Phew! I’ve just returned from the UK after a brief two week visit. It was very, very busy and quite a lot of fun too.
I started off at the People’s History Museum in Manchester, looking at the Communist Party of Great Britain papers, but alas, I only had one day in the city. So making the most of it, I traipsed down Deansgate in the early evening before meeting up with a fellow CPGB historian at the City Arms. I’m surprised by how much Manchester has changed over the last 10 years – there’s so many eateries and cafes in those nooks and crannies of the CBD now.
The next day I was off to Birmingham for the first time. I spent the day in the lovely new Birmingham Central Library looking at the papers of the Indian Workers Association, before getting lost in the Bullring shopping area and then finding a cinema to watch 22 Jump Street.
My third day of research took me to the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick, where I inspected files from many different collections. I was particularly interested to go through the papers of the Grunwick Strike Committee and the papers of the Mansfield Hosiery Mills strike – both will be very helpful for my forthcoming book on the CPGB and the politics of ‘race’ (more details on that in the near future). I also found these pictures from the glossy 1966 mag New Albania.
I then shuffled up to Newcastle for the British Scholar Society’s ‘Britain and the World’ conference. I’d never visited Newcastle before and was quite impressed with its architecture. The conference was a great opportunity to meet many scholars with an interest specifically in British history (as there is no British history society in Australia) and there were many brilliant papers. I was very excited to see how many contemporary historians were attending the conference and presenting on topics such as Thatcherism, the Cold War, the EEC and counter-insurgency in the British Commonwealth. The conference dinner was in Alnwick Castle which was quite impressive, even though I haven’t seen any of the Harry Potter films.
The following week I spent in London. First up was the launch at the Institute of Historical Research of our forthcoming edited collection of the far left. It was very well attended and there was a stimulating discussion afterwards, followed by wine. Thanks again to everyone that attended.
The next few days were filled with visits to the National Archives in Kew. Always a lovely place to do some research, I probably spent a lot of time sitting in the cafeteria waiting for documents and meeting various people who had also attended the British Scholar conference! I’m very excited by the some of the files I found there (on policing communism in the British Commonwealth, on policing Cypriots and on the FCO’s reaction Australia’s ‘Constitutional Crisis’ in 1975) and hope they inform some new research articles in the not too distant future.
I travelled up to Lincoln at the end of the week to attend the Crime and Deviance in 20th Century Britain. I was only able to attend for one day (presenting in the morning) but the papers that I did get to see were pretty awesome. I was particularly enthused to see how many scholars are working across the disciplines of history, law and criminology. And people seemed to be interested in our research on policing Cypriots in interwar London.
Finally I went back down to London and spent the weekend in Hackney, hanging out with friends. If you’re in the Hackney/Homerton area, the Adam & Eve pub looks like a fab new pub!
So there it went – two weeks in ol’ Blighty. Thanks to everyone for their conversation, assistance and comments. I’m not sure when I will return. Some of you English types will have to come down under!