Dr McWilliam's ready to party like it's 1899!

Published: 11 September 2012 at 14:33

Anglia Ruskin historian named President of British Association for Victorian Studies

Dr Rohan McWilliam, Course Leader for History at Anglia Ruskin University, has become President of the British Association for Victorian Studies (BAVS), the main British society of scholars dedicated to understanding the world of the Victorians. 

Dr McWilliam, the first historian to become President of BAVS, will be working with academics from around the world to develop new research and thought focusing on nineteenth century Britain. 

The organisation, which brings together researchers across a range of subjects including history, literature, art and science, boasts a membership of over 700.  Dr McWilliam, who will serve a three-year term from 2012-2015, said:

“The society has a proud history of championing interdisciplinarity and forcing different academic subjects to engage with each other. 
“Our understanding of the nineteenth century is being transformed through the impact of digitisation projects, with electronic databases of Victorian documents and publications making Victorian culture accessible to more people.  At the same time, we are more sensitive to the ways the Victorians both shaped the world system but were in turn shaped by influences from outside Britain.  BAVS is the place where these new approaches are being developed. 
“The opening ceremony of the Olympics reminded us that we remain in the shadow of the Victorians.  The age of steam still shapes the age of the Internet.  In my role I hope to nurture a new generation of Victorianists who will ask exciting and challenging questions about the period.” 

Dr McWilliam is best known for his study of the great Victorian impostor, the Tichborne Claimant.  His book, The Tichborne Claimant: A Victorian Sensation (Continuum, 2007), investigated the strange episode when a butcher from Wagga Wagga in Australia claimed to be an English aristocrat in 1865.  The Claimant sparked two of the longest trials in English legal history and became a popular hero.  He is also the editor, with Kelly Boyd, of The Victorian Studies Reader (Routledge 2007).  

More recently, he has written about Jonathan Miller’s 1966 film of Alice in Wonderland, part of a study of images of the Victorians in the Swinging Sixties.  An article about the actress Elsa Lanchester and bohemian London in the 1920s will be published shortly. 

He is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Victorian Culture, where he also serves as Reviews Editor, and of the monograph series Becoming Modern: New Nineteenth Century Studies, published by the University Press of New England.  He is currently at work on a social and cultural history of the West End of London since 1800.