Since its inception in 1972, the department has been committed to reaching out beyond academic conventions. We created the Centre for Public History to act as a forum for research and teaching concerned with the place of history in public life and as a hub for our impact and outreach activities.
As historians committed to public engagement, we explore the rich and diverse ways history is represented and debated 'in public', from the museums, archives and heritage sector to the arts, education, government, business and tourism – in the UK and globally. We aim to offer creative answers to the question of how we can communicate history through different media, from film to digital mapping, to dramatic re-interpretation of historical events.
We are ambitious for our Centre for Public History. Building on the success of the impact case-studies we submitted for REF2014, we are actively broadening and deepening the possibilities for co-producing history with a range of partners and audiences, including schools museums, businesses, and local community groups.
We also continue the work pioneered by the Centre for Local and Regional History, building relationships with communities and organisations in Colchester, Essex and East Anglia through lectures, student placements and public engagement projects; our showcase event is the annual Dudley White Local History Lecture (founded by bequest in 1993).
We enjoy close links with the Essex Record Office in Chelmsford and, through our Community Fellows, with the Victoria County History of Essex, Colchester Archaeological Trust, and Colchester Recalled oral history project. Special Collections in our University Library include the Essex Society for Archaeology and History library, and oral history interviews deposited in the Hervey Benham Sound Archive.
We embed our commitment to public history in our curriculum. We offer our undergraduate students the option of producing a public history output (alongside a research report) instead of a dissertation-style capstone research project in their final year of study. Recent public history projects have included a podcast on America’s relationship with Cuba; a digital map tracing the journeys of the East Anglian witch-finders in 1645-7; a ballad written about the life of an Essex farm labourer executed for arson in 1830, and a piece of creative writing exploring 18th-century paternal responses to bereavement.
We build relationships with communities and organisations in Colchester, Essex and East Anglia through student placements and public engagement projects. Our MA students can apply for co-funded placements at the Essex Record Office or with a local organisation or community group for their dissertation projects. Read Julie Miller's story to learn about her MA placement at the Essex Record Office.
Each year, schools from Essex and Suffolk come together for the Dora Love Prize, which is presented during the University of Essex's annual Holocaust Memorial Week. Dora Love was a Holocaust survivor, who spent much of her life raising awareness that the attitudes to which made the Holocaust possible, are still prevalent in today's society. The prize goes to the project which expresses best that which was most important to Dora Love: speaking up against hatred wherever it occurs, never forgetting the ultimate consequence of seemingly small acts of discrimination and developing a sense of personal responsibility.
The School of Philosophical, Historical, and Interdisciplinary Studies holds regular events throughout the year. These include speaker series and seminars, which we contribute to. In addition to public history events that take place in our departmental seminar series, we have an annual In Conversation event, in which we talk to a major public history figure about the importance of history to 21st-century life. Our showcase event related to local and regional histories is the annual Dudley White Local History Lecture (founded by bequest in 1993).