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London History Study Group

Director Spring 2019: Professor Xan Karn, Associate Professor of History

Applications are no longer being accepted.
The deadline to apply to participate on a 2018-19 study group was November 15, 2017

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.

Buckingham Palace, London


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 Alexander Karn, and are expected to produce a paper, which makes a genuine contribution 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, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

In addition to pursuing their own research projects, students will take a class with Professor Karn on the relationship between history and memory. Both are powerful ways of knowing the past, which inform group (e.g., national) identities, but often these two are in conflict with one another. The course will feature units on imperialism, the Atlantic slave trade, World Wars One and Two, and the Holocaust. Participants on this program will satisfy the Core Global Engagements requirement.

The SG includes two overnight trips: one to Belgium to see the battlefields and monuments of the First World War; and a second to Munich, Germany, where students will tour, among other sites, the Dachau concentration camp. There will also be several day trips, and, of course, London is an excellent base for independent travel, both within and beyond Britain.

Required Courses

HIST 249Y: 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 4XX: Seminar in History and Memory (GE credit anticipated)

Led by Prof. Karn, this seminar probes the complex relationship between history and memory in a variety of global contexts. While memory is a powerful component of group identity, it also disrupts and remakes history in ways that are not always well understood. How does memory shape public interpretation of the past? Can history and memory complement each other to bring new understanding to the past? Whose memories prevail, where different groups make competing claims? Rich in historical sources and a crucial nexus in the global past, London is an ideal venue for students to interrogate and understand how key events of the modern era have been remembered, misremembered, commemorated, and forgotten.

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 30 to 40-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 332Y: London Theater

A study of drama, both classic and modern, as represented by plays in production in London during Spring 2019. Students will see approximately 10 plays, focusing on 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 2018. 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.
Students with an award wreath in London

Student Living Arrangements

Housing in London is more costly than in Hamilton, but Colgate has made arrangements with an agency in London to provide students with centrally located and fully furnished apartments. Students will be responsible for their own meals.


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

Calendar and Deadlines

The deadline for applications to the Spring 2019 London History Study Group is Wednesday, November 15, 2017. Applications are on the Colgate University Off-Campus Study/International Programs study groups’ websites and are submitted online. Student notification of selection will take place in December 2017.

Passports and Visas

You must confirm that your passport is valid through December 2019. All students participating on the Spring 2019 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, 101 McGregory, and International Student Services, 103C Lathrop, 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 18th–May 11th, 2019.

Informational Sessions

  • Tuesday, October 17 at 11:30 am
  • Monday, October 23 at 4:15 pm
Both information sessions will be held in History Department Lounge, Alumni 333

More Information

For more information, contact Professor Karn,

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