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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Professor Paul Pickering

“IAS is an outstanding institution, which promotes excellence in research and this is evident by the quality of the Fellows, the access it provides to outstanding scholars in the Durham faculties and, it goes without saying, the from the directors.”

Professor Paul Picking, The Australian National University

IAS Fellow at Ustinov College, Durham University (January – March 2019)


Professor Paul Pickering is Director of both the Research School of Humanities and the Arts (2013-) and the new Australian Studies Institute (2017-) at the Australian National University.

Prior to taking up his current posts Professor Pickering has undertaken numerous roles at ANU, including a term as Dean of the College of Arts and Social Sciences (2014-16) inaugural Director of the ANU Centre for European Studies (2010-12); Director of Graduate Studies (2004-9) and a Queen Elizabeth II Fellow at the Humanities Research Centre (2000-4). He was the Convenor of Graduate Studies in History (2002-6) and Interdisciplinary and Cross Cultural Research (2007-13). He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, a member of the Board of the Australian Dictionary of Biography, co-editor of the Enlightenment World Series, editor of Humanities Research and History Editor of Cogent: Humanities. In 2012 he was the recipient of the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Graduate Supervision.

His books include Chartism and the Chartists in Manchester and Salford (1995); The People's Bread: A History of the Anti-Corn Law League (2000) (with Alex Tyrrell); Friends of the People: Uneasy Radicals in the Age of the Chartists (London, 2003); Contested Sites: Commemoration, Memorial and Popular Politics in Nineteenth Century Britain (2004); Unrespectable Radicals? Popular Politics in the Age of Reform (2007); Feargus O'Connor: A Political Life (2008) and Historical Reenactment: From Realism to the Affective Turn (2010). His latest book (with Kate Bowan), Sounds of Liberty: Music, Radicalism and Reform in the Anglophone World, 1790-1914, was published by Manchester University Press in August 2017. His articles have been published by leading journals, both in Australia and overseas including Past and Present, History, English Historical Review Australian Historical Studies, Albion, Labour History Review and Revue d’histoire du xixe siècle.

Professor Pickering’s current book project is From ‘Dark Satanic Mills’ to the ‘Manchester Miracle’: the politics of urban-industrial heritage in Britain, which will be published by Routledge in 2018-19.

In 2012 he was a Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Edinburgh. In 2014 he was an Andrew Mellon Research Fellow at the Huntington Library in California, and a Vice Chancellor’s Research Fellow at Newcastle University in England. In 2015 he was a Visiting Research Professor at St. Andrews University and in 2016 Professeur invité à l'Université Paris-Sorbonne IV.

The broad-based, interdisciplinary project led by Dr Amy Russell ‘Who are “We the People”? Community beyond the state' is both important and timely and intersects closely with Professor Pickering’s long term research interests. A shifting and vague notions of ‘the people’ and ‘popular' are increasingly used to underpin commentary on current geopolitical developments, as well as alarmingly diffuse and ill-defined categories for viewing the past being employed by scholars from a range of disciplines. Capacious projects such DrRussell's will undoubtedly provide important opportunities to address these issues and by so doing inform debate in the academy as well as public discourse. Professor Pickering is looking forward to collaborating with Dr Russell and a range of scholars of international standing. During his stay at Durham he will begin work on a project exploring notions of the people, popular rights and political leadership, not only within Britain but also across Britain's colonies of settlement.

Fellow's Home Institution

Public Lecture - Who were the people? From ‘Swinish Multitude’ to ‘Members Unlimited’ in the British world

When the abusive appellation ‘Swinish Multitude’ was first coined by Edmund Burke in 1790 it provoked a sharp response: approbation from Tory politicians and commentators alarmed by potential advances of ‘the mob’, and outrage among some reformers including the redoubtable Tom Paine. Equally important were those radicals who embraced to term, albeit in a tone dripping with an admixture of irony and sarcasm, in pamphlets, poems, songs and images, often equating it with the idea of ‘the public’ and ‘the people’. At about the same time a handful of members of the nascent London Corresponding Society – ‘Tradesmen, Shopkeepers, and Mechanics’ – meet to discuss the question of whether or not they had the right to champion the cause of parliamentary reform. As E.P. Thompson famously and succinctly put it: ‘They decided they had’. Thereafter they opened their ranks to ‘Members Unlimited’. The course of their campaign writ large and the panicked resistance to it over the decades to follow is well-known. What is less understood is how the campaign – framed by the question of who were the people? – played out in Britain’s colonies of settlement, including those dealing with a heritage of convict transportation. This is far more than a footnote to a metropolitan narrative. An examination of the ranks of ‘Members Unlimited’, and the course of their campaigns for the rights enjoyed, theoretically at least, by free-born Britons, forces us to reframe our understanding of the course of British politics.

Listen to the lecture in full.

Professor Paul Pickering Publications