Edge Hill University and key partners have been awarded a prestigious grant to develop a research network on The Presidency of Barack Obama.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council has given an award of £31,320 to the institution in collaboration with the University of Manchester.

The special two-year project, which will run from January 2011 to December 2012, is particularly unique because the research will be undertaken while Obama is still in office and will cover topical issues and developments as they happen.

It will provide a unique opportunity to analyse key issues President Obama has had to deal with around race relations, foreign policies, the economy crisis and Obama’s wars. The funding will also be used to organise a series of high-profile lectures, the creation of an interactive website, a book, new teaching tools, a schools’ conference to run alongside the actual American presidential election in 2012, an exhibition and other community events.

Professor Kevern Verney, Associate Head of the History Department at Edge Hill, explained: “The election of Barack Obama in November 2008 was a key moment in the history of the United States as he was the first African American President. It attracted enormous popular and scholarly interest not just in America but around the world. The inspirational ideas and rhetoric of the Obama campaign generated high expectations of change. In sharp contrast to such high expectations the political realities confronting the new President could hardly have been more discouraging. From the outset his administration faced unprecedented domestic and foreign policy challenges, including the worst national and international economic crisis since the 1930s and involvement in two costly unresolved foreign wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Race also remains an issue.

“The success or failure of the Obama administration in addressing these issues will have profound implications not just for the citizens of the United states but also for governments and people around the world. This important project will discuss a number of key issues as they unfold and in the wake of either his continued presidency or his legacy.”

The initiative will bring together a mix of academics within economics, history, international relations, politics and social science to analyse the challenges he faces and his policies to meet them. It will also include input from diplomats, journalists and the local community to discuss a diverse range of different ideas and perspectives.

By the end of the project, Professor Verney and his colleagues are hoping to develop an ongoing research network, links with schools and the Foreign Office and an edited collection of essays.

This latest research project complements Edge Hill’s already extensive work around human rights and race equality, which saw the University welcome Reverend Jesse Jackson to the Ormskirk campus two years ago. During his visit, the civil rights campaigner was presented with an Honorary Fellowship by the University and a scholarship has also been set up in his name. To maintain the University’s commitment to this, award-winning New York journalist Gary Younge delivered the first Reverend Jesse Jackson Lecture in January this year, where he spoke on the theme Obama’s America; Dickensian Times – the best of times and the worst of times.