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.

Exploring the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

The department has helped to develop a lively new online resource for exploring the British disarmament movement at the height of the Cold War, a project led by our own Dr Luc-André Brunet. Launched in late November, this resource, entitled ‘Peace Activism in the UK during the Cold War’, is a collaboration between The Open University and the Peace and Security project at the London School of Economics. This online resource features many newly digitised primary documents from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) archive collection, amongst others, which are introduced and explained by scholars in the field. You can explore it here.

OU History talks with a contemporary edge

Coming very soon, on the back of the popular series of OU50 Talks that the department gave last spring, we are kicking off another series of public talks early in 2020. The first of them will be held on 21st January. All will be free to attend in person or to watch online. Details are being worked out for the programme now, and we’ll alert you as soon as they are finalised, but once again we are hoping to host lectures whose subjects have clear present-day resonance. So far we have two topics confirmed: one on the history of US elections and another on the British Conservative Party. If there is an historical subject with a definite contemporary edge that you would particularly like to see covered, then do contact us via Open History. All the lectures that we ran in 2019 are all available to watch online, either via YouTube, or on the events section of the department’s website . They include talks by Anna Plassart and John Slight, both of whom will also be appearing at the OUHS Weekend History Seminar in February!

Victorian Crime website

You might be aware of the work of Dr Ros Crone on prisons history from the previous update. Her new database of Victorian prisons has attracted huge interest from people working in local history, and the side project on local ‘lock-ups’ has generated a large number of replies from the public already, though she would love to have more! Drawing on her research for the database, Ros has written an article which explores ‘silence and separation’ in the nineteenth century prison system, which is in the summer edition of Who Do you Think You Are? , the popular family history magazine. If you are interested in Victorian local history or the history of crime, it’s very much worth exploring the resource. We need OUHS members’ feedback on the database too! We hope that responses will help determine what the next set of data to be added will be so please complete the survey: If you do the survey (it’ll only take 5-10 minutes) you’ll get a FREE PDF copy of the Guide to Criminal Prisons of Nineteenth Century England, worth £95 in print.

Are historians all nationalistic?

Professor Annika Mombauer, our department’s expert on the First World War, has recently contributed to an interesting debate article on ‘National Mythologies’ for the popular journal History Today. You can read that for free here.

From the horses mouth... views and thoughts from OU History students

We’ve also been attempting to find out more about our students’ experiences while studying. To promote that, two of our current undergraduates helped us make a video for social media, which is really rather good (although I am biased!). You can watch that here:

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! /p>

Dr Stuart Mitchell
Department of History, Open University

Previous OU Updates

November 2019