Skip to main navigation Skip to main content
The University of Southampton
Humanities Graduate School

Thomas Ellis

I graduated from The University of York in 2010 with a 1st class degree in History and Politics. Studying a joint honours degree impressed on me the benefits of a multi-disciplinary approach, as well as giving me a deeper grounding in the political philosophies of John Stewart Mill, Thomas Hobbes and Karl Marx.

Thomas Ellis

I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on the anti-communist politics of the New Christian Right, analysing the anti-Soviet agenda that lurked within the Bible prophecy literature of the early 1980s.
I then studied an MPhil in Historical Studies at Cambridge, a research masters assessed solely on a 40,000 word dissertation. Under the Supervision of Andrew Preston I examined the image of Soviet Cosmonauts within the American imagination during the 1960s and 1970s. Using funding from Cambridge’s Sarah Norton Fund I undertook archival research at the NASA History Office and Library of Congress in Washington DC.

PhD Title: “Reds in Space”: American Perceptions of The Soviet Space Programme from Apollo to Mir: 1967-1991

My topic proposes to examine the background to the focal international relationship in contemporary spaceflight, that of Russia and America.  Humanity’s entry into outer space was shaped by the Cold War context the early space missions took place in; and Space programmes acted as colossal advertising campaigns selling the benefits of the rival superpowers’ respective ideologies. The shock that resulted from the supposedly backward USSR launching the first satellite and manned spacecraft into orbit has come to be a defining point within the growing literature on culture during the “space age”. What my topic proposes to examine is how Americans reacted to a communist presence on the “final frontier” in the understudied period after their stunned introduction to Soviet space technology.
Situating my research within the exciting new cultural turn within space history, I will take a time period that stretches from the prelude to America’s triumphant lunar landing to the final collapse of the system that Soviet cosmonauts had claimed would save mankind. I intend to chart American reaction to Soviet space activities against a backdrop of fluctuating Cold War tension. In addition to illuminating a less familiar era of Russo-American space competition, I hope use this topic to engage with issues such as the militarisation of space, the relationships between technology and ideology, science and culture, as well as American attitudes towards Russia and the concepts of communism and utopia.

Key facts

Thomas is supervised by Prof Kendrick Oliver (Southampton), Dr Jane McDermid (Southampton) and Prof Campbell Craig (Aberystwyth).

You can contact Thomas at: or

Privacy Settings