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Celia Hughes

 

Academic Profile

2000-2004: MA Modern History, University of St Andrews

2007-2008: MA History, University of Warwick

2008-2011: PhD, Department of History, University of Warwick.

2011-2012: Early Career Fellowship, Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Warwick.

As an undergraduate my political parameters shifted substantially after an encounter with Sheila Rowbotham's Promise of a Dream thrust me head on into the world of left activism in late 1960s Britain. Late 19th and 20th century British politics had always held a fascination, but it was the individuals behind the ideas that had always drawn me. Now, for the first time, the personal as political assumed meaning and clarity, and left me unable to leave behind Britain's much unexplored and often denigrated activist scene.

Research

'The socio-cultural milieux of the post-war British Left'.

My thesis examines the relationship between activist subjectivities and the shaping of Britain’s late sixties extra-parliamentary left cultures. Based on the oral narratives of ninety men and women, it traces the activist trajectory from child to adulthood to understand the social, psychological, and cultural processes informing the political and personal transformation of young adults within the new left cultures that emerged in the wake of Britain’s anti-war movement, the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign (VSC).

To this end my study charts the development of the political and cultural shifts on the left over the decade from the early 1960s to the early 1970s. It shows how throughout this period dialogue between inner and outer activist life occurred against a background of ongoing realignment on the left from a fluid, eclectic cultural network around the VSC to a demarcated post-VSC left after 1969, that saw increasing divergence between a non-aligned libertarian New Left on the one hand and a Trotskyist far left milieu on the other.

As micro-studies the individual stories reveal how the experience of social, emotional and political maturation from child to adult intersected with a specific social and political moment – the formation of a new and distinctive left culture that came to full fruition only in the aftermath of 1968 with the arrival of Women’s Liberation and the new personal politics. Exploring the social and psychological impact of post-war childhood and youth, the study engages with the political and emotional impact of Women’s Liberation on the men and women within the cultural context of the different left milieus.

Overall, the thesis questions how, from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, the variant cultures of the milieus penetrated public and private spaces, and shaped early life experiences of work, political activity, family, and political and personal relations in order to understand how activism shaped social patterns and psychic being.

Department: History

Supervisor: Dr Gerd-Rainer Horn.

Funding: Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Continuing Professional Development

 

Conference Papers

May 2008: 'The History of the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign: the substructure of far left activism in Britain, 1966-1969', The Annual History Postgraduate Conference, University of Warwick.

February 2009: 'A Prism of Britain's Activist Network: The Vietnam Solidarity Campaign, 1966-1969', London Socialist Historians' Group, Institute of Historical Research.

April 2009: 'A Prism of Britain's Activist Network: The Vietnam Solidarity Campaign, 1966-1969', 'Alternative Futures and Popular Protest' Conference, Manchester Metropolitan University.

May 2009: 'The subcultural milieus of late 1960s British activism', 'The Challenge of Social and Historical Research: Youth Cultures and Youth Politics in Postwar Europe', Institute for Advanced Study, University of Warwick.

September 2009: 'Uncovering the 'good' women within Britain's postwar far left activist network: Oral History as a psychoanalytic Route to the Half-Past', 'The Past Is Myself': Women's History and Scotland's Postgraduate and Early Career Workshop', University of Strathclyde, Edinburgh.

October, 2009, 'Negotiating ungovernable spaces between the personal and the political: the role of oral history in accessing Britain's post-war far left activists', 'Campaigning in Contemporary Society Postgraduate and Early Career Workshop', Voluntary Action History Society, University of Birmingham.

October, 2009, 'Refiguring female selfhood within the post-war far left activist terrain: narratives of activist women in late 1960s and 1970s Britain', Cultural History Seminar, University of Warwick.

March 2010, 'Realigning female selfhood within the post-war activist terrain: narratives of activist women in the late 1960s and 1970s', Social History Society 35th Annual Conference, University of Glasgow.

September, 2010, ‘International Contacts, Alternative Media, and Personal Politics: The British Contribution to Global 1968 As Exemplified by the Camden Movement for People’s Power’, The Sixties in National and Transnational Perspective: Communications and Protest Movements, 1956-1973, University of St Andrews Centre for Transnational History.

October,2010,Negotiating ungovernable spaces between the personal and the political: the role of oral history in accessing the inner world of Britain's left activists in the 1960s and 1970s’, Lives on the Left, History Lab Postgraduate and Early Career Seminar, Institute of Historical Research, University of London.

November, 2010, ‘A group of hot, active, socialist men: masculine sociability in the mid-1960s British Left’, Modern British History and Politics Seminar, St John’s College, University of Oxford.

February, 2011, ‘Negotiating ungovernable spaces between the personal and the political: the role of oral history in accessing the inner world of Britain's left activists in the 1960s and 1970s’, Challenging dominant discourses of the past: 1968 and the value of oral history, Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Warwick.

Conference Poster

August 2009: 'A window into the activist soul: the public and private spheres of housing in within Britain's far left activist network in the late 1960s and 1970s', 'The Personal is Political: The Interface between Politics and Culture across Europe in the 1970s', Lucy Cavendish College, University of Cambridge.

Forthcoming Publications

‘Young Socialist Men in sixties Britain: Subjectivity and Sociability’, History Workshop Journal, 73 Spring/74 Autumn, 2012.

‘Negotiating ungovernable spaces between the personal and the political: ‘oral history and the British Left in the 1960s and 1970s’, Memory Studies, Autumn, 2012.

‘Realigning personal and political: narratives of activist women in the late 1960s and 1970s’, Women’s History Network Magazine, Spring 2012.

'Narratives of Radical Lives: The Roots of Sixties Activism and the Making of the British New Left in Evan Smith and Matthew Worley (eds.), The History of the Far Left in Britain, 1956-present.

 

 

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