School of History, Classics & Archaeology

School supports 1DayWithoutUs

The School of History, Classics and Archaeology is proud to support the 1DayWithoutUs day of action to celebrate social justice, diversity, and solidarity towards migrants and refugees in Britain and beyond. (Published on 20 Feb, 2017)

1 Day Without Us

As a School, History, Classics and Archaeology (HCA)  provides a clear example of the enriching role of diversity in education and in British society at large. Our own curriculum and research expertise address themes of social justice and cultural diversity in a variety of historical settings from Ancient Greece to modern-day Britain and America.

Our research: migration, diversity, displacement, exchange

Refugees and slavery are two themes cutting across our Subject Areas of Classics and History that are being investigated extensively by staff. German Dr Ulrike Roth, a leading expert on Roman slavery, has just won a prestigious Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship to provide the first comprehensive study of child slavery in the Roman world, including of the forced migration of children via the ancient slave trade. In a different time and place, a new book by American historian Dr David Silkenat explores the fate of refugees of Civil War-era North Carolina. In it, Dr Silkenat presents a compelling picture of an internal humanitarian crisis driven by mobility, shaped by unprecedented economic pressures and disease vectors, and exacerbated by governments unwilling or unable to provide meaningful relief. The work of both scholars deepens our understanding of past economies of exploitation and discrimination and offers valuable insight onto the cultural, social and political conditions that made these forms of exploitations possible and indeed acceptable.

In addition, our School proudly support research on issues surrounding migration and diasporas through our Scottish Centre for Diaspora Studies. Its members work on a variety of themes that include migration, displacement, but also collaboration and exchange between Scotland and Europe. Dr Wendy Ugolini's award-winning first book examined the lives of Italian wartime internees, anti-Italian violence and relocation, but also the contribution of Scottish-Italians who served in the British Army and auxiliary services. In her first book, Dutch-born Dr Esther Mjiers explored how the connections between Scotland and the Netherlands that went back to medieval times were mutually enriched by a steady flow of Scottish students who attended the leading Dutch universities in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The Netherlands, Dr Mijers argues, served as a vital point of contact between Scotland and the intellectual culture of the rest of Europe. Indeed, the well-known reform of Edinburgh University in 1708 owes a substantial debt to the Netherlands: Dutch-educated professors brought with them pedagogical practices and textbooks acquired on the continent and reformed Edinburgh’s university along the Dutch model. Both examples serve as a reminder of how Scottish society was enriched by past migration and cultural exchange.

Migration features prominently in another recent research project carried out between the School and the Centre for African Studies (CAS). In collaboration with colleagues Dr George Karekwaivenane and Professor James Smith from CAS, Dr Emma Hunter and PhD students Tom Cunningham, Ismael Maazaz, and Henry Mitchell set out to uncover the University’s global past by exploring the lives and legacies of the many African students that studied at the University of Edinburgh in the period 1840-1940. As part of the British War Office’s push to train Africans in medicine, African students began to be sent to Edinburgh to gain a medical degree from the 1850s. Among the many African medical doctors trained in Edinburgh was Dr Agnes Yewande Savage, the first West African woman to qualify as a medical doctor.  In the late 1930s and early 1940s medical students were joined by students studying anthropology, history and literature, among them Julius Nyerere, first President of Tanzania. Studying the lives of these individuals through the lens of their time in Edinburgh provides a new perspective on the University’s global history, and also offers a window onto central themes in the intellectual history of the modern world from Pan-Africanism to the Scottish Enlightenment.

Our building: the legacy of the Italian Renaissance

The very building that houses HCA, formerly the Medical School of the University of Edinburgh, exemplifies the profitable exchange of ideas between Scotland and the continent. This majestic building (and the adjacent McEwan Hall where graduations traditionally happen), was designed by Scottish architect Robert Rowand Anderson (1834-1921). Prior to winning the competition, Anderson took a whirlwind tour of European medical schools, museums, palaces and churches in search of inspiration. Anderson declared to have been moved in particular by Italian Renaissance architecture, declaring: “I have made use of that phase of art which arose in Italy during the second half of the fifteenth century when the great minds of that country began to burst the bonds of dogma and ecclesiastical authority and were determined to inquire into the nature of all things.” Indeed, Late Medieval and Italian Renaissance history has a long tradition at the University of Edinburgh, which can count among its most distinguished professors Denys Hay, one of the leading historians of the Italian Renaissance in the 20th century. The annual Denys Hay Lecture in his honour celebrates his achievements and those of the many scholars of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance that are members of our School.

International recognition: leading in Europe

In recent years, our staff has received prestigious awards from leading international and European academies. Archaeologist Dr Manuel Fernandez Gotz, who trained in Spain and Germany and was recently awarded the prestigious Phillip Leverhulme Prize, has also been elected as a member of the Young Academy of Europe. Archaeology Professor Ian Ralston, and Classics Professor Douglas Cairns, both former Heads of School, have both been elected as members of the prestigious Academia Europaea, whose stated aim is to advance and promote excellence in scholarship “in the humanities, law, the economic, social, and political sciences, mathematics, medicine, and all branches of natural and technological sciences anywhere in the world for the public benefit and for the advancement of the education of the public of all ages in the aforesaid subjects in Europe.” These awards signal the prestige and recognition bestowed upon Edinburgh scholars by the international scholarly community.

Our international staff: Europe and beyond

Many of our staff and students come from outside of the U.K, with staff hailing from Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, The Netherlands, Spain and the USA. A large number of our students participate in a wide range of student exchanges across Europe and other parts of the world. Similarly, hundreds of international and European undergraduate and postgraduate students have come to Edinburgh to study with our world-leading academics.

This varied community of staff and students both enriches us and makes us what we are. On 20 February, we would like to express our warm support for the National Day of Action #1DayWithoutUs to celebrate the importance of migration and diversity but also express solidarity to those people who still endure displacement, discrimination, and oppression.

Please join us at 4pm today in the McMillan Room for an event to celebrate 1 Day Without Us (

Professor Ewen Cameron, Head of School

Dr Monica Azzolini, Director of Equality and Diversity

Dr Ulrike Roth's staff profile Dr George Karekwaivenane's staff profile Philip Leverhulme Prize
Dr David Silkenat's staff profile Professor James Smith's staff profile Young Academy of Europe
Scottish Centre for Diaspora Studies Dr Emma Hunter's staff profile Professor Ian Ralston's staff profile
Dr Wendy Ugolini's staff profile

Our Building - Medical School of the University of Edinburgh

Professor Douglas Cairns's staff profile
Dr Esther Mjiers's staff profile

Denys Hay Lecture

Academia Europaea
Centre for African Studies Dr Manuel Fernández-Götz's staff profile Student exchanges