The Social History Society is dismayed at the news that undergraduate History programmes are under threat at Aston University and London South Bank University. These are the latest in a series of cuts and threats to Humanities teaching in the English HE sector, mostly among post-92 institutions.
Alongside the personal distress these cuts cause to staff and students, we are concerned about the implications for the future of our discipline. The practice of Social and Cultural History thrives on a strong community of historians. This includes those working in a variety of settings and at all career stages.
The news is particularly distressing as the History programmes concerned were only recently launched and both linked excellent teaching and research and matters of social justice. The History programmes at both Aston and London South Bank include innovative modules considering public debates in Social and Cultural History, including the legacies of Empire and women’s history. They also include collaborations with various external institutions. At London South Bank, this ranges from the Black Cultural Archives to the National Maritime Museum.
As well as enriching Social History, programmes like these offer a leading example of how academic history can be more inclusive. This is especially important in light of the Royal Historical Society’s reports on Promoting Gender Equality in UK History (2018), Race, Ethnicity & Equality (2018) and LGBT+ Histories and Historians (2020).
The Social History Society has taken small steps to address these findings, for instance through its BME Activities and Events funding scheme and BME Historians Network. However, wider reforms are necessary and we are deeply saddened that the sector appears to be taking a backwards step.