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Hands-On History

Hands-on History starting this spring

Get closer to history through hands-on archive sessions.

Led by our Interpretation Manager, Dr Michelle Johansen, these courses invite you to browse the personal diaries, photographs, press cuttings and ephemera in our collections, bringing to life the people behind the pages.

Delve into a new subjects through a one-day immersive session, or build your understanding through a multiple-part course.


A Social History of Food in London (1860s-1970s) – BOOK NOW

From Victorian watercress sellers to Second World War rationing to the rise of vegetarian lifestyles, this informative and enjoyable Hands-on History  workshop introduces the social history of food and eating in London. The topic is approached using original historical materials from our Special Collections, including Victorian press cuttings, Edwardian journal articles, interwar menus, post-war restaurant guides, and late-twentieth-century women’s magazines.



An A to Z of London Since 1800 – BOOK NOW


This workshop aims to reveal new information about London’s social history since 1800. We’ll explore an eclectic assortment of themes, ranging from ‘Anarchists’ to ‘Zoo’ with plenty of surprises in between. You will be introduced to twenty-six curated sets of original historical materials (including richly-illustrated Victorian guidebooks and candid street shots of the city in the Swinging Sixties) before sharing your research findings with the group.


One Hundred Years of Housing (1870s-1960s) – BOOK NOW

Using pamphlets, photographs, diaries and ephemera from our Special Collections, this Hands-on History course examines the history of housing in London. Topics covered include Victorian living conditions, interwar slum clearances, post-war council housing and the ‘flight to the suburbs’. The focus is on everyday experiences as we seek to understand the social meaning of house and home for Londoners from the 1870s to the 1960s.


Our East End (1860s-1950s) – BOOK NOW

Five weeks. Five characters. Hundreds of original historical sources to handle and explore. This immersive Hands-on History course takes a fresh look at local history by adopting a biographical approach to the study of the past. You will discover a rich and varied set of stories about the men, women and children of London’s East End through the lives of five individuals and the intriguing archival traces they’ve left behind in our Special Collections.


Forgotten Radicals (1860s-1960s) – BOOK NOW

This course introduces some less-familiar radical figures in nineteenth and twentieth-century pamphlets, handbills, journals and press cuttings from our Special Collections. Thought-provoking research sessions reveal the hard-fought campaigns of trade unionists, pacifists, freethinkers, socialists and others. Their struggles and triumphs raise important questions about grassroots and formal political processes, past and present.  


An Introduction to LGBTQ+ Histories (1957 – 1988) – BOOK NOW


Join us for a new Hands-on History course that provides an accessible and informative introduction to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender histories. From press coverage of the Wolfenden Report to grassroots campaigns opposing Section 28, this workshop uses photographs, pamphlets and ephemera from our Special Collections to explore and discuss the daily realities of life for an emerging LGBTQ+ community in a changing social, and political British landscape in the second half of the twentieth century.


Book tickets online | call us on 020 7392 9200 | via box office


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