SHS Annual Conference 2021


We are holding our annual conference online. It will take place over two weeks from 28 June-9 July, following the successful model that we used in 2020.

The Social History Society has a long record of transforming historical research and our conference is one of the largest in the UK. For 43 years, it was held in person, with papers that explored the ways in which social worlds are made, imagined, shared and shattered. In 2020, our own world was transformed by COVID-19 and the conference shifted online.

Instead of trying to replicate a physical event online, we have adapted by spreading events over a longer time-frame and opening up cutting-edge research to as wide an audience as possible. To maintain our community of research in a remote setting, we have also emphasised discussion, with 15 minute papers to avoid Zoom fatigue!

The conference is free to members and non-members alike, but do take a look at the benefits of membership page. Your membership fees help to support further historical research through grants, prizes and other schemes.

Plenary: Women and Work

In March 2021, the Office for National Statistics highlighted important differences in men and women’s experiences of life in lockdown.

While more men than women have died from COVID-19 in the UK, women’s wellbeing has been more negatively affected. During the first year of the pandemic, women reported higher levels of anxiety and loneliness than men, were more likely to have been furloughed, took on more unpaid domestic duties and took a significantly greater share of responsibility for childcare and homeschooling.

Our annual conference will place these findings in their historical context with a specially convened plenary on Women and Work. The panel will span the early modern and modern periods, featuring three leading scholars:

Emma Griffin is Professor of Modern British History at the University of East Anglia.  She is the author of five books, most recently Bread Winner: an Intimate History of the Victorian Economy (2020).  She is the co-editor of the journal History and President of the Royal Historical Society.

Helen McCarthy is Reader in Modern and Contemporary British History at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of St John’s College. She is the author of three books, including Women of the World: The Rise of the Female Diplomat (2014) and Double Lives: A History of Working Motherhood (2020). She is currently developing a new project on the socialist intellectual and writer, Beatrice Webb, and her biographer, Margaret Cole.

Jane Whittle is professor of Economic and Social History at Exeter University. She is author of numerous books and articles including most recently, Consumption and Gender in the Early Seventeenth-Century Household (2012), ‘A Critique of Approaches to “Domestic Work”’ Past and Present 243 (2019), and ‘The Gender Division of Labour in Early Modern England’ Economic History Review 73:1 (2020). She currently holds a European Research Council Advanced grant to study ‘Forms of Labour: Gender, Freedom and Experience of Work in the Preindustrial Economy’.

The plenary will take place at 12.30-2.30pm on Monday 5 July.

Please click here to reserve a space.

Programme and Booking

Our conference is centred on eight thematic strands, which range across time and space. The programme has been designed to allow speakers and audience to move between panels without missing any papers in a given strand. We have also sought to avoid parallel sessions where possible.

The full programme is available to download here (pdf)

To attend a specific panel, please book a ticket for the strand using the following links:

ENVIRONMENT, SPACES AND PLACES (Monday 28 and Tuesday 29 June)
DEVIANCE, INCLUSION AND EXCLUSION (Tuesday 29 June and Wednesday 30 June)
BODIES AND EMOTIONS (Thursday 1 and Friday 2 July)
WORK, LEISURE AND CONSUMPTION (Thursday 8 and Friday 9 July)

There are separate bookings for our supplementary events:

History Journals: How to get published and how to do your first peer review (12.30-2pm, Friday 2 July)
SHS AGM (10-11.30am, Monday 5 July)
Plenary: Women and Work (12.30-2.30pm, Monday 5 July)
Postgraduate Network Meeting (3-4.30pm, Monday 5 July)
Conference Quiz (5-6.30pm, Monday 5 July)

Our Network of BME Historians will also be meeting up during the conference. If you would like to find out more, please send an email to:

We are pleased to be offering a variety of supplementary events this year, including a (broadly) social history themed online quiz to stretch your brain cells in a way that conference papers cannot! All participants are warmly invited to take part, individually or in small teams arranged in advance. There will be a prize for the winners!

The conference will also include more formal prize-giving ceremonies for the SHS Book Prize, the Pam Cox prize for Public History, and our Postgraduate Prize.

Our 2021 conference builds on the online events we held in 2020. Recordings of last year’s events are available here.


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