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History Faculty research

The history faculty is very active in producing research, and all its members are currently working on producing books and book chapters for well-known and well-regarded publishers, including Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, Routledge, Bloomsbury, Polity, Palgrave Macmillan, and Ashgate. They also all contribute refereed articles to excellent peer reviewed journals in their field, including the Journal of Medieval History, Viator, Thirteenth-Century England, Journal of American Studies, Twentieth Century British History, Political Studies Review and the History of European Ideas. Internally, all members of the faculty contribute to the Ottoline Club and Ottoline Online, and some are also members of the transdisciplinary Centre for Identity, Cooperation and Crisis. Externally, members of the faculty are members of a wide number of prestigious organizations, including the Political Studies Association, the Royal Historical Society, the Historical Association, the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance (Warwick University), and the Historians of the Twentieth Century United States.

The Faculty has particular research strengths in a wide variety of areas, some of which are listed below.

Specialties and teaching interests

By Period

Ancient and Medieval History

Professor Bettany Hughes specializes in researching the history of ancient and medieval history and culture. An award-winning historian and broadcaster, research fellow at King’s College, London, and tutor at Cambridge’s Institute for Continuing Education, she is a visiting professor at NCH. She has published widely in the fields of ancient and medieval history, and in particular has written three bestselling books: Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore (London: Jonathan Cape, 2005), The Hemlock Cup, Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life (London: Jonathan Cape, 2010), and Istanbul (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2017).

Dr Lars Kjaer is interested in the influence of classical ideas about the gift, as found in the works of philosophical writers like Cicero and Seneca the Younger as well as in the literary works of Virgil, Horace, Statius and Lucan. His forthcoming monograph with Cambridge University Press, The Medieval Gift and the Classical Tradition, investigates the way these ideas influenced the culture of generosity in the middle ages.

Medieval and Renaissance Kingship, Courts and Culture

Dr Lars Kjaer works on elite culture in medieval Europe, especially the period from c. 1000 to c. 1300. In particular, he is interested in the role of rituals, hospitality and gifts in the creation and maintenance of social bonds and the communication of status and claims to virtue. He is also interested in the use of approaches from social anthropology to understand the middle ages, and the challenges that this pose. His geographical focus is Western Europe (with a particular focus on England and Denmark). His most recent publications include an article on ‘Political Conflict and Political Ideas in Medieval Denmark’ in Viking and Medieval Scandinavia, and he is currently completing a monograph entitled The Medieval Gift and the Classical Tradition for Cambridge University Press. Other forthcoming work include studies of culture clash and gift exchange on the First Crusade, the background, family traditions and motivations of the first crusaders, memories of the viking age in medieval Denmark and England, and an investigation of hospitality and gift exchange during the parliaments of Edward I.

Dr Estelle Paranque research focuses on early modern courts and kingship. She has a particular interest in Elizabeth I, and in how she was perceived by the French monarchy and French ambassadors. But her research also ranges more widely to consider the courts of other early modern European monarchs and regents, including those of Henry III of France, Catherine de Medici, and Elisabeth of Austria, Queen Consort of France. She is also interested in how early modern monarchs were represented, both textually and pictorially. Among her many recent publications she has a monograph forthcoming with Palgrave Macmillan entitled Queenship and Power: Elizabeth of England through Valois Eyes.

Modern Political History

Dr Oliver Ayers specializes in researching civil rights activism in the United States, particularly in the 1930s and 1940s. He is especially interested in analysing how black workers and organizations responded to the combined rise of New Deal-era governmental activism and industrial trade unionism. Articles from this research, employing case studies from New York City and Detroit have been published in the Journal of American Studies and the European Journal of American Culture. His forthcoming monograph, entitled Laboured Protest: Black Civil Rights in New York City and Detroit during the New Deal and Second World War (Routledge) shows how activists from the left operated alongside, and often in competition with, others who signed up to liberal or nationalistic platforms to paint a picture of a complex and contested ‘laboured’ civil rights movement.

Dr Edmund Neill has an interest in modern British political history, and particularly in modern British conservatism. He is especially interested in the causes and effects of Thatcherism. In one forthcoming book chapter, ‘Conservative Intellectuals and the Post-War State’, shortly to be published by Oxford University Press in a collection entitled Welfare and Social Policy in Britain since 1880, edited by Professor Lawrence Goldman, he argues that the intellectual development of Thatcherism in the 1970s was much more confused and contested than subsequent politicians and historians have maintained. And he is currently working on another, ‘Intellectual Reactions to Thatcherism: Conceptions of Citizenship and Civil Society from 1990 to the Present’, which aims to chart the degree to which intellectuals on both Right and Left have either built upon Thatcherism, or reacted against it.

History of Political Thought

Dr Edmund Neill has a wide range of interests in the history of modern British and European political thought. First, he is interested in the history of political ideologies, and particularly in conservatism. Having previously published a well-received book on the conservative political philosopher, Michael Oakeshott for Bloomsbury Press (2010), he is currently working on a book on Conservatism for Polity Press, in their series on Key Concepts. Second, he has a continuing interest in the development of 19th and 20th century European political thought, and has edited a special issue of the History of European Ideas on ‘The Impact of Positivism on Post-War European Political Thought’, as well as publishing an article comparing Oakeshott’s work to that of his post-war contemporary, the leading hermeneutic philosopher, Hans-Georg Gadamer. He is currently working on editing another special issue for the History of European Ideas on the post-war theorist, Judith Shklar.

Public History

Professor Bettany Hughes is an award-winning broadcaster who has written and presented over 50 TV and radio documentaries for many prestigious media outlets, including the BBC, Channel 4, Discovery, PBS, The History Channel, National Geographic, Discovery, and ITV. She has also contributed extensively to print media including The Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and the New Statesman. She has co-produced a seven-part global documentary series about the shared roots of Eastern and Western culture, which was premiered at UNESCO in 2013. Her most recent project has been her accessible, but also deeply scholarly new history of Istanbul, published in 2017.

Dr Oliver Ayers  is currently working on a book for the popular market that tells the long-range story of racial protest in American cities, ranging from activism spurred by the First World War, white backlashes against civil rights and urban violence during the 1960s, to contemporary racial controversies in the age of #blacklivesmatter and Trump.

Dr Lars Kjaer has previously written on and remains interested in the uses of medieval history in fantasy literature. In particular, he has written blogs related to Game of Thrones, for example: https://www.nchlondon.ac.uk/2016/08/17/george-r-r-martin-and-history and https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/tv-radio/spoiler-alert-murder-at-the-feast-game-of-thrones-and-medieval-history-29318973.html

Dr Estelle Paranque is currently working on a project which will present the complex relationship and fates of the two most powerful European queens in the second half of the sixteenth century: Elizabeth I of England and Catherine de Medici.

Gender History

Professor Bettany Hughes has a longstanding interest in the history of women, and her first book Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore (London: Jonathan Cape, 2005) has been translated into ten languages.

Dr Estelle Paranque has a strong interest in gender history and the representation of women, particularly of Elizabeth I, but also more widely. She has recently co-edited two collections that focus on queens and powerful women, one entitled Colonization, Piracy and Trade in Early Modern Europe: The Roles of Powerful Women and Queens (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) and the other Forgotten Queens in Medieval and Early Modern Europe: Political Agency, Mythmaking, and Patronage (London: Routledge, forthcoming).

History Faculty Seminar Series

The History Faculty runs its own seminar series, and recently hosted a talk from Dr. Sophie Ambler (Lancaster University) on Simon de Montfort. Future speakers will include Professor Steve Farrell (Sheffield University) on ‘Thatcherism and Crime’, Professor Ingrid de Smet (Warwick University) on ‘Secrets in Renaissance Italy’, and Professor Nandini Das on ‘Cross-Cultural Encounters and Transculturality’ (Liverpool University).