IHR Modern British History Reading Group

Autumn Term Programme 2017

The IHR Modern British History Reading Group is run for and by postgraduate students in London. The Group hosts notable historians of Modern British History, who lead discussions on topics they consider to be of burning historiographical importance. We also hold occasional work-in-progress sessions for postgraduate students. Please find our programme for the Autumn Term below and note that all sessions will take place at the IHR in Wolfson Room II between 17:15 to 18:45.


If you have any questions, or would like to be on our mailing list to receive regular information about the group, please get in touch with thomas.kelsey@kcl.ac.uk or grace.redhead.12@ucl.ac.uk.

28/09/2017 – The Academic Job Market – Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, Richard Vinen, Agnes Arnold-Forster and Jack Saunders

Largely led by recently employed young scholars, this session will look at the current academic job market for those seeking to work in modern British history. Not only will the discussion focus on what graduate students need to do to make themselves myself employable, we will also discuss criticisms of the modern university, particularly what recent changes to the academy mean for the future of scholarship and for the position of graduate students.


26/10/2017 – Emotions – Rhodri Hayward

This session will look at the history of emotions – an approach which has long promised to expand the disciplinary remit of history but which remains mired in fundamental disagreements over its theoretical aims and working concepts.  In particular, we will look at the problems of emotion and scale and ways that historians can connect intimate feelings to larger histories of political change.


Rhodri Hayward, ‘Busman’s Stomach and the Embodiment of Modernity’ Contemporary British History 31.1 (2017): 1-23.


Mark Fisher, ‘The Privatisation of Stress’, Soundings: A Journal of Politics and Culture 48 (2011): 123-33.  


Further reading:

Kate Barclay, ‘New Materialism and the New History of Emotions’, Emotions: History, Culture and Society 1.1 (2017): 162-183


23/11/2017 – Social democracy and the psyche – Sally Alexander

Subjectivity and memory in 19th and 20th century British (and European) history will be the focus of this week’s seminar; how have people’s lived experience, fantasies and values shaped not just themselves but historical change?  Mid-twentieth century social democracy post-’45 was introduced by Clement Attlee’s Labour government, civil servants, and Liberal intellectuals, J. M. Keynes and William Beveridge, among others.  But the contribution of 150 years of labour movement, feminist and voluntary action prefigured the definition of need, dreams and forms of provision of the postwar moment.  

This session covers some of the same ground as last term’s focus on class, right wing populism and the uses of the social sciences to historians, but through the lens of subjectivity and everyday lives and knowledge.


Either Sally Alexander, ‘Women Class and Sexual Difference in the 1830s and 40s’, History Workshop Journal 17 (1984), 125-149; or the title essay in Sally Alexander, Becoming a Woman: Essays in 19th and 20th century British History (London, 1994).

Also see Selina Todd, The People: The rise and fall of the working class, 1910-2010 (London, 2017), chapter 7; or Tony Judt, Postwar: A history of Europe since 1945 (London, 2014) chapter 3.

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