Call for Papers: Ways of Knowing in (and about) Modern Britain

Westmere House, University of Birmingham

5th-6th July, 2018

 We invite postgraduates and early career researchers (within 5 years of completion) to Birmingham for a two-day conference exploring ways of knowing in and about modern Britain.

Following on from our PGR/ECR workshop, ‘Seeking Legitimacy’, in 2016, we want to continue thinking about the interplay between value and authority in Modern Britain. While Seeking Legitimacy used expertise to critique exclusionary narratives of modern Britain, Ways of Knowing will disentangle knowledge from expertise. In so doing, we aim to broaden our historical narratives, bring sub-disciplines into conversation with one another,  and ask questions about the ontological limits of our discipline. How can, for example, a discipline built on the importance of factual information, on rational lines of reasoning, and on a masculine-secular model, capture ways of knowing that have no archival grounding, or that may be personal, from memory, or superstitious? While we question the limits of our discipline, we are also interested in pushing at its boundaries by exploring the political relationship between ourselves, our practice and our historical subjects.

Day 1: Telling Stories about Modern Britain

On the first day, delegates are invited to participate in conference-wide workshops, led by outside speakers, that seek to explore the ways we produce and share knowledge about the past. Across three sessions, we will ask who tells historical stories, who benefits from them, and who is missing, in order to think collectively about:

  • The ways funding and employment structures shape and constrain the stories we research, and our ability to share them
  • The limits of conventional historical narratives, the stories they allow us to tell, and those they don’t
  • The audiences we seek to engage, and those we might neglect


Day 2: Ways of Knowing in and about Modern Britain

On the second day, we invite ten-minute-long papers that reflect upon competing forms of knowing in delegates’ work and practice. What, where and when are the sites and spaces in modern Britain wherein different types of knowledge meet, and how do they interact? How are types of knowledge, and ways of knowing, in and about the past, claimed, constructed and contested by our historical subjects, and by us, as postgraduate and early career researchers? What value is ascribed to different types of knowledge, and how are some ways of knowing privileged over others?

We aim for a broad historical scope, and welcome papers from any period or discipline within modern British studies. Topics for consideration include, but are by no means limited to:

  • Sites and spaces of knowing
  • Expertise
  • Identity and embodiment
  • Knowledge acquisition
  • Secrets, rumours and myth
  • Belief
  • The archival record
  • Memory
  • Ignorance, prejudice and misinformation


Please submit an abstract of 250 words, along with a short biography, to by 20th April, 2018. There are no registration fees for this event, and some travel bursaries will be available.

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