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Queen’s to create the new Brittenden Fellowship in Black British History

30 September 2020

The Queen’s College is pleased to announce plans to appoint an historian with knowledge of the culture, society or politics of people of African and/or Caribbean descent in Britain to the newly established Brittenden Fellowship in Black British History along with an Associate Professorship or Professorship in Oxford’s History Faculty, starting in September 2021.

The new postholder will become one of the College’s two Fellows in History, replacing John Davis, who is retiring at the end of this academic year. It is expected that the appointee will have an interest in building outwards from their knowledge to develop teaching in modern British Isles, European and World History and more specialised options in (for example) race and ethnicity history, histories of migration, post-colonialism, social activism, identity, and memory. 

The Queen’s College has a long tradition in the study of twentieth-century British history. Its past Tutorial Fellows have included the historian of 1930s British foreign policy, R.A.C. Parker, two historians of the Labour Party and the working class – Henry Pelling and Kenneth O. Morgan – and the economic historian of twentieth century Britain, Nicholas Dimsdale. Its current historians include Fellow in History John Davis, who works on twentieth century London, its Fellow in Politics, Nicholas Owen, who works on the British left and oppositional social movements including anti-colonialism, and Rebecca Beasley, its Tutorial Fellow in English who works on twentieth century literary modernism.

In College, the appointee will share the teaching of History with Conor O’Brien, who is in his first year as Associate Professor in the Early Medieval History of the British Isles and North Atlantic World. Along with the Rothermere American Institute, the College hosts the Harmsworth Professorship in American History, in which distinguished historians contribute each year to the intellectual breadth of the study of History at Queen’s; recent Harmsworth Professors have included Barbara Savage (University of Pennsylvania) and Peter Mancall (University of Southern California). The postholder will also join a thriving community of twentieth-century historians throughout the university, including several colleagues interested in race and the legacies of empire. 

Despite the University recruitment freeze occasioned by the coronavirus, the Brittenden endowment enabled the College to step in to secure the early release of this post and to fund it for the first five years. After that time, it will be jointly funded by Queen’s and the Faculty of History.

The College’s Senior Tutor and Fellow in French, Seth Whidden, said: ‘The College is very excited to make this appointment, which comes at a particularly opportune moment. A group of students, academic staff, and non-academic staff have been working throughout the summer to identify ways to improve issues of race, diversity and access at Queen’s. Their proposals and this post will contribute directly and meaningfully to the College’s unwavering commitment that Queen’s continue to be a welcoming place for all: within and beyond the syllabus. While necessarily looking to the past, this appointment of a Fellow in Black British History will also help us chart a course for our future.’

The selection panel will be chaired by the College’s Provost, Claire Craig, who noted, ‘It is due to the generosity of Old Member Frederick H. Brittenden (1946, Modern History) that the College is able to press on with this important and timely appointment despite the uncertain economic climate. Fred’s commitment to the study of history here will mean that, through research and teaching, the College can continue to contribute to scholarship and to informed debate.’

The College and the Faculty expect to advertise the position, with the Further Particulars, very soon.