University of Kent visit experience

By Prof. Sivachandralingam Sundara Raja, the Head of Department of History at the University of Malaya (Kuala-Lumpur). He visited Kent, with his colleague, Dr. Abu Hanifa, on 19-26 March 2017.

Can you briefly describe your roles at the University of Malaya, and your area of research?

I am currently the Head, Department of History and have been in this position since 1 September 2015. As the head I am assigned with many tasks. I have been given the task of supporting the management’s role to raise the ranking of University Malaya internationally (World University Ranking) to make sure we would soon be one of the best 100 universities in the world. I am also tasked to plan and implement academic programmes at the department level; to plan staff recruitment for the department; to encourage research activities among staffs; to ensure the department meets its annual Key Performance Index (KPI) in terms of academic excellence, teaching and learning, research, publication and innovation, internationalization and networking, recognition and professional services, income generation, award, promotion initiatives and graduate employability. Finally, I am responsible to provide strong academic leadership in ensuring all academic staffs and higher degree students of the Department play their part to help achieve the KPI set by the university. For the academic staffs, their KPIs are decided based on the Standard Academic Performance Target (SAPT), which includes research, publication, supervision, teaching, consultation, administration and contribution to society/ social work. My visit to Kent is in line with the aim of the university to internationalize and to build networks for the progress of the department and the university as a whole.

My main area of specialization is in the field of Malaysian economic history. Nevertheless I am also working on a number of researches, some of which broadly include British imperial history in the late 19th and early 20th century, missionary activities in Malaya and Southeast Asia in the 19th century, contemporary Indians in Malaysia and British policy towards Tamil education in British Malaya.

How do you think the School of History at Kent and the Department of History at Malaya can work together?

I strongly feel both Departments could work in such areas as student exchange especially for the undergraduate level, exchanges of staffs specializing in Malaysia and Southeast Asian History, Research Collaboration/joint research activities, exchange of publications, reports and other academic materials and activities and programmes that are of mutual interest.

I believe for a start student exchange should be a good option because it will definitely benefit both parties. Malaysian students would be exposed to the teaching culture in Europe and the same goes for the students from Kent who will be here. This should be implemented immediately because the department has been offering courses in English and so does the faculty. Student could select a minimum of three courses to ensure it could be implemented soon. Students from Kent would be exposed to a new culture and will get an opportunity to visit the country and exposed to the Malaysia life style that truly reflects what is termed as “Malaysia Truly Asia”. Visiting Malaysia would give them the experience of witnessing three major civilizations mingling around in the country. With a cheaper Malaysian currency Kent students will have a good time in Malaysia.

Staff exchanges would be another area worth exploring. I notice much of the work done by the academics of Kent seems to focus on Europe and other continents and not on Southeast Asia. It is here where University Malaya’s History Department would be able to help. Our strength has been on Malaysian History and History of Southeast Asia. Staffs from both departments could embark on a joint research work in medical history, imperialism, technology transfer, education and etc. I had the chance to meet Mr. John Cocking who is working on Higher Education in Malaya under the supervision of Dr. Cohen. His visit to University Malaya and to the Department of History will give him the chance to interact with scholars who have worked on his research subject and also to explore sources in the Malaysian National Archives. I am sure that my academic staffs too will benefit through such collaboration. I have invited Mr. John Cocking to the department where we could house him in one of our academic rooms for a period of 6 months for him to conduct the research in Kuala Lumpur. Academics from both departments could also explore the possibility of co-authoring books or articles once this relation has been cemented and there is a confidence it would be a great success.

Another area, which the collaboration could be implemented without any hassle, is exchange of publications, reports and other academic materials. We would definitely like to learn from Kent’s experience in successfully implementing its undergraduate and postgraduate programs. For a start we have received the School of History Undergraduate Student handbook, 2015-2016 that informs us on how Kent undergraduates are managed. Such experiences are worth to be shared for enabling further enhancement of our departments. Our exchanges could also be in the form of newsletter, bulletin, department reports, articles and others. We could even create a link in our website highlighting our joint programmes, where it will bring to the attention of both sides on what we have and how we could benefit.

How have you found your trip to Kent?​

The trip was truly satisfying because it was well organised by Kent and what more with Dr. Phil Slavin and Dr. Mark Lawrence were there to welcome us when we arrived. They showed us the beautiful town of Canterbury, which has many major attractions to offer. The field trip was educational and enjoyable. We were accommodated at the House of Agnes, which was a pleasant surprise because it was nearby to all amenities and convenient also.

My colleague, Dr. Abu Hanifah, and I spent a whole day visiting the town and I must say it was a lovely experience. We were able to buy many academic books at a discounted price. Besides that we enjoyed the western and Indian cuisines that Canterbury had plenty to offer. Our breakfast at the House of Agnes was also great and on the whole the university staffs and the people of Kent were very hospitable during our stay there. We treasure our days in Kent and are looking forward for more such visits in the near future.

I must also say that visiting Canterbury also enlightened me on many things. As it turned out a habit for me to buy a book in any country that I visit, I bought a small book that deals about the town. The book, which is authored by Alexander Tulloch titled The Little Book of Kent, contains many interesting and fascinating information. First is the fact that there are more castles in Kent than any county in England. Second, King’s School, Canterbury was founded in AD 597 by St. Augustine and which is almost 1,000 years older than Eton. Finally, Ian Fleming who is from Bakesbourne, a village near Canterbury had allegedly given James Bond the code name 007 after the bus service that ran between Canterbury and London. Bus number 007 is still the one to catch if one were to travel from Canterbury to London.

I also enjoyed meeting many of the academic staffs of the Department. Dr. Juliette Pattinson who is the Head was kind and welcoming. She and her colleagues, Phil Slavin, Mark Lawrence, and Mr. Jon Beer were the first to brief us on the strength of the Department and suggested ways in which both departments could collaborate. Our meeting with Dr. Stefan Goebel and Dr. Andy Cohen was indeed enlightening because he dealt with the postgraduate programmes of the department and how the students were graded.

Meetings with the individual research head of the centres of History of Colonialism, Study of War, Propaganda and Society, Political Economies of International Commerce and History of Medicine, Ethics and Medical Humanities, were very meaningful and educative. I have gotten a clearer picture on the role of these centers and how we could collaborate with them. I believe our visit to the Department of History, University of Kent has helped us to understand our strength and the many ways we could foster a meaningful cooperation in the near future.

Dr. Mark Lawrence, Dr. Abu Hanifa, Dr. Philip Slavin and Prof. Sivachandralingam Sundara Raja

Jon Beer, Dr Juliette Pattinson, Dr Philip Slavin and Prof. Sivachandralingam Sundara Raja

History Repeated: 2016 in Historical Context – A Roundtable Discussion

The events of 2016 will no doubt go down in history.

On Wednesday 16 November the School of History will be hosting a roundtable discussion putting the events of 2016 into a broader historical context. Academics from the School will discuss the legacies of European revolutions, the impact of the Great Depression, and the rise of Nazism and Stalinism,  through to the constitutional crises of the twenty-first century. What do these events tell us about the strength and weaknesses of democratic politics and moral values? Why do ideologies of hate and division seem to thrive in times of economic crises? Can a historical approach help us to develop a response to contemporary events?

All are welcome to explore these ideas in this discussion, and to join academics in the School to consider these issues over a glass of wine and snacks.

For more information, please contact either Dr Mark Hurst (M.R.L.Hurst@kent.ac.uk) or Professor Ulf Schmidt (U.I.Schmidt@kent.ac.uk).

A truck loaded with a 'Vote for Trump' sign.

Obituary: Antony Copley

Antony Copley

Antony Copley

Antony Copley, a loyal member of the School of History, died on 18 July 2016.

Antony saw active service during the Suez Crisis, then studied at Oxford and taught at Bangor before joining the University of Kent in 1967. He specialised in 19th century French and Indian history and retired in 2002 as a Reader.

He remained an active member of the School and University, attending events and continuing to research and write books, including Music and the Spiritual: Composers and Politics in the 20th Century (2012). He also generously sponsored the Copley Prize for the best final year history dissertation, and enjoyed judging them and presenting the prize itself.

In 2014 Antony became an honorary Professor of Modern European and Indian History, which gave him much pleasure. Last year he published his autobiography, A Memoir: Historian and Homosexual: Search for a Postwar Identity. He will be much missed by those who knew him.

Kenneth Fincham, School of History

Antony’s funeral will take place at St Clement’s Church, Sandwich, at 15.30 on Tuesday 2 August. A memorial service will be arranged in Canterbury in the autumn.

Update: 3rd August 2016

An obituary written by Lavinia and Dan Cohn-Sherbok appeared in The Guardian on Monday 1st August 2016 – Antony Copley obituary.

← Back to the School of History website.

British Human Rights Organizations & Soviet Dissent, 1965-1985

Congratulations to our Research Support Officer and Honorary Research Fellow Dr Mark Hurst, whose book ‘British Human Rights Organizations & Soviet Dissent, 1965-1985‘ was released by Bloomsbury today!9781472522344 (002)

The book explores the British response to Soviet human rights violation, drawing on Dr Hurst’s extensive archival work and interviews with key individuals from the period.

In the latter half of the 20th century, a number of dissidents engaged in a series of campaigns against the Soviet authorities and as a result were subjected to an array of cruel and violent punishments.

A collection of like-minded activists in Britain campaigned on their behalf, and formed a variety of organizations to publicise their plight. British Human Rights Organizations and Soviet Dissent, 1965-1985 examines the efforts of these activists, exploring how influential their activism was in shaping the wider public awareness of Soviet human rights violations in the context of the Cold War.

Find out more here.

History Summer School 2016

Kent's Paris Centre, Reid Hall

Kent’s Paris Centre, Reid Hall

Following the success of the History Summer School at Paris last year, the School of History is happy to announce that we will be running it again in 2016! If you are a current Stage 2 or 3 student in the School, you have the opportunity to spend five days at the end of June staying and studying at the University’s Paris Centre.

You will travel out to Paris on Sunday 26th June, to experience a week of intensive study

and visit world-famous historic sites, before returning on Friday 1st July.

A week of French and European history through the ages

The Summer School offers you the opportunity to examine elements of French and European history while in the heart of Paris itself. Encountering areas of history you might be familiar with, and others that are entirely new to you, you will take part in sessions specifically tailored for the Summer School, which take advantage of the Parisian setting and the opportunity to visit relevant museums and landmarks across the city.

These sessions will be given by members of staff from the School of History, and offer you a special opportunity to be taught by world-class experts in their fields, on subjects and areas at the cutting edge of historical research.

  • Dr Jan Loop: Europe and the Islamic World
  • Dr Rebekah Higgitt: Paris: Capital of Science, 1660-1880
  •   Dr Julie Anderson: Crime, Slime and Grime: The Paris Underground and its Marginalised Members
  • Dr Ambrogio Caiani: Honour into merit? France’s Changing Elites in an Age of Revolution, 1715-1870
  • Dr Timothy Bowman: French Army and Society, 1792-1945
  • Dr Amy Blakeway: Mary, Queen of Scots, France and England
  • Dr Emily Guerry: Gothic Art and Architecture: Invention and Imagination in Medieval Paris 

There will also be a session on Pathways to Postgraduate Study, to give you some advice on how to approach academic study after your undergraduate degree.

Experience the culture and history of Paris

The seminar sessions are only part of the Summer School experience. Each day you will visit a museum or site in Paris related to one of the sessions covered that day. These include:

Of course, staying in the centre of Paris will also give you the opportunity to experience one of the capitals of Europe. You will be free to explore the city after each study day – last year students took in such sites at the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and not to mention many of Paris’ most famous restaurants and bars!

To round out the week, the final day of the Summer School will be taken up entirely with a visit to the Palace of Versailles.

The University of Kent at Paris

The University’s centre at Paris is Reid Hall. Built as a porcelain factory in the 18th century, it has been a place of teaching and research since 1834. Located in the centre of Montparnasse, the historic heart of Paris’ intellectual and artistic life, Reid Hall is just a five-minute walk from the famous Jardin du Luxembourg, and a twenty-minute walk to the Île de la Cité and Notre Dame, both of which you will have the chance to visit and tour on the Sunday after you arrive.

The University offers a number of postgraduate programmes at Reid Hall. The School itself offers an MA in Modern History, wherein your Autumn term is spent in Canterbury, and your Spring term based at Reid Hall. The Summer School will be an excellent opportunity to experience the facilities and social life at Reid Hall and the environs around Montparnasse.

Costs

The Summer School is being funded primarily by the School of History, and so the cost to you will be just £50. This will include travel to and from Ashford International and Paris Gare du Nord on the Eurostar; metro travel around Paris for the week; accommodation in a hotel near Reid Hall; breakfast and lunch each day; and entry into all the historical sites you will visit as part of the study days.

Please note that the accommodation is based on two students to a room.

How to apply

If you would like to apply to attend the Summer School, please submit a 250-word email stating why you would like to attend to history@kent.ac.uk by 12noon, Tuesday 5th April.

Please note places are limited to just 20 students. If you wish to apply, you must be available between Sunday 26th June and Friday 1st July; it is not possible to only attend part of the Summer School.

For more information, or if you have any queries, please contact Jon Beer (J.Beer@kent.ac.uk).

Dr Ben Marsh appears on BBC World Service

Dr Ben Marsh featured on the BBC World Service’s History Hour this week, commenting on a story recalling the journey of a group of pioneers called The Donner Party, who were attempting to reach California by wagon when they were trapped by snow in the winter of 1846. Some were driven to cannibalism to survive, and their gruesome story has become a legend of the American West.

Listen again to the programme here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03bgxzt

Professor to curate major exhibition on secret science during the Cold War

Professor Ulf Schmidt and Professor (emeritus) David Welch from the School of History have been given the “green light” to curate a major exhibition on “The War of Nerves: Secret Science during the Cold War” in collaboration with Wellcome Collection.

US Civil Defense Poster (1951)

US Civil Defense Poster (1951)

Current plans envisage the exhibition to open first at the Wende Museum, Los Angeles, before moving to the new, much expanded exhibition space at Wellcome Collection, London. The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of public engagement events and conference activities.

Further details and exhibition dates will be included here as soon as they are announced.

For more information on Professor Schmidt’s work within this area, including his new book, see here.

Secret Science: A Century of Posion Warfare and Human Experiments

Ulf Schmidt Secret Science CoverProfessor Ulf Schmidt’s latest book Secret Science: A Century of Poison Warfare and Human Experiments has been used to inform an episode of BBC World Service’s Witness radio series.

Since acting as a principle expert witness on informed consent in the 2004 Inquest looking into the death of Ronald Maddison, a twenty-year-old Royal Air Force engineer who died after being exposed to a nerve agent at Porton Down in 1953, Professor Schmidt has researched and written about the history of medical ethics and national security in post-war British and European societies.

His latest work, Secret Science: A Century of Poison Warfare and Human Experiments, provides a comprehensive history of chemical and biological weapons research in Britain and North America by incorporating previously top secret military, scientific, and government archival material with interviews with servicemen and scientists whilst recognising developments in global debates on medical ethics.

Professor Schmidt’s research has also been used to inform an episode of BBC World Service’s Witness on Chemical Weapons Tests at Porton Down.

Update 09/07/2015:

Professor Schmidt’s research has appeared as a major news item on the University of Kent website and in The Independent newspaper.

Secret Science is published by Oxford University Press and more information can be found on the publisher’s catalogue.

School Fellow works on Magna Carta celebration

Centre for the History of Sciences Fellow Sarah Craske has been involved in the production of a new art installation, commissioned to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta, and unveiled to the Queen and senior royals today (15th June 2015).

Prince William with artist Hew Locke, who designed 'The Jurors'.

Prince William with artist Hew Locke, who designed ‘The Jurors’.

The piece, called ‘The Jurors’ by artist Hew Locke, has been installed at Runnymede, Surrey, where King John sealed the original document in 1215. It was unveiled to the Queen and other members of the Royal family, as well as Prime Minister David Cameron.

The installation includes 12 bronze chairs, casted by Sarah Craske and her team at Meltdowns Studios in Ramsgate.

Further information about the piece can be found here.

50th Anniversary History Projects – Witness Seminar

A group of University of Kent students in the 1970sAs part of the School of History’s 50th Anniversary History Projects, we are holding a Witness Seminar on the evening of Monday 8 June 2015 from 6:30-7:45pm in Grimond Lecture Theatre 1. This will take the form of a roundtable discussion, with past and present staff and students of the University exploring some of their experiences at Kent over the years.

The seminar will be chaired by Juliette Pattinson, Reader of History, and will include the following panellists:

  • Amy Harrison – 2nd year undergraduate student reading for a BA in History
  • Tim Luckhurst – Professor of Journalism and Head of the University’s Centre for Journalism
  • David Nightingale – Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Senior Lecturer in Ancient History
  • Doreen Rosman – A former Lecturer in History at Kent

The panel will be discussing their time at Kent, and audience members will be encouraged to ask questions and share their own experiences. The seminar will be followed by a drinks reception and buffet to launch an exhibition of student volunteers’ work on the University’s history to date in the Aphra Foyer (Grimond Building).

If you cannot make it along on the evening, the exhibition will be running from Monday 8 through to Friday 12 June, and we hope you can enjoy our volunteers work.

For more information about the event or the exhibition, please contact Dr Mark Hurst, M.R.L.Hurst@kent.ac.uk.

More information about the History Projects and celebration events can be found on the special University of Kent 50th anniversary website.