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18 December 2014

History 5th in the UK in the REF

The Department of History is pleased to announce that it has been ranked 5th in the UK for research quality and 7th in the UK for power in the recent Research Excellence Framework (REF).

A view of the Thames from the Strand building where the History Department is located, over Somerset House, the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye.
A view of the Thames from the Strand building where the History Department is located, over Somerset House, the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye.

The Department of History is pleased to announce that it has been ranked 5th in the UK for research quality and 7th in the UK for power in the recent Research Excellence Framework (REF). The power rankings indicate the quality and quantity of research activity while the REF assesses the quality of research taking place between 2008 and 2013 in UK higher education institutions. The Department achieved excellent results overall with 86% of its research being rated world-leading and internationally excellent with 4* and 3*s respectively. The Department performed particularly well for impact coming top in the Russell Group with 68% rated as having outstanding impacts in terms of their reach and significance (4*).

43 historians were entered to REF 2014, a submission which comprised the majority of staff members from the Department of History, two from the Institute of Contemporary British History, one from the India Institute, 16 early career researchers and a total of 133 outputs.

The Department is proud of its achievements having scored the highest possible ranking in all but one of the past research assessment exercises. Since the last assessment in 2008, History at King’s has been transformed with expansion, globalisation and public engagement forming top priorities. The Department of History has approximately doubled in size since 2008 which has allowed it to build upon existing strengths in British, European and British imperial history and to develop particular strength in African history. A major development in the breadth of History at King’s was the transfer of the world-leading Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine from Imperial in 2013.

Dr Adam Sutcliffe, Head of the Department of History, commented: ‘I’m delighted that the excellence of the historical research conducted at King’s has been recognised. We are extremely proud of the achievements of our staff, across all areas of the discipline, from early medieval to contemporary history, and covering almost all areas of the globe. We have exciting plans for further developing our research over the coming years: we will build on our excellence in the history of science, technology and medicine and we will further consolidate our reputation of one of the top centres in the world for the study of medieval history and of world history. We will further capitalise on our interdisciplinary richness, our prime central London location and our commitment to policy relevance and public engagement to advance our impact in all areas and particularly in modern British history.’

A new element of the REF was the requirement for higher education institutions to demonstrate the impact their research was having on the economy, society, culture, public policy, services, health or environment, beyond academia. It has always been one of the goals of King’s historians to communicate to the public a passion for the study of human thought and behaviour throughout history and to demonstrate the ways in which a greater appreciation of the past enriches our intellectual and cultural world. Academics have reached millions of listeners through providing regular expert comment on a variety of current affairs topics to the media including BBC Radio 4, BBC News and ITN.

Impact on policy making has been greatly enhanced by History & Policy, an initiative which trains and assists scholarly researchers to engage with civil society practitioners and journalists. The initiative has put historians in contact with civil servants in DEFRA, the Cabinet Office and No. 10 Downing Street among others.

Impact case studies included the work of Professor Arthur Burns who has helped both the Church and a wider public access and understand the significance of the history of the post-Reformation church and clergy. Professor Burns is the Director of a groundbreaking online Clergy of the Church of England Database 1540-1835, a website which is used by archivists, genealogists and local historians in Britain and beyond.

Another example of King’s historians making previously inaccessible information freely available is the King Henry III fine rolls project. The project, led by Professor David Carpenter, translated some two million Latin words into English and created an electronically searchable database of the fines issued under Henry III (1216 - 1272), including information on the many offers of money to the King for concessions and favours. The fines, which were recorded on the rolls, cast a remarkable light on politics, government and society in a hinge period of English history between the establishment of the Magna Carta and the development of the parliamentary state. The project laid the foundations for the major AHRC funded project on Magna Carta in which King’s is involved.

Two other examples of the impact of History research include ‘Happy Families? Debunking the myth’, and ‘Bringing the Domesday book back to life’.

In this story

Adam Sutcliffe

Professor of European History. Co-Director of the Centre for Enlightenment Studies.

Arthur Burns

Professor of Modern British History

David Carpenter

Professor of Medieval History