Welcome to History Research

In the REF 2014, History was amongst the top three performing subjects at Keele, with 82% of our research judged to be in the top two categories of 'World Leading' [3*] and 'Internationally Excellent' [4*]. Keele historians are enthusiastic, reflective and ambitious scholars whose expertise ranges in time from the eleventh century to the very recent past, and in place from the immediate environment of the north midlands to continental Europe, the United States, Asia and Africa. We support a long-standing, flourishing Centre for Local History, and have further shared interests in the history of political violence, social movements, gender, religion and print culture. We have close links with American historians whose work is supported by the successful David Bruce Centre. We welcome postgraduate students in all our areas of expertise. Please see individual staff entries for further information.

Research Periods

Medieval History

The medieval historians are Dr Kate Cushing , a specialist on church reform and canon law, whose next book will be Power, Discipline and Pastoral Care in Eleventh-Century Italy (for Manchester University Press); Dr Philip Morgan , a late medievalist with particular interests in the gentry and the social and cultural history of war. Dr Morgan is also Co-Director on the Leverhulme Trust funded Gascon Rolls Project, on which Dr Simon Harris is also Research Assistant; Dr Nigel Tringham, an English ecclesiastical historian and editor of the Victoria County History of Staffordshire; and Dr Andrew Sargent, who works on early medieval landscape, with a focus on the Mercian kingdom and the Anglo-Welsh frontier. In recent years, the medievalists have recruited four AHRC-funded students, most recently a comparative study of medieval Lordship in Europe, and play a prominent role in regional research activities (particularly the ‘M6' seminar), conferences and editorial boards. Amongst our emeritus staff is British Academy Fellow Professor Peter Jackson, whose work includes Mongol history and the Crusades.

Early Modern History

 Dr Ian Atherton and Dr Siobhan Talbott are both scholars of the seventeenth-century. Dr Atherton is currently working on the religious and political role of British cathedrals in the seventeenth century while Siobhan Talbott works on Commercial networks, communities and identities in Europe and the Atlantic World - her book, Conflict, Commerce and Franco-Scottish Relations, 1560-1713was published in 2014, and her future work will move into the eighteenth century. Dr Christopher Harrison works on sixteenth century England with particular reference to the history of Staffordshire. Professor Alannah Tomkins is a social historian of the eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. She has pioneered the development of medical history in conjunction with Keele's new medical school, and co-organises a seminar on Science in the Humanities. Dr Tomkins is currently working on ‘poor doctors' in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. An Early Modern Seminar is organised in cooperation with English, and all staff members are closely connected with the North-West Early Modern Seminar. Though now retired, both Dr Chris Harrison and Professor Ann Hughes retain active contacts with Keele.

Modern History

The substantial grouping of modern historians share interests in civil society, inequality, democratisation, transnational histories and political violence between the French Revolution and the contemporary world in Britain and Ireland, continental Europe, Africa, and Asia. A particular area of expertise is the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Professor Karen Hunt is a feminist historian of modern Britain , with particular interests in women's and socialist politics. She is working on a study of Dora Montefiore, and on gendering the politics of consumption, as well as academic advisor for the AHRC/BBC 'World War One at Home' project. Professor Dominic Janes is a cultural historian who researches aspects of sexuality in modern Britain and has written several books that explore constructions of same-sex desire from the eighteenth century to the present day. Dr Ben Anderson examines the place of nature in urban cultures of modern Europe. He is currently writing a book on mountain leisure and cultural reform in England and Germany in the decades before World War One. Dr Patrick Longson likewise works on pre-WW1 history, with a focus on Invasion panics and the 'German menace' at the turn of the century. Another strength is on histories of displacement, forced labour and migration. Dr Rachel Bright works on transnational histories of modern Africa and has particular expertise on migration and empire. She has recently published Chinese Labour in South Africa, 1902-10: Race, Violence and Global Spectacle. Sharing this interest in Empire and postcolonial history, Dr Shalini Sharma's work is on the transition to democracy in India, especially in the Punjab. Professor Anthony Kauders is a scholar of Jewish experience in modern Germany , and of the history of psychoanalysis. His next book is on Rationalism/Irrationalism in Germany after 1945. The department organises a Modern History seminar. The Modern History group also includes a number of active emeritus staff. Professor Charles Townshend , elected in 2008 to the British Academy, works on political violence, modern Ireland and modern Palestine. Professor Malcolm Crook is a historian of revolutionary and post-revolutionary France , working on a project, ‘How the French Learned to Vote 1789-1914'.

Research Themes

Local and Public History

Many Keele historians - including Dr Ian Atherton, Professor Karen Hunt, Dr Philip Morgan, Dr Andrew Sargent, Dr Alannah Tomkins, and Dr Nigel Tringham - have expertise in the local history of the northwest and midlands, and many postgraduate topics also have a local element. Professor Martin Crawford (American Studies)'s interest in the links between the Potteries and the United States adds a fresh dimension. With generous support from Staffordshire County Council, Keele supports the Victoria County History of Staffordshire, besides many local societies and publications, including Staffordshire Studies; Staffordshire Record Societyand Staffordshire Heritage Series. We have had a long association with the Victoria County History of Shropshire and sponsor the Shropshire Record Series. The activities of the Centre for Local History are the foundation for our interest in heritage and the broader public role of history, and the Jack Leighton Seminar on local history is now well-established in its third decade.

American History

Keele has a well-established tradition in American History, and historians in the department make an important contribution to the American Studies programme in the School of Humanities. Dr Siobhan Talbott, having already written on trade and merchant networks in European history, has recently received funding to carry out an expansion of this work on the other side of the Atlantic, while Dr Shalini Sharma is currently working on anti-Americanism in late-twentieth century India. Professor Martin Crawford, a specialist in Southern and Civil War History, also continues to play an active role in the teaching and research of American History after retiring from full-time teaching commitments in 2009.


Keele has a well-established tradition of scholarship on religion in British society and beyond from the medieval to the modern era. Dr Kate Cushing's seminal work on Canon Law in the tenth, eleventh and twelfth centuries has demonstrated how these texts also functioned as a tool of polemical debate; her work also stretches into European religious history with a particular focus on penance, reform and pastoral care in Italy. Also working on the medieval period is Dr Andrew Sargent, whose scholarship includes the diocese of Lichfield and the cult of St Chad, and Dr Nigel Tringham, whose work is also focussed on medieval cathedral history. Dr Ian Atherton continues a long-held Keele focus on the English Civil War, with a particular focus on the role of Cathedrals in religion, politics and society of the period. In modern history, Dr. Anthony Kauders is a world-renowned expert on Jewish history, with a particular focus on the periods either side of the Nazi era in Germany.  Previous work has included Professor Peter Jackson's work on the Crusades, as well as Professor Ann Hughes work on religion in the English Civil war. 

European History

Keele is a vibrant place to study European History since the Medieval period. Dr. Kate Cushing is an expert on Canon Law between c. 1900 and c. 1200, and her most recent project concerns issues of reform, penance and pastoral care in eleventh-century Italy. Also working on the Medieval period are Dr Philip Morgan and Hon. senior research fellow Dr Simon Harris, who, amongst other research, are central to the Gascon Rolls Project, investigating Gascony under English rule in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Dr Siobhan Talbott also examines relationships between Britain and France, as her research has interrogated the trade and merchant networks between France and Scotland during periods of peace and war in the long seventeenth century. In the modern era, we have a particular strength on Germany. Dr. Anthony Kauders is best known as an expert on the Jewish experience in Germany before and after the Nazi period, but his most recent work has also examined the reception of Freud in Germany's twentieth century, and he is now working on the history of hypnosis in a similar period. Dr. Ben Anderson is a historian of England and Germany in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, with a focus on shared histories of landscape, leisure and mountain culture and their relationship to attitudes to modern urban life in the period. Dr. Patrick Longson is also concerned with understanding Anglo-German relations, though his research is focussed on the early forms of 'invasion scare' literature and Germany in the British imagination in the period before the First World War.

Empire and Postcolonial

The history of empires and their impacts are a consistent theme, and Keele is unusual in enabling students to think about British (or English) empires across a longer time-frame than they might be accustomed. Keele historians Dr Philip Morgan and Dr Simon Harris play key roles in The Gascon Rolls Project, essentially an effort to digitise and analyse the first documented English empire. We also have experts in thinking about the British Empire as a world system - Dr Rachel Bright's research, and recent book on Chinese Labour in South Africa, 1902-10: Race, Violence, and Global Spectacleuncovered networks of images and cultures across the imperial sphere. Dr Patrick Longson, meanwhile, approaches the same period from a different perspective, investigating the imperial anxieties that underscored 'German scare' literature in the years around 1900. Finally (in chronological terms but no other) Dr Shalini Sharma's work began concentrating on the development of radical politics in colonial Punjab, and now investigates issues of democracy and identity in the postcolonial independent Indian state.  

Gender and Sexuality

Issues of gender and sexuality - definition, identity construction, as a basis for inequality or as a politics, for example - are significant for many historians' work at Keele. Professor Dominic Janes researches the history of constructions of gender and sexuality in Britain since the eighteenth century. He has particular expertise in integrating cultural history and queer theory as well as in exploring both visual and textual sources. Professor Karen Hunt is a world expert on the suffrage movements of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, and is now developing further research interests in women's experience of the First World War, especially for the majority of women who continued with domestic gender roles throughout the war. Dr Ben Anderson's work on mountain leisure in England and Germany c. 1850-1918 might be assumed to focus on masculinity, but his research also considers the varied ways in which women were able to legitimise their place in the outdoors and its relationship to performative sexuality. Similarly, gender forms a critical aspect of research for Dr Alannah Tomkins in her study of doctors and midwifery in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as in Dr Rachel Bright's work on images of Chinese labour in South Africa.

Twentieth Century Political History

Keele has expanding strengths in modern political history, across a variety of political movements around the world. Professor Karen Hunt's work on women's suffrage movements in early-twentieth century Britain is widely regarded as world leading, but she also has important expertise on the politics of consumption, food and World War One. Dr Shalini Sharma is a scholar of Twentieth Century India, both in the colonial and post-colonial eras. Her work has covered the development of radical politics in late-colonial Punjab, as well as work on anti-Americanism in post-colonial independent India. 

Funding, Projects, Collaborations

Centre for Local History

The Centre for Local History at Keele University is one of the longest-established research and teaching centres in the University. The University Certificate in Local History has been taught for over thirty-five years. The Centre also hosts the Victoria Histories of Staffordshire and Shropshire, sponsors a lecture and seminar series and publishes original research on the history of the north-west Midlands. The director of the Centre is Dr. Nigel Tringham.

Find out more about the centre here.

David Bruce Centre

The David Bruce Centre, founded with an endowment of £400,000, supports interdisciplinary work in American Studies and provides the focus for American History in the department.

Leverhulme Trust: Gascon Rolls Project

Old Wine in New Bottles: English Gascon (1360-1453y) for the Digital Future

The history of Plantagenet government, its nature, exercise and legacy, in the overseas possessions held by the English kings as dukes of Aquitaine in south-west France during the Middle Ages (1154-1453) has attracted a considerable body of scholarly publication and interest. The published primary sources for its study are, however, very incomplete, full of gaps and of variable quality. One major gap lies within the period from the fourteenth, to the middle of the fifteenth, century. It is precisely for this period that the most important source for the subject - the Gascon Rolls (Rotuli Vasconie/C61 class in the UK National Archives) - remains unpublished in satisfactory or comprehensive form.

The Gascon Rolls are among the most important of the great series of records relating to English government in the later Middle Ages yet to be edited and made available in their entirety. They represent the enrolment of executive orders, and other related records, created by the king-dukes for the government and administration of Aquitaine. They also provide detailed evidence for the king-dukes’ relations – political, diplomatic, financial, judicial, economic - with their Gascon subjects. The unpublished part of this substantial body of documentation, moreover, relates largely to the period of intensification of tension and conflict between England and France known as the Hundred Years War (1337-1453), culminating in England’s loss of Aquitaine after a three-hundred-year tenure of the duchy. Since 2006 work has been ongoing to fill this gap, with the objective of producing an edition of the unpublished Gascon Rolls up until the last roll, drawn up in 1467/8. The edition currently under production consists of calendars (summaries) in English and in ultimately in French, of all entries on the rolls. In addition, the more significant and noteworthy entries will be rendered in full original text and translation, and some rolls will also be available in full transcription as well. The edition is being made available in a searchable electronic online form linked to high quality digital images of the rolls, thus making the records available worldwide. It is intended that a limited edition hardback version will also be produced in a series of volumes. It is hoped that publication in this manner will ensure the long-term preservation and availability of the edition.

The project has been ongoing since 2008, and is currently supported by a £250,000 grant from the Leverhulme Trust.

Source: http://www.gasconrolls.org/en/the-project/

AHRC: HIV Communities

The Arts and Humanities Research Council funded 'HIV Communities' Project, led by a group of Keele academics including historian Dr Alannah Tomkins, aims to investigate the meanings and identities of the 'HIV Community' in the North West. Academics from the social sciences and humanities, HIV activists, clinicians, and others working in the field of and/or affected by HIV, will attend a five-seminar series entitled 'Cultures, Communities and Connections in the HIV Sector: Linking Academics, HIV Advocates/Activists, Clinicians, and the Digital Humanities'. HIV community connections and narratives were explored in presentations about refugee centres in the South Sudan-DRC border, contemporary HIV/AIDS fiction and film, international AIDS funding agencies, and HIV activism.


BBC/AHRC: World War One At Home

Professor Karen Hunt plays a lead role in the flagship BBC ‘World War One at Home’ project in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).  The BBC project will tell the story of the First World War through the people whose lives were transformed - in their homes, schools, churches, theatres, streets, factories, and so on. These stories are planned to be broadcast on local radio and regional television in BBC English Regions and on television and radio in BBC Wales, BBC Scotland and BBC Northern Ireland.

Karen works directly with broadcast journalists, framing and researching a series of new stories about the First World War and linking them to specific places within the region. Somewhere you drive past everyday may have within it a story about how men and women, the old and the young, local families or passing strangers experienced the emergency of 1914-1918. One of the challenges is to tell what can be complex stories in an accessible and engaging way.

The task in the West Midlands is to produce 100 stories which cover a wide range of themes including how the war front affected the home front. Professor Hunt is particularly interested in everyday life during the First World War and hopes to use her research to broaden the ways in which we remember the war and whose contributions are commemorated. The familiar narrative is about 'blood and mud' but there other stories to tell too - about the women, children and male civilians who in their different ways sustained the home front. Over the years of the centenary, 2014-18, these stories will be part of how the BBC enables us all to commemorate the first 'total' war with a real sense of what it was like to live through such novel and challenging times - and not just in Flanders or London.

Victoria County History

The Victoria County History project might well be the oldest ongoing historical research project in the world. It was founded in 1899, with the original intention of providing a local history of all England's counties. Its history has been stop-start in the intervening century, but the History department at Keele, with the generous support of Staffordshire County Council, have long been involved in the project for Staffordshire. The lead at Keele for the project is Dr Nigel Tringham, who has already brought volumes 9, 10 and 11 to fruition, and is now assisted by Dr Andrew Sargent, although other historians, including Dr Ian Atherton (who also edits Staffordshire Studies) and Dr Alannah Tomkins have also provided important contributions to the project. 

EHS Carnevali Small Research Grant: Britain and the Atlantic World, 1603-1763

Dr Siobhan Talbott has recently won a Economic History Society Carnevali Small Research Grant to fund the American part of her research into 'Commerce, Communities and Networks: Britain and the Atlantic World, 1603-1763'. The forms an expansion and new terrain for her research into early-modern international trade networks, in which she is fast becoming the recognised world expert. 

University Chair in Visual and Cultural Studies

During the 2014-15 academic year Dominic Janes held the position of University Chair in Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of the Arts London. In that capacity he organised conferences and developed research that connected cultural history with visual arts practices and with wider public audiences. He completes the outcomes of these projects in 2015-16.

M6 North-West Medieval Seminar

Keele historians Dr Kate Cushing, Dr Andrew Sargent, Dr Philip Morgan and Dr Simon Harris play significant roles in the well-established 'M6' Medieval Seminar series, which promotes the study of the medieval period in the cluster of prestigious universities in North-West England. We last hosted the seminar in 2014.