Penelope Corfield served as President of the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies and is currently the elected Vice-President of the International Society of the same name.
She pursued her academic career in
London University, firstly at Bedford College and then
at Royal Holloway (with which Bedford merged in the mid-1980s).
She is now an Emeritus Professor, attached to the History
Department of Royal Holloway. She is also a Visiting Professor at Newcastle University, with links to the 'London Electoral History 1700-1850' project, which can be consulted on its own special website: http://leh.ncl.ac.uk/.
At various times, she has held Visiting Professorships
in Australia, Hungary and Japan, as well as Visiting Fellowships
at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and at
the University of Oxford (Nuffield College; All Souls
College). In addition, she has taught courses in British
history for the Yale-in-London programme; and, throughout
her career, she has given many lectures to history societies,
student groups, and academic gatherings around the world.
Since 2015, Penelope has been an elected Member of the Academia Europaea/ Academy of Europe. She is also one of the founder members of the International Big History Association, and a member of the Big History UK Group.
As an academic, she decided to focus especially upon teaching
and writing, and therefore not to seek posts in academic
administration. But she has carried out her fair share
of administrative 'chores', including service on the History
sub-Panel for the government-decreed 2008 Research Assessment
Exercise. Her ambivalence about this process is recorded
in her Meditations by a Reluctant Auditocrat, which
was published in 2009.
Click here for CorfieldPdf/15 Meditations.
Penelope Corfield loves life as a freelance, lecturing to audiences around the world. During her academic career, she deeply enjoyed the experience of teaching
both undergraduates and postgraduates at MA and PhD level.
She believes in helping students to gain transferable
skills (who doesn't?) but she is strongly opposed
to the current trend in education-politics, which elevates
'Skills' above 'Knowledge'. That is not only wrong in
principle but it also leads to an inadequate learning
of skills, thus defeating the very aim of the 'Skills'
mantra. On this, see CorfieldPdf/16.
As a teacher, she was especially proud of her record in
teaching the famous Core Course of Royal Holloway's Modern
History MA (1992-2008) and of supervising since the 1980s
a galaxy of 30+ PhD students, including many recruited
from overseas, with topics ranging from seventeenth-century
piracy to twentieth-century British social, gender and
political history, via many on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century
Britain. All have completed; most have gone on to publish;
and 20 now hold tenure-track University or research posts,
either in Britain or overseas (Canada, Israel, Japan,
Spain, and Taiwan).
As an author, she has published numerous books and essays
on British history post 1600, and also on History as a
subject of study - a field now becoming defined as Historiology.
See especially The Impact of English Towns 1700-1800
(1982); Power & the Professions in Britain 1700-1850
(1995; pprbk 1999); The Westminster Historical Database: Voters, Social Structure and Electoral Behaviour, with CD-ROM, co-authored with Charles Harvey
and Edmund Green (1998); and P.J. Corfield, Time &
the Shape of History (2007).
She continues to research/write on British history and Approaches to History, republishing core essays in website sections WHAT IS HISTORY and HISTORY ESSAYS.
Penelope Corfield loves big city life and lives in Battersea,
south London, with her long-term partner, Tony Belton. In the 1970s, she was a local Councillor
in the London Borough of Wandsworth and part of a progressive
Labour administration - a formative experience.
Since then she has been a sometimes more and sometimes
less active grass-root in the Labour movement, whose minimum
wage legislation she welcomed and whose top-down educational
audit regime she deplored. Among her hobbies is studying
the history of London's south bank and writing plays/pageants of Labour history - one staged so far and maybe more to come.
BEST COMPLIMENT FOR TEACHING:
'At the time, I did not understand what you were talking
- but afterwards, it all made sense' - a first-year History
BEST COMPLIMENT FOR WRITING:
'Reading your book [Time & the Shape of History]
made me think strange thoughts' - a friend who read an
early draft, 2006.
For details of Career + Publications, see CorfieldPdf/17 For companion-pieces on Tony Corfield (1919-2011), trade unionist, see CorfieldPdf/18; and for Irene Corfield, née Hill (1919-2013), see Obituary in Notices, under heading BLOG/ REVIEWS.