Alumni's plea: think again

February 18, 2010

As historians who owe so much to the University of Sussex environment in which we were trained, we are calling on the university to stop its proposals to withdraw from research and research-led teaching in English social history before 1700 and the history of continental Europe before 1900.

We wish to express solidarity with our internationally recognised colleagues who are threatened with redundancy. We question how a university can abandon areas in which it has built such strength and expect to maintain the reputation on which it trades.

As specialists of contemporary Europe, we have no self-interested motive in defending early modern history. Yet to cut everything but the most modern periods imperils the public function of history, entrenching the arrogance of the present and making a mockery of the claims made by the architect of the cuts, Lord Mandelson, that "we also wish to keep this country civilised".

For a university that has long prided itself on its European links to abandon the serious study of such pivotal areas of modern history as the French Revolution will mean depriving Sussex graduates of the mental furniture of educated Europeans. By cutting European literature at the same time, Sussex risks damaging its reputation as a centre of knowledge for European culture and history.

The unconvincing replies we have received in response to our concerns boil down to this: Sussex will continue to offer a little teaching in these areas, but by non-specialists. We urge the university to think beyond the potential short-term savings and bear in mind that it would be unimaginable to suggest that hard science could be taught with no research base. Sussex students deserve better than this.

K.H. Adler, lecturer in history, University of Nottingham; David Berry, European studies, Loughborough University; Jackie Clarke, programme leader in French, University of Southampton; and 15 others.

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