Thomas Becket and the Medieval Cult of Personality

On Tuesday 6 June, both the School of History and Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS) of the University of Kent are delighted to welcome Professor Paul Binski (Cambridge) for a free public lecture in the Clagett Auditorium of the Canterbury Cathedral Lodge from 6.30–7.30PM.

The title of his paper is Thomas Becket and the Medieval Cult of Personality

This lecture will examine the art provoked by the drama of Thomas Becket’s Life, Death and Sanctity. It will look at Becket’s place amongst the other saints of England and Europe, and particularly at the idea of personality cult and charisma. How did such things impact on the way saints were represented in the Gothic age and what difference did Becket make?

Please visit the lecture event page for more details.

The ‘British’ churches 1603-1707: from dynastic union to Anglo-Scottish union

On 22 June 2017 the University of Kent’s School of History and Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies will be hosting an international conference ‘The ‘British’ churches 1603-1707: from dynastic union to Anglo-Scottish union‘.

The two-day conference, timed to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the launching of the Five Articles of Perth by James VI & I in Scotland in 1617, is held in collaboration with Canterbury Christ Church University and its Centre for Kent History and Heritage.

All conference sessions will take place in Keynes College on the University of Kent’s Canterbury campus and aim to bring together scholars with an interest in religion across the British Isles during the 17th century.

The Conference will also include the official launch party for Dr Leonie James’s new book – ‘This Great Firebrand’: William Laud and Scotland 1617-45 (Boydell Press, 2017).

Further information about the Conference including a programme and registration details can be found on its dedicated webpage.

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

Student trip to Rome

In early April 2017, Dr Emily Guerry took fourteen of her third-year students from her special subject module, ‘Saints, Relics, and Churches in Medieval Europe’ (HI 6058), on a four-day fieldtrip to explore the material culture of medieval Rome. The School of History generously subsidized the cost of travel and accommodation.

Testimonials

“When we arrived in the early evening, the students checked into their hostel near Termini and we all headed straight to the Forum to get a sense of the city of Rome– that still-smoking hearth of culture. Our itinerary was designed to proceed both chronologically and geographically through the development of the Christian capital so our first morning was packed with time spent in the Palatine Hill and the Capitoline Museo, followed by an afternoon in the Pantheon (which was converted into a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the sixth century). Next, we examined the first major Rome house-church female cults located Santa Pudenziana, Santa Prassede, and ended our day with a special private tour of the loggia (with captivating city views) atop Santa Maria Maggiore on the Esquiline. On our second morning, we began by spending two hours inside the stunning church of San Clemente and descended into its many layers of archeological history. Then we ventured to the Lateran for private visit of SS Quattro Coronati thanks to the Augustinian nuns (and performed our very own re-staging of the Donation of Constantine), followed by a pilgrimage to the Sancta Sanctorum, wherein four enterprising students actually acquired an indulgence! We spent that in Trastevere to make a private visit– with generous thanks to the Clarissa nuns– to Pietro Cavallini’s monumental Last Judgment fresco in Santa Cecilia, which is said to embody the ‘turning point’ between the transformation of Gothic painting into the ‘Renaissance.’ We ended this special day by looking at the amazing spolia in Santa Maria in Trastevere– purportedly the earliest location for the Roman cult of the Virgin– and marveling at its resplendent medieval mosaics. We spent out last day wandering through the Vatican museums, where we came face to face with dozens of sacred and sublime objects from our course, including early Christian sarcophagi, cult statues, and even Michelangelo’s wall paintings in the Sistine Chapel. In the end, our trip was an awe-inspiring intellectual adventure. The students encountered and examined some of the most transformative examples of church architecture, painting, and sculpture in the history of art and architecture in Rome. We are all so grateful to the School of History, especially Jenny Humphrey, for providing us with this once in a lifetime opportunity.Grazie mille!

Students at the Foro Romano

Students examine Cavallini`s fresco

Students in the nave of Santa Pudenziana discuss the apse mosaic

Students reenact the ‘Donation of Constantine’ in SS Quattro Coronati

The Dutch in the Medway, 1667

Anglo-Dutch rivalry in its global context

The University of Kent at Medway and The Historic Dockyard Chatham

30 June – 2 July 2017

An international conference at Chatham Dockyard commemorating the 350th anniversary of the Dutch attack of June 1667. The attack brought a speedy conclusion to the Second Anglo-Dutch War which marked the height of the naval struggle between England and the Netherlands from 1652-1674. Commercial and imperial rivalries lay at the heart of this struggle in the North Sea, the Atlantic and Asia, but the interplay of political, ideological and institutional differences was equally important. At a time when Britain’s relationship with Europe is undergoing seismic and perhaps unpredictable change, the resolution of conflict and the resumption of new forms of cultural and economic co-operation between two historic allies surely deserve our renewed attention.

Battle of Chatham - van der Stoop

Battle of Chatham – van der Stoop

The conference will take place in the historic Royal Dockyard Church, recently transformed into a lecture theatre through partnership between the University of Kent and the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, the two bodies hosting the conference. Accommodation will be available in nearby university halls of residence at Liberty Quays.

More information about about the conference including pricing and registration (now open!) can be found on its dedicated webpage – https://www.kent.ac.uk/history/events/conferences/dutchmedway1667.html

This webpage also includes details about a parallel conference being held in Amsterdam on 23-24 June 2017.

School of History Newsletter: January 2017

The latest edition of our School newsletter, History Today, is now available to download herehistory-today-jan-17

Released monthly, the newsletter features all the latest news and updates from the School, as well as upcoming events and recent student and staff achievements.

In this issue: 
• Kent’s new Vice-Chancellor is announced
• Student Employability Opportunities
• New publications from our academics
• This term’s Research Seminar Series
• Getting to Know You: Our Student Support Officer

Professor David Welch’s research on WWII propaganda features in The i Newspaper

'Persuading the People: British Propaganda in WWII', Professor David Welch

‘Persuading the People: British Propaganda in WWII’, Professor David Welch

Professor David Welch featured in the i Newspaper on Monday 14th November, in a piece detailing his latest book, ‘Persuading the People: British Propaganda in World War II’.

The book, which was released in September, looks at how the Ministry of Information used propaganda to convince the Empire that the Second World War was worth fighting.

Read the article here.

Professor Welch will also be giving a talk on the topic at the British Library this coming Thursday 17th November.  More details on the event can be found here.

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.

Dr Higgitt presents the Transit of Venus 1874 digital collection

Dr Rebekah Higgitt introduces a digitised collection papers, photographs and drawings transit-of-venus-thumbnailrelating to the history of astronomy, now available at Cambridge Digital Library. Funded by the University of Kent and the British Society for the History of Science, her project has made items from the archive of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, and a private collection available to the public. They focus on the British expeditions organised to observe the 1874 transit of Venus, particularly the one made to the Sandwich Islands (Hawai’i). The collection includes photographs of the observing instruments, huts and sites; details of the equipment and provisions taken overseas; official and private journals and a truly unique set of caricature drawings that follow the “Life and Adventures” of the Hawai’i observers.

To see the digitised papers click here.