Tag Archives: Birkbeck Effects

200th Anniversary Birkbeck Effects: Richard Evans, professor of British history

Richard Evans’ seminal work is his three-volume The Third Reich trilogy, documenting the rise and fall of Hitler’s regime in comprehensive detail. He was professor and head of department during his time at Birkbeck, before briefly stepping into the role of Acting Master during Tessa Blackstone’s appointment to Tony Blair’s government. He returned to Birkbeck in 2018 as Visiting Professor. 

Evans was educated at Oxford University, where he honed his historical acumen and became a proponent of social history as opposed to a follower of the “great man theory of history”. This led to his characteristic approach to social historical analysis focusing on modern German and European history, which transformed the study of the discipline during his lifetime. His interests have ranged from studies of German criminals, transferable diseases, capital punishment, the psychology of mobs, and witchcraft.  

Evans’ testimony was vital in Deborah Lipstadt’s defence against libel claims brought by David Irving who she said had falsified and mishandled historical evidence to exonerate Hitler. She was found innocent based on the evidence Evans brought to uphold her statements.  


200th Anniversary Birkbeck Effects: Reginald Francis Clements, poet

A theological student at Birkbeck when the First World War was declared, Clements enlisted early in the University and Public Schools Brigade, which later merged into the Royal Fusiliers. Injured while on guard duty at Arras by a stray wire, he wrote poetry during his recuperation. He later published his poems in Salisbury Plain and Other Poems. His style was along more heroic and romantic lines than the more cynical war poets that are lauded today, such as Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon – though at the time it was more fashionable to revere great sacrifice on behalf of the “Motherland.” Having been recognised with the Military Cross for gallantry in 1918, Clements died five months later during the Battle of Amiens. 


200th Anniversary Birkbeck Effects: Ramsay MacDonald, Prime Minister of Great Britain and Ireland 1929-35

Ramsay MacDonald was one of three founders of the British Labour party. Before going into politics, he studied for a scientific career at Birkbeck, but ill health interrupted his examinations and changed the course of his life. He remained a lifelong advocate of Birkbeck’s mission to educate working people.  

In 1894 he became a member of the Independent Labour Party and, later, Secretary of the Labour Representation Committee. When the Labour party formed, he was elected Labour MP for Leicester and became party leader. He took on the prime ministerial position after a vote of no confidence in the Conservative government in 1924 led King George V to call on MacDonald to form a minority government. This was short-lived but he again became prime minister five years later.  

He presided over some of the most turbulent years in British history, including the Great Depression and the rise of German Nazism. He was criticised for abandoning the Labour government to lead a National Government formed mostly of Conservatives in 1931 and for his pacifism in the face of the Hitler regime, but more recently scholars have praised his astute decision-making and socialist policies. 


200th Anniversary Birkbeck Effects: Philip Dewe, Vice-Master

Professor Philip Dewe was Professor of Organisational Behaviour in the Department of Organizational Psychology at Birkbeck. Having joined the College from Massey University in his native New Zealand in 2000, for 11 years Professor Dewe also gave outstanding service to Birkbeck as Vice-Master, stepping down from the role in summer 2014. 

Philip was a much-loved member of the Birkbeck community for many years.  He drove the Stratford project while also acting for many years as head of department for Organizational Psychology.  Despite his busy role, Philip made time for everyone, and greatly inspired those who knew or worked with him. 


200th Anniversary Birkbeck Effects: Patrick Maynard Stuart Blackett, Physicist and Nobel laureate

Patrick Blackett was an accomplished British scientist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1948. He joined Birkbeck to head the physics department and to run his own laboratory.  

Although he was only at Birkbeck between 1933 and 1937 (when he left for a Chair at the University of Manchester), these were important years for him as a scientist and a leftist commentator. For Birkbeck, Blackett’s appointment would have been a major coup, especially since he brought with him a sizable grant from The Royal Society part of which was used to design an electromagnet. The largest magnet in the UK, “Josephine” weighed 11,000 kilos and was originally used to “study the energy spectrum of the cosmic rays”. It was so unwieldy that a wooden hut had to be constructed on the land set aside for building Malet Street.  

Along with J. D. Bernal, Aldous Huxley, and Leonard Woolf, Blackett organised the “For Intellectual Liberty” group, a popular front movement aiming to publicize the difficulties experienced by German Jews. He also established with Bernal the Academic Assistance Council, which continues today under its new name of Council for At-Risk Academics (CARA), aiming to assist academics fleeing tyrannical regimes. 


200th Anniversary Birkbeck Effects: Nazanin Derakhshan, professor of experimental psychopathology and founder of Centre for Building Resilience in Cancer

Birkbeck has been at the forefront of work to improve the quality of life for women with breast cancer through evidence-based research into the best ways to reduce anxiety and depression. 

Professor Nazanin Derakhshan led this work through Birkbeck’s Building Resilience in Breast Cancer (BRiC) Research Centre until recently, a centre she founded in 2015 after her own diagnosis of breast cancer. The Centre has helped many women who have been in direct contact with it to address some of the emotional challenges of breast cancer, and it has also reached thousands more indirectly through an ever-growing community of breast cancer survivors who have benefited from the Centre’s immensely influential research and continue to build their own mutually-supportive networks. 


200th Anniversary Birkbeck Effects: Mike Hough, co-founder and director of Institute for Crime and Justice Policy Research

Professor Hough is the former (and co-founding) Director of the Institute for Crime & Justice Policy Research (ICPR), which is based in the School of Law at Birkbeck. Professor Hough was instrumental in bringing the Institute from King’s College London to Birkbeck in 2010 and directed it for more than 20 years. Before moving to academia in 1994, he was a senior researcher in the Home Office for twenty years, co-designing the British Crime Survey in 1981. He was President of the British Society of Criminology from 2008 until 2011.  

Professor Hough’s research interests have been many and varied, from policing and public perceptions of crime and punishment, crime measurement and crime trends, and drug-related crime; to sentencing, the rehabilitation of offenders, desistance theory, restorative justice and procedural justice theory. He has around 300 publications.

Professor Hough worked with the Prison Reform Trust on the growth of imprisonment, on sentencing and sentencing guidelines, on children in custody and on the unfairness of the indeterminate sentence of Imprisonment for Public Protection.

Among his many achievements is fostering collaboration between British and other European criminologists. 


200th Anniversary Birkbeck Effects: Mike Bintley, lecturer and personal tutor in English

Mike Bintley is a Senior Lecturer in the School of creative arts, culture and communication. 

Mike’s teaching focuses on the literature, material culture, and archaeology of medieval England and Scandinavia, with research interests in landscape, environment, settlements, and plant-life. He joined Birkbeck in 2018, after teaching at UCL, Oxford, and Canterbury Christ Church University. 

One of his BA English Foundation students says: “I struggled a lot in school with bad health and it’s taken me a while to return to education, but Mike was always compassionate and patient and I can’t fault him in the slightest. He has also won the personal tutor of the year award. If I ever had any questions or concerns, Mike was more than happy to assist, and was attentive – he seems to care deeply for his students’ welfare. I seldom waited long for a response and always felt able to reach out. On top, he is clearly passionate about his subject and any student lucky enough have him as their personal tutor is extremely privileged. He is an immeasurable asset to the university, and I hope he is aware of the impact he has left on myself and other students.” 


200th Anniversary Birkbeck Effects: Michael O’Neill, Chair of Citigroup and CEO of Bank of Hawaii

Michael O’Neill is an experienced financial services executive who has led major financial institutions in the United States and elsewhere. He has a formidable reputation for turning around businesses that were experiencing difficulties and in need of restructuring.  According to bankdirector.com, O’Neill is “one of banking’s most successful turnaround artists”. 

He is also a former Birkbeck student, moving back to London in the mid 2000s juggling evening classes to study the history of Early Modern Europe. 

Career highlights include being Chief Financial Officer of the Continental Bank Corporation in Chicago (1993-1995), Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer of the Bank of America in San Francisco (1995-1998), Chief Executive Officer of Barclays PLC (1999), and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Bank of Hawaii Corporation in Honolulu (2000-2004).  

He joined the Board of Directors of Citigroup in New York to help lead Citigroup through the Great Financial Crisis. Citi is the leading global bank, with around 200 million customer accounts. It does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions. From 2012 to 2018, O’Neill served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Citigroup.  


200th Anniversary Birkbeck Effects: Mia Cooman, Law student

Mia Cooman received her Law degree from Birkbeck and personifies the ‘Birkbeck effect’. She became a graduate trainee at Vardags law firm in September 2023 having previously worked for them as a Client Relations Specialist. She has garnered 10 years of experience providing managerial support at top tier law firms in the City. 

Vardags refers to itself as “an elite team of Britain’s best divorce lawyers specialising in high net worth, complex and international divorce cases. Vardags has handpicked the best and brightest from the UK’s leading universities, the Bar, other Magic Circle matrimonial law firms, and leading City firms to create an award-winning, ambitious team of divorce lawyers.”