The HA Conference 2016 - Report

Conference Report

By Paula Kitching, published 15th June 2016

An excellent weekend

In May the HA office uprooted and transferred to Harrogate – yes it was annual conference! Now historians can occasionally be accused of not being good with change and that might be why some were confused that we held it a week later than usual – but they weren’t as confused as the HA team when we walked into the Harrogate hotel to find Christmas happening.

The snow covered fir trees and gifts everywhere soon made sense when we realised it was a toy fair ready for the festive season. As Father Christmas was packed away the HA banners went up and the delegates for HAconf16 began to arrive.

Proceedings started the next day with HA President Professor Justin Champion lecture that challenged most people’s ideas about the transmission of the plague and aspects of its social impact. That was the start of a whole series of enlightening lectures, talks and workshops that made this year’s conference one of the most engaging and idea generating yet.

All the keynote lectures had covered different historical subjects, time periods and themes providing something for everyone. Edward Paice, Director of the Africa Research Institute,  introduced many people to a whole new and tragic area of the First World War, that of events in East Africa. On Saturday morning, Janina Ramirez dazzled us with a fascinating and engaging exploration of early British saints and the influences on Anglo-Saxon Christianity.    

Elsewhere in a full programme of lectures and workshops delegates could pick career advancing and supporting pathways to help with primary teaching or the new challenges posed at secondary level for examinations. For others the conference was an opportunity to just pick the workshops they thought would be interesting. Some of the leading history lecturers from Leeds made the journey across to Harrogate to cover anything from the Spanish Civil War to migration.

Of course for those who thought the choice was just too much then they could wander around the exhibition space and visit the stalls – if you leave conference and you haven’t collected a free pen (or dozen) then something is wrong. However, the freebie that received the most praise was this year’s HA conference bag – a royal blue one, you can only get it if you went to conference.

Thanks go out to our sponsors AQA and Edexcel and all the exhibition holders. But none of it could have happened without the continued enthusiasm of historians - amateur and professional, teachers and lecturers. We look forward to seeing many of them next year and lots of new people. Next year we will be in Manchester and we will be back to our usual weekend in May – so no Christmas but lots of history!