Holly Firmin

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African Democracy – Writing history as it unfolds

At the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, forty-two out of forty-seven Sub-Saharan African countries had authoritarian regimes without seriously competitive elections. By 1994, not one had a one-party state, and thirty-eight had held competitive elections. Historians of post-colonial Africa have inevitably been preoccupied with attempting to explain how...

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History as theatre

Last term, I co-directed a play entitled ‘The Cambridge Companion to the History of Lesbianism’. Working from a discarded dissertation idea, I led a team of researchers in uncovering a wealth of historical material about the lives of lesbians and same-sex desire between women in British history. Working on this...


On the importance of local history

This summer holiday I have read 156 copies of my local paper on microfilm. Amidst the tedium of adverts for a brand new Asda, celebrations of newly-weds and asbestos scandals, the local Gazette has given me an invaluable insight into the relationship between local and national politics in the 1980s....


The Forgotten History of Women’s Football

This summer, England’s women’s football team competed in the European Championships. As the Women’s Super League has grown in recent years, recently receiving a cash injection intended to double participation by 2018, the profile of women’s history has risen. European championship games were made available to stream on Channel 4’s...


Early Modern England: A Literate Culture?

In the late 15th century, the printing press came to England. Whilst initially its trade remained small and concentrated in the hands of a few, its rapid expansion throughout the Early Modern period transformed English society, rendering ‘literature culture’ important to everyday life. However, the true extent to which literature...


LGBT+ Public History: ‘Queering’ Museums and Archives

As explored in Jack’s introductory article, the history of sexuality is a problematic endeavour. The historical contingency of sexual identities renders quests to ‘reclaim’ an LGBT+ past problematic. In an attempt to avoid imposing the categories of gender and sexuality of our contemporary world onto the past, historians have focused...


Curious Objects, Hidden Histories

The Cambridge University Library (UL) strikes fear into the heart of many a student. Students stumble through the endless shelves desperately trying to figure out the indexing system –  and find the light switch. However, the UL need not be the source of such great anxiety. Holding close to 8...


Let’s Get Physical: Objects and History

Popular works of history have often employed material objects as a lens through which to analyse the past. By attaching significance to objects, artefacts and buildings, historians are able to elicit greater public engagement with the past. The history of people is inextricably bound up with the history of the...


Cinema and History: Leisure Meets Politics

Although the value of film as a primary historical source has long been recognised, especially in light of progress made in digitization techniques, such material is often overlooked in favour of ‘traditional’ documents. With the growth of cinema as a popular leisure time activity from the beginning of the 20th...