Anglo-Saxons at Keele

Whilst the Anglo-Saxons, in the guise of The Last Kingdom,  are making weekly appearences on BBC Two in the customary modern vision of the middle ages as blood, gore, and rumpy pumpy, all shot in super murkovision, we will be acting as hosts to two papers on more Mercian themes on Saturday 22 April 2017 at 10.30 a.m.when the Ranulf Higden Society pays its annual visit.

Dr Charles Insley (University of Manchester) and Dr Nigel Tringham (Keele University) will present on

‘The Mercians, the Merfynion and the Anglo-Welsh Frontier, 820-920’ and

‘St Edith of Polesworth and Tamworth: the medieval cult.’

Not sure about the Merfynion? Then the Last Kingdom isn’t enough! Come along and find out.

There is a modest fee and a buffet lunch is available if booked.

For further details click on the link to the society here Ranulf Higden Society.

The day is free to Keele undergraduates since we will reimburse the society.


Rude words up a maypole in Fenton

REED,  Records of Early English Drama,  is a longstanding research project which seeks to publish the surviving records of drama, secular music, and other popular entertainment

in England from the Middle Ages until 1642, when the Puritans closed the London theatres.  The volume for Staffordshire has just been published online at Dr Nigel Tringham, the editor of the Victoria History of Staffordshire, and a colleague here at Keele, is thanked in the acknowledgements.

It is well worth browsing, using the interactive map. In the mid-thirteenth century annals of Burton abbey, for example,  the report of an enquiry into the monastic life poses an eternal question: “Whether … food can be given to entertainers because they are poor, not because they are entertainers; and their plays should not be seen or heard, or allowed to be performed before the abbot or the monks.”  Did the monks secretly watch the plays, but mask their ticket purchase in the guise of charity?

In 1605 William Johnson of Fenton was indicted for climbing up the May Pole and  posting “verie fowle & filthie matter concerning dyuerse of his honest neighburs.”

I could go on …. but perhaps you should look yourself?

Famous Founding Myths of Keele

Professor Miles Taylor will give a lecture on Keele’s founding myths on  08 March 2017 at 6pm in the SENIOR COMMON ROOM, KEELE HALL
Founded in 1949 as the University College of North Staffordshire, Keele University has long enjoyed a reputation as a pioneer, an influential experiment that paved the way for the famous ‘plate-glass’ universities of the 1960s. With its residential campus, four-year degree and introductory foundation course, Keele broke the mould of teaching conventions and loosened the hold of the older universities. And yet there were as many differences as similarities between Keele and what followed at Sussex, York, East Anglia and the other new campuses of the 1960s. Keele’s evolution was rooted in the hopes and fears of the aftermath of the Second World War, and not the swinging 60s.
This lecture offers a fresh look at the life, times and personalities of Keele in the 1950s and early 1960s, confirming some of the University’s founding myths, but dispelling others, and recovering a series of lost stories that properly belong in our historical
understanding of the ‘Keele experiment’.
Miles Taylor is currently a Visiting Research Fellow in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Keele and the holder of a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship.  Since 2004 he has been Professor of Modern History at the University of York. Between 2008 and 2014 he was seconded to the University of London as Director of the Institute of Historical Research. A specialist on Victorian Britain, he is currently co-editing a book entitled The utopian universities: the new campuses of the 1960s, from which this lecture is drawn.
Tickets can be booked at

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

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.

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.


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.

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.


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,.