Gareth Snell, who graduated in history and politics in 2008 at Keele has just been selected as the Labour candidate to fight the by-election in Stoke Central which has arisen as the result of the resignation of another historian, Tristram Hunt. Since he graduated Gareth has served as a local councillor in Newcastle and as leader of the Borough Council, as well as working as a trades union official. He spent his final year at Keele studying parliament and politics in the reign of Edward II.
It is a long time since electoral politics in Stoke on Trent have attracted national interest. In 1931 Oswald Mosley attracted 10534 votes as a candidate for the ‘New Party’ (better known as the British Union of Fascists) and came in third, one of only two seats in that election where the New Party didn’t lose its deposit.
Christopher Marlowe’s play Edward II, written in the 1590s plays fast and loose with the history of that king, the subject of one of our final-year special subjects. The student company Drame Fatale are currently reaching the end of a short tun of performance at the Oxford Playhouse, the play staged against a 1980s brutalist concrete background.
Queen Isabelle, Edward II and Peter Gaveston (Rosa Garland, Calam Lynch and Sam Liu): acknowledgments to Drame Fatale and Daniel Kim.
Thursday’s matinee performance was followed by a roundtable at Worcester College, “Edward II and ‘Edward II’ – Breaking New Ground,” which involved Oxford scholars and students, Professor Sir Jonathan Bate, Professor Emma Smith, and the play’s director, Charlotte Vickers, and Dr Philip Morgan from Keele. The discussion considered issues about the politics and literary contexts of the 1590s as well as the early fourteenth century, and the 1980s.
The play finishes its run on Saturday 28 January. Set, sound and lighting design were terrific, and the gender-blind casting (Edward II’s brother becomes his sister, and the archbishop of Canterbury is a woman) was delivered by some fine acting.
On 7 December 2016, I went to London to collect the History of Parliament’s Undergraduate Dissertation Competition prize as joint winner alongside Eloise Davies from Cambridge University.
The prizes were awarded at the History of Parliament’s Annual Lecture, and you can read more about the two winning dissertations here: https://thehistoryofparliament.wordpress.com/2016/12/08/history-of-parliament-dissertation-competition-2016/
As the lecture was in the evening, I headed to London early to visit the Senate House Library’s excellent exhibition ‘Utopia and Dystopia’. Whilst this may at first seem quite unrelated to the dissertation that I won the prize for (which was on the subject of radicalism and loyalism in 1790s England), the two subjects are in fact quite closely connected. After all, the future was constantly in the forefront of the minds of both radicals and loyalists in England during the French Revolution; each group saw themselves and their ideas as working towards a utopian future.
In the evening, I made my way to Portcullis House – an amazing government building situated just across the road from the Houses of Parliament – for the lecture.
Before and after the lecture, I had the chance to meet a great number of historians and history enthusiasts, from all stages of their academic careers as well as from outside academia. We had a lot of interesting discussions about how the historical discipline has evolved over the years. Many of us were in agreement that today, historians have more room for creativity than ever before. It is now possible to experiment with new methodologies such as the ones presented by digital tools, and to creatively combine these with relatively new themes such as gender history and space and place. These developments allow us to create truly exciting new interpretations of the past, and the possibilities that they present bode well for future research. I also had the chance to meet the judging panel of the dissertation competition, and the former History Today editor and MP Gordon Marsden who presented the prizes.
The lecture itself was on the topic of ‘Asquith, Lloyd George and the Crisis of Liberalism’. It was delivered by Kenneth O. Morgan, who has had an esteemed career in British political history and is a peer in the House of Lords. Morgan discussed the lives of H. H. Asquith and David Lloyd George before they entered the world of politics; the development of their political ideas; and the changing relationship between these two figures. The lecture was interesting, and particularly notable for the fact that it was delivered exactly 100 years to the minute that Lloyd George was appointed Prime Minister! It will be available to watch on BBC iPlayer for the next month: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08647c3.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Keele University for the funding to be able to attend this lecture; the organisers of this very enjoyable event; the judges of the History of Parliament Undergraduate Dissertation Competition for their kind words; and the Keele History department for submitting my dissertation to this prize.