Department of History

Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion

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Promoting equality in the Department of History

History is about understanding diverse past human experiences, and how the past influences the present. This means history is also about understanding different perspectives and values. Historians strive to recover and include different viewpoints and voices. Equality, diversity, and inclusion are fundamental to the study of the past.

They are also fundamental to our ways of working and studying within the Department of History. We recognise, respect, and value the different identities, experiences, and perspectives of students and staff. We aim to create an environment where everyone can speak, everyone is heard, and everyone is empowered to make change in the present.

The Department of History at Essex is proud to be the recipient of an Athena Swan Bronze Award. The Department aims to be an inclusive environment where there is a culture of equality and respect, and everyone feels valued as a member. We also want to give people confidence and help to address issues if they arise. As historians of political, social, and cultural change, my colleagues and I recognise that fostering diversity and inclusion is not only the right thing to do but that it also brings benefits to all. In doing this, we want to give everyone in our community—students and staff—the opportunity to thrive and support them to reach their potential.
Dr Andrew Priest Head of Department


Our Student-Staff Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Charter

In April 2022 a team of students and staff from the Department of History drew up an Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Charter. This Charter reflects what students and staff value about the Department. It is an active statement about what the Department does well, what it can continue to do well, and where it can improve.


Athena SWAN

The Department of History was awarded the prestigious Athena SWAN bronze award in 2017. The Athena SWAN Charter was established in 2005 to encourage and recognise the commitment to advancing careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research.

In May 2015, the charter was expanded to recognise work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL), and in professional and support roles, and for trans staff and students. The charter now recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly, and not just barriers to progression that affect women.

Visit the Athena SWAN website to learn more about the application process and the criteria for receiving a bronze award.

View our application


Celerating our staff and students

Our vision

Our vision of equality, diversity, and inclusion is about students, staff, and wider communities working together to uncover neglected pasts and empower people in the present. Below are examples of some of our research, education, and outreach activities that try to achieve that aim.

Multicultural Britain

We have been teaching ‘Multicultural Britain: A History’ since 2018. Our aim was to create a module which placed Britain’s diverse society at its heart. Traditional histories have often ignored the fact that British society has been made and remade by people from a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures.

We wanted to offer a module which reflects the society we live in, the society our students are part of, and helps them to understand its history. Students have embraced the module. The anonymous feedback we collect celebrates the diverse perspectives the module offers. One student commented: ‘The module allowed me to gain further knowledge of the lives of people who had come from all over the world to live in Britain.  It allowed me to look at this history from a different perspective to the one we’re usually taught’.

Researching the History of ‘The First Modern Lesbian’ – Chloe Evans, Final Year History Student

For my undergraduate research dissertation, I focused upon Anne Lister, who is regarded to be the ‘first modern lesbian’. As a lesbian myself, I have always been interested in scouting out sources of queer history and looking at history from the “bottom-up”. The research I have conducted into the life of Anne has been particularly fascinating on a personal level, as well as an historical one. Lesbians have often been lost or censored within history, so to discover Lister’s rich and extensive diaries detailing her lesbian lifestyle in the nineteenth century was incredible.

It has been extremely interesting researching how women who loved other women lived in a time where there was supposedly no such thing as a lesbian. The courage Anne possessed to pursue her same-sex desires and subvert gender norms at this time would give anyone the courage to follow their own heart. I am glad that Anne can now be celebrated for being a lesbian, and she can essentially live openly in the twenty-first century without censorship of her identity. I am really looking forward to pursuing further research into queer history and delving even deeper into the life of Anne Lister through the History, Power, and Identity MA. 

Centre for Public History

The Centre for Public History provides an umbrella for our community engagement, outreach and collaborative projects, with an ethos of inclusion and co-production. In all that we do, we seek to diversify the histories being told and who is involved in telling them.

An ongoing project 'Communities responding to crisis' – a collaboration with Essex Business School and Community360, NE Essex’ infrastructure body for the voluntary and community sector – has collected over 40 oral histories of people who were on the ground leading local services and support groups during the pandemic, including those for refugees and diaspora communities, people experiencing homelessness, women fleeing domestic violence and LGBTQIA+ communities. Interviewees and researchers have spoken alongside each other to share their evidence with borough and county multi-agency panels and the project report is already influencing policy and funding decisions.

One of the project leaders, Dr Alix Green says: ‘These are powerful stories of how community organisers stepped forward to protect vulnerable people and to maintain support for those who needed them as much of the country shut down; working with them to ensure their testimonies were collected and used to push for positive change has been a privilege and a hugely moving experience: the kind of work historians can and should be doing.’

Documenting Africans in Trans-Atlantic Slavery (DATAS) – Professor Sean Kelley

The DATAS project researches the lives of the individuals who were caught up in the slave trade, not merely as enslaved labour or as racialized ‘Others’, but as people. The focus of the project is on ethnonyms (names used to refer to ethnic groups, tribes, or peoples), such as ‘Mina’, ‘Congo’, ‘Coromantee’, ‘Igbo’, ‘Mandenga’, ‘Sape’, ‘Moko’, ‘Jolofo’.

Although sometimes dismissed as meaningless categories imposed by enslavers and imperialists, DATAS treats ethnonyms as valuable pieces of information, inadvertent acknowledgements of an enslaved persons’ humanity in an archival record almost invariably renders people as property. In doing so, the DATAS project changes the way we think about and research Atlantic slavery, forcing historians and other researchers to ask deeper questions about history’s largest forced migration and the cultural links between Africa and the Americas.

DATAS grew out of and maintains a close relationship with Freedom Narratives, a long-running collaborative effort to collect narratives and biographical information in individual enslaved Africans throughout the Atlantic World. The project is funded by the Netherlands Research Council (NWO) and ESRC, with teams based in Canada, France, and the UK. 

Body, Self, & Family: Women’s Psychological, Emotional, and Bodily Health in Britain, c. 1960-1990

The Body, Self, and Family project examines women’s experiences of “everyday health” in late twentieth-century Britain. It fills in the gaps in existing histories, looking at the neglected stories of LGBTQ+ women and those who identify as working class, Black, Asian or minority ethnic.

The project explores mental health and emotional wellbeing as well as physical fitness – at how women stayed healthy, avoided illness, or coped with pain. To find out more about these experiences, the project team interviewed 91 women born between 1940 and 1970. These interviews will be archived at the British Library.

Working with young people and teachers, the project team has also created a toolkit for 11-16 year olds that uses historical sources to support health and wellbeing education in schools. Professor Tracey Loughran, project lead, explains that “We believe it’s important to know what happened in the past so that we can understand how we ended up where we are today. Understanding how experiences of health and wellbeing were different in the past, especially what has changed and why it can help young people to think differently about the choices that are open to them today.”



Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee

Our Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee includes student and staff representatives. We aim to build a culture where all students and staff are confident of the active efforts in the Department to achieve equality and inclusion, and where everyone understands that recognising diversity is essential to this task.

“I chose to be a student rep on the EDI committee because throughout university I've always had my concerns and voiced them through emails. I thought becoming a student rep would be a great opportunity to voice my concerns or opinions at a wider scale and share other people's thoughts. I would like the committee to achieve represent the student's voice to the best of its ability and implement positive changes.” – Lesley Asante, Final Year History Student.

In general, we work to formulate strategies and implement policies around equality, diversity, and inclusion. An essential part of this work is actively seeking feedback and suggestions from all members of the Department.

Have a suggestion or comment?


View the Committee's Terms of Reference


Decolonising the Curriculum

We are actively committed to decolonising the curriculum. Our degree programmes explore how and why introducing new perspectives changes established views of historical events and encounters in history. We believe that history invites constant questioning and re-visioning, and that the more voices and viewpoints we include, the better we can understand the past.

Here are some of the actions we have taken in recent years to decolonise our curriculum and our learning environment:

There is always more to do and we are committed to keeping this work under continual review.



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Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee