Department of Geography

Histories, Cultures, Networks

Researchers in this cluster form one of the largest groups of historical cultural geographers in the UK, with a current focus on decolonisation drawing most researchers in this cluster together.

They contribute to two interdisciplinary research centres: the Centre for Rights and Anti-Colonial Justice and the Centre for World Environmental History (CWEH).

Some of the research conducted in this cluster is orchestrated around two interdisciplinary research centres, the Centre for Colonial and Postcolonial Studies (CCPS) and the Centre for World Environmental History (CWEH).

Research in the cluster, focuses on the role of social protest and networked mobilisation in the early 19th-century transformation of British rural society, the changed relationship between humanity and technology effected in 1960s ‘swinging London’, and how trans-imperial networks of communication and contestation shaped dynamic ideas of humanity (and humanitarianism), race, and development through the 19th century.

Beyond the historical studies that have re-framed debates in each of these fields, joint research with the Geographies of Migration cluster has led to an emerging interest in the social and historical geographies of identity, race, and class within the colonial British diaspora and an emphasis on postcolonial identities in Britain and among expatriates. New work on the historical geographies of African migration and the transnational politics of exile and solidarity complements the AHRC- and ESRC-funded analyses of ‘provincial’ postcolonial white identities in Norwich and Peterborough, and our publications on British transnational élites.

A strong strand of work relates to decolonising heritage co-produced with artists, African ‘source communities’ and partner institutions including African diaspora groups and African museums, universities and heritage organizations, such as Museums Detox, the network of people of colour working for museums and galleries. The AHRC funded Making African Connections project researched historic African collections held in Sussex and Kent Museums with the aim of furthering both conceptual and applied debates over ‘decolonizing’ public institutions. The cluster’s engagement with UK regional museums around decolonising their work, feeds into national policy fora including the Museums Association and the Museum Ethnographer’s Group.

Members of the cluster, like the migration group, share an interest in the use of visual methods and collaborate with photographers, galleries, and community groups to deliver new kinds of public engagement. For instance, liaison with the Brighton Pavilion Museum led to a publication on the trans-imperial networks mobilised by Indian soldiers who were hospitalised there during the First World War, and content published on A series of AHRC Connected Communities projects included the films Alone Together: The Social Life of Benches (2015) and Workers (2018).

Work connecting Geographies of Migration with Histories, Cultures, Networks has involved collaboration with the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), the Migrants’ Rights Network, the Runnymede Trust, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Community University Engagement (CUE) East and West Norwich Partnership, the Food Ethics Council, and local government, business and community networks in Peterborough (Rogaly). Invited talks have been given for the Faith and Cohesion Network and the Husseini Islamic Centre, and collaboration with local sixth forms to conduct audition workshops for young people’s participation in theatre work has been associated with a project in the Peterborough Festival.

Carl Griffin’s work is at the forefront of the recent resurgence of interest in the historical and cultural geographies of popular protest. Focused on the period between the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688 and the mid nineteenth century, his work seeks to understand the ways in which rapid capitalist change impacts upon state, society and human/non-human relations. He has published extensively on the so-called ‘Swing Riots’ of 1830 – including The Rural War: Captain Swing and the Politics of Protest (Manchester University Press, 2012), the first systematic examination of the protests since the 1960s – and on the culture of protest practice more generally. His latest book is Protest, Politics and Work in Rural England, 1700-1850 (Palgrave, 2014). He chairs the Historical Geography Research Group of the RGS-IBG.

Alan Lester works on the historical geography of the 19th century British Empire, emphasising the traffic in people, ideas and materials between different colonial and metropolitan spaces. Follow the links for examples of his recent work on individual trajectories across the British empire and the co-constitution of nineteenth century Britain and South Africa. His latest work examines the origins of humanitarian governance during colonization: Alan Lester and Fae Dussart, Colonization and the Origins of Humanitarian Governance: Protecting Aborigines Across the Nineteenth-Century British Empire, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming, 2014.

Brian Short has mapped contested ideologies of rural landscape conservation and the politics of landownership in Victorian and Edwardian England, examining for the first time the place of micro-history within historical geography. He has written on the history and meanings of landscape in South East England, and the threats to one traditional landscape feature, the orchard (2012). He has recently been at the forefront of work on the agrarian history of the Second World War, highlighting the impact of state surveillance and control over Britain’s farmers and the social and environmental changes wrought through the local power relations of the British state. This work is exemplified in his co-edited The Front Line of Freedom (2007) and his monograph, The Battle of the Fields: rural community and authority in Britain during the Second World War (2014).

Simon Rycroft is a leading geographer of radical urban cultures in the 1960s, especially in Los Angeles and London. He has pioneered the analysis of such cultures from a countercultural perspective and shown, for the first time, how they engage with 'nature', an engagement that drew upon a series of influences in, for instance, the 'Op Art' of Bridget Riley, Kinetic Art or the writing of 1950s' Angry Young Men. Follow the links for examples of his work on and British psychedelic lightshows, Underground and Swinging London and on Los Angeles in the 1960s. He has recently published the monograph Swinging City: The Cultural Geographies of London 1950-1974 (Ashgate 2011).

Ben Rogaly’s current work focuses on class, migration, diversity and public space in England. In 2015 he was co-investigator in the AHRC-funded project ‘The un-sociable bench and other urban micro-territories of encounter and intimidation’. Ben’s collaborative research approach combines oral history, ethnography and archival work. His recent publications raise critical questions about class dynamics in university campus spaces, about the connections between ‘race’, class, mobility and immobility, and about spatial justice in provincial cities. He is co-investigator on the AHRC-funded project ‘Creative interruptions: grassroots culture, state structures and disconnection as a space for radical openness’ (2016-19). Part of his role is to co-produce new digital oral histories and live performance with food factory workers in eastern England on the themes of everyday creativity and workplace resistance. Ben is also part of the Geographies of Migration cluster.

JoAnn McGregor’s work focusses on the social and political history of Southern Africa, the history of African diaspora communities in Britain and current politics of migration and asylum.  Crossing the Zambezi explores the historical politics of state-making in the Zambezi borderlands, how ethnic minority identities were consolidated in state borderlands and incorporated as citizens into two very different states.  Her work on African diasporas includes the edited collection Zimbabwe’s New Diaspora: Displacement and the Cultural Politics of Survival, and ESRC funded research on the transnational politics of exile and solidarity, which compares two different generations of Zimbabwean exiles.

The meaning and constitution of British, imperial and colonial identity is a major theme of Fae Dussart’s research, which has explored a range of areas, including domesticity in metropole and colony, and colonial networks and humanitarianism in the British Empire. Most recently she has worked with Alan Lester, examining a key moment in the nineteenth century when the moral logic of British colonialism was variously challenged by humanitarians, settlers and indigenous peoples: a co-authored book based on this research is in press with CUP. She is currently developing research into domestic service and British imperialism, exploring the formation and location of imperial identities through the lens of the master/mistress/servant relationship.

Protest, Politics and Work in Rural England, 1700-1850

Colonization and the Origins of Humanitarian Governance

Battle of the Fields

Swinging City

Moving Histories of Class and Community: Identity, Place and Belonging in Contemporary England

Rural War

Zimbabwe's New Diaspora

Associated faculty include:

Grace Carswell: Grace's research interests include rural livelihoods in eastern Africa, population-environment interactions and agricultural change under the influence of colonialism.

Fae Dussart: Modern British history and historical geographies of the British Empire; British imperial and colonial identities especially in relation to hierarchies of gender, race and class; domestic service, domesticity and colonialism; colonial networks and humanitarianism.

Carl Griffin: Historical and cultural geographies of popular protest; histories of political thought and practice; historical geographies of public policy; more-than-human historical geographies; histories of geographical practice.

Alan Lester: Alan Lester has written extensively on the historical geographies of South Africa and, more recently, on trans-imperial networks and trajectories, settler colonisation and humanitarian discourses of colonialism in the nineteenth century British Empire.

JoAnn McGregor: Social history of Southern Africa, displacement, conflict, environment (particularly Zimbabwe); African diasporas in Britain

Ben Rogaly: Migration of agricultural workers, political economy and agrarian capitalisms in India and the UK; seasonal migration, social relations and changing social identities.

Simon Rycroft: Post-war cultural geography of Britain and America; images of modernity; urban territorial identities; cultures of nature, landscape and the environment.

Brian Short: Historical geography of South East England; 19th- and 20th-century rural social change with a particular interest in the impact of the Second World War on the countryside; rural geography and landscape studies.

Katie Walsh: Migration, home and belonging; transnational spaces and identities; British expatriates; Gulf region.