Research

Research excellence at the University of Kent


School of History

The Research Excellence Framework also assesses the impact that the research has outside academia. The case studies below are a selection of the research submitted by the School of History.

The Porton Down legal case

Professor Ulf Schmidt

Ulf Schmidt’s international reputation in the history of medicine and medical ethics led him to play a pivotal role in a high-profile legal case between the UK Government and the Porton Down Veterans’ Support Group (PDVSG).

Schmidt’s research revealed that scientists working at Porton Down between c1940-1989 carried out experiments on ‘volunteers’, drawn from service personnel, that contravened codes of medical ethics. He also discovered that the experiments at Porton Down included one of the largest trials of nerve agents ever to be performed, involving over 1,500 subjects. Almost 400 people were exposed to Sarin, known to be highly toxic and potentially lethal.

Schmidt gave expert testimony in a legal case that revealed the Ministry of Defence’s failure to seek informed consent from many of the experimental subjects. Over £10 million was granted in compensation (including legal costs) to about 700 veterans, who received a public apology from the UK Government.

Porton Down
Image © IWM (HU 102414)

The clergy of the Church of England

Professor Kenneth Fincham

The Clergy of the Church of England Database 1540-1835 (CCEd) is an online resource that is free to all users. It provides a database and website containing key information on clergy, schoolteachers and ecclesiastical patrons, and brings together for the first time a comprehensive range of sources.

Produced by Kenneth Fincham (Kent) and fellow researchers Stephen Taylor (Durham) and Arthur Burns (Kings College London), the CCEd was designed to serve users within and outside academia. Attracting around 100,000 visitors a year, the CCEd is generating new academic research and proving an invaluable resource for local historians, genealogists, independent researchers and archivists. An article in the Guardian stated that CCEd’s ‘true significance may be its role in opening up the raw material of scholarship to the widest possible audience’.

The history of Christmas

Professor Mark Connellelly

Mark Connelly’s research provides an extensive survey of the development of ‘Christmas’ and its spread from England out to the British Empire. His research ranges from Victorian scholars, who fervently – and mistakenly – believed in the tradition’s ancient roots, to how department stores in the late 1860s transformed Christmas by ritualising its shopping and turning the art of window-dressing into a platform for a range of historical and patriotic messages.

Connelly’s academic contributions to this area reached a public audience through his heritage and media work. This included acting as a consultant for the Geffrye Museum’s ‘Christmas Past’ exhibition and contributing a podcast for the National Gallery, London. He was also a consultant on TV programmes, including the BBC documentary, The Toys That Made Christmas.

Propaganda, power and persuasion

Professor David Welch

As an international authority on propaganda and persuasion, David Welch took on the role of historical consultant and on-air commentator for a TV project entitled Love, Hate and Propaganda. Commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the project produced three series, The Second World War, The Cold War, and The War on Terror, broadcast in five countries.

Welch’s expertise shaped the content by suggesting that propaganda is a means of persuasion practised by governments of all ideological leanings – including democracies. The series aimed to give the audience an understanding of propaganda as an all-persuasive element in public discourse and not simply a method of mass brainwashing.

Welch has also acted as historical consultant for the exhibition at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, ‘State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda’, and as co-curator and historical consultant for the British Library exhibition, ‘Propaganda: Power and Persuasion’ for which he wrote the accompanying book.

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Last Updated: 11/02/2015

Banner photo (c) Simon Tollington, DICE