Britain & Ireland

What was it about industrialisation that led to the emergence of a woman’s movement in Victorian Britain? Why do we see so many people fighting for so many rights and liberties in this period and what are the origins of some of the issues we still campaign on today? This section includes our major series on Social and Political Change in the UK from 1800 to the present day. There are also articles and podcasts on the often violent relationship between England and Ireland during this period and England’s changing relationship with Scotland and Wales. Read more

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  • Real Lives: Rebecca West

    Article

    Our series ‘Real Lives’ seeks to put the story of the ordinary person into our great historical narrative. We are all part of the rich fabric of the communities in which we live and we are affected to greater and lesser degrees by the big events that happen on a daily...

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  • Harriet Kettle, Victorian rebel

    Article

    Harriet Kettle had a remarkable life. She was on the receiving end of everything that the institutions of social control in Victorian England could throw at her, but resisted, survived and fought back. Harriet’s defiance earned her references in the records of a workhouse, two prisons, two asylums and, in...

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  • Film: “The Talk Should Not Be Broadcast”: Homosexuality and the BBC before 1967

    Article

    In the centenary year of the BBC, this Virtual Branch talk from Marcus Collins relates the strange tale of how the BBC did and did not broadcast about homosexuality in the 1950s and 1960s and what it tells us about sexuality, broadcasting and the origins of permissiveness in mid-twentieth century Britain.  Marcus Collins...

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  • Real Lives: Dame Helen Gwynne-Vaughan

    Article

    Our series ‘Real Lives’ seeks to put the story of the ordinary person into our great historical narrative. We are all part of the rich fabric of the communities in which we live and we are affected to greater and lesser degrees by the big events that happen on a daily...

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  • The last days of Lord Londonderry

    Article

    Richard A. Gaunt explores a tragedy at the heart of early nineteenth century British politics, with the suicide of Viscount Castlereagh. At 7.30 in the morning on Monday 12 August 1822, Robert Stewart, second Marquess of Londonderry, died from self-inflicted injuries caused by cutting the carotid artery in his neck...

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  • Civilian expertise in war

    Article

    Philip Hamlyn Williams introduces us to the commercial and industrial background to modern-day warfare. When I think of war, I immediately see men and women in one of three uniforms: Royal Navy, RAF and Army. My research over the past seven years into how the British army was supplied in two...

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  • Film: The Quest for the Lost of the First World War

    Article

    Historian Robert Sackville-West joined the HA Virtual Branch in November 2021 to talk about the topic of his book The Searchers: The Quest for the Lost of the First World War. By the end of the First World War, the whereabouts of more than half a million British soldiers were unknown. Most were presumed...

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  • Out and About in South London

    Article

    In an unusual Out and About feature, the Young Historian Local History Senior Prize winner Flora Wilton Tregear shows us what her local area can tell us about the history of public health. Taking the DLR out from Lewisham you pass through Deptford Bridge station towards Greenwich. Here my father...

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  • My Favourite History Place: Queen Square, Bath

    Article

    Some years ago, on the shore of Loch Lomond, I met a Scotsman. As we started to converse he asked me where I was from. When I replied ‘Bath’, his response was ‘Ah, the most beautiful city in Britain,’ adding, out of patriotism or good judgement, ‘Edinburgh is second.’ The Roman...

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  • Petit’s impact on our understanding of Victorian life and culture

    Article

    Tiffany Igharoro, a Young Historian Award-winner, introduces us to the artwork of Revd John Louis Petit, showing that art not only reflects the times in which it is created, but can also be used to shape opinions. The Revd John Louis Petit (1801–68) created thousands of paintings in his lifetime, many of which...

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  • Cinderella dreams: young love in post-war Britain

    Article

    In a lecture given to the Cambridge branch, Carol Dyhouse explains changing attitudes to marriage in the 1950s and 60s. Women teachers in the 1950s and 1960s regularly complained about how hard it was to keep girls’ attention on their schoolwork. Educationist Kathleen Ollerenshaw pointed out that the prospects of marriage,...

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  • The secret diaries of William Wilberforce

    Article

    John Coffey shows us what insights can be gained from the diaries of leading abolitionist, William Wilberforce. The diary is a distinctively modern genre... In English, the first diaries date from the Tudor era, but it is in the seventeenth century that the trickle becomes a flood. Alongside the famous...

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  • The ‘workless workers’ and the Waterbury watch

    Article

    Peter Hounsell looks at the role of the Waterbury Watch Company in both the Queen’s Jubilee and the attempt to record and alleviate unemployment in London in the 1880s. In Britain generally, but for London in particular, 1887 was a year of great contrasts. On 27 June, Londoners lined the...

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  • The British Empire on trial

    Article

    In the light of present-day concerns about the place, in a modern world, of statues commemorating figures whose roles in history are of debatable merit, Dr Gregory Gifford puts the British Empire on trial, presenting a balanced case both for and against. In June 2020 when the statue of slave-trader Edward Colston...

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  • ‘Zulu’ and the end of Empire

    Article

    In this article, Nicolas Kinloch examines the 1964 film Zulu. He suggests what it might tell us about the reality of the British Empire and asks if it has anything to say about the era in which the film was made. One of the most successful British films of 1964...

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  • The death of a hero: Vice-Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson

    Article

    Michael Crumplin comments on the injuries and illnesses that Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson suffered during his shortened career. His bold leadership style, much admired by his naval companions, inevitably led to a series of wounds. Using a combination of contemporary accounts and current clinical, anatomical and physiological interpretation, this article...

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  • Real Lives: Robert and Thomas Gayer-Anderson

    Article

    Wendy Barnes describes the real lives of identical twins, Robert and Thomas Gayer-Anderson, who collected a vast quantity of paintings and art objects, much of which was donated to museums around the world. The twins’ final home, Little Hall, Lavenham is now a museum and the headquarters of The Suffolk...

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  • Florence Nightingale and epidemics

    Article

    Richard Bates reveals how the expertise of Florence Nightingale is just as relevant now as it was in her own life-time. Late in 2020, the Merriam-Webster dictionary chose ‘pandemic’ as its word of the year, writing that, ‘it’s probably the word by which we’ll refer to this period [i.e. Covid-19...

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  • History Abridged: The census

    Article

    History Abridged: This feature seeks to take a person, event or period and abridge, or focus on, an important event or detail that can get lost in the big picture. Think Horrible Histories for grownups (without the songs and music). See all History Abridged articles Most of us are aware...

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  • The experience of Bilston in the cholera epidemic of 1831–32

    Article

    Alannah Tomkins introduces a well-chronicled early example of how a local community dealt with cholera. In September 1832 James Holmes, the governor of the workhouse at Bilston in Staffordshire wrote a letter to the salaried parish overseer of Uttoxeter. The initial impetus for the letter came from the two parishes’ shared interest...

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