In times of Pandemic

A BGRS Blog post by Nicola Clarke (PhD History)

I am a mature student, just beginning the second year of my PhD in Early Modern History, so I am currently preparing my first research chapter for my upgrade from MPhil to PhD. My research focuses on accuracy and the value of accuracy in seventeenth-century English news sources, with particular reference to the period between 1649 and 1685. It was always work that was going to have some resonance in the 21st century; “fake news” is very definitely not a modern invention.

One of my main topics looks at the 1665 Great Plague and the Fire of 1666. I am interested in whether both producers and consumers of news approached accuracy any differently when dealing with natural disaster as opposed to news about political, civil and military strife, of which there was a good deal in the seventeenth century. When I decided, with my supervisor (Dr Brodie Waddell), to make this my first research chapter, neither of us had any idea that I would be working on it during a 21st century pandemic and a national lockdown….. and that archive access might be a bit trickier than normal. So many thanks are due to Brodie for advice on how to deal with that and to all the archives and their staff that have re-opened in the past few months.

At the start of lockdown in March 2020 I decided to keep a “Covid journal” prompted by a number of academics I follow on twitter. I used to be a journalist and I am trying to be a social and cultural historian, so I figured that keeping a diary might give me some insight into those diary keepers, commonplace book authors and letter writers whose news consumption habits I was trying to understand.

Historians should be rightly cautious about making comparisons between the past and the present, so I am very careful about drawing direct comparisons.

However, despite the considerable advance in medical science and news technology in the last three hundred and fifty years, the search for reliable information and the debates about how to act on that information have a familiar ring.

People in seventeenth century London tracked the weekly Bills of Mortality, as we have all followed the graphs at the daily government news conferences. The efficacy of shutting people up in their houses once a case of plague was discovered was debated from the street to the medical journals. News came at the seventeenth century citizen from a huge range of sources, orally from neighbours, business partners, customers, from Authority – the King, Parliament and the City Authorities, from newspapers, which as well as editorial content, ran huge numbers of adverts for all sorts of plague cures and preventatives.

Those citizens of seventeenth century London, who remained in the city, had to juggle a lot of conflicting information, with the need to maintain daily life and work, and if I have learnt one thing in the last six months it is to have considerable respect for how they managed to do that.

Assessors sought to assess CREST Award projects from 14 to 19-year-old students

The British Science Association’s mission is to transform the diversity and inclusivity of science; to reach under-served audiences and increase the number of people who are actively involved and engaged in science. 

They are looking to recruit CREST assessors within the fields of: STEM, Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences and Economics. The CREST Awards is one of their flagship programmes for young people. CREST inspires and engages young people aged 5 to 19-years old with project-based STEM activities.

CREST Assessors sought

  • CREST assessors help to develop students’ interest and attitudes towards science, along with their scientific and project skills. They do this by assessing Silver and Gold projects against the CREST assessment criteria, providing constructive feedback and encouragement, and sharing their STEM expertise with young people. Often, project assessment is the first time students’ work is seen by someone other than their parents or teachers. Students value the opportunity to share their work with someone with expertise and/or a career in the STEM sector. 
  • Assessing projects can be done on a voluntary or paid basis paid (£4 per Silver Award assessment and £6 per Gold Award assessment), with approximately 5 hours’ worth of assessments per month. All assessment and feedback are carried out via our online platform. 
  • Assessors are trained how to assess projects and give effective feedback. Also, assessing CREST projects count towards STEM Ambassador volunteer hours.  

Further details

Please see the complete details for the role here.

Those interested should register their interest in this form and will be contacted shortly afterwards. If you have any questions, would like to know more about CREST Awards or have any thoughts on who else might be interested in the CREST assessor role, please contact Claudia Linan, Education Officer: t. +44 (0)20 7019 4969

Birkbeck PhD and MPhil Awards August 2019

Birkbeck Research Degrees awarded in August 2019

Birkbeck awards over 100 PhDs each year. In August 2019, eleven Birkbeck Researchers were awarded for their work in the following areas:

School of Arts

Department of English, Theatre and Creative writing

department of film, media and cultural studies

School of Business, Economics and Informatics

Department of Computer Science and Information Systems

DEPARTMENT OF Organizational Psychology

School of Law

Department of law

School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy

DEPARTMENT OF Applied Linguistics and Communication

Department of History, classics and archaeology

Department of Politics

Department of PSYCHOSOCIAL STUDIES

  • 1 DPsych in Family and Systemic Psychotherapy



The sports shoe: from field to fashion

Dunlop Green Flash, adidas Samba, Puma States, Reebok Classic, Nike Air Max, or Yeezy 350 … how many would hear in this  list the echoes of the broad sweep of global history, from the mid 19th to the early 21st Century? In a recent Research Blog post, a Birkbeck PhD alumnus recounts his long walk from his first pair of adidas in the mid 1980s to a book deal in 2015, via a global industry valued in the billions.

Self-styled sneakerhead, Thomas Turner researched his beloved sports footwear against a changing landscape of society, sport, fashion, industry, and technology – graduating in 2013 with a PhD in History from Birkbeck. To trace the footsteps in history of one of the most culturally rich and economically significant products of our time, the humble sports shoe, step over to the trail on the Research blog:

The Sports Shoe: A History from Field to Fashion by Thomas Turner

Aaron Columbus, winner of the London History Essay Prize

L-R: Professor Vanessa Harding, Aaron Columbus and Peter Estlin (Lord Mayor of the City of London)

Congratulations to Aaron Columbus, winner of the 2018 Curriers’ Company London History Essay Prize

Aaron is a second year PhD candidate in Birkbeck’s Department of History, Classics and Archaeology. 

You can read more about Aaron’s winning essay here.