Dr John McAleer is Associate Professor of History. He was previously Curator of Imperial and Maritime History at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. His work explores the British encounter and engagement with the wider world, situating the history of empire in its global and maritime contexts. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.
- The British Empire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
- The East India Company and its worlds.
- Islands and empires.
- Travel, exploration, and cultures of collecting.
- Museums, material culture, and the representation of empire.
My current research is focused around three broad themes: voyages and travels; islands and empire; and the afterlives of the East India Company. I am working on a project which explores eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century voyages through the Atlantic Ocean. In particular, it concentrates on the experiences of those passengers on board East India Company ships as they travelled on the first leg of their journeys to Asia. As well as considering the shipboard experiences of these passengers, the project also explores their engagement with various Atlantic islands, societies and people, and their use of the Atlantic as a ‘testing ground’ for a range of discursive strategies and scientific theories. This work builds on themes first touched upon while researching Britain’s Maritime Empire (2016), and developed in my contribution to the ‘Islands’ companion volume to the Oxford History of the British Empire series (2021). I am also interested in the various afterlives of the East India Company: the ways in which the legacies and reputation of the Company have been represented in the years following its dissolution in 1858. And I maintain an interest in the practicalities and logistics of collecting practices in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
I teach undergraduate courses on a range of themes: the history of the British Empire; exploration, science and empire; the history of museums, collections and collecting. Currently, I offer the following modules:
HIST3176 and HIST3177: Forging the Raj: The East India Company and Britain’s Asian World
HIST2039: Imperialism and Nationalism in British India
HIST2090: Britain’s Global Empire, 1750–1870
HIST2079: Britain goes Global: The Voyages of Captain Cook
HIST1118: The Seven Years War (1756–63) and Britain’s Global Empire
I welcome enquiries from prospective students interested in pursuing postgraduate research on aspects of Britain’s imperial and maritime history (especially relating to Africa, Asia and the Pacific), the history of European exploration, and the history of museums.
External roles and responsibilities
Before joining the Department, I was Curator of Imperial and Maritime History at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. I am the series editor for Boydell’s Worlds of the East India Company series, co-editor for Amsterdam University Press’s Maritime Humanities series, and I sit on the board of the Southampton Records Series. I am a member of the British Empire and Commonwealth Collection Advisory Group, co-ordinated by Bristol Archives, and I have served on the Council of the Hakluyt Society.
- Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (2011)
- Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (2014)
- Most Engaging Lecturer (2017)
- Best contribution to academic support (2013)
- Caird Medal (2010)
- Gold Medal (2001)
- Broad Curriculum Teaching Fellow (2002)
- Muriel McCarthy Research Fellow (2016)
- Visiting Scholar (2023)
- Visiting Fellowship (2023)