Civilian Internment in the Habsburg Empire during the First World War

This week’s Modern History seminar deals with one of the less appreciated aspects of memories of the first world war, the internment of civilians by the combatant powers.
Matthew Stibbe of Sheffield Hallam University will discuss the topic in relation to experiences within the Habsburg empire. He has written, ‘In particular, most of those who were matthew-stibbeinterned in Austria-Hungary during the war were not enemy aliens at all, but either deportees from occupied territories, or feindliche Inländer, internal enemies who belonged to particular subject nationalities of the empire. With the partial exception of the Serbs and the Italians, they did not enjoy the protection of the International Red Cross or of neutral embassies. And their treatment was anything but lenient’.
Wednesday, 1 February, 15:30 – 17:00, CBB 0.030
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History graduate selected to fight Stoke by-election

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.

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Edward II at the Oxford Playhouse

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.


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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.


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:

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.


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:

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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A New Study of Trentham

Dr Pam Sambrook, former keeper at Shugborough and a pams-bookfriend of Keele history of many years, has just published the results of a long-time research project on the servants at Trentham Hall, the Staffordshire estate of the Leveson-Gower family, dukes of Sutherland. The archive is held at the Staffordshire Record Office and was ‘saved’ by a collaboration between the county archives, local historians and local people which included a twenty-four hour lecture marathon. It is a rich quarry of materials from the middle ages to the twentieth century. Pam’s study continues her long writing career on the social strucrure of noble houses and estates, though she will be remembered by some Keele students for her courses on the history of housework, and of food, and her writing on brewing and oatcakes!

The book costs £20 but there is a pre-publication offer (see the leaflet). The author will also be signing copies on 15 December, 10am until midday, in Newcastle Library.


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16 November 2016 | Glenn Price

Humanities Work in Progress...

Claus Moser CM0.12 | 1pm

Join us this November as History’s Glenn Price inducts us into the intricacies of logistics and supply during the British Civil Wars. With our own logistics and supply being (fingers crossed) of a less fraught nature, you may also look forward to a range of sandwiches, fruit and possibly even cakes! To find out more about Glenn and his WiP talk, please read on.

What, Why, and How:

The Study of Logistics and Supply of the British Civil Wars

Military logistics and supply systems are fundamental to the successful prosecution of a war. As the British Isles had been at peace internally for decades before war broke out in 1638, these systems had to be created from scratch. As the conflicts rapidly expanded and intensified, these logistical and supply systems needed to adapt and grow to meet the voracious appetite of war. The need to…

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Best Undergraduate Dissertation 2016

Susanah Owen, one of our most recent graduates, has just been awarded joint first prize in the History of Parliament competition for the best undergraduate dissertation presented in 2016 on a subject relating to British or Irish parliamentary or political history before 1997. Her subject was ‘Digitally mapping popular political susannah-owenactivity in Manchester 1792-5.’ The prize will be presented at the History’s annual lecture, which will be held at Westminster  in the Attlee Suite, Portcullis House in the evening of Wednesday 7 December 2016. (The lecture will be given by Professor the Lord Morgan FBA on ‘7 December 1916: Asquith, Lloyd George and the crisis of Liberalism.’)

The dissertation was a striking piece of work  with two subjects: the popular political response to the French Revolution in Britain, and the contemporary response of historians to what has been described by some academics as a digital revolution. As a part of the study Susannah created a digital, interactive map of popular political activity during the French Revolution which displayed  100 different geographically located events which took place in Manchester and its surrounding areas between 1792 and 1795. Each pin on the map was colour coded to denote whether it was politically radical or loyalist, and included further information on the event in question (what happened, when it happened, and the sources used to ascertain these things). The digital Humanities is an approach which is being explored widely by current historians working with new media.

The other joint prize winner is a student at Cambridge University. Susannah Owen, having been supervised by Professor Dominic Janes, is staying at Keele for a Master’s programme,.


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Staffordshire Hoard Month at Keele

The discovery of the Staffordshire hoard in 2009 has brought the county into an unusual prominence in matters ‘Anglo-Saxon’. For historians the well-known Mercian hole is not that in which the hoard was discovered but the gap which features in most narratives of pre-Conquest England as a result of the paucity of written records for Mercia. Now, in the space of a few weeks the University plays host to two lectures which highlight results from examination of the Hoard. The first, this week,  deals with the analysis of the gold content of the hoard objects. The second, a month later, is the annual Levitt lecture at which the archaeologist who excavated the hoard will speak,

Public lecture: The Staffordshire Hoard

Institute of Physics, Keele Physics Centre

Thursday 20th October 2016 7.30 p.m.
The following talk will be given in LJ1.75, Lennard Jones Laboratory:

“Secrets of the Anglo-Saxon goldsmith: Scientific results from the analysis of the Staffordshire Hoard gold”
Dr Eleanor Blakelock, Birmingham Museum & British Museum

The discovery of the Staffordshire Hoard in 2009 led to the development of a cross-disciplinary programme to conserve, research and disseminate the find. The Hoard consists of the largest assemblage of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver objects. As part of the wider research project studying the Staffordshire Hoard a ground breaking study of the gold was carried out. The work has revealed more details about workshop practice and from this it is possible to outline some of the decisions made by the goldsmiths in the Anglo-Saxon period to enhance the appearance of the objects.

Tea and coffee available in the Lennard Jones foyer from 6.30 p.m.

Admission free. The lecture is open to the public and is sponsored by the West Midlands Branch of the Institute of Physics.

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Skeleton 16 from Hulton Abbey

Skeleton 16 excavated at Hulton Abbey outside Stoke on Trent in the early 1970s has become something of a celebrity. Traditionally identified with a member of the Audley family who were patrons of the Cistercian house, the remains have more recently  been identified as those of Hugh Despenser jr, executed in 1326 during the campaign which led to the deposition and murder of Edward II. The skeleton, missing its skull, a thigh bone, hands and feet, has also been argued to represent one of the only skeletons so far identified as havbnf-fr-2675ing been subject to the judicial process of quartering.

This year’s Thelma Lancaster Memorial lecture at the The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery was given by Philip Morgan, and reviewed the historical evidence for the identification with Hugh Despenser, as well as some of the written evidence for the process of such executions and the later recovery of the remains. In the image on the right an illustration for Jean Froissart’s chronicle shows Despenser’s execution in Hereford.

The audience, members of the Stoke-on-Trent Museum Archaeological Society, included many of the members who had been involved in the original excavation, not least David Thomas who dug up skeleton 16, and generously shared an image of the bones in process of being uncovered. The lecture is due to be published next year.

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FABRICATIONS. A new set of historical fictions

Our emeritus professor of medieval history, Colin Richmond, was almost as well known for his historical fictions as his extensive work on the Pastons and also on the Shoah. In 1983 he hoaxed a learned journal with   ‘A Blatter of Rain and the Origins of Penkhull,’ which described how, in the steps of Edmund Bishop, he had followed the trail of the reliquary of St Penket (an obscure Anglo-Saxon virgin) from the cathedral of Fribourg in Switzerland to the Potteries and, eventually, to the garden of Jorge Luis Borges’ grandmother’s home at 21 The Villas (home of the then Head of Department) in Stoke. In retirement he fabricationshas published a new volume of Paston letters, a biography of the philosemite, James Parkes, and a compelling reflection on the nature of historical writing Doing History. Now, in two volumes no less, we have new collections of historical fictions. The title character, Anthony Woodville, was one of Richard III’s most notable victims in 1483. But who can resist some of the chapters in these two volumes, the results of enquiries into ‘The Medieval Lap Dancer’, ‘Anthony Woodville and the Black Madonna of Willesden’ or ‘The Princes in the Tower: The Truth at Last’. Colin’s first volume of fictions, The Penket Papers, contained one paper ‘Dung ABC’ which had been rejected by a publisher as a patent hoax but which was in fact entirely straightfaced. Whioch of the current crop, one wonders, might be a truth masquerdaing as a fiction? The volumes are engagingly illustrated by Myrna Richmond. Further details can be found at

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