Dr Ben J Griffin
Fellow, Director of Studies
Even though Girton is a large college, we are a close-knit community. The Fellows for History, Politics and International Relations are committed to providing a supportive, intellectually stimulating environment: what one student describes as ‘a safe place to be intellectually daring.’ Girton is a place where we go the extra mile to ensure that everyone can fulfil their academic potential.
The Director of Studies for the Politics and International Relations aspect of the course also covers the HSPS (Human, Social and Political Science) and PBS (Psychological and Behavioural Science) tripos. As a result, students studying History and Politics will find themselves connected to, and grounded within, a wider community of social science researchers within College.
All the historians at the College meet together regularly for informal ‘current research’ sessions and social occasions, like dinners in Hall and the summer historians’ garden party. Girton also has an active History Society that has organised talks by such prominent local figures as Professor Richard Evans, Professor Orlando Figes, Professor Quentin Skinner, and Professor Tim Blanning. Virginia Woolf’s essay ‘A room of one’s own’ was originally delivered to the Girton History Society (known back then as the ‘One damn thing after another’ Society).
Since its foundation, Girton has provided a home to some of the world’s leading historians. Some of the most distinguished historians working today began their academic careers at Girton, from medievalists like Professor Miri Rubin (author of The Hollow Crown), to modernists like Professor Miles Taylor (formerly Director of the Institute of Historical Research). The present History Fellows continue this tradition and ensure that undergraduate teaching is always informed by the latest cutting-edge research. Among the present fellowship, Dr Griffin teaches British political history since 1688, with a particular interest in the history of gender politics; Dr Williams teaches British social history, with a particular interest in the history of poverty; and Dr Maghenzani teaches Early Modern and Modern European History.
Each of the History fellows has a strong commitment to public engagement with history. Dr Reid was one of the founders of the History and Policy project, which applies the latest historical research to contemporary public policy; Dr Williams regularly broadcasts on the history of poverty; and Dr Griffin is one of the editors for the Guest Historians series on the 10 Downing Street website.
As one of the pioneering institutions that opened up higher education for women, the College’s archive contains the papers of many of the country’s most influential women of the last 140 years. It is a major international research centre, and is a very handy local asset for students contemplating third-year dissertations.
History and Politics at Cambridge offers subjects from our highly-regarded History and Politics and International Relations courses, together with bespoke papers which will allow students to explore the space between the two disciplines. Students will develop skills in analysing the operation of power and politics across histories, institutions, and societies around the world. Students will also be able to build strengths in understanding the nature of evidence, methodology, and approaches in both History and Politics. They will be able to choose from a wide range of topics in British, European, American and World history and politics.
Cambridge is uniquely placed to teach History and Politics and International Relations together. Both Faculties are widely regarded as world-leading. The History Faculty is one of the largest in the United Kingdom and is consistently ranked as the best in research and teaching assessments. It has internationally recognised experts in all relevant fields of study. The Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) is a medium-sized department with about 30 academics with a huge range of specialisms. It has particular research strengths in international politics, international history and international law, comparative politics and political thought.
Staff in the Faculty of History and the Department of Politics and International Studies have a wide range of shared interests in political and international history, the origins of contemporary politics and international relations, and the history of political ideas. This new degree balances a strong grounding in the two component subjects with the opportunity to explore the ways in which historical and political understanding together illuminate the modern world.
Mark Hanson is a Champion for the Class Gift initiative. He comments, ‘It has been inspiring to see Girton’s ambitious and thoughtful plans and meet some incredibly talented students at the college. The Class of ’85 bursary gift is a great way for our year to come together to support deserving students as part of Girton’s future plans’.