About us

The Centre for Modern and Contemporary History was established as the principal focus for research at Birmingham on the history of Britain, Europe and the wider world since the nineteenth century. 

Drawing together expertise from across the College of Arts and Law and the rest of the University, the Centre provides a unique intellectual forum for academic staff and postgraduates working within the field, and a base for research both for its members and in collaboration with other institutions. The Centre is ideally located for research on any aspect of the modern world.

Members of the Centre

Over 30 members of academic staff at the University of Birmingham are associated with the Centre for Modern and Contemporary History. They include scholars from the Department of History and several other departments. The Centre's members also include doctoral students researching related topics, and students on our History programmes.

  • Simon Jackson
    Director of Centre
    Colonial empire, the Middle East and the Mediterranean in the twentieth century

Department of History

  • Nicholas Crowson
    History of party politics, foreign policy and NGOs in contemporary Britain
  • Malcolm Dick
    Social History of the West Midlands, 1750 to the present
  • David Gange
    History of religion and Near Eastern archaeology in 19th-century Britain
  • Armin Gruenbacher
    German post-war social, economic, and political history
  • Steve Hewitt
    Spying, security and intelligence in America; anti-Americanism; and Canadian history and politics from the 1960s to the present
  • Sabine Lee
    20th-century European international history, history of the aftermath of conflict, and history of physics
  • Marta Musso
    Historian of energy policies, decolonization in North Africa, international development and the digital world
  • Lucie Ryzova
    Middle Eastern History
  • Shirley Ye
    Globalization, environmental history, history of science and technology, postcolonial and development studies, Chinese historiography, cultural studies

School of Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music

  • Martyn Cornick 
    20th-century French cultural history; Franco-British inter-cultural studies
  • Nicholas Martin 
    German intellectual and cultural history from the Enlightenment to the present day
  • Berny Sèbe
    History of 19th- and 20th-century European imperialisms, decolonisation and post-colonialism

Political Science and International Studies

  • Peter Burnham 
    British political history, radical international political economy (IPE), and state history since 1945
  • Timothy Haughton 
    20th-century politics of Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic; party politics in Central and Eastern Europe 

Centre for the History of Medicine

  • Jonathan Reinarz
    History of hospitals, medical education, medical specialisation, alcohol, and the senses in England, 1750-1950  


In addition to the Directors, the Centre has many affiliated staff and postgraduate students who are interested in and work on issues in contemporary history.

Subjects and aims of the Centre

The Centre's chief function is to provide an intellectual forum for academic staff and postgraduates working in the field of modern and contemporary history (since c. 1815). The Centre explicitly seeks to facilitate transnational and comparative research on all aspects (social, cultural, political, economic) of the history of the contemporary world. 

Spanning a wide geographical and thematic range, the Centre has particular strengths in the social, political and cultural history of Britain, continental Europe, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and North America. It also embraces a truly global perspective through members' research on non-governmental politics, international relations, conflict and the environment. It is keen to encourage study with the following themes:

  • How the forces of world history have structured society and shaped the lives of people who lived through them
  • Regional and local histories from a global or comparative perspectives
  • The links between imperial, global and transnational histories
  • The development of knowledge for understanding the contemporary world


Study and resources at the Centre

The Centre supports a wide range of events and programmes open to those wishing to study here.

It supports a research seminar series of invited speakers throughout the academic year as well as an annual lecture, regular round table discussions, and various informal reading groups.  The Centre aims to serve as a focus for conferences and other research events in the field, including collaborative research projects.

Information about the Centre's current and future activity is provided via a regularly updated news and events page

The Centre supports a broad community of postgraduates studying on a variety of taught programmes or undertaking research that sees local or singular issues from a global perspective, challenging students to find their own intellectual styles while broadening their historical horizons. The postgraduate community at the Centre organise their own events and research skills sessions, which prospective or new students are welcome to join: they help make it a vibrant place to develop new skills and creative thinking. Postgraduate study and research is at the core of the Centre’s aims and ambitions in creating relevant research for understanding the world we live in.

The University of Birmingham also boasts fine facilities for archival and library research, including the German Documentation Centre and the Cadbury Research Library’s Special Collections. In addition, the University Library has excellent holdings on twentieth-century history. For a full list please see our resources page.