I am Professor of Imperial and Military History at King’s College London and a Visiting Fellow at Kellogg College, Oxford. I’m also a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Higher Education Academy. I’ve published widely on aspects of British imperial history, with a special interest in the Empire during times of war and with regional specialisms in the history of Africa, the Indian Ocean, and the Middle East. I’ve also written about the popular culture of the British Empire, the Empire’s built environment, and Winston Churchill, and contributed entries to the Dictionary of National Biography.
The main thrust of my work investigates the imperial nature of the Second World War (see my essay on empires at war). Specifically, it looks at the history of the British Empire and the Second World War. I argue that colonial people, infrastructure, and resources were vital to the British and Allied war effort but have yet to be properly incorporated into our understanding of the conflict (see my ideas for a new research agenda focusing on the war’s impact on people and places beyond the main belligerents).
Current major projects include Superpower Britain: The Post-War Vision and Why It Didn’t Happen (co-authored with Andrew Stewart); ‘Beyond the Battlefield: The Impact of British and American Forces on Overseas Societies’; and Many Worlds at War, an edited collection looking at different countries’ experiences during the Second World War. I’m also writing a book called Oxford’s War: Fighting Fascism and Planning for Peace. All of these projects further my interests in the intersection between the study of the British Empire, and the study of war. Interest in the latter predated interest in the former, largely because of the enormous cultural presence that ‘the war’ has had in British society (my lighthearted autobiographical reflection on that phenomenon is expressed in a short downloadable essay, ‘The Second World War: My Part in Our Victory’, available at https://defenceindepth.co/2020/09/01/the-second-world-war-my-part-in-our-victory/
I joined the Defence Studies Department at King’s College London in 2004 after eight years as Research Fellow in the Humanities and Director of the Visiting Student Programme at Mansfield College, Oxford, and a brief spell as Lecturer in Imperial and Commonwealth History at Oxford Brookes University (I was appointed to the junior deanship of St Edmund Hall, Oxford, before withdrawing in favour of the Mansfield position). I completed a British Academy-funded master’s (1993) and doctorate (1996) at New College, Oxford, where I also served as Junior Dean. As a member of King’s Defence Studies Department, I teach at the Joint Services Command and Staff College, Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, and spent two years as an academic tutor at the Royal College of Defence Studies. I also teach for Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education.
I’ve lectured and presented conference and seminar papers at many British and overseas universities, colleges, schools, museums, and other institutions. I’ve given talks at events such as the Oxford Literary Festival, the Blenheim/Woodstock Literary Festival, the Chalke Valley History Festival, Intelligence Squared live debates, and the inaugural Victoria Cross Day at the National Memorial Arboretum. I regularly present to societies and groups such as the Friends of the Bodleian Library, the Friends of the Oxfordshire Museum, the University of the Third Age, and the Prince’s Teaching Institute. I’ve been invited to address special lecture series such as the BBC History Magazine Lectures at the British Academy, the Royal Over-Seas League and Round Table centenary lectures, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Diplomatic Academy. I’ve also lectured at the Irish, Kenyan, Nigerian, and Sri Lankan staff colleges, NATO Allied Joint Force Command Lisbon, and the Royal College of Defence Studies, and to numerous British military units including 3 (UK) Division, the Special Air Service, and the British Peace Support Team (East Africa).
I’m a regular contributor to BBC History Magazine and reviews manuscripts and book proposals for leading academic journals and publishers as well as funding bids submitted to the UK and international higher education research councils. Since 2016 I’ve served on the Academic and International colleges of the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Peer Review College. Since 2000 I’ve been a regular contributor to Oxford University Department for Continuing Education courses and events, including the Postgraduate Certificate in Historical Studies and the weekly class programme, and has presented special lecture series on the British Empire and the built environment of the British Empire. I’m also a supervisor for the Department for Continuing Education students studying for the Oxford’s Master of Studies in history.
I’m on the editorial boards of the journal Global War Studies and the Journal of African Military History, and for several years was on the board of the The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs, published by Routledge Taylor & Francis. I’m on the Editorial Advisory Board of the Helion book series ‘War and Military Culture in South Asia, 1757-1947’. I served on the Development Group that helped create the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum, and served as inaugural chair of its Advisory Panel and as a member of its Board of Trustees. I’m a member of the Focus Group for the ‘Queen Victoria’s Journals’ project run by the Bodleian Library, ProQuest, and the Royal Archives, and co-curated the Bodleian Library exhibition ‘The Art of Advertising’ (2020).
My academic administration roles have included external examiner for BA programmes at the universities of Birmingham (2006-09), Sheffield (2010-13), and Leeds (2015-19), and I’ve examined over a dozen doctoral theses. I was Director of Research for King’s Defence Studies Department (2010-13) and a member of the Faculty of Social Science and Public Policy Research Strategy Group. Between 2011 and 2013 I was the REF penholder for the Defence Studies Department as part of the King’s College submission to REF Sub Panel 21 (Politics and International Studies). Between 2014 and 2016 I served as Vice Dean (Research) for the Faculty of Social Science and Public Policy and sat on several faculty and university committees.
In 2012 I established the British Empire at War Research Group (http://britishempireatwar.org), an international scholarly network. I co-convened the joint King’s College London–Oxford Brookes University ‘International and Military Studies’ seminar series (2009-2011) and the Oxford University seminar series ‘New Approaches to the History of the Second World War’ and ‘Empire, Race, and Culture’ (1999-2000). My work has been supported by the British Academy Small Grants scheme, and he was co-investigator with Dr Yasmin Khan on the AHRC-funded project ‘Home Fronts of the Empire–Commonwealth: Imperial Connections and Social Transformations during the Second World War’ (2012-14). I was named fund-winner for the Leverhulme Trust early career research fellowship that brought Dr Jean Smith to King’s College London (2015-19), and for the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award with Imperial War Museums that brought Rachel Way to King’s as a PhD student in 2019.