The James Ford Lectures in British History

The Ford Lectures in British History were founded by a bequest from James Ford, and inaugurated by S.R.Gardiner in 1896-7. Since then, an annual series has been delivered over six weeks in the Hilary term and they have long been established as the most prestigious series in Oxford and an important annual event in the History Faculty calendar.

*Please note: The lectures featured below are those that the Faculty currently had permission to publish at this time *

2020: Professor Margot Finn

Family and Empire: Kinship and British Colonialism in the East India Company Era, c. 1750-1850 

These lectures investigate the structures and aspirations of the family as central forces that propelled and maintained the upsurge of British imperialism that marked the century from Robert Clive’s celebrated victory at Plassey in 1757 to the declaration of Crown rule in India in 1858.  Historians hotly dispute the causes of British imperial expansion, variously ascribing colonial conquest in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to ideological, cultural, political and economic push factors.  By taking family and kinship—in their myriad British and cross-cultural forms—as its focal points, this series of lectures reassesses and resituates these interpretations.  It also takes seriously the contribution made to East India Company rule on the subcontinent by the forgotten majority of the British population: woman and children.  Without reducing empire to family, the lectures argue that family imperatives made British empire in India both desirable and possible.  Contested understandings of kinship, moreover, lay at the heart of British understandings (and misunderstandings) of Indian politics in this period.  Family writ large thus emerged as a powerful and contentious paradigm for governance in the Company era.  To exemplify these lines of argument, the lectures address topics that include demographic growth, marriage, perceptions of racial difference, property relations, the material cultures of East India Company homes and Georgian and Victorian conceptions of dynastic politics.       

2019: Professor Mark Bailey

AFTER THE BLACK DEATH: Society, economy and the law in fourteenth-century England

As the single greatest catastrophe in recorded history, the Black Death of 1348-9 continues to grip both the popular and scholarly imagination.  This series of six lectures reassesses the main social, economic, legal and cultural responses to the great mortality during the second half of the fourteenth century and explores how they were shaped by the prevailing institutional framework—the rules, laws and belief systems—regulating social and economic behaviour in England.

2015: Professor Steven Gunn

The English People at War in the Age of Henry VIII

In this lecture series Professor Steven Gunn looks at the effects of war on the people of England in the 1500s. This lecture series was recorded in Hilary Term 2015 and is part of the annual James Ford Lectures in British History series at the Examination Schools in Oxford University.