Open University History Department

The Open University’s History department is keen to have more contact with its students, past, present, and indeed future. So this is what we hope will be the first in a regular series of digests about what we’re doing. We hope that you’ll be able to participate in some of our activities.

Interesting History Talks

The University has been celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2019, and one of the highlights in those celebrations has been the series of OU50 Talks. The history department ran several – you might have seen some of them, perhaps – on issues as diverse as referendums in history, the British Empire and Islam, and national identities on the ‘Celtic fringe’. The full range of history talks has now been uploaded online and they are all collected here for you to watch at your leisure. Alternatively, you can find each lecture individually by visiting the department’s website and clicking on ‘events’ in the menu. We’d appreciate any feedback, because we are intending to run another series of open lectures starting towards the end of 2019.

Lecture on Criminal Justice History

Before that, though, the department would love to see any OUHS members who would like to attend Professor Paul Lawrence’s inaugural lecture on Tuesday 15th October. Professor Lawrence is the current head of the department and his lecture, "What's the point of criminal justice history?" promises to be impressive distillation of his extensive research into the history of crime and punishment. The talk is completely free to attend and it’ll be held at the OU’s campus. We are also hoping to stream it live on facebook. You can register online.

Prison History Database

Also on the matter of criminal justice history, another of our departmental colleagues – Dr Ros Crone - has just launched an amazing database, which is freely accessible online, that gives historical particulars about all 846 nineteenth century English prisons. The site is called . The site also contains an ‘evolving database’ on local lock-ups and other places of temporary confinement. There were vastly more of these than there were formal prisons, which is why that database is evolving as more local research comes in. Ros would love OUHS members (and others) to get involved by sending her anecdotes, photographs, local stories, or newspaper reports about any of these structures to add to the stories she’s already collected. More details about that project on the website.

Masters in Local History Dissertations

You might also be interested to know that our very popular MA in local history has now started to make freely available some of its best student dissertations online. We have a great range of titles, from the Victorian poor law through to the history of seaside resorts and much else besides. These are all free to download and read at your leisure from On which note, we are recruiting right now for the next presentation of the local history MA. This is likely to be one of the last times it’s presented in its current format, so if you are interested in learning more head to, where there are some taster materials that you can sample as well.

More generally, you can keep up with OU history related news on the department’s blog: We don’t want these digests to be one-way traffic, though. The department is keen to get 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