Breaking Boundaries: Politics, History and the wider inter-disciplinary challenge

Sponsored by: Modern British Studies, University of Birmingham

& the Centre for British Politics, University of Nottingham

 Organisers: Dean Blackburn (Nottingham),

Steven Fielding (Nottingham) & Matthew Francis (Birmingham)

 Venue: University of Birmingham, Wednesday 29th June 2016

Breaking Boundaries – Programme

Coffee and Registration

Inter-disciplinarity: problems and possibilities: Dean Blackburn (Nottingham)

Panel: Cultures of Consumer Capitalism
Amy Edwards (Birmingham), Emily Robinson (Sussex), Sam Wetherell (Berkeley)

New Labour, New Cultural Consciousness: Elite Narratives and the Partnership in Power Reforms 1995-97
Jake Watts (Sussex)

Party splinters and mergers – a case study of the SDP
Alan Wager (Queen Mary, London)

When party leaders die
Martin Farr (Newcastle)


Plenary: Hugh Pemberton (Bristol)

The paper where Angelina Jolie meets John Betjeman
Stephen Thornton, Cardiff

Beyond the public face of CPAG: historicising the politics of social policy campaigns
Ruth Davidson King’s London

‘The identikit bastion of white society’: BAME voters and party politics
Matthew Francis (Birmingham)


Panel: History and Policy
Andrew Blick (King’s London), Glen O’Hara (Oxford Brookes), Alix Green (Central Lancashire)

Concluding Remarks



Political Historians have had an uncertain relationship with other disciplines – and vice versa. In the 1950s those adopting behaviouralist methods of quantification from the social sciences hailed the emergence of a ‘new political history’ that promised to cut through the narratives of ‘great men’ which then dominated most accounts. This approach had a limited impact. In the 1990s it was in any case disavowed by those critical of its basic materialism and who saw merit in a ‘new cultural history of politics’, one influenced by exponents of post-modern literary theory.

Yet, while some innovators have explored how other disciplines might help them better approach their subject, many Political Historians approach their subject in much the same way as those in previous generations, embracing an empirical, archival-based method and focusing on institutions and biography. In the meantime, Political History has lost its central role within the discipline.

This conference seeks to transcend this methodological impasse by nudging its exponents towards an engagement with those interested in the same subjects but located in other disciplines. In Political Science for example there has been a notable adoption of History in terms of historical institutionalism, path dependency, heresthetics, cultural political economy and process tracing. However, this should not be an uncritical engagement: Political Historians’ understanding and appreciation of context is, if nothing else, something from which other disciplines might benefit.

The conference is open to all scholars interested in the politics of the past and present whatever their disciplinary affiliations. Postgraduates and Early Career Researchers are especially encouraged to participate. While it is likely that most interest will derive from those studying modern Britain, students of other periods and different countries are strongly urged to also submit abstracts for papers and suggestions for panels.

Please submit abstracts and/or proposals for panels by April 22nd 2016 to: