New History Lab
The New History Lab started life because a group of postgraduate students decided to do something about the inevitable isolation of doing research-based history qualifications. To this end the lab was about meeting people, swapping ideas, discussing their work, and celebrating the diverse range of history that was being studied in the School of Historical Studies. Three of the base elements of the lab are tea, homemade cake and pub, we generally fit the history around them.
Three years on from its inception and the New History Lab is thriving. The committee is made up of students and one member of staff. We have a (flexible) programme of 5 labs in the Autumn term and 5 in the Spring term, sometimes including a Peregrination (daytrip). These labs occupy alternate Friday afternoons. The year’s series traditionally starts with a lab presented by students, covering how they’re dealing with life doing a PhD/Masters/Bachelor’s degree, breaks for Christmas with a special guest academic, then finishes at Easter with a celebrity guest. The celebrities that we’ve managed to entice so far include Tristram Hunt MP, Lord Melvyn Bragg, Dr Jonathan Foyle, and ‘News Presenter of the Year’ (and local girl) Julie Etchingham.
The lab also has its own brushes with fame, most notably when the committee were featured on the front cover (of the Postgraduate supplement of) The Independent. We’re also becoming a regular feature on the University of Leicester News and Events Magazine blog, and we’ve been in the Leicester Mercury. We’re constantly being told that we’re “radical”, but really we’re just trying to provide an entertaining, informative and thought-provoking Friday afternoon that involves cake.
Some of our previous labs are: ‘Sex, drugs and Rock’n’Roll: Leicester in the 1960s’; ‘Queer Histories’; ‘Its Only Words: Getting your Research Published in a Cuthroat World’; ‘Speed Researching’ (like Speed Dating); ‘The History of Leicester in 10 Objects’ (in conjunction with our sister-group, The Attic, in Museum Studies). Our previous Peregrinations include Manchester, Sheffield, Peterborough and Birmingham.
The New History Lab isn’t just about the Friday afternoon labs though, we have an increasingly popular blog where our committee introduce and follow up the labs, but also blog about everything from funny urban town planning videos to how to deal with writer’s block. To augment this, we also have a twitter presence, and a facebook group.