Historical Studies at Bristol consist of two subject areas, History and History of Art, which each have their own degree programme, though students are encouraged to treat staff from the whole department as a collective resource. What is distinctive about both in combination is the way in which their research is made outward-looking, directed both into the activities of students and to audiences and partners outside as well as within the academic system. This characteristic is manifested in a number of different ways:
- In degree programmes which aim to turn students into practising historians and art historians by the time that they graduate, enabling them to learn the essential skills of professionals and to research and write history and history of art for themselves.
- In a broad spectrum of engagement with public bodies and arenas, including English Heritage, various museums and art galleries, schools, writers’ groups, government departments and film and television companies. We have a 'Public History' pathway to the History MA programme and hold an annual festival of history, Past Matters, for the citizens of Bristol and friends. A parallel strand in the History of Art MA offers a number of curatorial units in collaboration with museum partners locally and nationally.
- In an interest in major themes which cut across chronological and disciplinary boundaries in research and teaching, such as the environment, the body, and visual culture.
- In the continued development of a broad span of subjects for teaching and research, allowing plenty of choice to students and staff alike, with particular strengths in the medieval and early modern, modern and contemporary periods, and in imperial and colonial history.
- In a participation in the widest possible spans of academic collaboration and association, including a particular input into the World University Network.
Research in the Department of History encompasses a wide range of historical approaches, operating in both the Arts and the Social Sciences, and focus mainly on these areas:
- Contemporary history
- Colonial history
- Early modern history
- Medieval history
Staff and research students from the department engage widely in the activities of Bristol Institute for Research in the Humanities and Arts (BIRTHA) and the Worldwide Universities Network.
Close links also exist with national scholarly institutions such as the British Academy, the Institute for Historical Research, the Economic History Society, and other such institutions.