The History of Parliament Annual Lecture: Susannah Owen

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.

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Eloise Davies and Susannah Owen

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.

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Portcullis House

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.

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