Department of History

Research

Historical Research at Sussex is organised around nine Research Centres focusing either on specific periods and geographical regions, or distinctive agendas and methodologies. Additionally, all staff contribute to putting History at Sussex at the forefront of the field through individual research projects, which in turn directly inform our teaching.

Research Centres

We have several internationally acclaimed research centres, and run a weekly and long-established seminar series. We are committed to reaching out to the public by means of collaborating on digital resources and presenting ideas and research in various television programmes. In the last few years the department has developed world-class expertise in digital history. It is home to internationally renowned projects such as the Newton project, Observing the Eighties, British Living Standards, and Documenting Louisiana Sugar, 1845-1917. Sussex historians have helped to generate new online archives including Old Bailey Online and The Joseph Hooker Correspondence Project. The world famous Mass Observation Archive, some of which is now digitised, is within walking distance of the department, providing our students with direct access to a unique set of historical sources.

Centre for German-Jewish Studies

German Jewish studies bannerThe Centre for German-Jewish Studies, based at the University of Sussex in Brighton. Since its establishment in 1994, the Centre has developed into a major institution for the study of the history, culture and thought of Jews in Central Europe and for the training of a new generation of teachers and researchers in this field.

Based within a dynamic modern university committed to interdisciplinary studies, the Centre contributes distinctively to historical, philosophical and literary scholarship and education. Financial support from a wide range of educational trusts, individual donors and a London-based Support Group greatly enhance its work. The primary aim of the Centre's teaching and research activities is the re-evaluation of how the history of Jews in German-speaking lands is studied. The Centre attracts international scholars who actively contribute to scholarship in German-Jewish studies through teaching and research, focusing on political, social, literary and intellectual German-Jewish history.

Given the location of the Centre, another key objective is to research the history of Jewish refugees and their families to the United Kingdom during and after the Second World War. The Centre also focuses on projects related to the history of anti-Semitism, the Holocaust and its effects on post-war history until today. The Centre's archival collection, located at The Keep, is being developed in accordance with these main themes. There is a particular interest in materials documenting the histories of German-Jewish families since the Enlightenment, including diaries, letters, oral testimony, survival narratives and other biographical sources recording the history of refugees. For more information see the Centre’s website.

Centre for the History of War and Society

Santanu Poster FinalThe Centre for the History of War and Society is concerned with the everyday experience, memory and representation of modern conflicts and periods of mass violence. Our work ranges in time from the American Civil War to the Falklands War, and is informed by national and transnational perspectives. We influence and are influenced by a variety of historical approaches, including new military history, cultural history, history of emotions, visual history, history of memory, social history, economic history, intellectual history, gender history, life history, history of trauma and the history of childhood. The centre is based in the Department of History, but is interdisciplinary in its vision and practice. Members are also drawn from the Department of Art History, the Department of Media and Film, the Department of Politics, and the School of Psychology.

Our innovative research provides an exciting and stimulating backdrop to our teaching. At undergraduate level, students can study modules throughout their degree programme which consider the direct and indirect effects of war and violence on society in a variety of global, comparative and national contexts. We have a thriving postgraduate community of students on the taught Masters programme as well as those specialising on war and conflict in their doctoral research. Sussex students benefit from extensive archival resources onsite, such as the refugee papers collected by the German-Jewish Centre. For historians of modern Britain in particular, the Mass-Observation Archive and Mass Observation Project represent a unique and unparalleled resource. The university’s location also offers easy access to London-based libraries and archival collections. For more information see the Centre's website.

Centre for Intellectual History

Intellectual History poster - hobbesThe University of Sussex has long been a flourishing centre of research and teaching in intellectual history. From the foundation of the University in the 1960s, intellectual history has brought together scholars and researchers from the disciplines of History, English, Philosophy, Economics, Classics, Politics, Sociology, and Theology. The task of the Sussex Centre for Intellectual History is to maintain this vital interdisciplinary tradition. The Centre has housed innovative research in the political, social and economic thought of modern and early modern Britain and Europe, encompassing work on liberalism and republicanism, the Enlightenment, the history of rights, the emergence of political economy, religion, revolution, and ideas of empire, race, and gender. The Centre also specialises in the history of science (Newton Project), and maintains a keen interest in the reception and transmission of ideas outside Europe (including China and the United States). Our internationally-respected MA programme in Intellectual History constitutes a vital part of the Centre’s work. We also run a busy programme of events, public lectures and colloquia in intellectual history. For more information see the Centre’s website.

Centre for World Environmental History

CWEHThe Centre for World Environmental History (CWEH) was launched in May 2002 under the aegis of the School of African and Asian Studies at the University of Sussex. It was funded for an initial three year period by the Research and Development Fund of the University. CWEH has now raised funds from the Leverhulme Trust, the AHRC and the British Academy, the Canadian Social Science Research Council and for independent projects.

The creation of CWEH initiative was a response to specialist courses and research conducted by Sussex faculty for over nine years in tropical and 'Southern' environmental history at, what was then, AFRAS and elsewhere in the University and within the Institute of Development Studies. Sussex University has a long research tradition focussed on environment and development problems in the tropics as well as a close relationship with the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), located on the Sussex campus, which is Britain's leading organisation carrying out research on social and economic processes and problems. Sussex University also has a solid tradition in radical history and the history of material culture and peasant society in the Global South, exemplified in the work of Professor Ranajit Guha and the Subaltern Studies School.

The Centre has a Director, Research Director, Faculty Associates, Visiting Research Fellows and Associates and Doctoral Associates. It has a close collaborative relationship involving frequent staff exchanges with the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India and the CNRS French Institute in the Union Territory of Pondicherry, India. The Centre is currently collaborating with Kew Gardens, The Botanical Survey of India, and JNU on a project on Joseph Hooker and India and with the British Library and the U.K. Met office on a project on historical records and climate change. It is also collaborating on two other projects on plant transfers led by Heather Goodhall and Jodi Frawley at the Institute of Technology, University of Sydney and on a project on Human environment interactions in the Indian Ocean World, 1500-1900 with the University of McGill in Canada. The Centre has raised funds from several organisations including the British Academy, The AHRC, the Leverhulme Trust and The Canadian Social Science Research Council.

CWEH's interdisciplinary perspective on complex issues is exemplified by its doctoral associates. It provides an intellectual home for both Sussex graduates and visiting graduates who are integral to contributing to CWEHs ever expanding areas of research. The multidisciplinary nature of CWEH research faculty means that doctoral students have access to a range of expertise as well as to contribute to it. They also form an active social community, organising workshops and networks. Visiting doctoral associates are also welcome. For more information see the Centre’s website.

The Sussex Humanities Lab

Sussex Humanities Lab - BannerDigital transformation means the objects of humanist study have changed. The Sussex Humanities Labe is designed to develop critiques, methodologies, and tools ensuring this field is fit for the future.

Supported by the University of Sussex to create a substantial research infrastructure in the years up to 2020, the Lab’s vision is to ensure that information scientists and literary critics; media scholars and designers, social scientists and historians, collaborate to serve the fundamental roles of humanities research – to explore the human condition and the social and material worlds we make. We wish to make the humanities fit for purpose in a digital age. For more information see the Lab's website.

The Newton Centre

Created in 1998, the Newton Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to publishing an online edition of all of Sir Isaac Newton’s (1642-1727) published and unpublished writings. Although Newton is best known for his theory of universal gravitation and discovery of calculus, his interests were much broader than is usually appreciated. In addition to his celebrated scientific and mathematical writings, Newton also wrote many alchemical and religious texts. In the last few years, the digital edition has evolved to include new transcriptions of Newton's correspondence, Newton bannerallowing readers for the first time to see how Newton selected results from specific studies when he wrote to people such as John Collins and Gottfried Leibniz. We aim to have published all of his writings in full within the next five years, and to that end we are currently seeking funding to support the transcription of the administrative papers composed during the three decades that Newton was Warden and then Master of the Royal Mint (1696-1727).

The edition is Open Access and takes full advantage of the searching and browsing opportunities provided by the Web environment. It permits readers to understand for the first time how and why it was that Newton compartmentalised his research, re-wrote various papers, and re-used various phrases and ideas in different contexts. We present a full (diplomatic) rendition of each text, featuring all the amendments Newton made to his own writings along with a more readable (normalised) version. We publish translations of his most important Latin religious texts, and make available high quality colour images of all of the scientific, mathematical materials, and where possible, of the religious materials. We have also released a vast supply of expository materials such as scholarly essays, general introductions, the notes and draft biography written by John Conduitt, and various filmed interviews with historians.

In its 15 year existence, the Project has benefitted from a high degree of excellent technical support, and indeed it is the result of an exemplary collaboration between scholars, project managers and programmers. Given the range and depth of the materials in the edition, the Newton Project constitutes an exceptionally rich digital object, with some of some of Newton's mathematical papers in the edition being the most complex TEI/MathML-encoded texts on the Web. For more information see the Centre’s website.

Centre for Poverty and Inequality Research

Poverty centre - bannerThe Centre for Poverty and Inequality Research conducts research into all aspects of inequality and poverty – their meaning and measurement, causes and consequences, in both developing and developed countries.

Building on the rich history of the former Poverty Research Unit at Sussex (PRUS), CPIR brings together researchers across the University of Sussex, and aims to create partnerships with governments, international organisations, other academic institutions and NGOs. CPIR draws on the interdisciplinary approach and values that Sussex embodies to generate impact through world-class research. For more information see the Centre’s website.

Centre for Life History and Life History Writing

WeissLife history and life writing research uses life story - whether in the form of oral history, personal narrative, autobiography or biography - as a primary source for the study of history and culture.

Life history and life writing research uses life story - whether in the form of oral history, personal narrative, autobiography or biography - as a primary source for the study of history and culture. Life stories capture the relation between the individual and society, the local and the national, the past and present and the public and private experience. Research involves grappling with theories of memory, relationship and self-representation, and with debates about literacy and orality. Many disciplines contribute to the field, including history, sociology, anthropology, literary philosophy, cultural studies and psychology. Life history and life writing researchers present their work in many forms. As well as academic publications, we contribute to radio and television documentaries, auto/biographical drama, reminiscence work, digital and video presentations and exhibitions. Life history and life writing research is, of necessity, concerned with ethics and power relationships, and with the potential for advocacy and empowerment. For more information see the Centre’s website.

Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies

Early Modern verticalThe Centre for Early Modern and Medieval Studies at Sussex is one of the foremost interdisciplinary institutions of its kind in Britain. Our members are distinguished academics from the School of English and the Departments of History and Art History, and our research expertise covers the history, literature, art, architecture, science, religion and philosophy of a period ranging from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century. The thriving postgraduate community at CEMMS is drawn from across the country and the world, reflecting our longstanding international reputation.

Sussex offers an ideal environment for the study of medieval and early modern history and culture, and we have excellent links with local archives and libraries. The archives of the East Sussex record office are housed in the Keep, a world-class research facility moments from the Sussex campus, and important holdings of illuminated manuscripts, incunabula and early printed books can be found in the Jubilee library, Brighton. We also enjoy collaborations with a range of partners including the National Trust and Shakespeare’s Globe, London.

The Centre's many strengths are reflected in the large number of events we coordinate: a full programme of visiting speakers, symposia and international conferences, a postgraduate reading group and regular excursions. For those interested in developing their study of the medieval and early modern periods, the Centre is a welcoming, yet challenging, place to study. For more information see the Centre’s website.