Event Registration: Universities and their Contested Pasts

Registration is now open for the symposium ‘Universities and their Contested Pasts’ to be held in the Samuel Alexander Building, University of Manchester (U.K.) on September 11 and 12, 2019.

For many years, universities and their pasts were seen as a benign backwater. However, more recently, attention has been drawn to the uncomfortable pasts of some of these institutions.  This two-day event seeks to explore and understand universities’ difficult pasts (both distant and recent) and how we should deal with them. The panels will consider the themes of: studying slavery; universities and empire; institutions and legacies; exhibitions; universities and the state.

The keynote speakers are Professor Astrid Swenson (Bath Spa University) and Dr Chris Renwick (University of York).  The full provisional programme is outlined below.

Registration closes on 27 August 2019.

Please register here


The event will be held in the University of Manchester’s Samuel Alexander Building (no.67 on the campus map) Lecture Theatre.

Provisional Programme: Universities and their Contested Pasts

Wednesday 11 September, 2019

13:00 Registration, tea and coffee, Samuel Alexander Building Foyer

14:00 Welcome and introduction, followed by keynote speaker Prof Astrid Swenson (Bath Spa University), Samuel Alexander Building Lecture Theatre

15:00 Paper session 1: Studying Slavery

Natalie Zacek and Matthew Stallard (University of Manchester): “Scholarship Funded by Slavery – Tracing the Cotton and the Cash that Built the University of Manchester.”

Richard Stone (University of Bristol): “Tobacco and Chocolate, Slavery and Abolition: Tracing the University of Bristol’s Connections to Enslavement.”

Alexander Scott and Andy Bevan (University of Wales – Trinity St David): “The Early History of the University College at Lampeter: An Agenda for a Bicentenary.”

16:30 Panel Discussion

Panel: Neil Curtis (Head of University Museums and Archives, University of St Andrews); Stephen Mullen (University of Glasgow); Natalie Zacek (University of Manchester).

17:40 Drinks Reception, Christie Bistro

Thursday 12 September

08:30 Registration, tea and coffee, Samuel Alexander Building Foyer

09:00 Keynote – Dr Chris Renwick (University of York), Samuel Alexander Building Lecture Theatre

10:00 Paper Session 2: Universities and Empire

Ian Harper and Roger Jeffery (University of Edinburgh): “Late Victorian ‘scientific racism’ and the University of Edinburgh’s collection of skulls from India.”

Sandip Kana (King’s College London): “The failure of Indianisation: Situating Roorkee Civil Engineering College in the anti-colonial project.”

Dongkyung Shin (King’s College London):A Transnational University Issue from Rhodesia to London.”

11:30 Break

11:50 Paper Session 3: Exhibitions

Lola Sanchez-Jauregui (The Hunterian Museum): “Curating Discomfort in the Hunterian Museum.”

Sue Donnelly (London School of Economics): “LSE 1969: marking the 50th anniversary of the LSE ‘Troubles.'”

12:50 Lunch

13:50 Paper Session 4: Institutions and Legacies

Eric Lybeck (University of Manchester): “The Forgotten Origins of American Academia in Germany.”

Joe Cain (University College London): “Eugenics, Karl Pearson, and the Legacy of Anglo-Saxon Nativism at UCL.”

Kevin Grace (University of Cincinnati): “Positioning the Facts: The Archivist’s Duty and the University of Cincinnati’s Racial Heritage.”

15:20 Break

15:40 Paper Session 5: Universities and the State

Keith Vernon (University of Central Lancashire):Contesting Control? Universities, the state and the marketization of higher education in England.”

Tatjana Šarić (Croatian State Archives): “The University of Zagreb Under Surveillance of Supreme Power – League of Communists of Croatia 1959 – 1964.”

Josh Patel (University of Warwick): “The welfare state and liberal economic thought in the Robbins Committee (1961-63): an uncomfortable alliance?”

17:00 Closing Remarks

Call for Papers: Universities and their contested pasts

Event: 11 & 12 September 2019.  Deadline for abstracts: 31 May 2019.
Samuel Alexander Building, University of Manchester (U.K.)

Please note the deadline for submissions has now passed.

For many years, universities and their pasts were seen as a benign backwater – histories of institutions of public benefit of interest to alumni, staff and academic historians. However, in recent years, attention has been drawn to the uncomfortable past of some of these institutions.

Protests around the world have prompted universities associated with colonialism, slavery and inequality to face up to, and reconsider, their own histories. Presently, institutions are subject to calls from inside and outside their own walls to answer uncomfortable questions about: where their funding has its origins, the land they occupy and the provenance of their cultural and heritage collections.

This two-day event seeks to understand universities’ uncomfortable pasts (both distant and recent) and how we should deal with them. We invite papers that consider themes such as slavery and colonialism; racism, sexism and discrimination; research and the curriculum; university museums and collections; the connection between universities and the state. Papers may address questions such as:

  • How should we approach and seek to understand the contested histories of universities?
  • How have and should universities respond?
  • Do universities have more of a responsibility to address their pasts than other types of organisations?
  • What impacts do difficult histories have on the ‘brand’ and public perception of a university?

The University’s Research Group on University History warmly welcomes participation from across the academic disciplines, from heritage practitioners and from university managers and policymakers. We invite 20-minute papers that consider the difficult pasts of universities in all parts of the world, addressing a variety of time frames and that are academic and practice-based. The questions listed above are indicative only, rather than prescriptive.

Abstracts of a maximum of 250 words and a short bio should be submitted to universityhistories@manchester.ac.uk by 31 May 2019.

Please register here