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London History Study Group

Director Spring 2020: Andy Rotter, Department of History 

The History of the London History Study Group

In 1966, the History department joined the Economics and English Department in a modus vivendi, under the supervision of three Colgate faculty, one from each department. Professor William Askew was the first director of the History Study Group.

Students conducted research and worked mostly in the British Museum, where they spent most of their time drawing upon the extraordinarily rich archival materials available. A fall group, they worked on a special research project that went through the January Term. History students were also required to take a class from the Economics or English Study Group. They would carry two-three courses offered by the department and one or two electives from the other departments. Members of all study groups in London needed to select a course outside their field of concentration, but they did have the opportunity to take the class as pass-fail. Until recent years, housing used to be a challenge, students had to make their own travel and living arrangements, which took a long time to find fairly decent housing.

The program used to run in the fall along with the Economics and English London Study Group. Now, the program is operated solely by the History department and runs in the Spring.


The London History Study Group allows students to pursue original historical research while enjoying the cultural resources of one of the world’s great cities. Drawing upon the rich archival materials available in London and the surrounding region, students complete research projects under the supervision of the Study Group Director, Professor Andrew Rotter, and produce papers that make genuine contributions to historical knowledge.

Because of the diversity of sources available in London, students’ research topics can range across the globe. In past years, students have used different archives and libraries to do research not just in British history, but also in the history of the United States, Africa, South Asia, Western and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

In addition to pursuing their own research projects, students will take a seminar with Professor Rotter on comparative empire.  The course will provide a broad context for thinking about imperialism across the globe, as it was enacted, implemented, and resisted.  (Participants in this Study Group will satisfy the Core Global Engagements requirement.)

The SG includes three overnight trips: one to Belgium to see the battlefields and monuments of the First World War; a second to the D-Day battlefields of Normandy; and a third to Stonehenge, Salisbury, and Bath. There will also be a day trips to Cambridge, including participation in a joint seminar with Cambridge University undergraduates. Of course, London is an excellent base for independent travel, both within and beyond Britain.

Students on London History Study Group visit Stonehenge

Required Courses

HIST 249: History of the City of London

This is a lecture course taught by Dr. Katy Layton-Jones, an expert on the social, cultural, and architectural history of the city. Weekly walking tours led by Dr. Layton-Jones will take students outside the classroom to explore the city’s varied past.

HIST 482: Seminar in Comparative Empire

Led by Prof. Rotter, this seminar will examine, through time and across space, the abiding historical issue of imperialism.  Readings will consider the sources of imperialism, the diplomatic, political, economic, and social history of empires, and the effect of imperialism on its agents and subjects alike.  Case studies will focus on Great Britain and the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries. 

HIST 491: Independent Study

The study group director serves as mentor for each student’s major research project. Using a combination of primary and secondary materials, each student will produce a 25 to 30-page paper. This paper often serves as the basis for an Honors or High Honors thesis in History. Prerequisites: History 299 and History 300.

ENGL 332: Contemporary London Theater and Culture

Taught by Professor Mike Punter, this course offers a study of drama, both classic and modern, as represented by plays in production in London during Spring 2020. Students will see approximately 10 plays, then discuss in class the theoretical and technical aspects of drama, as well as on what specific productions reveal about British culture or contemporary London.


Students pose along the Thames with the Parliament building in the background.

Upon acceptance into the program, history majors must enroll in HIST 300: The London Colloquium in Fall 2019. Each student should also have taken HIST 299 (History Workshop), prior to departure. These courses provide an introduction to the skills needed for archival research.

Classroom Facilities

The ACCENT London Study Center is located in the heart of Bloomsbury, on Bedford Square, a central London district rich in cultural heritage. The Center is near the University of London campus and is just a few blocks away from the British Museum, home to some six million objects covering the story of human culture and one of the most cherished and respected museums in the world.

Library and Research Facilities

Colgate students can use the British Library at St. Pancras upon presenting appropriate credentials. Students most often work at the British National Archives at Kew; its director helps with orientation and credentials for all students. For certain research topics, access to some of London’s other archives and libraries may be necessary. In the past, LHSG students have worked at the Imperial War Museum, the Feminist Library, the Courtauld Institute, the National Maritime Museum, the Churchill Archives Centre, the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, the British Museum, and many others.

Student Living Arrangements

Students with an award wreath in London

Colgate has arranged with an agency in London to provide students with fully furnished apartments in Bloomsbury, a few minutes’ walk from the classrooms and within walking distance of all of central London. Students will be responsible for their own meals.  (Note that housing in London is somewhat more costly than it is in Hamilton.)


For details of student expenses on this study group, please see Student Cost Estimate Sheets.

Calendar and Deadlines

The study group application will open on Wednesday, October 3, 2018, and will close on Wednesday, November 7, 2018. Applications are on submitted online at The faculty director will announce admissions decisions by late December 2018.

Passports and Visas

You must confirm that your passport is valid through December 2020. All students participating on the spring 2020 London History Study Group will be required to bring appropriate documents so that they can be issued a U.K. student visa when they pass through customs on arrival. With participation on this Study Group comes the responsibility of understanding and complying with U.K. visa requirements. If you will not be traveling on a U.S. passport it is imperative that you contact an adviser in Off-Campus Study/ International Programs and International Student Services, 101 McGregory, to learn as much as you can about the visa requirements. For some students there are significant requirements to be met that take time, advance planning, and incur extra costs.

Program Dates

London History Study Group program dates: January 20-May 8, 2020.