About History

The department of history at Sussex is a diverse group of academic staff, who are all actively engaged in researching, writing and teaching history.

May MorningWe have world-class expertise in a broad range of historical periods and subjects, but we are primarily interested in British, European and Global History over the last four centuries.  Faculty members have recently published major works in the history of India and China, Middle Eastern History (especially the histories of Palestine and Israel), History of Science, Intellectual History, American History (particularly the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam war), Environmental History, British Social history, Modern European history (especially Weimar and Nazi Germany), and Digital History.

Research clusters

British History

Members of the department who specialise in modern British History include:

Vinita DamodaranHester Barron; Tim Hitchcock; Martin FrancisClaire Langhamer; Joanne Paul; Jill KirbyLaura Kounine; and Lucy Robinson.

This group has a research focus in modern British history, particularly the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, though research expertise commences in the medieval period, and continues through the early modern to the modern period.

The group is composed of economic, cultural and social historians. There is a strong emphasis on ‘history from below’, including, for example, research specialisms in the diaries and life writing material held by the Mass Observation archive; evidence from household expenditure and poverty inquiries, and legal texts detailing the lives of non-elite people.

Research in these areas has been at the cutting-edge of the discipline. Modern British Historians at Sussex have been active in new fields of history, such as: the history of emotions, the digitisation of primary evidence to provide greater public access to historical sources, the history of childhood, the use of popular culture as an analytical rather than illustrative tool, and the use of data on heights to infer changes in living standards of ordinary people.

undergroundThe methodologies employed are genuinely inter-disciplinary; drawing on cultural theory to understand changes in sexual identity, economic theory to research the history of inequality, ‘big data’ approaches to explore the experience of criminals, and developments in natural science to contextualise the history of the influence of Darwinism and the relationship between heights and well-being. Research in British History at Sussex is also outward facing, as developments in Britain are located in a wider global context, both in terms of the impact of the British Empire and from a comparative analytical perspective.

Faculty in this group have attracted considerable external research funding. As well as providing a kite mark of quality, this funding provides the basis for the appointment of a large number of post-doctoral research fellows, working under the direction of members of the department. In conjunction with the thriving community of doctoral candidates in British History, the post-doctoral fellows and faculty provide strength in depth over a broad and exciting range of research topics in modern British history.

Global History

egyptian grafittiOver the last three years the department has undergone a major expansion in global history, making it one of the leading departments in the country in this field. There are now eight members of the department who specialise in global approaches to history:

Anne-Marie Angelo; Vinita Damodaran; Martin Evans; Hilary Kalmbach; Maurizio Marinelli; Jacob Norris; and David Tal.

What unites the group is a common interest in exploring the transnational connections and linkages across the various areas of the world. So, although the group has particular expertise in North African, Sub-Saharan African, Middle Eastern, South Asian and East Asian history, it is constantly seeking to locate these regions within their wider global context. We examine the role of key themes such as colonialism, post-colonialism, race, resistance, environment and religion and how they have worked to transform different societies around the world. By developing universal, macro and global narratives we seek to move away from confining and limiting references to the nation state and the European capitalist world system. Most of this work is focused on the 19th and 20th centuries.

chinaGlobal historians at Sussex are involved in ground-breaking research projects which we apply to our teaching. This means that students in the department are exposed to new and innovative approaches to global history that challenge many of the old Eurocentric ideas about history. Examples of research projects currently running include the role of female leadership in Islam, the urban transformation in China between 1860 and the present, climate change in India and the Indian Ocean World in historical perspective, the development of political cinema in Morocco and the relationship between economic theory, state anti- Colonial Exhibition Posterbuilding in colonial and post-colonial Ghana. A number of our historians have a particular interest in Palestine and Israel. Current research in this field includes the creation of the Palestinian diaspora, Black Panther activism in Israel, and identity politics in Israel. The cluster is also taking a lead role in three major research projects within the department. The first of these examines the impact of global immigration on the transformation of Paris and London since 1918 and the second analyses the concept of resistance as a global phenomenon. The third, funded by the AHRC and the Canadian Social Science Research Council, involves a data base reflecting the botanical and meteorological history of the Indian Ocean. Some of these projects are also located in research centres such as the Centre for World Environmental History, the Centre for German Jewish studies and the new Middle Eastern and North Africa studies centre all located in HAHP.

In all our work there is an emphasis on ‘history from below’, giving a voice to people often relegated to the margins of history. As part of this, we have a strong commitment to gender and feminist perspectives within global contexts.

American History

Sussex possesses one of the strongest and largest cohorts of American historians working outside the USA. Several members of the American history cluster enjoy genuinely world-class reputations in U.S. history and are leading practitioners in their fields of expertise. All of them publish with prominent U.S presses and are professionally active on both sides of the Atlantic. Sussex’s American historians are:

Black-Power-GossipAnne-Marie Angelo; Tom Davies; Richard Follett; Melissa MilewskiKatharina Rietzler; and Clive Webb.

This group has a research focus in modern American history, particularly the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, though expertise commences in the eighteenth century. 

1741_Slave_Revolt_burned_at_the_stake_NYCAmerican historians at Sussex have published on a diverse range of themes in political and social history, but much of their work focuses on U.S. race relations with particular strengths in the fields of slavery and emancipation, the Civil Rights movement, and transnational race relations. Sussex Americanists have also published extensively on the Civil War era and on the history of American racial violence.

Their work is international in focus, detailing networks of activism, power, and philanthropy throughout the Atlantic world, with particular attention to Caribbean and European-American connections. Sussex Americanists work at the cutting-edge of their field, defining memory studies, digital history, and innovative approaches to the medical humanities.

Faculty in American history have a lengthy track record of securing major research grants and fellowships. The most recent of which (2013-15) include two British Academy Senior Research Fellowships, a Gilder-Lehrman Fellowship in recruitmenthandbilllthe USA, and a BAAS-UCL Research Scholarship. Major research awards have been secured in the past from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK); the Canadian Social Science Research Council; National Science Foundation (USA); and the British Academy.

Doctoral students from across Europe and North America come to Sussex for graduate training in American history and the cluster hosts post-doctoral fellows who avail of the superior resources available for the study of the American past at the University. Academic and public impact is essential to our work and Sussex Americanists are actively engaged in the USA and in the UK on media and public-outreach projects.

American history at Sussex is vibrant, progressive, and endlessly challenging. We look forward to welcoming you to that conversation, as a student, a colleague, or member of the public.

Intellectual History and History of Science

Sussex has a long tradition of excellence and innovation in Intellectual History and the History of Science. Our historians seek to understand the political, scientific and social ideas and arguments that have shaped the past and continue to define the present.  

Staff associated with this cluster include:   

Jim EndersbyLaura KounineIain McDanielMaurizio MarinelliJoanne PaulKatharina Rietzler and Darrow Schecter.   

Members of the department have interests in the relationship between ideas and society from the Renaissance to today. We have specialist expertise in witchcraft and culture, utopianism, monarchy and counsel, the Enlightenment, Caesarism and democracy, war and empire, Chinese intellectual history, and women’s political and international thought. Our second research interest is in the history of science, particularly science and imperialism, nineteenth and twentieth century evolution and Science Fiction.  

The work of this cluster is interdisciplinary by nature, exploring the links between political, cultural, scientific and economic ideas and their European, imperial and global contexts. Examples of our current research projects include the intellectual history of democracy, women’s international thought, and the rise of Anglo-American biology. The research of historians in this group has been recognised through prize-winning monographs, grant-funded research projects, and public engagement – from museum work to TV and radio appearances.  

Our undergraduate teaching encompasses modules on the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, Demagogues and Dictators, the Century of the Gene, and on intellectual life in twentieth-century China and the United States. There is a separate MA in Intellectual History and as part of this students choose from modules on War and Empire, Women and the Political, Text and Critique, and the China Dream. We have a strong track record in recruiting AHRC-funded doctoral researchers to our PhD programme in Intellectual History. Students on these programmes benefit from the interdisciplinary Centre for Intellectual History and its lively programme of research activities, public lectures and conferences. 

European History

The history of political and cultural conflicts across the long twentieth century is central to the research and teaching of the Europeanists at Sussex. In our research projects, we have examined topics that include the experience of loss during the First World War, communist revolutions across Europe, Jewish life and culture, Nazi racial policies during the Second World War, decolonization and counter-culture youth movements. There are eight members of the department who specialize in modern European history: Mermaid and the Monkey Paul Gauguin

David Juenger; Iain McDanielGideon Reuveni; Darrow SchecterClaudia Siebrecht; Katrin SteffenChris Warne; and Gerhard Wolf

European history at Sussex is comprised of political, intellectual and cultural historians. Taken together, our research projects combine an interest in the historical experience of groups and individuals with a concern to understand the evolution and radicalization of state policies in the 20th century and we seek to contextualize European historical developments within an international and global framework.

Much of our research focuses on finding traces of individual historical experience in, for example, diaries, oral testimonies and art. Some local resources available for Europeanists include a vast collection of testimonies by Second World War resistance fighters and activists and the diverse material of the Jewish Collection, both of which are held in the Sussex Special Collections at The Keep. Throughout the academic year members of the cluster are a involved in organizing and hosting numerous workshops and conferences that, in the past, have examined the issue of Everyday Racism, Parenting and the State, Subcultures, the Jewish Experience of the First World War, The History of War and Emotions and Resistance.