Dr Mark Glancy at the Cambridge Film Festival
Dr Jonathan Smele launches The Bloomsbury History of Modern Russia Series
I hope you are having an enjoyable summer. This is the first of what I aim to be a three times a year update about teaching and learning in the School of History. It’s meant to try to keep you up to date with how we’re thinking about and trying to improve the degrees and modules that we offer, and to encourage a wider conversation between all of QMUL’s historians – staff and students – about how we study our subject better!
This message is quite long. That reflects both some important changes and the cycle of the School year, in which summer is often a period for reassessment, recruitment and the final approval of developments on which we have been working all year. I’ll try to make future updates shorter. I understand that often it can feel as if the School of History and the University are constantly changing things, and that any alteration in what you’re used to can cause concern. But I hope you will understand that our rationale for making changes is always to try to make things better for you. We care deeply about the quality of teaching and learning in the School, and a persistent striving for improvement is one of the professional values we hope to instil. This is a zen process: the perfect ideal may not be achievable, but the satisfaction comes in never stopping trying. If you have comments or concerns, please do feel free to get in touch.
From the start of next year, submission deadlines for all students will be on Sundays at 11.30 pm. This will represent a change for you if you were in the first year last year, and have been used to Friday deadlines. We have done this to introduce conformity on the degree after we realised, when setting deadlines this July, that next year might see second and third year students on the same module expecting to hand in work at different times. We had to make a decision quickly – which I regret meant that we were not able to consult with you – and we took the decision that would see no-one feel that they had lost out. Please rest assured that we have moved deadlines forward (i.e. to the Sunday after they would otherwise have been), rather than back.
The exception to the Sundays rule is Special Subject dissertations, which have to be handed in as hard copies, and therefore while the office is open. For these, the deadline will be Friday 20 April 2018 at 4pm. As usual, there will be a party afterwards.
This year, course reps raised the issue of assessment deadline bunching. Some of this is difficult to avoid, since staff often set deadlines at particular points in the year for pedagogic reasons – they have to come around a certain date in order to develop a skill, or can only be undertaken after a range of subjects have been taught. In so far as we can address this, however, we have done so: in particular, by coordinating between first year module organizers so that deadlines are spread as evenly as possible, and by exploring ways to set deadlines outside term time.
Next year we will be joined by three new permanent members of staff, Dr Aline-Florence Manent, Dr Leslie James and Dr Noam Maggor. Dr Manent works on challenges to liberal democracy in twentieth century Europe; Dr James on the political and intellectual history of Africa and the African diaspora, and Dr Maggor on the emergence of industrial capitalism in 19th and 20th century America. They are excellent and exciting colleagues – and having seen the modules that they’re putting on for us in the coming year, I know that they are also wonderful additions to our teaching team.
We will also be joined by five new colleagues who are temporarily replacing members of staff who are on research leave. Some of this leave comes as part of the School research cycle – to keep and develop world class researchers, we fund period when they can concentrate on working in archives or writing books. Some of it comes from external funding bodies – because part of having those excellent researchers is that they attract support from national and international funders. To make sure that we can continue to deliver as many of our great range of modules as possible, some of these absences are replaced by temporary appointments, usually of between 10 months and a year.
A wonderful consequence of this is that we get to give short-term posts to brilliant, scholars, usually at the start of their careers – and in June and July, we reviewed a huge number of applications and interviewed candidates. I took part in all the interview panels, and I was very excited by the excellent standard of the applicants – including some of the best presentations I have seen in more than a decade at QMUL. We are very fortunate to have joining us:
Dr David Geiringer – Lecturer in Contemporary British History
Dr Jessica Patterson – Lecturer in British Intellectual and Cultural History
Dr Mark Condos – Lecturer in Imperial and Global History
Dr Elena Bacchin – Lecturer in Italian and European History
Dr Alice Dolan – Lecturer in Early Modern British History
Dr Caroline Ashcroft – Lecturer in the History of Political Thought
Finally, Professor Michael Questier decided to retire at the start of the summer. Dr Ceri Law has kindly agreed to step in at short notice and convene both Michael’s modules. Ceri did this previously when Michael was on leave, so she is very familiar with, and got outstanding student feedback on, both. We are very pleased that we have been able to avoid disruption to those who chose these modules, and grateful to Ceri for agreeing to join us.
Step marking and assessment criteria.
In 2017-18, we will introduce step marking for all pieces of assessed work. Grading criteria, aligned with step marks, will be distributed at the start of semester A.
Last year, we brought in a scheme of step marking for third year dissertations only. This reduces the full numeric spread of marks to a more limited set of grades (essentially set at 2, 5 and 8 in each decile). This is a system that has been used for some years by other Schools at Queen Mary, including Geography, and we have been strongly encouraged to make this change by the faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. The pedagogic rationale is that stepped marks give more clarity for students and staff about different levels of attainment, encouraging consistency and allowing students to understand more easily what they need to do to improve their grades, as well as speeding the process of second marking, moderation and feedback. We are using the opportunity to encourage markers to use a fuller range of marks to reward excellent work, and to specify more exactly the criteria by which work is being marked. In so doing we are responding both to comments from external examiners and from student module evaluation forms. The process was fully discussed with third years and course reps, who were very supportive.
As with any change, there were positive and negative responses to the introduction of step marking. Although staff were asked to mark up to the next step, some students still worried that they might be marked down. Equally, some academics worried that they were being asked to reduce their standards. In both cases, concerns focussed predictably around the 2.1/1st border. The majority of feedback from both staff and students, however, was extremely positive. Academics felt more confident in using the range of marks from 75 to 95 to differentiate between work that was above first-class standard. 48 Special Subject students – about a fifth of the whole year – received dissertation grades of 78 or above, an increase of 150% on the previous year. Students felt that the discussion around grading criteria had made expectations clearer – in other words, that they had got better grades because they had known what they were doing and submitted better work as a result. Course reps also reported positively on the process, and this year’s second year reps in particular were very supportive of the introduction of step marking across the board in the coming year.
I should reiterate that although this change gives us the chance to show more clearly how work will be assessed, it does not involve any change in what you are being asked to do. Geography’s experience when they underwent this process was similar to our own – that the improved communication involved in the process of introducing step marks is itself of great benefit to students. We use a very wide range of assessments within the School of History – this is an indication of the innovative and imaginative teaching that we do, and it’s something on which we’re regularly complemented by examiners. Making criteria more explicit across all these forms of assessment will take time, and I believe that it is better to start the process of change as early as possible in order to benefit the maximum number of students. I welcome your help in this process: if you feel that grading criteria for any task are not clear, please do ask the module organizer for more guidance.
Let me close by hoping that you have had a happy summer – productive or relaxing as suited you, and that you are looking forward as much as I am to the coming year. I will see you in September.
Senior Lecturer & Director of Taught Programmes
Professor Roy Foster writes for the Evening Standard
History at QMUL scores 92 per cent for student satisfaction
The 2017 National Student Survey (NSS) questioned UK undergraduates on various aspects of their student experience, including their overall satisfaction. According to the survey, overall student satisfaction at QMUL’s School of History is at 92 per cent. This ranks QMUL History third in London.
QMUL’s overall satisfaction score, according to the survey, stands at 83 per cent: 16 subjects at QMUL score higher than the average sector satisfaction while 9 are ranked number one in London.
Dr Robert Henderson's new book : Vladimir Burtsev and the Struggle for a Free Russia
Dr Robert Henderson has written a new book, Vladimir Burtsev and the Struggle for a Free Russia. Dr Henderson analyses Burtsev’s struggle against the Tsarist regime in the latter half of the 19th century, and traces his opposition to Bolshevism following the revolution in 1917. Burtsev’s life is set in the context of Russian and European history, and Dr Henderson uses Burtsev as a means to explore topics such as European police collaboration, prison systems, diplomatic relations, and Russia’s relationship with Europe. Extensive original archival research and previously untranslated Russian source material is incorporated throughout the text.
Dr Erik Mathisen writes for the Conversation
Dr Reuben Loffman interviewed on South African radio
Professor Richard Bourke discusses Sovereignty in historical context
In a new video talk recorded for the Serious Science series, Professor Richard Bourke discusses political community, the history of political philosophy, and the modern struggle over the location of sovereignty, putting discussions about state power and the EU in historical context.
Professor Colin Jones writes for The Times
Professor Colin Jones writes for The Times on how technology is changing how we present ourselves. Professor Jones said smiling had become clichéd, and we were more likely to adopt the kind of frosty glare associated with public figures such as Anna Wintour, editor of US Vogue: “The world of the selfie, the wonder of narcissism, the selfie-stick and the way that seems to make the smile absolutely everywhere. It is the way in which we establish our authenticity in the world.”
Professor Miri Rubin presents the Wiles Lectures
History of Modern Biomedicine present at the European Human Genetics Conference
Dr Dan Todman shortlisted for Longman-History Today Book Prize 2017
'Becoming Cary Grant' is an official selection at the Cannes Film Festival
Our new blog-"The Historian" launches
This week sees the launch of the School of History's new weekly blog, The Historian, produced by staff and students. In The Historian, you will find the latest cutting-edge historical research as well our historians’ reflections on global and local headlines. These accessible short articles will relate to all things historical, connected with the research and teaching that we do here at QMUL.
Professor Gareth Stedman Jones writes for History Workshop
Professor Gareth Stedman Jones writes on Brexit in Context: Reflections on the History of Referenda for History Workshop. Prof Stedman Jones discusses the history of referenda, and shows why they remain contentious
Professor Richard Bourke presents at the University of Vienna
Professor Richard Bourke presents at National Research University Higher School of Economics
Professor Richard Bourke delivered a keynote lecture on ‘Popular Sovereignty in the History of Political Thought’ at the National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Moscow as part of the VIIIth Russian Congress of Political Philosophy on “The Modes of Thinking, the Ways of Speaking”.
Wellcome Witness Seminar on 'The Therapeutic Implications of Muscular Dystrophy Genomics'
With an introduction by Professor Jan Witkowski, this Witness Seminar presents an account of the therapeutic implications of muscular dystrophy genomics. The participants provide insights into the clinical and genetic characterizations of muscular dystrophy, with a particular emphasis on Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and shed light on the research coordination and the recent approaches towards the treatment of this group of devastating pathological entities.
Dr Reuben Loffman writes for The Conversation
Dr Thomas Dixon on BBC Radio 4
Professor Tilli Tansey presents at the British Neurosciences Association
Professor Tilli Tansey is presenting at the British Neurosciences Association Festival of Neurosciences. Prof Tansey is presenting on 'Today's neuroscience, tomorrow's history: the importance of oral testimonies'.
Professor Amanda Vickery presents at the University of Southern California
Professor Amanda Vickery presents at the University of Southern California. Prof Vickery discusses From the Classroom to the BBC; and how the demands of the medium structure the delivery of history on television, the context within which academic historians work, and the pleasures and pitfalls of translating historical research onto the screen for a mass audience.
Professor Miri Rubin presents at the University of Vienna
Dr Jonathan Smele helps curate exhibition at the British Library
Dr Jon Smele has been involved in a major exhibition at the British Library called Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths. The exhibition marks the centenary of the Russian revolution of 1917 and has had input from PhD student, Katie McElvanney. The book published to accompany the exhibition has a chapter written by Jon Smele and there are exhibits uncovered by Robert Henderson, Honorary Research Associate in the School of History.
Professor Miri Rubin on BBC Radio 4
Professor Tilli Tansey elected to Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Society of Medicine
Professor Tilli Tansey has been elected to Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Society of Medicine. This award is made to ‘persons who have eminently distinguished themselves in the service of medicine and the branches of science allied to it’.
Dr Reuben Loffman writes for The Conversation
History at QMUL ranked in global top 50
History at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) is ranked in the global top 50 and 11th in the UK, according to a prestigious survey of 4,438 universities. The seventh edition of QS World University Rankings by Subject found that four subject areas at QMUL are now placed among the top 50 – Drama, English, History, and Law.
Professor Matthew Hilton, Vice-Principal (Humanities and Social Sciences) said:“It’s really heartening to see such a solid performance for so many subject areas at Queen Mary. As well as individual results, the trend is important - we’ve increased the number of top 50 subjects from one in 2014 to four this year. I’m especially pleased for colleagues in the Drama Department, now ranked 30th in the world.”
The QS World University Rankings by Subject is considered to be among the most trusted of league tables. Rankings are based on academic and employer reputations and research citations per faculty (the number of times the research is credited in the work of other academics).
Dr Sarah Chaney on BBC Radio 4
Dr Sarah Chaney discusses her new book, Psyche on the Skin: A History of Self-Harm on BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Woman’s Hour’. Dr Chaney discusses its long and secret history and considers the different interpretations over the centuries, challenging the many misconceptions and controversies surrounding it.
Professor Miri Rubin presents at Balliol College
Professor Miri Rubin presents The Annual Medieval Studies Lecture at Balliol College, Oxford. Prof Rubin will dicsuss 'Living Diversity: Identities in Medieval Cities'
Wellcome Witness Seminar on 'Historical Perspectives on Rural Medicine'
Introduced by Professor Geoffrey Hudson, this volume comprises edited transcripts of two Witness Seminars held in 2010 and 2015 on the history and development of rural medicine. Participants in London and others world-wide contributing via video link, addressed the development of the curriculum for teaching rural and remote medicine; the importance of community involvement; and the growth of national and international networks and organizations. Discussion also included: the impact of specialization; professional identity and status; the relationship to other health professions; technological developments; and the challenges of isolation.
Professor Kate Lowe curates an exhibition at the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga in Lisbon
Professor Kate Lowe’s book The Global City: On the Streets of Renaissance Lisbon has culminated in a new exhibition. The exhibition, in Portugal’s foremost national museum the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, offers a new interpretation of Renaissance Lisbon.
Professor Gareth Stedman Jones writes for the Los Angeles Times
Professor Gareth Stedman Jones has written an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times. “Even Karl Marx underestimated the economic anxiety of workers” looks at the argument unfolding in the United States between free traders and protectionists.
Professor Amanda Vickery presents at the Minneapolis Institute of Art
Professor Amanda Vickery presents at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Her talk on Sociability in 1700s England will shed new light on domestic life and material culture in Georgian England, relating her talk to Living Rooms, MIA’s period room initiative that takes a fresh look at how we interpret the past.
Dr Jon Smele presents on "What Happened in 1917: Revolutions in Theory"
Dr Jon Smele spoke at on "What Happened in 1917: Revolutions in Theory". The event at Culvert22 had a range of speakers who presented their perspectives on how to interpret the Russian revolution of 1917 as a historical event.
Professor Amanda Vickery writes for the Telegraph
Professor Amanda Vickery along with a group of academics, looked at Jane Austen’s life and loves in the late 18th century and examined how socio-economic status contributed to the looks of a classic gentleman.The results are a far cry from the tall, dark and handsome leading man we may have imagined.