Project period: October 2014 – January 2015  

This community later received Accelerator Funding for the project: Modern British Politics & Political History

GW4 community leads

University of Bath: David Cutts 
University of Bristol: Mark Wickham-Jones (PI), Hugh Pemberton, Sarah Childs 
Cardiff University: Peter Dorey 
University of Exeter: David Thackeray 

Project overview

The project will bring together a varied but coherent group of historians and political scientists to explore issues of common interest in British Politics and Contemporary British History. 


British Politics and Contemporary British History are dynamic disciplinary fields generating engaged and policy-relevant research output but which are often surprisingly disconnected in terms of scholarship. They have a strong and established base at the four GW4 institutions in terms of research as well as student demand (including PGR). This proposal aims to provide the basis for recognised scholars and doctoral students at the four institutions to explore issues of common interest with regard to two of the Grand Challenges (inclusive, innovative and reflective societies; social justice and inequality) at the same time as examining divergent but complementary methodologies. Forty years ago, Politics and History were directly linked as fields of academic inquiry, but this is no longer the case. This project will contribute towards their reintegration.  

To interrogate these methodological and conceptual concerns, the proposal focuses on political disengagement. This focus is particularly relevant given the state of party politics within the United Kingdom at the time of application and especially so in the run-up to the 2015 general election. The project will draw from historical research to assess relevant issues at the same time as encouraging an explicit engagement by historians with theoretical frameworks offered by the social sciences. 

Project summary 

The initiator grant successfully established a community of GW4 academics in modern British politics and history. Workshops were used to integrate the two disciplines and establish areas of common interest across them. The group’s overarching subject of political engagement raised issues fundamental to present debates about liberal democracy in the United Kingdom and its historical development over recent decades. The workshops also helped identify areas for potential collaboration outside that framework. The group mapped out three broad themes for potential future exploration; these were taken forward into a successful Accelerator bid.