Manchester Branch History

Branch History

By Valerie Moreland, published 26th April 2011

Manchester Branch is proud of its role in the foundation of the Historical Association (HA) in 1906.  Professor Thomas Frederick Tout and others at Manchester University had been discussing the idea of forming an Association to promote the teaching of a more relevant and vibrant form of history than was currently available in universities and schools, and to convince the educated public of the importance of history in the life of the nation.  Indeed a history of the Manchester Branch of the HA would be incomplete without reference to Manchester University which played a major role in the development of economic and social history in Britain, and also provided the Branch with most of its meeting venues and officers until the mid-1990s.

Professor T F Tout was Manchester University's fourth Professor of History from 1890-1925. He had been on the verge of establishing a Manchester based history group, but on hearing that Professor C H Firth from Oxford was already planning a national venture in London, Professor Tout readily supported it, becoming in 1906 a founder member of the HA and one of its first Vice-Presidents.

The Manchester Branch, one of the first branches to be formed, was founded on 19 January 1907 with 63 members, and its constitution was framed by a young historian, V H Galbraith.  Its inaugural lecture was given by Professor Firth, with the other lecture of its first season being by Professor Tout himself. Professor Tout's paper, entitled Outlines versus Periods, was delivered on 9 February 1907 and was included in the HA's fourth published leaflet.  In January 1910 Professor Tout became the HA's second President, chairing the Association's Annual Meeting held in Manchester from 11-13 January 1912.  This was the first time the HA's Annual Meeting had taken place outside London and, according to Association records, was considered a great success, "thanks in large part to the enterprise and energy of the Manchester Branch and the lavish hospitality its members afforded or procured".

Other frequent lecturers at the Manchester Branch at this time were the eminent medievalist, A G Little, who was also a founder member of the HA, together with Professor George Unwin who followed his Manchester colleagues in  communicating history to a wider audience outside the university.  The Manchester Branch report for 1912/13 states that "Professor Unwin... reconstructed a part of the medieval economic history in an interesting lecture entitled, A Venerable Tradition: Edward III, the Father of Commerce, in which he portrayed Edward III rather in the light of a step-father". 

From these august beginnings, the Branch dedicated itself to its mission of communicating history to as wide an audience as possible, and a regular feature of its activities was the development of links with other interested societies and organisations, and this continued well into the 1930s.  Joint meetings became a regular feature of Branch lecture programmes. One of the first such to be recorded was held in 1911 in Bolton with the Bolton Educational Society when Miss Hilda Johnstone read a paper on The Seven Deadly Sins of Historical Teaching.  

In November 1912 the educational bodies in Manchester formed into a federation called the Associated Educational Societies (AES), and as part of its 1914/15 lecture programme, the Manchester Branch of the HA took part in a joint meeting with the federation to welcome the newly appointed Director of Education in Manchester, Mr Spurley Hey. In 1916 the first lecture of the season was held with the AES in Manchester when the Vice Chancellor of Manchester University, Sir Henry Miers, spoke on the school curriculum.  The 1917/18 programme contained three joint meetings, one with the AES when the President of the Board of Education spoke on his scheme for educational reform, another with the Manchester University Philosophical Society when the Rev M Thackray read a paper on State Sovereignty, and the third with the Manchester Classical Association on Some lines of Continuity between Ancient and Medieval History.

In 1919 the Manchester Branch President, Mr R E Jones, assisted in drawing up a course of history for certain Continuation Schools organised by employers, and an important feature of the 1919/20 Branch programme was a joint meeting with the English Association when Miss A Jackson and Professor F W Powicke led a discussion on The Place of English and History in Continuation Schools.

As part of the Branch programme in 1921/22, a joint meeting was held with the local branch of the Geographical Association when Professor Tout spoke on The Relations of History and Geography.  Of particular note in the 1922/23 lecture programme was a joint meeting with the University's Historical Society when Professor Eugene Deprez of the University of Rennes spoke in French on Les Croisades: Leurs Causes et Consequences.  Another highlight, this time in the 1925/26 lecture programme, was a joint meeting held at the invitation of the Ancient Monuments Society, when Mr J A Gotch gave a lantern lecture on English Domestic Architecture.

During this early period, further efforts were made to extend the Branch's reach to wider audiences.  In the 1921/22 lecture programme for instance, three of the six meetings were held in Hyde, Bury and Stockport "in order to increase the usefulness of the branch" (Branch Annual Report 1921/22).  The Annual Report noted that a branch was subsequently formed in Bury, with another starting in Stockport in November 1922 after further meetings were held there and in Hyde. 

From the Branch's foundation another important feature of its programmes was the school curriculum and other topics of particular interest to teachers.  In 1907 Miss S A Burstall spoke on The Teaching of History in Canada and the United States.  Then in 1908/09 Professor Muir gave a talk on The Beginnings of the Systematic Study of History with Boys and Girls, and the 1910/11 programme devoted one evening to discussing examinations in history and another to the teaching of history in secondary schools.  The Branch annual report of 1915/16 during World War I reported that the only event that year was a debate at Manchester University on the motion that, Imperial history should play a predominant part in the history curriculum of English schools. The motion was proposed by Professor Muir (Branch President) and opposed by Professor Tout.  Much lively discussion ensued and the motion was only carried by the casting vote of the Chairman!  Perhaps some of the keenness of the debate could be attributed to the fact that a few years later Professor Muir spent some time as a Liberal MP.

Of particular note in the 1922/23 Branch annual report was a series of lectures mainly intended for teachers in elementary schools in Manchester and Salford on The Teaching of History given by Mr H Allsopp, HMI, resulting in a considerable rise in Branch membership from 71 in 1922 to 132 by 1924.  Outreach to teachers continued with a meeting on 7 November 1924 to discuss the Northern Universities Joint Matriculation Board School Certificate and Higher Certificate examinations.  Other topics of professional interest to teachers during this period included the teaching of local history, the library and history teaching and the case of the broadcast history lesson - the last being initiated by representatives of the BBC.

An interesting innovation in Branch programmes occurred in 1924/25 with a series of lectures given by specialists in particular periods of history, starting with Miss M Deanesly on The Approach to the Study of the Anglo-Saxon Period, and followed in 1925/26 with three lectures covering the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and some aspects of English colonial history. 

In 1925 another important development took place.  Manchester University's History Department offered Manchester Branch members the opportunity to join post-graduate classes in history, and the University Council recognised HA membership as qualifying students for exemption from the additional registration fee paid by occasional students.  This was an exciting development that would enable further co-operative study.

The Branch annual report for the next period, 1927/28, gave details of a further innovation in the Branch programme.  This was the introduction of a circle for the study of local history which met fortnightly albeit for a short period.  However, interest in local history remained strong and between 1931 and 1932, a sub-committee was formed which published a set of Local History Illustrations for use in the Manchester district.  The series consisted of thirty large cards suitable for class use or wall illustration, with one hundred pictures, each with brief explanations, providing a complete pictorial outline of local history.  An introductory note was provided by Professor E F Jacob of Manchester University.  The large number of orders the Branch received for the Illustrations provided ample evidence of the venture's great success.

Throughout the 1920s most Branch meetings, including those held jointly with other organisations, continued to be held at Manchester University.  However, during the 1930s notable innovations were the increasing number of meetings held elsewhere, such as at Manchester Grammar School and the College of Technology, and an increasing number of trips and visits which were introduced into Branch programmes.

Excursions were made to places of historical interest such as the John Rylands Library and Chethams Hospital School in Manchester, Whalley and its abbey, Ribchester, Clitheroe Castle, Browsholme Hall, Chester and York, some of these outings being made with other societies such as the Manchester Branch of the Geographical Association and the Ancient Monuments Society.  Another highlight was a visit to Queen's Park Museum where a discussion was held on History Teaching in Manchester Museums and its Relationship to School Work.  This topic aroused great interest and the opening paper was published in History, Vol XVIII, No 70, July 1933.

At the Branch Annual General Meeting for the year 1933/34, an important topic for discussion was The Aims of the Manchester Branch.  This led to the formation of three groups to undertake activities outside the general lecture programme; one group to do further work in connection with local history, a second - a Schools Committee - to assist history teachers in various ways, and a third - an Examinations Committee - to deal with problems arising from history papers in School Certificate and Higher School Certificate examinations.

Of particular note and great interest in 1936 were a meeting of all the North West Branches of the HA held in Manchester on 2 May and a night tour of Manchester starting at 9.30pm and finishing at 4.00am the following morning.  This was a hugely successful outing enjoyed by over a hundred members and friends, and covered visits to a newspaper office, telephone exchange and GPO sorting office.

In January 1939, the HA held its 33rd Annual Meeting in Manchester.  However, the start of World War II later that year had a considerable impact on Manchester Branch activities, due to the evacuation of a large number of members' families.  Meetings were still held however, dealing mainly with current problems in India, America, France and Russia, and with the Joint Board's proposed changes to the History paper and plans for a new History syllabus.

Although membership increased after the war, due, it was thought, to a rise in people's interest in historical events, attendances at meetings fluctuated considerably especially during the late 1940s and early 1950s.  In fact only two lecture meetings were held in the 1946/47 season due to disappointing numbers. Attempts were made to increase member participation, with meetings being held in collaboration with the Extramural Department of the University in a course of lectures on visual aids for teachers, and with meetings held at other venues such as the Didsbury Teachers Training College when lectures covered a wide range of topics from Greek History 1200-800BC to the Hatting Industry 1750-1850. The Branch Annual Report for 1952/53 recorded improving attendances at lectures, whilst membership steadily increased from 180 to 200 by 1955.

On 19 January 1957 Manchester Branch celebrated its 50th anniversary when over 100 members and friends gathered at Manchester University to hear a lecture on The Historical Scholar and the Public given by Professor E F Jacob who had been President of the Manchester Branch for eight years in the late 1930s and early 1940s.  This was followed in 1958 by a well attended lecture by visiting American Professor, Wallace E Davies, who spoke on Pearl White and The Perils of the Social Historian.  In March 1959, the Branch held a very successful one-day conference in co-operation with the School of Education on The Teaching of History.  Due to these successes, further new ventures were introduced, such as a ‘Brains Trust' in the 1959/60 programme which was attended by some 250 pupils from the Sixth Forms of local grammar schools, followed by the introduction in the 1960/61 programme of a Sixth Form Conference, held at the University, which attracted over 600 pupils.

The Sixth Form Conferences were an immediate and long-lasting success, the last one being held in 1996.  At the first Conference Professor Koenigsberger spoke on Revolutions and Mr Barry Hollingsworth on What Happened to the Ideals of the Russian Revolution?  So successful was the Conference that, in the following two years, two Conferences per year had to be held to accommodate the large numbers of attendees - 780 in the first year and 900 in the following year.  The Conferences covered topics such as France and Algeria by Dr Hampson, A Divided Germany by Mr North, and Russia and America: The Superpowers and their Isolationist Backgrounds by Professors Costello and Cunliffe, with the last Sixth Form Conference in 1996 discussing the topic The Dictators in four lectures, three given by academics and one by an ‘A'Level Chief Examiner. 

The Branch's Annual Report for 1963/64 records a further innovation, that of a Secondary Teachers' Seminar, with discussions focussing on ‘O' Level and ‘A' Level examinations, the history syllabus, local history and visual methods.  In 1966 a joint conference was held with the University School of Education concerning the problems in teaching history.  However, by 1967 the series of Teachers' Seminars had ended due to lack of ongoing support.

By the end of the 1960s, although Branch membership had risen to 240, there was a marked drop in attendances.  The Sixth Form Conferences continued to attract large numbers, however, with topics ranging from Manchester's Waterways to Problems of a Southern Historian in dealing with Negro History.  Meetings were still held mainly at the University, with joint meetings remaining an important feature of Branch programmes, attracting reasonable numbers. 

1969 saw the introduction of another, exciting initiative. With sponsorship from the Manchester Branch of the HA, a collection of documents was published entitled, Manchester Manuscripts I, compiled from source material in the Manchester Central Library by Constance Francis, a principal lecturer in History at Didsbury College of Education. The collection was designed to interest secondary schools, top classes of primary schools and the general reader.  In all, three Archive Teaching Units were published and made available exclusively through the HA;  Unit 1, published in 1969 was Orphan Annie - accounts of life in the Manchester workhouse, extracts from Poor Law reports and the treatment of the pauper child by parish, employer and charitable organisation from the early eighteenth century to the mid-nineteenth century. This was followed by Unit 2, The Princes of Loom Street - an account of what life was like in the first half of the nineteenth century in a developing cotton town for families of cotton spinners.  The final document, Unit 3, was published in February 1982 and was called Quarry Bank Mill and Samuel Greg - an account of what life was like in and around a country cotton mill from 1780-1850.  (Quarry Bank Mill was situated in the agricultural village of Styal in Cheshire, south of Manchester.)   The Manuscripts were available only from the Manchester Branch and were a great success.

The 1970s started off well for the Branch.  Two particularly successful joint meetings were held with Manchester University Students History Society, one in the 1970/71 programme, when Dr R L Storey spoke on Double-dealers in Holy Orders and another in the following year's programme when Mrs M Rosser spoke on The Princes of Loom Street: Manchester Manuscripts No 2 - its completion and use in the classroom

Of particular interest at this time was the Manchester Association for the Teaching of History (MATH) which was formed by Martin Hunt of Manchester Branch and Raymond Flint, current Branch committee member.  Although MATH was comparatively short-lived, ceasing to function as an independent body by the end of the 1970s, its activities were continued by the Manchester Branch of the HA.  This reflected the HA's interest from its inception in the teaching of history as an important part of its function.

Unfortunately for the Branch, the 1970s witnessed a number of changes:  one quarter of new members were students who did not stay after they had finished their studies, the University of Manchester's role in the Branch diminished, and there was a sharp rise in HA membership fees from 1 October 1979, with more increases following.  Consequently membership and attendances suffered.  

For most of the 1970s the Branch President was Dr Alys L Gregory, Principal Lecturer at Didsbury College of Education, and she was assisted by two Honorary Vice-Presidents, Professor of Medieval History, John Roskell and Professor of Economic History, T S Willan, both from Manchester University.  They worked hard to boost membership and attendances. However, concerns about these continued into the 1980's until, on Dr Gregory's behalf, Martin Hunt (a lecturer at Didsbury College of Education, and Secretary of the Branch), appealed to the University's History Department to revive its active role in the HA.  

These problems were somewhat alleviated in the early 1980s when the Branch celebrated the 75th anniversary of the HA, marking the occasion in October 1981 with a special lecture on Edwardian Society and the Church, given by Professor K G Robbins of Glasgow University.  This was followed by the Branch's 75th anniversary celebrated with a special lecture on 19 January 1982, on New Light on Mary, Queen of Scots given by Professor G Batho of Durham University.

Despite the celebrations, membership and attendance concerns continued and were compounded by another difficulty - that of finding Branch officers - until by the mid-1980s the Branch was facing collapse.  At this point, Dr Frank O'Gorman (later Professor) of Manchester University's History Department fortunately stepped in together with Dr  Michael Rose (later Professor) and Dr John Breuilly, and they effectively rescued the Branch by agreeing to take turns in acting as Programme Secretary.  An extraordinary Annual General Meeting was held, with officers and a committee appointed, Dr O'Gorman taking on the post of Programme Secretary for the first year, and organising the lecture programme.  By December 1986 the Branch had managed to reverse its fortunes and boasted approximately 150 members.

In 1988 another major innovation took place at Manchester Branch - the establishment of Teachers' Group Meetings held at the Department of History at the University.   In April of that year, a circular had been distributed setting out the case for a teachers' forum in the Manchester area.  A number of teachers met and set out a programme of meetings.  These were to be held annually, the first series of three meetings in 1988 attracting some 15-25 teachers who heard presentations on topics of pressing concern to them, followed by questions which proved to be very intensive and valuable.  One of the three Teachers' Group meetings in 1990 consisted of a presentation by Mr J Hendy, a member of the History Working Group on the National Curriculum, who spoke on his report of the historical content of the national curriculum which had been published in January 1990.  That meeting was a landmark in that it enabled history teachers to register their opinions of the report directly to one of its authors.

In spite of continued efforts in the early 1990s to increase attendances by holding meetings at different venues around Manchester, such as at St Ambrose College and Loreto Grammar School in Altrincham, numbers fell once more.  

1996 was a watershed year for the Branch. Manchester University advised that it was no longer able to provide officers for the Branch.  Dr Breuilly had left to take up a Chair in Birmingham and both Professor Gorman and Professor Rose had become increasingly tied up with administrative and research projects.  Consequently the Branch found it even more difficult to attract officers to stand for election and members to attend meetings.  The situation deteriorated to such an extent that the then Branch Treasurer, Kevin McPhillips, had to ask the HA for support for the Sixth Form Conference.  In an effort to stimulate membership and attendances across all sectors, a whole-day Primary Teachers' Conference and a lecture plus visit for leisure members were also organised.  Meetings moved to other venues in the city centre for ease of access and finally, in order to keep the Branch alive, Mrs Irene Collins agreed to be President of the Branch, Mr Roy Hughes its Secretary and Mr Kevin McPhillips to continue as its Treasurer.       

From this time, the principal venue for Branch meetings was Manchester Central Library in St Peter's Square, and a major effort was made to stimulate attendance with a new initiative introduced into programmes - Special Events.  In 1996 a Special Event took the form of a lecture by Dr Chris Wrigley, President of the HA and Angela Cox, Former Head of Education at the National Portrait Gallery, who spoke at Manchester Central Library on William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites, followed by a tour of Manchester City Art Gallery.

In September 1997 one Special Event was a Cheshire Gentry Day in which Dr Philip Morgan of Keele University gave a talk, again in the Central Library, on Cheshire Gentlemen and Their Houses in the Middle Ages, followed by a coach trip to Adlington Hall in Cheshire.  This was followed in November 1997 by a Business Aristocracy Day, at which Dr Roger Lloyd-Jones of Sheffield Hallam University spoke on Manchester's business aristocracy in the nineteenth century, followed by a walk led by Rex Collins - In Search of King Cotton - which attracted some 27 members and friends. 

In early 1998 a further Special Event, a Gallery talk and tour led by Dr Rosalie David, was devoted to Costumes of Ancient Egypt, an exhibition currently running at the Manchester Museum.  This event was oversubscribed and some members unfortunately had to be turned away!  Then, later that year, 90 sixth formers turned out to hear a talk on The Trouble with Charles I, which was hosted by Manchester Grammar School.  Things were beginning to look up again.

In the 1998/99 programme, the lecture series started with Munich, Sixty Years On, given by Mr P M H Bell of Liverpool University.  This was a very successful meeting and was followed by a Special Event - Manchester and Its Music 1850-1939.  This took the form of a lecture by Dr Dave Russell from the University of Central Lancashire, followed by a tour of the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester (the new home of the Halle orchestra).

The Annual Report for 1998/99 records that the main objective of the Branch and its officers was to cater for a wide range of members.  Consequently some lectures were held mid-week at 5.00pm and others on a Saturday.  Difficulties persisted, however, as attendance numbers varied from month to month and every meeting seemed to attract a different audience.

In the present decade, a steady number (from 15-25 members and friends) attend meetings which are now held at the Manchester Cathedral Visitors' Centre on Saturdays, and the Branch calls frequently upon the History Departments of Manchester University, Manchester Metropolitan University and Salford University as well as others from the Midlands and Northern England universities for its speakers.

The Branch operates a varied programme of lectures, walks and visits.  These take place at weekends, and in recent years have been offered also to HA members from the Liverpool and Chester regions whose Branches have closed down, resulting in the Branch now being known as the Manchester (with Liverpool and Chester) Branch. The Branch's long list of notable speakers include Sir Ian Kershaw on Why did Nazi Germany fight to the bitter end?, Professor Marianne Elliott of Liverpool University on When God took sides:  Religion and Identity in Ireland, Professor Charles Esdaile, also of Liverpool University, on Spain 1808 - Iraq 2003, Dr Max Jones of Manchester University on Scott of the Antarctic: Explorer and Hero, and Professor Brian Maidment of Salford University on Comedy and Print Culture 1820-50.  In October 2010 the Branch was delighted to welcome Professor Anne Curry, the HA President, who gave an inspiring talk on Joan of Arc - Witch or Saint?

The Branch begins and ends its annual lecture programmes with popular weekend walks and visits of historical interest.  These attract a range of members and visitors,  but many of them, interestingly, do not attend Branch lectures. These events cover areas and topics such as Searching for Lowry in Salford, Exploring Worsley - "the birthplace of the 18th century transport revolution", Touring Manchester's Jewish Quarter with its museum and synagogue and Looking at Manchester's Wonderful Warehouses.  Attendees are enthusiastic, and new faces are welcomed.

The Branch pursues a lively and energetic Schools Programme. Sixth Form Conferences and Teachers Group Meetings no longer exist.  However, since 2006, thanks to the hard work of Mrs Irene Collins and other members of the Manchester Branch committee, the Branch has not only organised a Manchester heat in the HA's nation-wide bi-annual Great Debate, but has organised a Manchester Schools' History Debate in the intervening years.  Schools from a wide area - from Lancaster and Bolton to Audenshaw and Wilmslow, as well as from central Manchester - have taken part.  In 2006 our Branch winner came first in the national debate and in 2009 our winner was runner-up.  In that year the Manchester heat had more schools participating than all the London branches. Topics for the Manchester Schools' History Debates have ranged from: How might British society have progressed if the two World Wars had not happened? to Tudor England and Nazi Germany are extensively studied.  Justify another period of history equally worthy of study.  Such topics have allowed Sixth Formers to widen their historical horizons beyond their A-level courses and indulge their interests in a large range of local, national and international topics.

Another initiative of which the Manchester Branch is proud, is the establishment of the Norton Medlicott Medal. This was the brainchild of the Branch's current President, Professor Donald Read.  Professor Read, himself a strong advocate of the wide promotion of history, wished to see the introduction of an award to recognise excellent service to history, and as President-Elect of the HA in 1984-85, Professor Read suggested to the HA's Honorary Secretary, Harold Freakes, that one be established. The latter was very keen and suggested the medal be named after Norton Medlicott, one-time professor at London School of Economics and a past-President and Honorary Secretary of the HA. The medal was designed by the medal expert at the British Museum and made by Fattorini's in Birmingham.  It bears the inscription For service to history, and an image of Clio, the Greek muse of history.   

It was Mrs Irene Collins from Manchester Branch who, as the HA's National President, presented the medal to its first recipient, Professor Geoffrey Dickens, at the HA's Annual Conference dinner in Canterbury 1985. Professor Dickens was selected for his distinction as a writer, teacher and administrator. The medal continues to be awarded annually to a major contributor to history, who is not necessarily an HA member, with the 2011 recipient being Michael Wood, who has brought history to a wide audience through his excellent TV programmes, such as In Search of the Dark Ages and Story  of England. 

Professor Read's latest initiative has been to design and finance the making of a Presidential chain of office to be worn by HA Presidents when carrying out their official duties.  It will be worn in public for the first time by President, Professor Anne Curry, at the HA's Annual Conference in Manchester in May 2011.

In recent years too, the Branch has played a prominent role in a number of local campaigns: for example in rescuing the façade of the old Free Trade Hall in Manchester from demolition and, most recently, in working with the Peterloo Massacre Memorial Campaign Committee to secure a much overdue permanent memorial to the victims of the Peterloo Massacre.  This latter issue is ongoing, but the Campaign Committee and the Manchester Branch of the HA attended some useful meetings last year with Manchester City Council which expressed its commitment to the erection of a permanent memorial in St Peter's Square. 

In 2009 the city of Manchester initiated the Manchester Histories Festival.  This was held in Manchester Town Hall.  The Branch had a prominent stand which faced the centre aisle of the Banqueting Hall, attracting a great deal of attention from some 4,000 enthusiastic visitors to the event.

The history of the Manchester Branch has to include a further reference to the massacre of Peterloo which took place on 16 August 1819, and which ended tragically with 18 dead and some 650 injured after a charge by the Manchester Yeomanry and the Hussars in an attempt to disperse the throng.

On 18 October 2008, the Branch was to hold its first lecture of the season with Dr Robert Poole, Reader in History at the University of Cumbria, giving a talk entitled Peterloo Remembered: The Massacre and the Memorial.  Interested parties such as the Peterloo Massacre Memorial Campaign committee, its members and friends wished to join in, and the Branch meeting became a public meeting held in Manchester Town Hall Council Chamber to discuss the commemoration of Peterloo.  The meeting was reported by BBC TV North West News and chaired by Professor Donald Read who was then a committee member of the Manchester Branch.  He was also author of the book Peterloo, first published in 1958.  Mrs Irene Collins, the then President of the Manchester Branch spoke on a proposed design for a memorial, and it was after this meeting that discussions with the Campaign Committee, supported by the HA's Manchester Branch, and Manchester City Council began.

In 1996 Irene and Rex Collins from the Manchester Branch organised the very successful 90th Birthday Conference of the Historical Association held at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology.  In the course of the three days, delegates were offered three plenary lectures and a choice of nine seminars and nineteen visits and walks.  In May 2011, Manchester again hosts a national event - the Association's Annual Conference to be held at the Manchester Conference Centre.  Delegates new to the city will probably be amazed at the number and variety of historic buildings and amount of important industrial and social history Manchester has to offer, as were those who came in 1996.

The Branch today continues to support the study of history in schools and to communicate history to as wide an audience as possible through its programme of talks and visits and its interest in local historical issues. To date the Branch is fortunate in obtaining officers when required, but has an ongoing difficulty in attracting larger attendances at its lectures and visits. There is much to learn from a study of the Branch's history, however, and more initiatives are being considered to assist in increasing member attendances. 

The Manchester Branch has enjoyed an illustrious past, and through the years has been associated with a number of distinguished historians.  It has been particularly successful in its activities with schools - the Manchester Manuscripts, the Sixth Form Conferences and, most recently, the Schools' Debates. It has also shown itself capable of adapting to perceived needs - for example in the establishment of a local history circle in the late 1920s and of Teachers' Group Meetings in the late 1980s. It also has a commendable number of other initiatives to its name, and the continued aim of its officers and committee is for the Branch to fulfil an equally memorable and innovative role in the future.