Open University History Department

As you can imagine, the recent pandemic lockdown rather knocked back the history department’s plans for this year, with for instance cancelled examinations and library closures meaning that we didn’t quite make progress as we’d hoped. So my apologies for the absence of any updates since March. Still, we are back on the road to recovery now and have various pieces of news that we’d like to share with OUHS members.

Short snappy and interesting history courses

One of the surprising upsides to the recent lockdown was a huge upsurge in people taking short Open Learn history courses. Perhaps you tried one yourself? They are usually free and there are over 950 history-related activities, articles, and courses to choose from! I’d particularly recommend a recent addition – this history of science interactive called ‘Life through a Lens’. It’s all about the development and uses of lenses over time and looks at cameras, telescopes, spectacles, microscopes, and everything in between.

Talk on the History of the Tories

Sadly, one of the casualties of recent months was the department’s free public lecture series of OPENTalks. We do, however, have every hope of reviving the programme in the early months of 2021 and we’ll keep you posted through this column. In the meantime, you can still watch the only one that sneaked in before the pandemic, Dr Stuart Mitchell on the history of the Tory Party, plus the many others from 2019 here.

Solitude study

On the publication front, however, the department is still producing lots of interesting material (we hope). In April, Professor David Vincent’s A History of Solitude was published by Polity Press. Given the lockdown, David’s book could hardly have been better timed, and it has already accumulated much praise from, amongst other press, the Daily Telegraph, THES, and Guardian. David has written a fascinating feature article to accompany the book, which you can read in The Independent here.

Thomas Gilbert, reforming MP

Meanwhile, our most recent doctoral graduate, Dr Louise Ryland-Epton, has just had an intriguing article, about a hitherto-overlooked eighteenth century back-bencher’s social reform campaigns, published in the scholarly journal Parliamentary History. You can download it for free here. Louise began as a student on our successful local history MA programme, so she is OU to her boot-straps!

Speaking of successes on our MA course, our latest crop of distinction dissertations are available to download here from Open Research Online. With this year’s list featuring subjects as diverse as seaside resorts, black markets, riots, immigration, and even bigamy, there’ll almost certainly be something for everyone. Lastly, in a very timely blog for the IES, Dr Sandip Hazareesingh, Director of the OU’s Ferguson Centre for African and Asian Studies, has offered some personal reflections on re-reading Albert Camus’ The Plague in the context of the current pandemic.

More generally, you can keep up with OU history related news on the department’s blog: . Remember that the department is eager for your feedback on what we’re doing, and to learn about what researches and projects you might be undertaking. Do let us know!

Dr Stuart Mitchell
Department of History, Open University

Previous OU Updates

March 2020

January 2020

December 2019

November 2019