Richard N. Price has been at the University of Maryland as Professor of History since 1982. He is currently serving a term (2009-2012) as Chair of the Department, having previously served two terms between 1986 and 1992, and a third term between 2006 and 2009. His administrative experience at the University of Maryland includes a term as Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of History, Acting Director of the School of Music (1995-1996), and Interim Director of the Clarice Smith Center for the Performing Arts (1998-1999). Before coming to the University of Maryland he was a member of the Department of History of Northern Illinois University where he was variously Assistant, Associate and Full Professor.
Professor Price began his scholarly career at the University of Sussex where he studied with Ranajit Guha and from which institution he received his D.Phil in 1968. His early scholarly career focused on the social history of the British working class in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Inspired both by Guha’s interest in empire and the “new social history” associated with British historians such as Asa Briggs, Edward Thompson and Eric Hobsbawm, his first book, An Imperial War and the British Working Class (London, 1972) was a study of the place of empire in working-class culture at the turn of the twentieth century. His second book, Masters, Unions and Men (Cambridge, 1980) focused on the workplace history of the British working class in the nineteenth century, taking the case of the building industry over the period 1830-1914. This book was much influenced by the “Oxford School” of industrial sociologists who highlighted the role of informal workshop organization in the industrial relations of post-second world war Britain, and was concerned to demonstrate the historical importance of such traditions in the history of trade unions and employer-worker relations. His third book, Labour in British Society 1780-1980 (London, 1986) was an interpretive history of the role that Labour played in the shaping of British social and political history from the late eighteenth century to the late twentieth century.
Following the publication of Labour in British Society, Professor Price’s scholarly work took a slightly different direction. He began work on a general, synthetic history of Britain since the late seventeenth century which was published as British Society 1680-1880: Dynamism, Containment and Change (Cambridge, 1999). This book proposed the need to re-periodize the study of British history. It argued that the common conception of the nineteenth century as the pivot of modernity in British history rested upon a mistaken notion of dramatic political, economic, and social change around the end of the eighteenth century. The book suggested that the main themes of the nineteenth century were better conceived as an extension and continuation of the eighteenth century rather than marking a significant departure. By this accounting, it was not until the late nineteenth century that the forces of modernity reshaped the contours of British society that had been originally laid down in the late seventeenth century.
More recently, Richard Price has returned to the study of empire. In 2008 he published Making Empire. Colonial Encounters and the Creation of Imperial Rule in Nineteenth-Century Africa (Cambridge, 2008). The book has been awarded the Albion Prize for the Best Book in Post-1800 British History by the North American Conference on British Studies. It looks at the experience of empire at the frontier of the Eastern Cape Colony in the early nineteenth century. The book is an account of the dramatic and tragic story of the extension of British rule over the Xhosa. It recounts the experiences of missionaries, administrators and military men as they encountered Xhosa culture and politics. Centering its narrative around the personal stories that such encounters generated, it tracks the growth of an imperial culture of rule out of those experiences. But in addition, the book presents an image of empire that departs considerably from the image commonly found in British historiography. The empire that is pictured in this book is not the empire that was fondly cultivated at home in the metropole where British rule was portrayed as secure, largely benign, liberal and adhering to the rule of law. The empire that is portrayed in this book was an empire in which liberal rhetoric and ideology cloaked violence and violations of the rule of law. It was also an empire where instability and fragility afflicted the colonizer as well as the colonized.
Richard Price has edited two books in collaboration with John Belchem, Professor of History, the University of Liverpool, and Marcel van der Linden of the University of Amsterdam and the International Institute for Social History. He has written many scholarly articles and is frequently invited to deliver papers at academic conferences all over the world. He has served on the editorial board of Victorian Studies, as a member of panels of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies. In 1992-93 he was a visiting fellow at the International Institute for Social History in Amsterdam, and in 1996 and 1997 he was a visiting lecturer at the Russian Academy of Sciences. Between 2003 and 2007 Richard Price was the Modern Britain/Ireland section editor for History-Compass, an online referred journal published by Wiley-Blackwell. He currently serves on the Advisory Board of the International Review of Social History and on the editorial board of the Journal of British Studies. In December 2010 he delivered the Founding Historians Lecturer at the University of Sussex.
"Is Bernard Porter’s Absent-Minded Imperialists useful for the study of Empire and British national culture?"
"Bad Education: How British Humanitarians Learnt Racism in the Empire 1840-1860"
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