britain and Germany have collided and collaborated in this North Sea enclave. For much of the nineteenth century, this was Britain’s smallest colony, an inconvenient and notoriously discontented outpost at the edge of Europe. Situated at the fault line between imperial and national histories, the island became a metaphor for Anglo-German rivalry once Germany had acquired it in 1890. Turned into a naval stronghold under the Kaiser and again under Hitler, it was fought over in both world wars. Heavy bombardment by the Allies reduced it to ruins, until the Royal Navy re-took it in May 1945. Returned to West Germany in 1952, it became a showpiece of reconciliation, but one that continues to wear the scars of the twentieth century.


Many thanks to Jack Watling for his work with the department to organise this series.


Image: Joseph Abel, Socrates teaching his disciples. c 1807

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