This is a report from our third year History student, Micky Gibbard, based on his experiences at the recent Protest History workshop, hosted on 2nd March at the University of Gloucestershire.
The weekend of the 2nd of March saw the third and final workshop in a series on popular protest history. For me, taking HS340: Case Studies in Rural Social Protest, c. 1815 – 1939, it was a strange experience to not only listen to, but meet and socialise with historians I had been studying throughout second semester – and especially given that I had just handed in an assignment that seemed tailored to the work of Dr Carl Griffin, one of the chief organisers!
Arriving at Park earlier than I care to remember on the Saturday morning there was a lot of manual lifting – rearranging chairs and tables – not unlike my usual Saturday morning café job. It was around 9am that bodies began to filter in and prepare for the papers they were to present (a full timetable of the papers given can be found here).
After a stimulating and head-hurty, deeply theoretical discussion on the meaning of place and space in relation to protest history (‘Re-turning to Edward Thompson’ – where would Iain be without him!?), the papers began. I will confess, most of what was said went way over my head, but the papers painted some interesting and colourful case studies. For me, Dr James Baker’s study of the Old Price Riots at the Covent Garden Theatre, 1809, and the interesting addition of Prof David Mead’s talk on how place and space play a role in constructing forms of protest – making protest history contemporaneous, reminding us that it is incredibly relevant today. Perhaps most memorable of the day was the rather impassioned debate following Dr Simon Sandall’s study of protest in the Forest of Dean. A bone of contention with the terminology used (‘rights’ and ‘privileges’ of roaming sheep) brought the wroth of the Forest of Dean Local History Society, which although highly entertaining is useful in reminding historians of the role enthusiasts play in the study of own discipline. After the closing comments by the main organiser, a pub trip ensued – and it is common knowledge that academics like a good drink! Many hours of drink, a delicious meal and even more drinking later, it was time to retire and prepare for the meeting the following morning.
A very groggy Sunday morning meeting to discuss the future direction of the protest history series was my first experience of academic life outside of lectures (lecturers are very busy sorts, it seems!). Two hours of batting ideas back and forth had many outcomes but there were two resounding conclusions: go international, and publish a collected volume. The success of this lecture series, all three workshops that is, prove that the study of protest history is certainly a very active niche within broader disciplines of social, political and economic history and over the coming months Iain and his colleagues will be planning another triple series of workshops with a main event to close.
My first, and hopefully not last, experience of academic life was a fantastic weekend, meeting many interesting people with huge variety of interests, not to mention the usefulness of workshop itself. If you have a chance to attend any of the next series, any paper presentations or historical conferences, I implore you to attend – if not help out. It is of great worth to your experience as a history student at UoG or any other university!