Inaugural Lectures

Professor Simon Morgan | Active Citizenship Past, Present and Future: The Letters of Richard Cobden Re-imagined

  • 18.00 - 19.00
  • 11 Oct 2023
  • Rose Bowl, Lecture Theatre B, City Campus, Portland Way, Leeds, LS1 3HB
Professor Simon Morgan | Active Citizenship Past, Present and Future: The Letters of Richard Cobden Re-imagined
Through his inaugural professorial lecture, Professor Simon Morgan demonstrates the impact of digital technology and the recent focus on impact and engagement in bringing historical research to new audiences - with potentially transformative results.

In his lecture, Simon places the evolution of the Letters of Richard Cobden (1804-65) Online project into the context of developments in Higher Education over the past two decades, and explores how engaging with historical examples can inspire and empower the next generation of active citizens.

An important nineteenth-century statesman, Richard Cobden can be seen as an exemplary ‘active citizen’, whose work can become an inspiration to future generations. Cobden’s engagement with local, national and international communities and causes, and his commitment to improving the world through campaigns for educational reform, cheap bread and international peace, made him an inspiring figure both at the time and since.

Having joined the original Letters of Richard Cobden Project in 2002, Simon takes us through the project’s evolution from a traditional scholarly edition to an interactive and engaging online educational resource showing how an ordinary citizen can use the levers of influence and communication to bring about peaceful and beneficial change in an open society.

The project began with more traditional academic goals, seeking to produce a complete and extensively annotated paper edition of Cobden's letters under the directorship of Professor Anthony Howe. However, due to the sheer volume of letters, only a small percentage were eventually published in a highly regarded four-volume edition by Oxford University Press. More recently, thanks to Follow-On funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the project has developed into the more innovative and accessible "Letters of Richard Cobden Online," which aims to make the remaining letters available to the public alongside teaching materials and an online exhibition.

As Head of History within the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Professor Morgan will use this example to demonstrate how this project and others like it in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences are providing tools to inspire positive change across both the city of Leeds and the wider world.

This lecture is part of Leeds Beckett University's inaugural professional lecture series.

Professor Simon Morgan

Professor / School of Humanities And Social Sciences

Professor Simon Morgan has been Head of History at Leeds Beckett University since 2016. He is currently Principal Investigator on The Letters of Richard Cobden (1804-65) Online: An Exploration in Active Citizenship, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

He has published extensively on the histories of radical politics, celebrity and women in nineteenth-century Britain and is the author of Celebrities, Heroes and Champions: Popular Politicians in the Age of Reform, 1810-1867 (Manchester University Press, 2021), which was runner up for the 2023 Social History Society book prize, and A Victorian Woman’s Place: Public Culture in the Nineteenth Century (I.B. Tauris, 2007).

Alongside Professor Anthony Howe, he is one of the editors of the Letters of Richard Cobden, 4 vols. (Oxford University Press, 2006-2015). Simon is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

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