Professor Alan Booth


I was an undergraduate and doctoral student at the University of Kent (1969-75). I graduated in Economic and Social History (in 1972) but the subject was taught in a very innovative way at Kent. The part 1 of the degree consisted of four teaching terms (exams at Christmas of year 2, not at the end of year 1) and comprised detailed study of the core social science disciplines – economics, law, politics and sociology – in addition to history (which was taught very much as a social science. That social science approach to history has stuck. After completing my doctorate I worked in 1975-6 as research assistant to Professor A.W. Coats of Nottingham University on the role of economists in British government. This involved working in the Treasury as a demi-semi-official historian for one year, and allowed me to walk through the Treasury’s front door in Whitehall every day and to see the streams of business and trade union leaders, bankers and lobbyists who met the Chancellor (Dennis Healey) on a very regular basis. This was huge fun and really consolidated my research interest in problems of economic policy. However, the one-year contract was not conducive to relaxation and I attended a lot of interviews for lectureships, research posts and the like in 1976. Luckily, I was able to grab the best job opportunity that came along, moving in 1976 to Sidney Pollard’s department of Economic and Social History at Sheffield and worked there until 1988, when I came to Exeter. Twelve years in the Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire was a fascinating experience and Economic and Social History, always under threat because of falling numbers of A level applicants, nevertheless combined with the other social sciences in research and teaching. We even pioneered one of the first doctoral programmes – a four-year combined research training and independent research degree – in British policy studies, which was the most stimulating teaching/research environment that I have ever known. At Exeter, the familiar problems of few economic and social history applicants re-appeared, leading to the merger of History and Economic and Social History as part of a major restructuring of the university. The re-shaping of the University has been ceaseless since the later 1990s, but I was happy to move into History and be part of the expansion as it became clear that the merged Deaprtment was much stronger than History and ESH had been in their separate existences. One of the clearest signs of that strength has been the continued expansion of History, first in the School of Historical, Political and Socilogical Studies, and latterly in the expanded School of Humanities and Social Sciences. For me, the best part of that expansion has been the move of HuSS into the University's Cornwall Campus, and since 2006 I have spent the most exciting period in my entire academic life in helping to establish History and Politics alongside the existing provision of Cornish Studies and Theology at Tremough. This has all been rather breathless, and extremely interdisciplinary. We are putting together a very distinctive package at Tremough, with two important and distinctive cores: work with the local small business and volutary sectors; and a strong interdisciplinary flavoour to what we do.