Sovereignties of Birmingham (2017)

Researcher: Dr George Kyris
Partners and sponsors: Being Human Festival, British Academy, Arts and Humanities Research Council, UoB School, MAC Birmingham 


It was one of the most searched words on Google last year, but what exactly is sovereignty? Is it taking back control? Is it legitimacy? How does it shape our local and national history, past, present and future?

This set of talks will seek to trigger a thought-provoking discussion between researchers, students, local societies and the wider public on the issue of sovereignty and how it shapes the lives of people in the UK and abroad.

It will approach sovereignty as a condition that is continuously ‘lost and found’ throughout the ages, from the Tudor era, during which Monarchs found themselves sovereign for the first time, to the expansion of sovereignty under the British Empire and finally, today, when sovereignty is again at the centre of public discussion, as Britain embarks to find a new place in Europe and the world.

As part of the talks, participants will have the chance to visit sites of Birmingham that are symbolically important for the history of sovereignty in the UK, such as the 2nd Boer War Memorial in Cannon Hill Park or the Old Joe Tower at the University of Birmingham campus.

Research Objectives

The project aims to

  • make research on sovereignty approachable to a wider, non-expert audience, across different areas and communities of Birmingham
  • Demonstrate the relevance of this issue to people’s everyday lives by linking the idea of sovereignty to important historical developments in this country
  • Based on its unique format of pop-up events, the project will also invite locals to see familiar places of their community through the lenses of sovereignty and its history
  • The project is innovative in the way that it exports a major academic discussion beyond the walls of the university and links it with places that are at the centre of community life.

Outputs and impact

Two public free talks, one at MAC Birmingham (19/11/2017) and one at the University of Birmingham (20/11/2017). Various report pieces, from both Dr George Kyris and the volunteer students involved. 

  • View a full report of the 'Sovereignties of Birmingham' event on 19 November 2017

What is sovereignty?