Reading Branch Programme

Reading Branch Programme 2021-22



As we go to press the question of when public meetings will again become possible is an open one. Hence we cannot, at the moment, say for sure how the programme will be delivered. Our preference will be for time-honoured live lectures to a live audience, but that will depend on the prevailing public health wisdom, and the policy of our hosts, Reading School, concerning the resumption of meetings of outside organisations. Failing that we shall continue last year’s practice of Zoom meetings, of which we now have far more experience than we did at the start. And those who attended will know how excellent and popular they were.



Friday 15 October 2021, 8.00pm (AGM 7.30pm.)

Dr Daniel Renshaw, University of Reading

A Welcoming Country? Continuities and ruptures in anti-migrant sentiment in Britain from the beginning of the nineteenth century to today.

Contemporary anti-migrant polemics in press and politics tend to reflect a short memory. The migrant ‘crisis’, at whatever chronological point, is invariably depicted as unique and unprecedented, the migrants under attack compared unfavourably with past groups who are retrospectively depicted as having contributed positively to British society. Employing a longer historical perspective, I will identify some of the key tropes used in anti-migrant discourse from the movement out of Ireland to Britain in the first half of the nineteenth century to early twenty-first century fears around ‘illegal’ immigration. What has remained stable and what has changed? How does this affect both language and state policy?



Friday 12 November 2021, 7.30 p.m.

Dr Lucy Wooding, Lincoln College, Oxford

The Crisis of the Tudor Throne 


In the turbulent years between the 1540s and the 1560s, Tudor England witnessed disputed successions; rapid religious change; conflict and persecution; war and rebellion; famine and disease. The country was ruled in turn by an ageing despot, a young boy, and for the first time by one queen regnant, and then another. This era has traditionally been viewed as one of crisis, with the dynasty, the government and the country all in turmoil. This lecture will explore the notion of ‘mid-Tudor crisis’ and ask whether our preoccupation with upheaval and disaster has obscured some of the striking notes of resilience and continuity exhibited by Tudor politics and society during these years.



Friday 3 December 2021, 7.30pm
Professor Janet Burton (Emerita), Trinity St David, University of Wales.

The King and the Monks: John and the Cistercians


Since the foundation of their first abbey in England in 1128 the Cistercian Order there had grown in numbers, influence, and wealth. Monastic chroniclers of the reign of King John helped to build the reputation of the king as an oppressor of the Cistercians, and traditional historiography has followed this line. This has led to a distorted view of the relationship between the king and the monks, and this lecture looks more broadly at John’s relations with the Cistercians, as well as the monks’ reaction to the interdict, and routine interactions of the English White Monks with the international Order of which they were a part.



Friday 14 January 2022, 7.30pm
Dr Ian Archer, Keble College, Oxford

Experiencing Plague in Seventeenth-Century London.


How did people understand and experience a pandemic in the seventeenth-century? How much did people know about the plague? How did plague affect different social groups? How effective were the measures taken by the authorities to deal with the plague? This lecture won't seek lessons from the past, but some of its messages will resonate with our recent experience.



Friday 11 February 2022, 7.30pm
Dr Song-Chuan, University of Warwick

Who killed the Chinaman: the 1807 trial of 52 British sailors in Canton.


Liao A-ting of Canton was killed in 1807, allegedly by a British sailor, in a chaotic brawl involving sailors and townspeople. The Chinese government halted the huge Cantonese trade with British merchants in products that included tea, porcelain, and silk, seeking to induce the East India Company to identify and hand over the culprit. The case encapsulates the world of understanding, misunderstanding, similarities, and differences between China and Britain that resonate across time in the long history of Sino-Western interactions. The talk will include the perspectives of Canton townspeople, foreign workers, and British sailors, in a look at the ways that the social, political, and economic structure of the port contributed to Liao’s killing. It opens out the larger history of the role of working people in global trade.  



Friday 11 March 2022, 7.30pm
Dr Conor Morrissey, King’s College, University of London

Ireland and Revolution: 1919-1923


As we approach the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, this lecture will look back on the period between the outbreak of the Irish War of Independence, and the end of the Civil War. It will discuss the factors which led to the outbreak of violence in 1919, the course of the conflict, the partition of Ireland, and the ways in which historians have debated why the revolution happened and how it was fought.