A report of the day’s events

Postgraduates from across the North West of England and beyond gathered at the University of Manchester on 1st November for ‘Beyond History’, the latest event organised by History Lab North West.  This interdisciplinary workshop was intended as a platform for researchers to explore, in a friendly and supportive environment, the benefits and challenges of working across and between different disciplines.  The event attracted twenty postgraduates from fields such as Screen Studies, English, Sociology and Middle Eastern Studies as well as History.

To open the workshop, a roundtable of Manchester historians served up conceptual food for thought for the day ahead and sparked some lively discussion.  Sarah Wood interrogated ways in which historians become ‘disciplined’ in the first place, and Paula Chorlton narrated her own experiences as a historian engaging with the wider humanities to argue for the importance of reflexivity in interdisciplinary research.  Ed Owens offered an illustrated discussion of how mixed methods inform his work on media and monarchy.  The first panel brought together two researchers in language-based area studies whose work broaches the politics of history.  Ellen Crabtree from the University of Newcastle reflected upon her approach to researching the politically-engaged French historian Madeleine Rebérioux, and the methodological issues raised by working on this topic as a historian in a French department.  Roman Vater presented the fascinating case of warring historiographies surrounding the “Young Hebrews” and the implications of historical ideologies for imaginings of Israel past, present and future.

After a hearty lunch courtesy of artsmethods@manchester, we reconvened for a panel exploring interdisciplinarity ‘in practice’. Jenni Hyde turned what could have been the difficult post-lunch slot into a vital, convincing and very tuneful argument for the centrality of musical understanding to historical research on Tudor ballads.  In a subtle and beautifully-argued paper, Rosy Rickett made oral history, material culture and literature converge to powerful effect as she discussed how they informed her theoretical approach to work on Spanish exiles.  Ben Knowles explained his approach to filmmaking as a method of historical research, demonstrating his work on a Second World War re-enactment group with filmed re-creations of everyday life (and ensuring in the process that those present would never take their washing machines for granted again).

Our final panel examined the potential for ‘impact’ of interdisciplinary work.  Rich Thomas of Manchester Metropolitan University gave a lively presentation of his foray into the digital humanities in the form of his ongoing edition of Mandeville, a previously-unpublished work of historical literature by well-connected gothic novelist William Godwin.   Jessica Field of Manchester’s Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute grappled with the ‘inter’- as opposed to the ‘cross’-, ‘trans’- and ‘multi’-disciplinary, as well as with how, despite the ubiquitousness of interdisciplinary work, it is often ill catered-for within institutional structures.  Her reflexive paper neatly reviewed many of the issues raised at the start of the day and sent us into the Ducie Arms with much to talk about.

History Lab North West thanks all participants in the workshop for their contributions, and for the convivial atmosphere which characterised the day.  We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Royal Historical Society and of artsmethods@manchester.  As ever, we encourage postgraduates interested in joining the HLNW committee to email us at historylab.northwest@hotmail.com or to make contact on Twitter @HistLabNW.  Details of our next event, a one-day workshop to be held at the University of Liverpool, will be available soon.


Registration is now open for the workshop on 1st November

The programme has now been finalised for our workshop at the University of Manchester on Friday 1st November.  It’s free to attend and lunch and refreshments will be provided.  If you’d like to come along, just email us at historylab.northwest@hotmail.com to register. We hope to see you there!

Beyond History: a Postgraduate Workshop organised by History Lab North West

Friday 1st November 2013

Location: Training Room (C1.18), 1st floor, Graduate Centre of the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, Ellen Wilkinson Building, University of Manchester.

Lunch and refreshments will be served in the Dining Room (CG60) on the ground floor.


9.30am Registration

10.00am Welcome and opening remarks (C1.18)


Sarah Wood (History, Manchester)

Paula Chorlton (History, Manchester)

Edward Owens (History, Manchester)

11.00am Tea and coffee (dining room)

11.30am Panel 1: Historiographical politics

Chair: Sarah Wood

Ellen Crabtree (French, Newcastle): Negotiating the boundaries of French History: Madeleine Rebérioux

Roman Vater (Middle Eastern Studies, Manchester): Warring historiographies, warring politics: the case of the “Young Hebrews”

12.30pm Lunch (provided, dining room)

2.00pm Panel 2: Methods and uses of interdisciplinarity

Chair: Kelly Spring

Jenni Hyde (History, Manchester): ‘Depart ye songs, lascivious’: Ballads, Psalms and Knowingness in Tudor England

Rosy Rickett (History, Manchester): The benefits of infidelity, or why interdisciplinarity works for me

Benjamin Knowles (Screen Studies and History, Manchester): Filmmaking as a method for historical research

3.15pm Tea and coffee (dining room)

3.45pm Panel 3: ‘Impact’

Chair: Paula Chorlton

Richard Thomas (English, Manchester Metropolitan University): Editing William Godwin’s Mandeville, digital resources and historical detective work

Jessica Field (Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute, Manchester): Master of all trades and Jack of none: heightening impact potential through interdisciplinarity

4.45pm Closing discussion

5.00pm: close

Participants are warmly invited to the Ducie Arms (behind the Mansfield Cooper building) for post-conference drinks and socialising.

Final call for papers!

There’s one week to go until the deadline for abstracts on 20th October.  If you would like to contribute a paper for our workshop on 1st November, please do send an outline of around 200 words to historylab.northwest@hotmail.com.  Please also send us an email if you would be interested in participating in a roundtable.  This would involve making a contribution of around 5-10 minutes relating to the theme of the day, then participating in further discussion.

We are pleased to confirm that in addition to the kind support of the Royal Historical Society, the event is also now sponsored by artsmethods@manchester.  If you speak on the day, your travel expenses will be reimbursed.  Lunch, tea and coffee will be provided for all attending.

Call for papers: ‘Beyond History’

We are pleased to announce that our next one-day postgraduate workshop will be held at the University of Manchester on 1st November 2013.  The aim of the workshop is to explore History in interdisciplinary context, and we invite submissions for 20-minute papers relating to the theme, ‘Beyond History’.  Please send abstracts of 200-300 words by 20th October 2013 to historylab.northwest@hotmail.com, including your name, department and institution in the email.  The workshop is kindly supported by the Royal Historical Society and travel bursaries will be available for speakers.

‘Interdisciplinary’ has in recent years become something of a key term across the humanities, and historians seem increasingly willing to incorporate ideas and approaches from a wide range of disciplines.  However, there remains much scope for increased contact between historians and scholars who, working in other subject areas across the arts and social sciences, also engage with historical concepts and methodologies.  This workshop explores concepts and practices of interdisciplinary history.  It is intended to provide a forum for postgraduates to explore the negotiation of the ‘discipline’ of history and to discuss how we can incorporate methodologies and approaches from disciplines across the humanities, and beyond.  Potential questions could include:

– Do the disciplinary boundaries of history constrain or liberate?  Are subdivisions by period useful?

– How does work that is not produced under the aegis of history alter or incorporate it?

– To what extent is separation between disciplines arbitrary?

– How are disciplines sustained or challenged by the organisation of the university?

– Has an interdisciplinary framework become the norm?

– How meaningful are terms such as trans-, cross- and interdisciplinary?

Contributions are invited from any postgraduate studying a historical topic, broadly defined.  We especially welcome PGRs whose research crosses borders in terms of subject or methodology or who are interested in experimenting with themes and ideas from other fields and disciplines.   Papers may address theoretical or methodological issues and/or offer examples of interdisciplinary work.   We welcome participants based in any subject area; this may include but is not limited to sociology, law, languages and literary studies, music, geography, Classics, anthropology, archaeology, development studies and history of science and medicine.

About HLNW

Affiliated with the Institute for Historical Research, History Lab North West is a network aiming to foster connections and collaboration amongst postgraduates working in universities in and around the North West of England.  We offer a platform for postgraduates to present research in a friendly and supportive environment and the opportunity to exchange ideas and to socialise with peers from around the region.  We especially encourage postgraduates who wish to experiment with novel or untested approaches to their subject.  We are also keen to hear from postgraduates who are not based in History departments but whose work has a historical dimension.

Follow us on twitter @HistLabNW and join us on facebook: https://en-gb.facebook.com/pages/History-Lab-North-West/220027008023027.  Contact us at historylab.northwest@hotmail.com for more information or to join our mailing list.