University of Reading Research Blog

The different meaning of HMT Empire Windrush

On a rainy June morning in the summer of 1948 a British troopship, itself requisitioned from the German navy during the Second World War, arrived at Tilbury docks in Essex, carrying a number of Polish ex-soldiers, some Jamaican pilots who had fought the RAF returning to duty after a period of rest in their home country, and a number of other passengers. There was nothing remarkable about this in of itself – the war has led to men and women in the various combatant armed forces being scattered across the globe, and ships like the HMT Empire Windrush were busy transporting them from one country to another. But the reception awaiting the Windrush, and the panic it had caused in Whitehall while it was still in the mid-Atlantic, was.


Decolonising the history curriculum

This year, Black History Month seems to have greater resonance, given the killing of George Floyd in America, and the subsequent global protests and the publicity given to the Black Lives Matter campaign. The prominence of these events has, I feel, led to a greater level of introspection about how society functions. It wasn’t that long ago that some commentators were talking about a post-racial society, but as Kalwant Bhopal eloquently argues in her book ‘White privilege: the myth of a post-racial society’, racism, in all its subtle and less subtle forms, still exists.


A whole new way of doing nutrition research

When I tell people about what I do for a living (a food scientist), I invariably get the same reaction. A roll of eyes and criticism about how the problem with food science is that it’s always telling me that red wine is good, then it’s bad, then it’s good, depending on the day of the week. The truth is that the field of nutritional epidemiology, the study of big populations and how the food they eat affects their health, has struggled for some time with very bad PR.

This bad PR stems from the fact that these studies usually rely on what people tell us they eat, and not what they actually eat. This can work well for some aspects of the diet – dietary patterns, for example – but not others, especially individual foods or food components.


Black History Month: ‘A visit to the countryside is always accompanied by a feeling of unease; dread.’

The countryside has long been a place intrinsic to the British national identity, from the Romantic movement through to the present day. And yet, it has remained largely inaccessible to people of colour, both literally in rural landscapes – for example, walking – and in the representation of the countryside. The title of this post comes from artist Ingrid Pollard’s 1988 series ‘Pastoral Interlude’, and demonstrates the crucial need to understand the structures and processes that create and replicate both the underrepresentation of people of colour, and the barriers that prevent their access.


The ‘crazy uncle’ in the Oval Office: how Donald Trump’s social media use changed US politics

NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie looks to have delivered one of the most memorable lines of the US 2020 election campaign at Donald Trump’s town hall meeting on October 15. Challenging one of the US president’s more outlandish recent social media interventions – when he retweeted a conspiracy theory alleging that Osama bin Laden is still alive and that Joe Biden and Barack Obama “may have had Seal Team 6 killed” – she shot him down in flames, saying: “You’re not, like, someone’s crazy uncle who can just retweet whatever.”


Widening access to shared ownership is not enough to solve England’s housing crisis

Housing inequalities have been laid bare by COVID-19, further exposing a housing crisis in England that is already severe. Unless some genuine steps are taken, it will only get worse for millions living in inadequate housing. The numbers are staggering – more than 8 million people are living in unsuitable housing in England.

Recent government housing policy for England has backed shared ownership as one of the solutions. The idea is that people jointly own their home with a housing association. They pay a combination of rent, mortgage and service fees.

On the face of it, shared ownership seems to be a good idea. It becomes easier to get started on the property ladder. As the owner’s income rises, they should be able to increase the proportion of the property they own over time. This takes place through a process called staircasing, where further shares of equity are bought.


Why England’s Premier League should bail out the lower leagues

Uncertainty is what makes sports entertaining. If you always knew who was going to win a match, that would be boring. In the 1960s, an economist called Walter Neale said that the New York Yankees prayer should be: “Oh Lord, make us good, but not that good.”

This “peculiar economics of professional sports”, as Neale described it, is why leagues, such as the English Premier League (EPL) and English Football League (EFL), exist. They are collections of teams of similar quality who regularly compete against each other.

The EPL is the top league in English football, a division of 20 teams, and sits above the football league, which consists of three divisions of 24 teams each. Between all of these divisions is promotion and relegation – the best teams move up, the worst teams move down.


How to prevent disruptions in food supply chains after COVID-19

Almost all businesses involved in the food supply chain have experienced effects ranging from a mild shock to severe disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic, and further disruptions may be ahead during the second wave.

Yet not all organizations have learned critical lessons, and history shows us some companies are destined to remain unprepared for the next waves.

Many companies have taken decisive action to survive the pandemic and enhance their supply chain resilience. In doing so, they are protecting their interests and those of their business customers or consumers. We believe that successful firms are taking what’s known as a systems thinking approach to enhance food supply chain resilience.


Welcome to Black History Month

2020 marks the 33rd anniversary of Black History Month (BHM)  in the UK, and it has never seemed more relevant.

One outstanding feature of the wave of protests, conversations, and questioning that has followed the murder of George Floyd has been the centrality of history. Statues, institutions, language, and curricula have all been scrutinised with an eye to understanding who we are as a nation and, most importantly for historians, how we got here.


Biodiversity: where the world is making progress – and where it’s not

The future of biodiversity hangs in the balance. World leaders are gathering to review international targets and make new pledges for action to stem wildlife declines. Depending on whether you are a glass half-full or half-empty person, you’re likely to have different views on their progress so far.

More than 175 countries agreed to 20 targets under the banner of the Convention for Biological Diversity, which was signed in 1992. The most recent plan, published in 2010, was to halt the extinction of species and populations by 2020 to prevent the destruction of global ecosystems and to staunch the loss of genetic diversity – the variety within the DNA of species’ populations, which helps them adapt to a changing environment.

But the targets were missed. An optimist might say that’s because they were laudably ambitious, and we’re making good progress nonetheless. The protection of land particularly rich in biodiversity has increased from 29% to 44% in just a decade, which is a huge policy achievement. On the other hand, we failed to halt global biodiversity loss during a previous round of global targets ending in 2010 and, a decade later, we are still far behind where we need to be.

recent UN report compiled detailed assessments of the world’s progress towards each of the 20 targets. It highlights some small victories, and where the greatest gulfs exist between present action and necessary ambition.