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The University of Southampton
HistoryPart of Humanities


Historical research is an adventure. It involves the discovery of new knowledge, the cultivation of new questions and ideas, and the expansion of understanding about how human societies have developed over time and across space.

All members of the academic staff in History at Southampton are active researchers. Our research interests range from the ancient world to contemporary global history, from East to West, across topics as diverse as the buildings of the Roman empire, the clothing of the Tudor and Stuart courts and concepts of peace and peacefulness in twentieth-century China. But we have a common commitment to the creation of new knowledge, to communication of that knowledge to audiences beyond academe, and to placing the spirit of intellectual discovery at the heart of the education we provide to our students.

In the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014), 87% of our research was ranked as world-leading and internationally excellent.

Research clusters and themes

Our expertise in the Ancient world encompasses the cultures of Greece and Rome and includes a special focus on Jewish life and thought . We also examine the long after-lives of these cultures, through the medieval era into the present-day. This work draws together colleagues from other Humanities disciplines and enriches our undergraduate teaching, too. 

Formerly a thriving medieval port, Southampton has long been a major hub for the study of the middle ages. Our research explores religion, law, warfare and everyday life in the medieval period. The School of Humanities’ Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Culture hosts the annual Reuter lecture.

Reformation, court culture, civil war, and sexual violence: our research interests in Early-modern British history extend from the 15th to 18th centuries and engage with other disciplines through the work of Chawton House Library and the Southampton Centre for Eighteenth-Century Studies.

Our expertise in modern European history spans from west to east, including Russia. We have strong interests in the history and memorialisation of the Holocaust, the collapse of empires in central and Eastern Europe, and Jewish history and culture.

Southampton is home to world-renowned archives in modern British history. Our own research in the field traverses the world of high politics, the practices and legacies of slavery and slave ownership, women’s history and the history of communications. We participate actively in the cross-disciplinary Southampton Centre for Nineteenth-Century Research.

Many colleagues study the imprint of empires, and their expertise – in British, Atlantic and south Asian history – underpins the Centre for Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies. The imperial theme is powerfully present, too, in the work of our ancient historians and our Americanists

Our specialists in modern American history are experts in the critical, often interlinked, roles played by race, religion and technology in the American past and the expansion of US influence abroad. One colleague speaks here about his research on drone technology and the War on Terror, later published as a monograph.

Our expertise in the global twentieth century history is growing and extends beyond the study of empires and international relations to specialist work on the histories of IndiaIran and China, where colleagues incorporate perspectives from the histories of medicine and ideas. Click here to read more about an international collaborative project that aims to build an Asian and post-colonial model of linguistic justice.

These global connections find expression in our commitment to Maritime history, too. Our research into medieval and early modern trade links, the circulation of knowledge and objects in the British empire, and trans-Atlantic slavery, is supported by the university’s multi-disciplinary Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute and has led to a number of research successes, including conferences, publications, and the co-supervision of exciting doctoral research alongside colleagues in Engineering and Ship Science.

Whether focusing on Southampton as the point of arrival and departure for many travellers, or ranging more widely, several colleagues explore the significance of the movement and migration of individuals and groups of people. Research on this theme includes travel and mobility in the ancient worldhow the East India Company facilitated connections across the Indian Ocean, and the history of German Jews in Palestine/Israel.

Another long-standing area of expertise and strength is gender and sexuality, which encompasses a diverse range of topics, including love and marriage in late medieval Europe, female philanthropy in 20th-century Britain and the overlapping cultures of fascism and homosexuality in inter-war Czechoslovakia. Since 2012 we have hosted the annual university Stonewall lecture on LGBTQ history.

We also engage in wide-ranging research on the impact and significance of religion and faith around the world and across time, ranging from Apocalyptic writing to American evangelicalism, with very important work focused on the Parkes Institute with its public programme of events aimed at a wide range of audiences. is a key tool for our research collecting new stories about children's and young people's phone use in the 1980s and 1990s. We are building an interactive map on the website using memories, videos and photographs submitted by users. The map will trace the changing locations that young people have used phones in the UK since the 1980s. Other features coming soon on the website include an audio library of extracts of new oral history interviews recording people's childhood memories of using phones in the 1980s and 1990s, and an online exhibition curated with archivists at BT Heritage & Archives of BT materials aimed at children and parents in these decades. You can keep up to date with our project news on the website's news and events page, as well as via our Twitter and Instagram pages. 

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