In its 31st year, the British International History Group (BIHG) conference showed that the BIHG itself, its membership (which exceeds 700 worldwide) and the fields of history related to international affairs, are in robust health. Over 100 delegates attended the annual conference held at Lancaster University from 5 to 7 September 2019.
Across 29 themed panels, 79 speakers presented research from the early modern period to contemporary international affairs. Attendees came from 30 UK universities and 14 international universities (in China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Turkey and the USA). Representatives from FCO Historians, the German Historical Institute in London and The UK National Archives also gave papers.
This year’s roundtable considered the fields of international and military history. Dr Juliette Desplat (TNA), Dr Michael Hopkins (Liverpool) and Professor Michael Hughes (Lancaster) reflected on the evolution of the historiography of these approaches in parallel with the wider disciplines of history. They argued that clichéd depictions of them had been outdated for some time as the diversity of the papers delivered at the conference indicated.
Professor Kathy Burk (UCL) gave the annual BIHG lecture, ‘Lubricating Diplomacy: The Uses of Wine’, which brought food and drink history to the conference. She surveyed diplomatic practice across centuries and continents to explain how central alcohol has been to international affairs.
High levels of empiricism and methodological innovation were recognised in the 2019 Michael L. Dockrill Thesis Prize winner’s research. It was awarded to Dr James Southern, formerly of the School of History, Queen Mary University of London, for his thesis entitled “‘Our people’: Recruitment to the British Diplomatic Service, 1945-1995”.
PGRs and ECRs received formal career guidance at the BIHG’s annual PGR/ECR workshop and informal encouragement in the panels and over refreshments. As ever, the BIHG’s original objective was apparent in the atmosphere created by the conference and in the interchanges between scholars at different career stages, from diverse backgrounds and universities.
As a working group of the British International Studies Association, the BIHG received financial support for its conference, for which its members are grateful. Lancaster University and its Department of History provided an excellent setting and exceptional organisation for the conference. Much of the smooth running across the three days was due to Dr Marco Wyss and Amy Harding, both of whom receive the BIHG’s thanks, as do Dr Sophie Ambler and two MA students, Zhengya Gan and Sophie Merrix.
The BIHG is now looking forward to its next annual conference, details of which will soon be announced on this website. Thereafter, there will be a call for papers and invitations to apply for the 2020 Thesis Prize for the best thesis of 2019.