Archive of History, Philosophy and Religion stories

It’s hard work being a smart girl: How today’s schools and screens retell some very old stories about gender and learning

Senior Lecturer at Oxford Brookes University Michele Paule explores real and media worlds of the high-achieving girl at the start of the 21st Century to show how girls are still struggling with some persistent myths about how they learn and how they should be.

In a study conducted across English secondary schools, internet forums and teen TV, Paule explores how girls respond and relate to stories—both experienced and fictional—about ‘smart’ girls:

“One of the most surprising findings of the research was how far back ideas about brilliant, erratic boys and dull, conscientious girls reach—right back to ancient Greece—and also how little actual scientific evidence there is underlying these ideas, even in an age of popularized neuroscience.”

“One of the most surprising findings of the research was how far back ideas about brilliant, erratic boys and dull, conscientious girls reach—right back to ancient Greece.”

Michele Paule, Senior Lecturer in Media, Culture and Communication

“Yet girls, and those who work with them, still form the impression that their success is due to diligence rather than intelligence, that girls’ hard work somehow skews exam results, defrauding boys of their rightful place at the top.

“Girls themselves are aware of how limiting popular stereotypes of feminine achievement can be: geek is not necessarily chic, and intelligence has to be balanced with a hefty dose of femininity if a girl is not to risk social exclusion. As one participant noticed ‘even Hermione gets her teeth fixed’.

“The stereotypes are limited in other ways too. On the project’s forum, one girl asks, ‘Do you have to be posh to be smart?’ The answer is, depressingly, ‘yes’. For example, Dr Who companion Rose Tyler is excluded because ‘she is blonde and off a council estate’. Another respondent describes how she herself was sent to elocution lessons by her parents to combat prejudice against her regional accent. The project’s findings suggest that schools and the media still have a way to go to create conditions in which girls find it easy to thrive intellectually. As one school interviewee neatly summed up: ‘We need better stories’. Teachers and TV producers, over to you.”

A former secondary schoolteacher, Michele Paule is Senior Lecturer in Media, Culture and Education at Oxford Brookes University. She is currently researching girls’ ideas about leadership across different European contexts.Girlhood, Schools, and Media: Popular Discourses of the Achieving Girl is published by Routledge and is available for pre-order.

Oxford Brookes launches brand new Criminology course


The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences are pleased to announce the launch of a new undergraduate degree in Criminology.

The course has been designed to tackle fundamental questions behind what makes an act or action a crime and look at how crime can be analysed from both a social and political perspective. It will include topics as diverse as crime and punishment through the ages to Robo-Cops and ASBOs.

The course will be taught from an interdisciplinary perspective spanning the fields of Social Sciences, History and Law and the University’s commitment to research-led teaching will be a prominent feature in this new degree programme.

We are very excited about the launch of this new course. It has been developed in close collaboration with external stakeholders, current students, recent graduates and with advice from expert colleagues in the field.

Richard Huggins, Principal Lecturer, Department of Social Sciences, Oxford Brookes University

Criminological theory expert Richard Huggins, who has over two decades of research expertise around substance use and misuse, homelessness and social inclusion, will act as programme lead for the new course. Speaking about the launch of the new programme he said: “We are very excited about the launch of this new course. It has been developed in close collaboration with external stakeholders, current students, recent graduates and with advice from expert colleagues in the field. The course offers students a varied, interdisciplinary and up-to-date programme in criminology in a global context.”

Professor Anne-Marie Kilday, Britain’s only professor of Criminal History, will offer the historical approach to the teaching of criminology. Anne-Marie specialises in the history of violent crimes and has previously been the recipient of a Brookes Union teaching award for her inspirational lecturing style.

The course will also offers some law options for students especially interested in the policies and processes of the criminal justice system.

The course is currently accepting applications for an enrolment date of September 2017. To find out more or to apply please visit the Criminology course entry page.

The Centre for Medical Humanities welcome their first research fellow

Dr Emmanuel Betta

Dr Emmanuel Betta

The Department of History, Philosophy and Religion are pleased to welcome Dr Emmanuel Betta to the research community at Brookes. He will be a Visiting Research Fellow for both the Centre for Medical Humanities and the Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History.

Dr Emmanuel Betta is a researcher of contemporary history and an associate professor at the University of Rome, Sapienza. His current area of research, Catholic biopolitics, spans the research interests of both centres.

Expanding upon his research interests Dr Emmanuel said:

“From the mid nineteenth century to 1930, the Congregation of the Roman Inquisition, which had a decisive role in the definition of orthodoxy of Catholic discourse, started to create rules on topics concerning the control of life and body. From the forties onwards it focused on magnetism and hypnosis, birth control methods, surgical-obstetrical therapies for high-risk pregnancies, cremation of the bodies of dead people, human artificial procreation, whereas from the first years of the twentieth century it started to deal with sterilization and eugenics. These topics all had in common the body, and above all the fact that they were the product of a secularized view of the body itself, of life and death. These elements were no longer conceived and governed starting from a religious and Catholic semantics, but they were increasingly interpreted as starting from biomedical knowledge and perspectives.”

“The aim of my research is to develop the history of Catholic biopolitics, meaning the creation of a doctrine of the Catholic Church concerning the ways in which the different aspects of life are governed.”

Dr Emmanuel Betta

“I’m particularly interested in this change and in the way in which the Catholic Church reacted to the loss of control over the production of the semantics for the government of the body and the health. This interest has pushed me in the last ten years to examine specific aspects of this articulated disciplinary process, from the therapeutic interruption of pregnancy and the artificial insemination, to which I dedicated my first two books, to my last article focused on the discourse concerning birth control, in which emerged a relevant role of the English case for the inquisitorial disciplinary decisions. During my Visiting Fellowship I will work on the interplay between national case, in particular the English one, and this disciplinary process, with particular attention to the reception of the Inquisitorial documents in the medical and religious journals and to the analysis of the role of English Catholics in the eugenics discussions.”

For more information about the Centre for Medical Humanities please see here .

For more information about the Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History please see here.

First Year Students receive Ede and Ravenscroft Prize


Five students from across the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences have received prizes for outstanding academic achievement in their first year of studies. The prizes of £500 are donated by Ede and Ravenscroft and are awarded to one student in each department who has achieved the highest grade point average over their first year.

The winners are:

Miriam Manco, Applied Languages, Department of English and Modern Languages

Charlotte Reece, Primary Teacher Education, School of Education

Tatiana Sollis, History of Art, Department of History, Philosophy and Religion

Max Jones, Geography, Department of Social Sciences

Tiffany Heppell, LLB Law, School of Law

Winner Tatiana Sollis commented ‘‘I feel very honoured to have received this prize. I will use this prize to motivate me for the rest of my studies and I will put my winnings towards a trip to New York to visit the Museum of Modern Art next summer, which we studied this year and fired my artistic imagination.”

The English and Modern Languages winner Miriam Manco said “It was such an honour to win the Ede and Ravenscroft prize 2016. The department is a community I feel very close to and has been incredibly engaging. Winning this prize was great and has given me impetus to do even better in the years to come.”

Social Sciences winner Max Jones added ‘’I feel extremely happy to be recognised for all of the hard work I have put in to my Geography course this year. I would also like to thank the lecturers for all of their help and support in guiding me through the first year of university.”

 ‘Congratulations to all of the Ede and Ravenscroft prize winners!’

Dave Ellis, Dean of Student Experience, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

New first year offering for Brookes’ Philosophy course

Philo news

The Philosophy Course at Oxford Brookes has introduced two new modules into the first year syllabus. The modules: Global Philosophy in Religions and Human Nature will pose questions such as ‘How can philosophy help us to lead a flourishing life?’ and will complement the already diverse yet cohesive module list available to students.

Philosophy at Brookes investigates the history of philosophy in great detail. It examines prominent issues in areas such as science and religion, and takes the view that the work of great philosophers of the past is relevant to contemporary concerns. The course also explores how the work of historical philosophers impacts upon debates that are central to modern philosophy.

Traditionally, the course has been grounded in the Western approach to teaching philosophy; however the new modules will add a more distinctive element to the course through examining philosophy from a non-western approach.

‘For the new academic year we have added two exciting new first year modules to the Philosophy programme. They will add both breadth and depth to the programme and will enable students to explore issues that have interested philosophers for centuries and are of great contemporary relevance’.

Dr Mark Cain, Programme Lead for Philosophy.

More information on the BA Philosophy course can be found here.

Academics awarded prize for paper on history of Docklands regeneration

Docklands-planning-imageTwo Oxford Brookes academics have been awarded a prize for a research paper which explores the history of the regeneration of the East London docklands and the setting up of the London Docklands Development Corporation.

Dr Sue Brownill from the School of the Built Environment and Professor Glen O’Hara from the Department of History, Philosophy and Religion at Oxford Brookes University, have been awarded the 2016 Biennial Planning Perspectives Paper Prize for their paper From Planning to Opportunism; Re-examining the Creation of the London Docklands Development Corporation.

The Biennial Planning Perspectives Prize is funded by Taylor & Francis and awarded to the best planning history article published in the previous two volumes of the journal.

In awarding the prize the judges commented: “This paper represents both methodologically and conceptually a very important work, challenging ideological and political clichés and investigating with historical tools (archival research) very recent developments, something quite uncommon.[it offers] a new and deep insight into a key moment in the history of planning that goes beyond simple discourses and analyses the complex articulation between actors, pushing on the frontline the issue of contingence in planning history.

“The authors have used careful historical skills and newly accessible archive resources to re-interrogate narratives of important and iconic events that constituted an urban change of truly world significance but which have grown bardic with years of telling by different ideological camps.

“Brownill brings an unrivalled knowledge of the community, political, professional and developer networks that came together in London Docklands built up over many decades of research including innumerable interviews with key actors going back to the earliest days of the initiative. O’Hara brings an extensive understanding of the economic and social policies of the post-war British state and a deep understanding of Britain’s changing long term relationship to the sea.

“This is an article that will, whatever we decide, be very widely read and cited, showcasing the journal for those many who are outside the planning history community.”

The article came out of joint research funded by the University’s Central Research Fund.

The prize was awarded at the 17th Biennial International Planning History Society conference held in Delft on 26 July 2016. The paper can be downloaded and read on Taylor & Francis Online.

PhD student receives funding award from Royal Historical Society

Daniel ReedDaniel Reed, a PhD student from Oxford Brookes University and a previous winner of a Royal Archives award, has now gained funding from the Royal Historical Society.

“I’m delighted to receive this generous award from the Royal Historical Society. The funding will allow me to make a crucial research trip to Yorkshire, where I plan to visit the archives at the Borthwick Institute of Historical Research and York Minster library.”

Daniel Reed, PhD student

Daniel’s thesis ‘The Clerical Profession in the North of England, 1714-1760’, researches the administration and patronage within the Church of England during the mid-eighteenth century.

Daniel remarked “I’m delighted to receive this generous award from the Royal Historical Society. The funding will allow me to make a crucial research trip to Yorkshire, where I plan to visit the archives at the Borthwick Institute of Historical Research and York Minster library. This is to support my thesis and wider research into ecclesiastical affairs and early newspapers in the North of England.”

Daniel is a part-time PhD student in the department of History, Philosophy and Religion under the supervision of Professors William Gibson and Joanne Begiato

Professor Begiato said “I’m very proud of Daniel’s continued success in attaining awards, which secures funding for his doctoral research. These achievements are testament to his excellent scholarship and hard work.”

Founded in 1868 The Royal Historical Society has become one of the foremost societies in the UK. It works with professional historians advancing the study of the past.

Oxford Brookes student joins regional newspaper on a journalism internship

Emma Corr JournalismEmma Corr, a History and History of Art joint honours graduate from Oxford Brookes University has recently completed a journalism internship with regional newspaper the Leicester Mercury.

The week-long placement held at their Leicestershire headquarters allowed Emma to experience the pace of a working press office.IMG_6736

Keen to make the most of the internship, Emma presented her own ideas for articles to the press editor and wrote four published articles over the course of her placement as well as shadowing a journalist in court.

Emma said “I have always had an interest in journalism and current affairs and wanted to gain some experience with a well established newspaper.”

“My final project at the end of the week involved going to court and shadowing a court correspondent. This was particularly exciting as I had never seen a live court case before, and getting to hear verdicts and observe how journalists followed up real cases was really interesting.”IMG_6732

Emma’s articles included a piece on the infamous Red Bull Challenge, a world-wide trial, involving teams of students challenging themselves to travel across Europe using only cans of red bull as currency. She also wrote an inspiring piece about a mother running the London Marathon for a local charity on behalf of her daughter.

More information about studying History or History of Art can be found here.

Oxford Brookes Philosopher Launches a Short Story Competition

philosophy news

Dr Helen De Cruz, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Oxford Brookes is organising a short story competition for the American Philosophical Association, to inspire writers of philosophical fiction. The aim of this competition is to encourage philosophers to use fiction to explore philosophical ideas.

“As the competition is open to everyone, including students, it is an excellent opportunity to try your hand at a slightly different way of doing philosophy”.Senior Lecturer Helen De Cruz

Dr Helen De Cruz also added “I am very pleased to be able to organise this short story competition for philosophers, thanks to the support of a grant from the Berry Fund for Public Philosophy of the American Philosophical Association. In addition to a cash prize of $500 and publication in Sci Phi Journal of the winning story, we also plan to publish an edited volume of the stories submitted that make an excellent contribution to philosophy.”

It is with a renewed interest in philosophical fiction that this competition has been launched. Philosophical fiction allows writers to explore ideas that cannot be easily dealt with in the format of a journal article or monograph. Some philosophical ideas are better expressed in a story than in a traditional essay, as works by Iris Murdoch and Jean Paul Sartre suggest.

Writers are encouraged to submit stories that cover any genre of fiction, although they must include one or more philosophical ideas. Submissions should be at least 1,000 words and no longer than 7,500 words

Further details and entry criteria can be found here.

The deadline for entries is 21 February 2017.

More information on the Philosophy course at Oxford Brookes can be found here.

Leading Humanities and Social Sciences academics recognised in new research excellence awards

REX_2016The Research Excellence Awards are a new initiative introduced by the University as part of Oxford Brookes’ commitment to supporting research-active academics.

Professor Gary Browning, Associate Dean Research and Knowledge Exchange, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, explains: “The Research Excellence awards are a timely and positive initiative, allowing some of our most successful researchers to press forward in their research. We are delighted that researchers across the Faculty have been recognised for their outstanding research projects, notably monographs and impact case studies. I am sure that the outputs they produce will be excellent.”

Following a recent application period, the winners of the inaugural Research Excellence Awards from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences were as follows:

School of Education

Professor Graham Butt

Department of English and Modern Languages

Dr Simon White

Dr Dinah Roe

Department of History, Philosophy and Religion

Professor Roger Griffin

Professor Anne-Marie Kilday

School of Law

Dr Simon Cooper

Department of Social Sciences

Professor Tina Miller

Professor Anna Nekaris

Researchers were able to apply for one of two levels of award worth either £10,000 or £20,000 which would contribute towards research leave or employment of a research assistant in supporting a project. The scheme is funded through the Central Research Fund and is intended to provide enhanced support for research excellence. It complements Quality-Related Funding at Faculty and Department levels which supports research and knowledge exchange more broadly.

The intention of the university is to continue the scheme annually as part of Oxford Brookes’ investment in research excellence and in supporting the aims of the recently revised Research and Knowledge Exchange Strategy 2016-2020.