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Dr Christopher Prior 

Associate Professor in Colonial and Postcolonial History, Director of Programmes

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I am a historian of Britain and the British Empire in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Before joining Southampton, I taught at Durham, Leeds and University College Dublin. I am primarily interested in the socio-cultural and intellectual connections between Britain and the colonies within the British Empire, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa. Building on my doctoral research, which focused on the ways administrators in colonial Africa understood governance, race, and duty, my current work focuses on the end of empire, and how London and its diplomats attempted to reformulate its relationships with Africa against a backdrop of Britain’s diminished status and the Cold War.

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Exporting empire cover
Edwardian England cover

Research interests

My research focuses on the intellectual and socio-political networks that created and underpinned Britain’s imperial actions and sensibilities in the modern era.

I am currently researching British foreign policy in sub-Saharan Africa in the wake of decolonisation, considering the roles that the British government tried to create for itself in this newly emerging postcolonial context. The resultant monograph will address key policy aims such as the management of external emerging actors such as the United States, key thematic concerns such as democracy and communism, and key policy actions such as military intervention and counter-espionage MI6 intelligence.

This build on previous research concerning socio-cultural and political connections between Britain and empire, particularly Africa. My first monograph, Exporting Empire: Africa, colonial officials and the construction of the British imperial state, c.1900-1939, considers manifestations of colonial rule at a local level in sub-Saharan Africa, and the interactions between colonial administrations and Africans. More specifically, it looks at the roles that metropolitan ideas of governance, race, duty, esprit de corps, and empire had on the ways colonial state rule played out on the ground. Drawing on an extensive range of hitherto under-explored collections of personal papers, the study provides an account of imperial rule on the ground, concerning itself with the rank and file, the so-called ‘men on the spot'.

My second monograph, Edwardian England and the Ideal of Racial Decline, examines the place of empire in shaping political and cultural life in domestic British society in the Edwardian era. It considers the extent to which the English middle classes were or were not stricken by a sense of crisis in the wake of the Second Anglo-Boer War of 1899 to 1902, analysing a wide range of different facets of Edwardian culture, from civic and national associational life, to political pressure groups and reform campaigns, to the popular culture of youth movements, the media and theatre.'

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Publications listed below:



Book Chapters

I currently teach undergraduate and postgraduate courses on the history of empire and Africa from 1850 to the present day:

HIST1125: When An Empire Falls: Culture and the British Empire, 1914-1960

HIST2082: Nelson Mandela: A South African Life

HIST3180 and HIST3181: The Rise and Fall of the British Empire in Africa Conquest, Colony, and Rebellion, c.1870-1960

HIST6098: Histories of Britain and Empire

I would welcome enquiries from graduate students interested in studying sub-Saharan African history, particularly regarding the period c.1870-c.1960. I would also welcome graduates interested in race, ethnicity and immigration in the empire and Britain in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. More broadly, I would welcome hearing from those interested in British socio-cultural and intellectual life from the middle of the nineteenth century to the present day.

Current PhD students:

Joseph Higgins, 'The federal panacea: Decolonisation and state-building in South Arabia, 1952-67'

Robert Joy, 'British Agricultural Officials in East Africa, 1957-1966'

Charlotte Kelsted, 'Micro-Signals of Civilisation in Mandate Palestine: British Women’s Perceptions of Arab and Jewish Child-Rearing Practices and Family Relationships'

Dr Christopher Prior
Building 65, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Southampton, Avenue Campus, Southampton SO17 1BF, United Kingdom

Room Number: 65/1024

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