APPG Lifetime Achievement Awards presentation

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Archives and History has honouredthe work of historian Professor Sir Michael Howard and archivist HeatherForbes at its annual awards lunch.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Archives and History has honoured the work of historian Professor Sir Michael Howard and archivist Heather Forbes at its annual awards lunch on 11 October 2016 at the UK House of Commons to celebrate outstanding lifetime achievement. The lunch was organised by the Archives and Records Association (UK and Ireland), which acts as the Group’s secretariat. The Group held its annual general meeting immediately before the lunch

The archivist and historian, with their guests, joined members of both houses, representatives from the ARA and The (UK) National Archives at the lunch, which was hosted formally by Lord (David) Clark of Windermere, co-Chair of the Group and prominent, long-standing supporter of the archives sector.

 Archives Lifetime Achievement Awards 2016








Photograph shows, from left to right:
Nick Thomas-Symonds MP, Sir Michael Howard, Heather Forbes, Lord Clark of Windermere
Photographer: Simon O’Connor for the ARA.

Sir Michael Howard is a distinguished historian of warfare and has written seminal works on the subject. He is best known for his tenure at King's College London, where he built the internationally-regarded Department of War Studies and helped develop both ‘strategic studies’ as an academic discipline and the International Institute for Strategic Studies. He followed this as Professor of the History of War, Emeritus Fellow of All Souls College, and Regius Professor of Modern History (all) at Oxford University, among other appointments.

Heather Forbes – one of the UK’s most respected archivists – was nominated for the award by Richard Graham, the MP for Gloucester. In a distinguished career, Heather has pioneered innovations in digital and collaborative working, and in modernising and promoting public access to archive services.

Nick Thomas-Symonds, MP the incoming principal Chair of the Group, introduced the work of Sir Michael Howard. He recalled the number of historians write about war, adding:

“But there are not many who have fought in one. I wonder if you feel that your service in the Second World War has given you an unfair advantage over others in the field. In 1944, you were awarded the Military Cross (MC) "in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in Italy" at Monte Cassino, where losses were high on both sides. Yet you are quoted as saying about the Germans:

‘They were better than we were. We battered our way across Europe with a minimum of finesse and a maximum use of high explosives.’

Students of history find inspiration in such intellectual honesty and sharpness.

And I also want to mention your policymaking legacy: it is less well-known how you have advised and influenced ministers, shadow ministers and their thinking across the political divide in this country for many years. Perhaps I should leave the last word to one of your many admirers, Sir Max Hastings. He said in 2013:

 “Professor Sir Michael Howard is Britain’s greatest living historian.

Nick also extended a warm welcome to Michael’s partner, Mark James.

Sir Michael thanked Nick and the All Party Group warmly for the award. He commented that it was especially pleasing:

“… to be honoured by a group of distinguished historians in their own right. And when I saw that Sir Keith Thomas [winner in 2015] had received this award, I decided it must be worth having!”

Sir Michael also recalled the enormously-valuable role that archivists have played throughout his career and how critical they are for the study of history: without archivists, there would be no history. It’s as simple as that.

Richard Graham, MP (speaking as Group Vice-Chair and having nominated Heather Forbes), praised Heather’s long contribution to the archives sector and her expertise derived from leading innovations in the sector – for example the development and introduction of CALM software (early on) - and Access to Archives, her collaborative working at Canterbury Cathedral, and her pioneering work in developing Heritage Lottery Fund projects in the archives and records sector. In Gloucestershire, for example, he referred to Heather’s work   since 2005 on preservation of born-digital records and information, Archives First – a collaborative group of 11 local authority archives services in southern England dedicated to knowledge sharing and enhancing research, and the For the Record project, aiming at transforming the way archive services are delivered through local partnership and community working. He referred to Heather’s important work with Gloucestershire’s Heritage Hub – a project close to his own heart – and a new way of delivering a sustainable archives service. Richard concluded by also thanking Jill Shonk, Heather’s guest and colleague in Gloucestershire at the lunch, for her dynamic contribution to the sector.

Heather replied by saying that she was “honoured” to receive the lifetime achievement award. She spoke about the challenges in the current public sector environment of maintaining local services as well as the demands that technological evolution were placing on archives and records professionals. On the latter, she recalled (in summary), that the best solution was not to be fazed but to get on and do it. She spoke warmly of the contribution of colleagues like Jill Shonk and the power and impact that collaborative working can make.

This was the sixth All Party Group annual lunch to honour the work of archivists and historians. In 2011, the Group honoured Eric Hobsbawm and Lord (Hugh) Thomas; in 2012 Lord (Asa) Briggs and Sarah Tyacke, CB; in 2013, Professor Jose Harris and Gerry Slater; in 2014, Lord (Kenneth) Morgan and George Mackenzie; and in 2015, Sir Keith Thomas and Patricia Methven.

Notes for editors:

In addition to the above-named, those present at the lunch included:

From the All Party Parliamentary Group on Archives and History: Lord Bew, Secretary; Lord Boswell (Vice-Chair), Lord Aberdare (Treasurer), Tristram Hunt, MP (Vice-Chair), James Gray, MP. Chris Skidmore, MP (the Group’s ex-officio principal Chair) sent apologies.

Guests included: Caroline Ottaway-Searle of The National Archives (UK) and ARA Chief Executive, John Chambers.  

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Archives and History has nearly 80 members. It was established in 2010 and is co-Chaired by Nick Thomas-Symonds, MP and Lord Clark of Windermere. The Group aims to support the archives sector and promote the study of history. The Group has a regular programme of visits and hosts an annual lecture (the next one being 22 November).

The Archives and Records Association (UK & Ireland) is the leading professional and membership body for archivists, records managers and conservators. It currently has around 2500 members and is growing. ARA provides the secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Archives and History, the costs of which are covered in large part by a grant from The National Archives of the UK.