Curriculum VITAE

Position: Professor
Title: Shelby M.C. Davis 1958 Professor of History.
Area(s): Europe
Field: British domestic and imperial history since 1700; world history; comparative empires

lcolley [at] 

Linda Colley, the Shelby M.C. Davis 1958 Professor of History, is an expert on Britain since 1700. She favors cross-disciplinary history, and in both her writing and her teaching she examines Britain’s past in a broader European, imperial, and global context. Born in Britain, she graduated from Bristol University with First Class Honors in history (1972) and completed her Ph.D. in history at Cambridge University (1977). The first female Fellow of Christ’s College, Cambridge, she moved to Yale University in 1982. Her first book, In Defiance of Oligarchy: The Tory Party 1714-1760 (1982), challenged the dominant view by arguing that the Tory party remained active and potent during its years out of power, exploring the wider consequences of this in regards to ideas, electoral and popular politics and political action. Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837 (1992), which won the Wolfson Prize for History and which has just been re-issued in a revised 5th paperback edition, investigated how – and how far – the inhabitants of England, Scotland, and Wales came to see themselves as British over the course of the 18th and early 19th centuries. In 1998 Professor Colley left Yale to accept a Senior Leverhulme Research Professorship in History at the London School of Economics. Supported by this award, she spent the next five years researching the experiences of the thousands of Britons who were taken captive in North America, South Asia, and the Mediterranean and North Africa between 1600 and 1850 as the British Empire expanded. Captives(2002), the result of this research, used captivity narratives of different kinds to investigate the under-belly and sporadic vulnerability of the empire, the complex relations between the imperialists and the societies they sought to invade, and the quality and flexibility of individual identity under pressure. Colley is also the author of Namier (1989), a reappraisal of the Polish-born and Zionist historian Lewis Namier. Her most recent work The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History was nominated one of the ten best books of 2007 by the New York Times. An exercise in meshing biography with trans-continental history, The Ordeal used the life experience and peregrinations of a single, self made woman  as a means of charting and discussing the extent of proto-globalization in the later 18th century, and the degree to which individuals at the time were cognizant of it. In 2008-9, Colley guest-curated a major exhibition at the British Library, London,Taking Liberties, on the meanings of constitutional texts, publishing an interpretative essay Taking Stock of Taking Liberties: A Personal View (London, 2008). The exhibition attracted 100,000 visitors and was opened by the then British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.

Professor Colley also writes occasionally for British and American periodicals and newspapers, including the Guardian, the Times, the New York Times, the Times Literary Supplement, and theLondon Review of Books. In 1999 she delivered the Prime Minister’s Millennium Lecture at 10 Downing Street. Among other scholarly and public lectures, she has delivered the Trevelyan Lectures at Cambridge University (1997), the Wiles Lectures at Queen’s University, Belfast (1997), a Ford and the Bateman Lectures at Oxford (1999 and 2003), the Nehru Memorial Lecture at the London School of Economics (2003), the Lewis Walpole Memorial Lecture at Yale (2000), the Carnochan Lecture at Stanford (1998) and the President’s Lecture at Princeton University in 2007. In 1999 she was elected a Fellow of the British Academy. She is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the Academia Europaea. In 2009, she was awarded a C.B.E. Professor Colley joined the Princeton History Department in 2003. She holds honorary degrees from the Universities of Bristol, East Anglia, Essex, Hull and Southbank.

Current Project

Professor Colley is currently researching a book on Empire and constitution making after 1776, and will be the Birkelund Fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library in 2013-14.

Teaching Interests

Colley regularly teaches undergraduate survey lecture courses on Britain from 1688 to 1945. She has also taught undergraduate seminars on travel and travel narratives, and on life writing and writing lives from the 17th century to the present. As well as directing individual graduate students, she heads a two semester graduate seminar on British history in a global perspective from c. 1700-c. 1960. She has also taught graduate seminars on British and American empire, and on Britain and France in the 18th century.

Professor Colley runs a senior seminar with Professors David Bell and Jonathan Israel devoted to new research into the eighteenth century. This meets at intervals throughout the year in the History Department and at the Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton.

University Career
2003-: Princeton University:

Shelby M.C. Davis 1958 Professor of History

1998-2003: London School of Economics:

Leverhulme Senior Research Professor and University Professor in History

1982-98: Yale University:

1998: Sterling [University] Professorship offered. Declined so as to accept LSE position.

1992-98: Richard M.Colgate Professor of History

1990-92: Professor of History

1985-90: Tenured Associate Professor of History

1982-85: Assistant Professor of History

1972-82: Cambridge University:

1979-82: Fellow and Lecturer in History, Christ’s College.

1978-9: Joint Lectureship in History, King’s and Newnham Colleges

1977: Ph.D. Degree: “The Tory Party 1727-1760”

1975-78: Eugenie Strong Research Fellowship, Girton College 1975: M.A. Degree

1972-75: Graduate research in history at Darwin College

1969-72: Bristol University:

1972: First class B.A. Honours degree in History George Hare Leonard Prize in History Graham Robertson Travelling Fellowship

1971: University Scholarship

Awards & Honours

2013: Old Dominion Professorship in the Humanities, Princeton University for 2013-14 [declined]
Birkelund Fellowship, Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, New York Public Library

2012: Honorary degree, University of Hull

2010: Fletcher Jones Distinguished Fellowship, Huntington Library, CA
Elected Fellow of Academia Europaea

2009: Awarded C.B.E. for services to history in the New Years Honours List (U.K.)

2006: Honorary degree, University of Bristol

2005: Honorary degree, University of East Anglia
Honorary Fellowship, Christ’s College, Cambridge
Visiting Fellowship, Humanities Research Centre, ANU, Canberra
Glaxo-Smith-Kline Senior Fellowship, National Humanities Center, North Carolina

2004: Honorary degree, University of Essex
Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature

1999: Hooker Distinguished Visiting Professorship, McMaster University Elected Fellow of the British Academy

1998: Leverhulme Senior Personal Research Professorship Honorary degree, University of Southbank

1993: Wolfson Prize for Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837

1991: Fellow of the Whitney Humanities Center, Yale University

1988: Visiting Fellowship, St.John’s College, Cambridge University Elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society

1987: Senior Faculty Fellowship, Yale University

1983: Morse Fellowship, Yale University

1976: Research Fellowship, Huntington Library, California British Academy Research Award

1975: Eugenie Strong Research Fellowship, Girton College, Cambridge.

Major Public and Named Lectures


2015: Robbs Lectures, University of Auckland, NZ

2015: Aylmer Lecture, University of York

2014: Ralph Miliband Lecture, London School of Economics

2014: Keynote speaker, International Graduate Historical Studies Conference, Central Michigan University

2013: Margaret Macmillan Lecture in International History, University of Toronto
Washington History Seminar, Woodrow Wilson Center

2012: Coffin Memorial Lecture, Institute of the Americas, University of London

Jón Sigurŏsson Memorial Lecture, University of Iceland

Iredell Lecture, University of Lancaster

2011: Keyser Lecture, George Washington University
Annual ISEHR Lecture, University of Delhi
Ubbelohde Lecture, Case Western University
Martin Wright Memorial Lecture, Sussex University
Free Thinking Festival Lecture, BBC Radio 3

2010: Gordon B. Hinckley Lecture, University of Utah
Bosley-Warnock Lecture, University of Delaware

2009: Cardiff University 125 Lecture: Humanities School
Centenary Lecture, University of Bristol
Annual British Scholars Keynote Lecture, University of Texas at Austin

2008: Plenary Lecture, Annual Centre for Gender Studies Symposium, Cambridge University
Plenary Lecture, Annual North American Society for the Study of Romanticism Conference, University of Toronto
Keynote address, Conference on Identity, Diversity and the role of the National Media, Said Business School, Oxford University

2007: C.P.Snow Lecture, Christ’s College, Cambridge
Mark Fitch Lecture, Victoria County History, London
Annual Lecture for the Centre of Maritime and Imperial History, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
Plenary Lecture, Conference on Biography, Schlesinger Library Summer Seminar, Harvard University
President’s Lecture, Princeton University

2006: Annual Lecture in International History, London School of Economics
Two days colloquium devoted to my published work, History and Literature Program, Harvard University

2005: Byrn Lecture, Vanderbilt University
Leading Plenary Lecture, Anglo-American Conference, Institute of Historical Research, University of London

2004: Roy Porter Memorial Lecture, University of London Chancellor Dunning Trust Lecture, Queen’s University, Kingston,

2003: Bateson Lecture, Oxford University Nehru Memorial Lecture, London School of Economics
Cust Lecture, University of Nottingham

2002: Raleigh Lecture, British Academy

2001: Ena H.Thompson Lectures, Pomona College, California

1999: Prime Minister’s Millennium Lecture, 10 Downing Street Lewis Walpole Library Lecture, Yale University Beall-Russell Lecture, Baylor University

1998: James Ford Special Lecture, Oxford University Hayes Robinson Lecture, Royal Holloway, London Bliss Carnochan Lecture, Stanford Humanities Center

1997: Trevelyan Lectures, Cambridge University Wiles Lectures, Queen’s University, Belfast 1996: Homer D. Crotty Lecture, Huntington Library, California Plenary Lecture, Global History Conference, University of Utah 1995: Distinguished Lecture in British History, University of Texas at Austin Special Lecture on Transformations in British Culture, Royal
Society of Arts 1994: Anstey Lectures, University of Kent Annual Thayer Lecture, Randolph-Macon Woman’s College William F. Church Memorial Lecture, Brown University

1993: European Lothian Lecture, Royal Museum of Scotland,Edinburgh.
Plenary address, North American Conference of British Studies, Montreal

1985: Annual public lecture for the Past and Present Society, London

1980: Royal Historical Society Lecture, London In the past six years, I have also delivered academic papers/led workshops at the University of Uppsala; The Committee on Global Thought, Columbia University; The Transnational and Global History Seminar, Oxford University; The British Academy, London; The Long Eighteenth Century Seminar, Huntington Library, Pasadena, CA; The Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in the Social Sciences, Uppsala; The International Institute, UCLA; The Yale Legal Theory Workshop; Lingnan University, Hong Kong; University of Sydney; ANU, Canberra; the Legal History seminar, University of Virginia; Humanities Institute, Stony Brook, SUNY.

Teaching Experience

2003-: At Princeton, I currently deliver undergraduate survey lectures on Britain 1688-1815 and 1815-1945. I have also taught junior seminars on travel and travel writing in the 18th century, and on history and life-writings, 1600-1918. I currently offer a two semester graduate seminar on British history in a European, imperial and global context 1700-1970, and have co-taught graduate seminars with Professor Daniel Rodgers on British and American empire in comparison and context, and with Professor David Bell on Britain and France in the long 18th century. I am currently supervising six history graduate students at Princeton University.

Together with Professors David Bell and Jonathan Israel, I run a senior seminar on new research in the 18th century that meets at the Institute of Advanced Study and at the Department of History at Princeton. I am also running with Professor Rana Mitter of Oxford University a three-year long series of seminars for interested faculty and graduate students, meeting at our respective Universities, and organized around the theme of “Political Membership: Global Histories”
1999-2003: As a Leverhulme Senior Research Professor, I was not encouraged by L.S.E. to engage in teaching, but I initiated a senior research seminar with Professor Catherine Hall at the Institute of Historical Research: “Reconfiguring the British: Nation, Empire, World, 1600-1900”.

1982-98: Yale University: Undergraduate Courses included lecture series on British domestic and imperial history 1688-1815, and 1815-1945; and on Europe and the World in the 18th Century. Undergraduate Seminars offered included Radicalisms in the 18th century; Britain and the American Revolution; Women and Power since 1700; British Encounters with Difference, 1690-1800. Graduate Seminars included: France and Britain in the 18th century (with Professor David Bell); Nationalism and Imperialism 1700-1914; Problems in British History 1700-1900; and The Visual and the Historian.

1977-81: Cambridge University: one to one teaching on British and Continental European history from the early modern period.

Select List of Doctoral Students who have Completed in Chronological Order

Paul Kleber Monod, “For the king to enjoy his own again: Jacobite political culture in England 1688-1788” (Yale, 1985) Book: Jacobitism and the English people 1688-1788 (1989)

Kathleen Wilson, “The rejection of deference: urban political culture in England 1715-1785” (Yale, 1985) Book: The sense of the people: politics, culture and imperialism in England 1715-1785 (1995)

Jan M.Albers, “Seeds of contention: society, politics and the Church of England in Lancashire 1689-1790” (Yale, 1988)

Jeffrey Auerbach, “Exhibiting the nation: British national identity and the Great Exhibition of 1851” (Yale, 1995). Book: The Great Exhibition of 1851: A Nation on Display (1999)

James J.Caudle, “Measures of allegiance: sermon culture and the creation of a public discourse of obedience and resistance in Georgian Britain 1714-60” (Yale, 1995)

Jennifer L.Hall, “The refashioning of fashionable society: opera-going and sociability in Britain 1821-1861” (Yale, 1996)
Book: Fashionable Acts: Opera and Elite Culture in London, 1780-1880 (2007)

Susie L. Steinbach, “Promises, promises: not marrying in England, 1780-1920” (Yale, 1996) Accepted for publication by Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Stephanie L. Barczewski, “‘Nations make their own gods and heroes’: The Legends of King Arthur and Robin Hood in British Political Culture, 1789-1901” (Yale, 1996) Book: Myth and National Identity: The Legends of King Arthur and Robin Hood in 19th-Century Britain (2000)

Bruce P.Smith, “Circumventing the jury: petty crime and summary jurisdiction in London and New York city 1790-1855” (Yale, 1996)

J.A.Eglin, “Venice in the British political imagination, 1660-1797” (Yale, 1996) Book: Venice Transfigured: The Myth of Venice in British Culture, 1660-1797, (2000)

Andrew Jacobson, “Power and Urban Space in London and Paris, 1790-1830” (Yale, 1998)

Maya Jasanoff, “French and British imperial collecting in Egypt and India, 1780-1820” (Yale, 2002) Book: Edge of Empire: Conquest and Collecting in the East 1750-1850, (2005)

Jason T.Sharples, “The Flames of Insurrection: Fearing Slave Conspiracy in Early America, 1670-1780” (Princeton, 2010)

Hannah Weiss-Muller, “An Empire of Subjects: Unities and Disunities in the British Empire, 1760-1790” (Princeton, 2010)

Christienna Fryar, “The Measure of Empire: Crisis and Responsibility in Post-Emancipation Jamaica” (Princeton, 2011)

William Deringer, “Calculated Values: The Politics and Epistemology of Economic Numbers in Britain, 1688-1738”
(Princeton, 2012, with Professor Michael Gordin)

Padraic Scanlan, “MacCarthy’s Skull: The abolition of the slave trade in Sierra Leone, 1790-1823” (Princeton, 2013)

Academic Administrative Experience

2007-12: Board Member and Trustee, Princeton University Press

2007-11: Davis Center Board, Princeton University

2006-: European History Task Force, Princeton University

2003-: Irish Studies Committee, Princeton University

1997: Tanner Lectures Committee, Yale University

1993-7: Yale Council on West European Studies, Yale.

1991-3: Executive Committee, Department of History, Yale University

1988-96: Director of the Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University

1988-90: Director of Graduate Studies, Department of History, Yale

1988-94: Humanities Advisory Committee, Yale University

1987-97: Advisory Board, Yale Center of British Art

1981-82: Director of Studies in History, Christ’s College, Cambridge

Plus many miscellaneous search admissions and ad hoc university and departmental committee assignments at Yale, L.S.E and Princeton. In 2008-9, I was tasked with heading five appointment committees so as to re-constitute and re-model Early Modern European History at Princeton. These searches resulted in four new appointments.

Other Academic and Public Service Activities

2013-: International advisory board, Scottish Historical Review

2012-: Research Committee, British Museum

2011-: Editorial and Advisory Board, Indian Economic and Social History Review

2006-: Editorial Board of Common Knowledge

1999-2003: Board of the British Library

1999-2003: Council of Tate Gallery of British Art 1999-: Editorial Board of London Review of Books

1999-: Editorial Board of The British Art Journal

1998-2003: Advisory Council, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British

1995-8: Council of North American Conference on British Studies Art

1990-98: Editorial Board of Journal of British Studies

1987-90: Editorial Board of Eighteenth-Century Studies

1983-86: Editorial Board of Journal of Modern History

I regularly review academic manuscripts for Y.U.P., O.U.P., H.U.P. and other academic presses. I occasionally write and review for the British and American newspaper and periodical press on historical and political subjects (Guardian, Times, The New Republic, New York Review of Books, London Review of Books, etc.). I appear occasionally on television and radio programmes on history, cultural events and politics. I am regularly invited to supply historical background to policy-makers in London, Brussels and Washington, especially on issues to do with nationalism, imperialism, identity, constitutionalism etc.


Professor Roy Foster, F.B.A. Hertford College, Oxford University

Sir Keith Thomas, F.B.A. All Souls College, Oxford University.

Professor Paul Kennedy, Department of History, Yale University.

Professor Sir John Elliott, F.B.A. 122 Church Way, Iffley, Oxford OX4 4EG.

Professor Jonathan Spence, F.B.A. Department of History, Yale University.

Professor Eric Foner, Department of History, Columbia University.

Professor Margaret Macmillan, Warden, St. Antony’s College, Oxford

Professor Emma Rothschild, Department of History, Harvard University

Professor Sugata Bose, Department of History, Harvard University