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Conferences, lecture series and events

Upcoming events

View all of our upcoming events on the University Events page.

Past conferences

Postgraduate conference series

  • The Pursuit of Peace. Campaigns, Movements and Organisations in the 20th and 21st Century (October 2016)

    This conference promoted the exploration of social, political and cultural movements connected to the idea of peace in the twentieth century. These movements are promoted by governmental, non-governmental or international organisations such as the League of Nations and the United Nations, NGOs, European Union, and others.


  • Myth and Popular Memory (September 2015)

    This conference addressed the politics of popular memory, and the opportunities – and problems – for research, presented by the persistence of myths about history. While the popular presentation of history can lead to simplification and inaccurate impressions, it has also created a fertile field for academics who research how and what people remember, and question or add nuance to existing perceptions of historical events, places, theories and people.

  • The Resurgence of 'Class' in History (September 2014)

    Just over fifty years ago E.P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class put the concept of class firmly at the centre of historical debate. Over subsequent decades, however, the academic agenda has shifted considerably.

    Postmodernists and others have questioned the usefulness of ‘class’ as a key analytical category and historical narratives emphasizing class conflict as a driver of social change have become increasingly unfashionable. Yet class now appears to be making a comeback.

    Within the last year, the concept of social class has been resurrected and reimagined by the authors of the ‘Great British Class Survey’. Likewise, the media furore surrounding the release of Channel 4’s ‘Benefits Street’ speaks of our continuing obsession with class in modern Britain. Within the field of history, many authors have lately reasserted the usefulness of class as a tool of historical analysis.

    This two-day conference therefore provides an opportunity for postgraduates and early career historians to critically evaluate this key concept and consider how a sense of class enables better understanding of past societies and how they change.

  • Scandalous Histories (September 2013)

    From horsemeat in burgers to LIBOR rate fixing by bankers, contemporary society it seems lurches from one scandal to the next. Some commentators interpret such phenomena as signs of the overwhelming corrupt nature of modern life but scandals are not purely a modern phenomenon. This conference was particularly interested in the ways in which scandals have been given urgency or charge in the past, helping to reveal disturbing aspects of existing social, political and economic relations. It provided an opportunity for postgraduate and early career historians to critically assess particular scandals as well as encouraging more general reflections.

  • The Rude Body (September 2012)

    This two-day postgraduate conference explored both the behavioural and corporal expressions of incivility, encouraging reflection on the historical link between body, character and power. It was interested in ways in which the language of the body related to wider concepts of authority, such as gender, ethnicity, class and age, as well as to the politics of transgression and conformity.

  • Creating the 'Other' (September 2011)

    The theme of the 2011 graduate conference was 'Creating the 'Other'' throughout history. We were very pleased to welcome a large and diverse group of delegates and presenters from a number of institutions who made for an engaging and lively audience. We were also very happy to welcome Dr. John Bulaitis, of Canterbury Christchurch University, to provide the keynote address. Contributions were arranged into four panels, which explored the relevance of historical processes of 'Othering' to the realms of national identity, crime, gender and colonialism.

    Papers presented covered a multitude of topics, periods and contexts, ranging from the construction of persons of colour as servants in late 19th and early 20th century France, Germany and the United States, to the origins of sub-cultural cannabis-use in mid-20th century London, the utilisation of humour in the construction of masculinities during the English Civil Wars, and the introduction of the Contagious Diseases Act in the governance of the colonial 'other' in British-controlled Hong Kong in the late-19th century.

  • Worlds of Violence (September 2010)

    This two-day postgraduate conference explored the varied perceptions and uses of violence in history. It aimed to encourage reflections on the cultural representations of violence and on its shaping of social relations of all kinds.

  • Capoeira - from 'Regional' to Global (September 2009)

  • Chattel and Wage Slavery since 1500 (October 2008)

    The conference, which was introduced by Dr. Fiona Venn, consisted of a number of papers on the theme of slavery in the last five hundred years. The papers presented covered a wide chronological and thematic range.

    The keynote address was given by Dr. Jeremy Krikler, who gave a fascinating, and at times somewhat horrific, insight into the daily life on board a slave ship. This was followed by a paper by Dr. Matthias Assunção, who provided a critical overview of the historiography of slavery and resistance in the Americas. Dr. Manuel Barcia Paz (University of Leeds) concluded the morning session with an absorbing account of non-violent forms of resistance by slaves on Cuban Plantations.

    The afternoon session began with a paper by Vincent McInerney, who produced a fascinating description of the lives of indentured seafarers. This was followed by a paper by Michael Goodrum, who gave an enthralling account of the depiction of Africans in 1940s comics published in the United States. The final paper, which was presented by Dagmar Engelken, focused on Chinese labour migration during the nineteenth century.

  • Critical Perspectives on Empire and Imperialism: Past and Present (September 2004)

    Classical notions of empire and imperialism emphasise the political and economic domination of a group of states by a metropolitan power and the policy which seeks the extension of this domination through colonisation, military coercion, treaties and other means of gaining ascendancy. Historians have often tended to treat empire and imperialism as issues of the past and not the present. However, the current preoccupation with concerns like globalisation and the 'war on terrorism' as conceived by the United States of America and its Western allies, indicate a reordering of global power relations in such a way that the concepts of empire and imperialism are gaining new currency in contemporary historical and political debate. The continuing appalling difference in economic, social, political and technological conditions between the former imperial powers and the former colonies also suggests a relevance of empire and imperialism to present life.

    In the academic world, the last two decades or so have seen a shift in focus from a rather narrow concentration on economics and politics towards approaches that include all aspects of social life, particularly those of culture and identity. This has added to a more complex understanding of the historical and present relations between metropoles and (former) colonies, and has particularly shed new light on movements of resistance and opposition to empire and imperialism.

    This conference seeks to extend the debate on empire and imperialism by inviting contributions from as wide a disciplinary background as possible. We welcome proposals for papers from postgraduate students from within and outside the United Kingdom. We hope for contributions from history, sociology, political science, language and literature, economics, international relations, law, philosophy, development studies etc. Contributions that seek to combine historical insights with contemporary perspectives are particularly welcome. Papers should relate concepts of empire and imperialism to fields and issues such as economics, politics, international and civil wars, foreign relations, international business and multinational corporations, culture, identity, nation, race, ethnicity, class formation, labour, migration, gender relations, terrorism, genocide, human rights and religion. The conference aims to focus on themes such as:

    1. conceptual and theoretical approaches to empire/imperialism and their application to historical and contemporary analysis
    2. how empire/imperialism affects (and has historically affected) people's lives economically, socially, politically and culturally both in the metropoles and in the periphery
    3. resistance to empire/imperialism

Other past conferences

  • Bourne Mill: A Window onto Colchester's Working Past (January 2016)

    Nearly a hundred members of the public attended this very successful conference, which was held on our Colchester Campus on 16 January. The conference began with a presentation by Dave Piper from the National Trust on the Heritage Lottery Fund project about Bourne Mill on which the National Trust and University have collaborated; this included our first sight of the working model of the fulling-stocks which has been created as the centrepiece of the project. Subsequent speakers told us more about the history of the Mill and its role as a fulling mill in Colchester’s textile trade (Chris Thornton), and about the fabrics produced in the textile industry and the changing fashions they helped to shape from the 16th to the 19th century (Valina Bowman-Burns). David Morgans told us how Bourne Mill fitted into the wider landscape of Essex mills and the history of milling, and also about the legacy of the textile industry in the historic environment of Colchester, through the buildings, endowments and memorials left by wealthy bay-making families. There were also interesting presentations by current and former students on Bourne Mill as a social/cultural space of the Tudor elite (Ellie Styles, Claudia Sarjant); Bourne Mill in comparison with Fountains Abbey Mill (Ed Devane); and Bourne Mill and its grounds as a teaching resource for local schools (Kit Cherry-Hulley). This photo shows Chris, Valina, Ed, Essex student and Bourne Mill volunteer Abi Cockett, conference organiser Alison Rowlands, Kit, Dave Piper, Ellie, David Morgans and Claudia with the reconstructed fulling-stocks in the foreground.

  • Concepts of Knowledge in the Later Seventeenth Century: Thomas Plume in Context (September 2015)

  • Catholicism in Court and Country, c. 1558-1625 (September 2014)

    In recent decades, the study of Catholicism in post-Reformation England has undergone a remarkable transformation. In many ways, its position has shifted from that of a niche field to a key element of mainstream religious and political historiography. Our understanding of the subtleties and shades of religious belief, the strategies for surviving dissent, and the cultural experience of separation and exclusion continues to develop. It is increasingly clear that, the confessional state notwithstanding, Catholicism in various forms was a fact of life within early modern English society, and historians are continuing to explore Catholics’ religious, cultural, social and political roles.

    This one-day conference will bring together both leading figures in the field and younger scholars to speak about early modern Catholics and their place in English society both in the centre and the provinces, in politics and in society, in the first half-century or so after the Elizabethan Settlement.

    • Professor Michael Questier (Queen Mary)
    • Professor John Bossy (University of York)
    • Dr Susan Doran (University of Oxford)
    • Dr Wilfred Hammond (Lancaster University)
    • Dr James Kelly (Durham University)
    • Dr Paulina Kewes (University of Oxford)
    • Professor WJ Sheils (University of York)

  • Asia's 'Great' War international workshop (March 2014)

    Asia’s ‘Great’ War began in earnest with Japan’s invasion of China in 1937. It was the most intense, complex and widespread conflict the region had so far experienced. In terms of human cost, it was also very much an Asian war within a global conflict. Of the estimated 24 million killed, it is thought Allied personnel made up one per cent.

    Recent years have witnessed a ‘memory boom’ in the number of heritage sites, memorials, memoirs and museums dedicated to this conflict. This international workshop explores the causes and motivations behind such a flourishing war heritage industry; the multiple and distinctive ways in which the 1937-1945 conflict is, and has been, remembered; and the new and old historical narratives that are being fashioned. It brings together scholars of South, Southeast and East Asia together to provide insights into this war and its memorialization from a comparative and interconnected regional perspective.

    What has been the impact of these memories and memoryscapes across a region still so haunted by its violent past? Is Asia lurching further into an era of dangerous ethno-nationalism as war memories are mobilized to reinforce aggressive state ideologies? Or, as the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II approaches, is the region’s war heritage boom in fact opening up new routes to historical understanding and even post-conflict reconciliation?

  • Local Mansions and Country Estates (July 2013)

    This conference offered a broad historical context for the destruction of great houses in modern Britain, asking questions about the causes of their loss, the representation of lost mansions and estates at the time of their disappearance, and contemporary resurgent interest in the 'great estate'.

  • Atrocity in Question (July 2012)

    Atrocity remains one of the most disturbingly dramatic and complex phenomena in history. It is dramatic for the obvious reason that it concentrates horror in specific events, which is why great artists like Goya, Turner or Picasso were drawn to particular atrocities when they sought to condemn general developments that they abhorred.

    For all its obvious dramatic impact, however, the meaning and significance of atrocity is complex. What one group views as an atrocity, another can either deny or even view as just retribution. The very emergence of the concept needs to be explored and traced in literature, art and history.

    Likewise, the roles to which atrocities have been put demand analysis. For atrocity can be used to cow existing populations, to mobilize movements, to launch wars. It can be state sponsored or, as in lynchings and pogroms, popularly supported and initiated. It can focus on people themselves or on what holds particular cultural (including religious) significance for them. It can be episodic or systematised in institutions and facilities. It can even, as in the self-immolation with which the risings of the Arab Spring began – be self inflicted to draw attention to an unbearable predicament.

    Moreover, the very recognition of an event or phenomenon as an atrocity is often dependent on labours of construal or complex processes of resonance that tell us much about a given political and social order. Denial of atrocity, meanwhile, has enormous significance.

    In order to explore issues such as these, and to mark our fortieth anniversary, our Department held an international conference on Atrocity in Question in July 2012. We were interested in facilitating wide-ranging discussions that would help us to explore the phenomenon across periods, cultures, regions and disciplines.

  • Beyond the Cold War: New Directions in Soviet, Central and Eastern European Cinema Studies (May 2010)

    An international symposium organised by the Centre for Film Studies, the Department of History, and the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies. Featuring a range of distinguished speakers, the symposium aims to offer both a survey and a critical, reflective assessment of selected new and emerging approaches to the study of cinema under the conditions of State Socialism in the former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe.

  • Maroons in Latin America: From Resistance against Slavery to Contemporary Struggles for Land (May 2010)

    Wherever Africans were enslaved, they tried to run away. Runaway communities hence developed all over Plantation America. Some maroon groups fought such fierce guerrilla wars for their survival and against re-enslavement, that colonial government preferred to sign peace treaties with them. For that reason they have survived in Jamaica and the Guyanas until today, forming separate ethnic groups with their own culture. In Cuba maroons (cimarrones) have become a symbol of revolutionary struggle and the island's resistance against imperialism. In Brazil and Colombia recent political developments have allowed Afro-descendants living in close-knit communities to claim land and special protection for their culture. In Brazil these new maroons (quilombolas) have constituted vast social movements and networks of hundreds of communities, some of which have now had their land claims recognized by the state. Yet, as the recent conflict in Albina (Surinam) demonstrates, maroon rights and territories are permanently under threat in a rapidly globalizing world. This interdisciplinary symposium aims to bring together anthropologists, historians, art historians, and lawyers/specialists in human rights to exchange information and debate over the past and present challenges of maroon communities in the Americas.


    • Richard Price (College of William and Mary, Virginia): Rainforest Warriors in Surinam: Human Rights on Trial
    • Sally Price (College of William and Mary, Virginia): The Internationalization of Maroon Art
    • Kenneth Bilby (Center for Black Music Research, Columbia College Chicago): "Maroon Heritage" in Jamaica: Whose Is it?
    • Leticia Osorio (School of Law/Human Rights Centre, University of Essex): Quilombos and the struggle for ethnic territories in contemporary Brazil
    • Michael Zeuske (Iberoamerikanisches Institut, Universität Köln): The Real Esteban Montejo, 'el Cimarrón'

  • My Hero: Defining and Constructing Non-Military Heroism (June 2009)

    This conference was a joint venture between postgraduates at Kings College London and the University of Essex. This conference was awarded funding from the AHRC and the RHS.

    There is a tendency in research which engages with heroism to employ it as nothing more than a fixed lens through which to study other subjects or concepts, rather than examining it as a subject in its own right. Approaches such as these not only give the impression that heroism is a single, static and rigidly understood idea but they perpetuate the conclusion that heroism is predominantly a masculine, military and most importantly, an uncontested concept. However, recent postgraduate research by historians and other scholars demonstrates that heroism is actually a flexible and adaptable idea which can be assembled or constructed in different ways to serve different purposes. Furthermore, non-military heroism represents an important and central element in the wider discourse on the subject.

    The broad objective of this two-day symposium was to bring together leading postgraduate students who are working on non-military heroism and to provide an opportunity for them to present and discuss their research. Here, they will be able to examine and engage with how heroism has been historically conceived, constructed, defined and judged. This environment will allow the students to position their own research within the wider theoretical field, develop their understanding of non-military heroism in a historical context and broaden their knowledge of research materials and analytical approaches.

    This innovative and collaborative symposium brought together students with representatives from the leading contemporary organisations concerned with defining, assessing and recognising non-military heroism. These representatives were invited to listen to the academic papers, give a presentation on the work of their organisation and, most importantly, participate in roundtable discussion sessions. This collaboration between research students and contemporary organisations provided a range of exciting and dynamic opportunities.

    Conference papers



    Delegate papers

  • Witchcraft and Masculinities in the Early Modern World (April 2006)

    The historiography of early modern witchcraft has been dominated by discussions of gender in general and of the association between witchcraft, the feminine and the maternal in particular. These discussions have greatly influenced our understanding of the ways in which early modern people imagined the witch figure, constructed demonologies, and spoke about magic as either accusers or witches.

    However, while the majority of those convicted on charges of witchcraft in the early modern period were women, a statistically significant proportion (of 20-25%) were men. Their presence amongst the victims of witch persecution has been played down by historians: either ignored entirely, dismissed as less relevant than that of women, or treated as exceptional. This international conference sought to redress the balance within the gender debate by reconsidering masculinity and its place within the broadest possible context of the magical worlds of the early modern period.

  • 'Superstition' in Historical and Comparative Perspective (May 2005)

    'Superstition' is an inherently pejorative notion that denotes little more than beliefs and practices castigated by adherents of a particular religious or ideological orthodoxy, usually its educated and elite exponents. It has proved to be a remarkably enduring, flexible and mutable category, one with a history that stretches back more than 2,000 years. The aim of the conference was to examine the different ways in which the term has been deployed in societies ranging from ancient Rome to Communist China; the different strategies employed by elites to extirpate 'superstition'; the success and failure of efforts to eliminate specific 'superstitious' beliefs and practices. Papers on popular beliefs and practices relating to magic, divination, witchcraft, agriculture, the calendar, rites of passage, health and disease, folklore and so forth are welcome, so long as these issues are connected to contemporary understandings of 'superstition'. The notion of 'superstition' – or its analogues in non-Christian contexts (e.g. mixin in Chinese culture) – has implanted itself in a variety of cultures, and broadly denotes beliefs and practices, often informal in nature, that are deemed to be impure or 'excessive' from the viewpoint of a particular orthodoxy. Superstition is a fluid and capacious category. Therein lies its intrinsic interest and importance but also its analytical intractability. However, its very resistance to clear definition means that it is a category through which, historically, a variety of concerns of religious, intellectual and political elites have been articulated.

Lecture series

  • Harry Lubasz Memorial Lecture

    The Harry Lubasz Memorial lecture is given in memory of Harry Lubasz, a founder member of our Department. Born in Vienna in 1928, Harry escaped from Nazi-occupied Europe to Britain on a Kindertransport; he went on to become a leading scholar of Marx, and eminent teacher of the history of the Holocaust. He died in 2012.


  • Dudley White Local History Lectures

    • 2016: 'Women and religious protest in 17th-century Essex: campaigns against religious change in the 1630s and 1640s', Dr Amanda Flather, University of Essex
    • 2015: Winston Churchill and Essex, 1924-1964 Allen Packwood, Director of the Churchill Archives Centre at Churchill College
    • 2014: Essex and the English Revolution: A Forgotten Episode on the Eve of the Civil War Professor John Walter, University of Essex
    • 2013: The Search for Richard III and his cousin, John Howard, Duke of Norfolk Dr John Ashdown-Hill.
    • 2012: Debating the Politics of Religion in Elizabethan Essex Dr Neil Younger, University of Essex, author of War and Politics in the Elizabethan Counties.
    • 2011: The Marks Hall Estate: History, Reconstruction and the Lost Mansions of Essex, Professor James Raven, University of Essex.
    • 2010: Naboth and Jezebel: Lordship, Authority and Disobedience in Earls Colne, 1580-1640, Henry French, Professor of Social History at the University of Exeter.
    • 2009: The Shrine of the Holy Rood of Dovercourt: The Rediscovery of a Medieval Essex Pilgrimage Centre, Dr John Ashdown-Hill, author of Medieval Colchester’s Lost Landmarks.
    • 2008: "You an artist, Jim?", or: How polite was eighteenth-century Colchester? Dr Shani D'Cruze, Honorary Reader at the University of Keele.
    • 2007: A difficult county to deal with: Nikolaus Pevsner and Essex, 1954 and 2007, Dr James Bettley, architectural historian and author of the new Essex volume of Pevsner.

Local History Day

Our Local History Days are public events that provide a forum for the presentation and discussion of research and projects related to local history.

  • Previous Local History Days

    • 2016: ' Life Scribbled in the Margins: The World of Joseph Bufton of Essex, 1650-1718', by Brodie Waddell, Lecturer in Early Modern History, Birkbeck.  'Confronting Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Colchester Military Hospital and the Great War', by Paul Byrne, Consultant Rheumatologist, Colchester Hospital University
    • 2015: ‘You earn your rest!’ Women’s work in Victorian Essex, Dr Amanda Wilkinson, University of Essex; Soldiers & Prostitution in a Garrison Town: Colchester 1850-1900, Dr Jane Pearson & Maria Rayner, University of Essex
    • 2014: Understanding the historic landscape of Essex Professor Tom Williamson, University of East Anglia; Fish, Fur and Honey: historic animal husbandry in the designed landscape Dr. Mike Leach, Essex Historic Garden Group and Tricia Moxey, Essex Forest Visitor Centre.
    • 2013: Essex and the Origins of the English Civil War, Christopher Thompson, University of Buckingham; Colchester, 1555-58: The Burning Years,  Dr Thomas Freeman, University of Essex
    • 2012: Showcasing Southend, graduates students presented recent research findings, University of Essex Southend campus.
    • 2011: Whatever happened to Daniel Brown? Popular politics and criminality in the life-history of a nineteenth-century Essex man, Dr Christine Jones; Basildon Plotlands from the 1890s to the 1980s, Deanna Walker and Peter Jackson; University of Essex Colchester campus.
    • 2010: Bones of Contention, 'The Murder of the Princes in the Tower - new evidence from Colchester', John Ashdown-Hill; 'Witchcraft at St Osyth in 1921' Dr Alison Rowlands; University of Essex Colchester campus.
    • 2010: War and law, 'Defences of Essex in World War II', Fred Nash; 'Local law courts in Essex in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuires', Professor Peter King; University of Essex Colchester campus.
    • 2009: Understanding Timber-Framed Buildings in Essex, David Stenning; The Defence of Essex in the First World War, Dr Paul Rusiecki, University of Essex Colchester campus.
    • 2008: Rethinking the History of the Stour Navigation, Sean O’Dell; Civic Power and Civic Ritual: The Colchester Oyster Fishery, Andrew Philips; University of Essex Colchester campus.
    • 2007: Leisure, pleasure and tourism in 19th- and 20th-century Essex and Suffolk, 'Housing development in late-Victorian Clacton', Dr Chris Thornton; 'The evolution of the seaside postcard in the twentieth century', Dr Paul Glenister; 'Public reaction to the Red Barn Murder', Dr Radojka Startup; 'Shooting parties in the late-nineteenth century East Anglia', Dr Harvey Osborne; University of Essex Colchester campus.

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