The history of History at Leicester
History at Leicester has long been recognised as a leader in the discipline for both teaching and research. History has been taught at Leicester for almost a century, ever since the University was founded in 1921 as a college of the University of London.
The first lecturer in History, Mr FW Buckler, was one of the first two permanent, full-time members of staff appointed by the University College. The second lecturer, Mr G.R. Potter, was appointed in 1925 as a replacement for Mr Buckler who was appointed to a professorship in the USA. In 1947 the imperial historian Professor Jack Simmons was appointed to the first chair in History.
In 1948 the Department of Local History was formed, headed by WG Hoskins, who was appointed Reader in English Local History. This was the first separate department of local history anywhere in England. In 2000 the Department became a Centre affiliated with the Department of Economic and Social History. The Centre for Urban History, which was established in 1985, was also affiliated with ESH in the same year.
In 1957, when the College received its Royal Charter and became the University of Leicester, the then-department had six members of staff. The School of Historical Studies was formed in 2003, when the Department of History and the Department of Economic and Social History were merged. It was renamed the School of History in 2009. It is now formally part of the School of History, Politics and International Relations, which was itself formed after a further merger in 2016.
History staff and students have received significant recognition and achievements over the years, with one of the first students of the College to ever graduate with a first class degree doing so in History. Emeritus Professor Aubrey Newman was also one of the first recipients of a British Academy award, when in 1962 he received £450 for his work on the Stanhope family archives, and Emeritus Professor Chris Dyer was awarded a CBE in 2008 for services to scholarship. In 2018, Emeritus Professor Stuart Ball, who recently retired after 37 years at the University, was awarded a CBE for services to political history.
Leicester has one of the largest groups of historians in the country. It houses three research centres - English Local History, Urban History, and the Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies – each of which is internationally recognised in its field. Staff also teach in the inter-disciplinary Centre for American Studies, which was established in 1997 and remains a leader in its field in the UK. Beyond these centres, our historians have expertise in a wide range of topics, from the history of Russian religion to French penal colonies. They take a range of approaches, including economic history, gender history, cultural history and political history, and cover everything from early medieval palaeography to post-war British science.
The researching and teaching interests of Leicester’s staff are closely connected. Reflecting our broad expertise, there is a very wide range of subjects on offer to History students. It is these teaching and research strengths, along with the reputation for quality work and a genuinely friendly teaching environment, that make History at Leicester unique.