CFP: From “Old Corruption” to the New Corruption? Public Life and Public Service in Britain, c. 1780–1940

A two-day conference on the 24th – 25th January 2019 co-organised by Dr Ian Cawood (Newman University, Birmingham) and Dr Tom Crook (Oxford Brookes University). The aim of the conference is to encourage a more integrated approach to the study and conceptualisation of political and administrative corruption during the period when Britain became a mass democracy. As well as this it aims to open up new historical perspectives through which we might better grasp the present.

Old Corruption Call for Paper (1)

Old Corruption Call for Paper (2)


The Struggles of University: An Open Discussion about Mental Health by Stephen Thompson.

Stephen Thompson is an MRes student at Newman University researching the concept of power in Medieval England. He is currently in the process of applying for doctoral study at Newman University where he wishes to develop his current research interests further. You can find him on twitter @thompson89_s.

Going to university is a time of great change is a person’s life. We say goodbye to our homes, friends and family and, for what feels like the briefest of moments, discover a new world. Yet for some, university is not the all singing and dancing time that many seem to have. For some, like myself, it is a period of great internal and external turmoil as you discover yourself in a world that is constantly changing. This can be made all the more worse if you suffer from a health condition, whether physical or mental.

One in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem this year (Mind, 2017). For students, these figures are higher. Around 27% of all students suffered from a mental health problem in the last academic year. With the two most common conditions were depression, and anxiety, with a staggering 77% of students suffering from the former, while 74% the latter (YouGov). However, a worryingly high statistic comes from the LGBT community within universities, where in 2016, 45% of students suffered from a mental health condition (YouGov).

It is here that I would like to offer my open and honest advice to any new or returning student that faces the same daily, weekly and monthly struggles that university can bring. Firstly, talk! Find someone to confide in. This is critical, bottling it up can seem like the right choice, however, all this does is build up the pressure within you until you explode. All universities offer counselling services, so use them! This free, impartial and confidential service could be the difference between life and death. Just this week, another story has come out of a student taking his/her own life due to the stress and strain of university. You are not alone in the struggle, and more importantly, you are surrounded by people that will help, but you must first tell someone. Do not be afraid to admit that you need help!

Secondly, you need to acknowledge you have an issue and make time to help yourself recover. If you are working, take some time off, if you have deadlines coming up, speak to your tutor and negotiate an extension. Easing the pressure of work and your assignments will only help you recover, or give you time to find methods and techniques to manage your condition. For me this was taking an extended time off work. From then on, when I have a deadline I would take two/three weeks before off. This meant two or three times a year I was extremely poor, but I was coping with the workload.

For me the struggle did not manifest itself until my second year. I struggled with depression and keeping my sexuality a secret. I was part of that 45% of students that struggled. The two fed each other into a cycle that drove me to the very edge. I chose to drink and abuse painkillers, rather than talk to those around me who loved me. It was in the summer between second and third year that I made the leap of faith to contact the universities counselling team, and it was a decision that saved me. While talking to the universities councillor did not solve my issues in one day, it began a process in which the weight of the world was lifted. I still felt depressed but I could see a light. I still felt ashamed but saw what my life could be. It offered me hope! Today I am on a master’s course looking toward starting (grades willing) a PhD in October.

I have chosen to share this moment in my life in the hope that if just one person reads this and sees there is hope then it was worth it.

– Stephen.



Call for contributions: Volume of essays examining the urbanisation of Catholic communities in England in the generation after the Relief Acts of 1778 and 1791.

This call for contributions is shared on behalf of Dr. Marie Rowlands, Emeritus Visiting Research Fellow in History at Newman University.

A proposal for publishing a volume of essays examining the urbanisation of Catholic communities in England in the generation after the Relief Acts of 1778 and 1791. (18 George III c. 60 and 31 George III. c. 32.)

The great majority of this post-Relief generation of lay Catholics lived by profit made in trade and manufacture, or in the provision of professional services. The number of the Catholic gentry was declining to a few hundred, and old missions on their estates were in many cases being transferred to towns.

By 1840 there were over 700 Catholic missions in England, almost all in towns- county towns, ports, leisure towns and, most frequently, industrial towns.  They each had a good-even handsome- church, a presbytery, Sunday schools and charity schools. Their chapels stood on the High streets, alongside the new chapels of the Methodists, the Baptists and the Independents, and in their Classical architecture asserted their pride in the one true faith.  These were paid for by the middle class of the town missions, in the same way as their fellow townsmen who were Church of England or nonconformists, supported their new churches, chapels and schools.

This generation of English Catholics, replaced old habits of getting along with a new assertion and pride.   Catholic life was conducted within the hortus conclusus of home, church and school, secure in the conviction that the Catholic Church was the only true church. Catholics became- and remained well into the 20th century -a fortress church, defending themselves against the not infrequent outbursts of local popular anti-Catholicism, and strengthening their networks of support.

The work of John Bossy, Leo Gooch, and Michael Mullet has transformed understanding of the laity in this period but to take the work further there is need to dig deeper into the experience of Catholic lay men and women of the poor, working and middle class. This requires a collection of specialist local studies using the tools and techniques of social and local history, as well as ecclesiastical sources. Much work of this kind has been done in the last twenty-five years, but published only locally or in unpublished Ph.D. theses.

Possible topics for such essays could include:

  • Catholics, their occupations, relationships, wills.
  • Church buildings, sacred space, architecture, finance, location in the town.
  • Ritual, prayer, services other than Mass, Mass attendance in towns.
  • Church music, at weekly services and for special occasions.
  • Catholic social events, publications, printers and bookshops
  • Social conditions and circumstances of the Catholic poor, location in the town.
  • Sunday schools, Charity schools, education, middle class schools.
  • Catholic popular press.

Interest is already being shown by contributors concerning towns in the North West and Midlands but such a volume should include London and towns in the North East and South.

Please reply to

Professor Michael Mullett, Lancaster University; Marie B. Rowlands Newman University, Birmingham; Professor Judith Champ Oscott College. Birmingham.

Victorian Fears Colloquium 2018

Newman University are proud to be hosting the first Victorian Fears Colloquium on Monday 18th June 2018. It has been co-organised by Ian Cawood, Sophie Allen and Zoe Chadwick, and is an interdisciplinary conference covering a range of topics that relate to the main theme. All postgraduates and ECRs are welcome to submit, and we particularly welcome interdisciplinary papers and panels.

Deadline for submissions: Friday 26th January 2018.

Email submissions to:

For further information and updates please see our website and follow us on twitter @VictorianFears

CFP Round 2

The (restricted) generosity of the first Christians

The next seminar in our Humanities Research Seminar Series is Dr Tim Murray from the University of Nottingham talking about The (restricted) generosity of the first Christians’.

The seminar will be taking place in room DW112 on Thursday 2 November 2017 at 5pm. 

As always refreshments will be provided and all are welcome to attend.

See below for the abstract of the paper:

Jesus made some outrageous statements about generosity, such as “sell your possessions and give to the poor” (Matthew 19.21) or “give to everyone who asks of you” (Luke 6.30). The radical, seemingly limitless, generosity espoused in these sayings has been problematic ever since, both for interpreters of the text and Christian communities who consider Jesus’s commands to be authoritative. This paper examines the first Christian communities, those who preserved and transmitted these commands of Jesus, identifying when, why and how they restricted their generosity. By doing so we may better comprehend how the financial practices of the first Christians related to the commands of Jesus and their social context. This in turn may be hermeneutically useful for modern Christian communities who continue to wrestle with these issues and their current complications, including globalisation, a highly politicised ‘welfare’ debate and the shadow side of discrimination legislation.​

The Rule of Thirds: A Simplified Approach to Essay Writing

Writing essays can be rewarding. It’s rare, but sometimes the research fits together organically, sentences flow crisp and clear, and Word doesn’t throw a paddy at your citation formatting. Most of the time, however, an interruption to at least one of these ideal conditions announces itself, and the most common result is that you stare deep into an existential crisis with no idea what your essay should look like. The rule of thirds can help, and once you’ve used it a few times, it does the work for you.

The rule of thirds is an essay structuring method that orders your thoughts, interrogates your question, and lays out your arguments in the process. It follows one rule: repeatedly break up your essay into thirds until each part has only one job. Because you begin from the whole (top-down) rather than the beginning (bottom-up), the rule of thirds makes it near-impossible to write a useless or ill-fitting sentence.

Let’s say for a moment you want to write a very short essay about Francis the Corgi. Bear with me. You could start listing details, but it might not make for a very coherent read. For it to feel like you started and ended in the right place without any obvious omissions or sense of arbitrariness, you can and often should use the rule of thirds.

Let’s say this essay has been issued by a professor who really doesn’t care for lesson prep: in a hundred and fifty words or less, describe the appearance of Francis the Corgi. Let’s say you’d rather expedite things so you can get on with pretending to write your thesis.

Firstly, segment every essay you ever write into an introduction, body, and conclusion, like so:

  1. Introduction
  2. Body
  3. Conclusion

Then, examine the question, identify its crucial element, and use it to break up the body section. You get as much from an essay as possible by basing its structure on its subject, and this essay is about Francis the Corgi’s appearance:

  1. Introduction
  2. Body
    • General Appearance
    • Movement and Behaviour
    • Specific Details
  3. Conclusion

Notice that my three body sections progress from general to specific. You can choose which part of your question lets you do this. Just remember that an essay with a logical structure – where there are reasons for the order of your sentences and paragraphs – will always make for coherent argument and easy reading. The rule of thirds makes doing this a breeze. In this case, a single paragraph will suffice for each section, but you could further sub-divide as is needed.

What next? Divide again. It doesn’t necessarily have to be into three sentences, because style is more subjective that that, but we should look to place three statements or observations under each heading:

  1. Introduction
    • Francis is a corgi. He was born in 2014. He likes jazz and long walks.
  2. Body
    • General Appearance
      • Francis is thirteen inches tall. He is a creamy shade of brown. He has longer fur than most corgis.
    • Movement and Behaviour
      • There is a spot of fur he can’t reach, but he spends hours trying to lick it. Because he is immature, he nibbles people’s fingers. He walks in a slight zig-zag because he hurt his left back leg when he was a puppy.
    • Specific Details
      • Francis has also has one claw missing from that leg. There is a patch of off-white fur near his tail. He has brown eyes.
  3. Conclusion
    • Francis the Corgi is a puppyish character with a bad leg and unusual fair. While generally well-behaved, it’s best that petters watch their fingers around him. You can often find him preening to the smooth sounds of jazz.

And there you have an essay plan that has written the piece for you. All that remains is to turn it into standard paragraphs and smooth out the prose:

Francis is a corgi who was born in 2014. He likes jazz and long walks.

He is thirteen inches tall and has relatively long fur that is a creamy shade of brown.

There is a spot he can’t reach, but he still spends hours trying to lick it. He nibbles people’s fingers out of immaturity, and walks in a slight zig-zag because of a puppyhood accident involving his left back leg. He has one claw missing from that leg.

There is a patch of off-white fur near his tail, and, adorably, he has brown eyes.

Francis the Corgi is a puppyish character with a bad leg and unusual fair. While generally well-behaved, it’s best that petters watch their fingers around him. You can often find him preening to the smooth sounds of jazz.

The more observant reader will note that the statement about his missing claw has been moved to the second body paragraph. This is because it fits better and the rule of thirds is designed to help rather than enforce. So long as you plan rigorously, you’ll have time to play around with the odds and ends of paragraphs.

There are few writers who can see their way through more than seven hundred to a thousand words without putting plan to paper first. Even they would take far longer to write this essay without the rule of thirds in particular. Imagine just writing one sentence after the next without forethought. Imagine having to consider every facet of your style, structure, form all at once. Imagine doing so over ten thousand or even a hundred thousand words.

The rule of thirds allows you craft an essay that is fundamentally designed to answer its question. It also allows you to chart out the progression of your argument and consider structure and style at different times, giving you space to focus on each. Finally, it breaks down huge tasks into something less daunting, allowing research and writing to be done in a modulated and less chaotic manner.

It can be used for fiction too. The three-act structure works well for this very reason. Films, plays, poems: many can be broken sensibly into three parts. I planned out and wrote this thousand word blog post in just under ninety minutes using the rule of thirds.

The next time you feel overwhelmed by a piece of work, remember the rule of thirds. It might even give you time to work on that thesis.

*hysterical laughter*


Phillip Sutcliffe-Mott (@tobeormotttobe)