The University of Aberdeen
Crombie Annex, Room 105 Meston Walk King's College University of Aberdeen Old Aberdeen AB24 3FX
I grew up on the Kent-East Sussex border near Tunbridge Wells. I read for a BA in Modern History between 1997 and 2000, and an M.St in Historical Research in 2000-2001, both at Wadham College, Oxford. After a year out, I studied for my doctorate at the same institution, finishing in 2006. From September 2006 until August 2008 I lectured in Imperial and Commonwealth History at King's College London. I joined Aberdeen as a Lecturer, securing promotion in 2013.
My research and teaching focus on the history of the British empire and particularly the economics, politics, and culture of the Empire-Commonwealth. I have published particularly on London finance and empire, and am now moving to study business trade and empire, supported by an AHRC Early Career Fellowship on 'Commerce and the Commonwealth'.
I am currently School Director of Research for the School of Divinity, History and Philosophy.
I currently sit on the Advisory Board of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies
From May 1 2009 until 31 July 2009 I held the Rydon Fellowship in Australian Studies at the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, King's College London. While holding the Fellowship I organised a one day symposium on Finance, Empire, and the British World, held on 15 June 2009.
I was a member of the Steering Committee of HistoryUK since 2008 to 2015. From 2012 to 2015 I Co-Convened the Organisation..
My main research interests are in the history of the British Empire (including its impact on Britain), and especially in the history of Britain's relations with the 'Dominions' (Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand). My research to date has focused upon the influence of British financial institutions upon colonial businesses and politics, and the role of finance played in maintaining imperial ties by forging networks and connections between Britain and its colonies. My current project, desrcibed in more detail below and supported by an AHRC Early Career Fellowship, uses a study of a forgotten pan-imperial instutution (the Federation of Commonwealth Chambers of Commerce) to re-examine the culture, politics, and economics of the British Empire and Commonwealth 1886 and 1975. Thus, my research draws on, and seeks to contribute to, debates about the economics of empire, business and empire, theories of imperialism, metropolitan cultures of imperialism, Britain's relations with the settlement colonies, and the economic and cultural history of globalization.
Economies are not, and have never been, governed solely by nation states. n fact decisions and policies shaping economic activity have long been aken at a range of levels: local, supranational, and iternational. My AHRC-funded project on 'Commerce and the Commonwealth' focuses on how businesses participate in economic decision-making at a supranational level. In particular it studies the history of relations between businesses and policy within the British Empire-Commonwealth.
In the twenty-first century, it is easy to forget that the modern Commonwealth was once a much more tightly integrated association of states. This Empire- Commonwealth was not the same as the British Empire. It was composed of Britain and the empire's self-governing colonies, later dominions, in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Newfoundland and South Africa as well as Éire. After the Second World War it expanded to form the Commonwealth of Nations with the admission of former colonies. Prior to the 1960s, it possessed a widely-used currency (sterling), clear consultative mechanisms (imperial conferences), a degree of cooperation on policy areas ranging from defence to regulation, including, from 1932, a co-ordinated tariff policy, although some member states opted out of some of these elements.
My current research project examines how businesses across the Empire-Commonwealth came together to find common interests and shape policy. It focuses in particular on a previously neglected organisation, the Federation of Commonwealth Chambers of Commerce, which brought together delegates from 100 leading cities to debate and agree resolutions on economic policy, and then lobbied governments, especially the British government. It traces the evolution of business interactions with policy-makers within the Empire-Commonwealth from the 1880s down to the 1970s. It shows how these relations originated in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (often called the first age of globalisation), how businesses and states responded to the fraught economic conditions of the interwar period, and finally how intra-Commonwealth economic relations first revived and then eroded after 1945. This final period was dominated by two major themes: Britain's relations with Europe, and the emerging goal of fostering economic prosperity in less developed countries. Yet by the 1970s the Empire-Commonwealth had evolved into the much looser Commonwealth of Nations and had ceased to be a meaningful unit within which businesses mobilised.
The Commonwealth persisted, but as an international association rather than a unit of supranational governance. In retracing the history of business and the Empire-Commonwealth, the project offers new understanding of the history of the Commonwealth. In reclaiming the Commonwealth as a supranational unit of governance (but not a superstate), it opens fresh comparisons with other polities past and
present. It sheds new light on the evolution of the British economy and state in the twentieth century and particularly on Britain's relations with the EEC/EU. Understanding how businesses interact with policy-making at a supranational level is of inherent interest both to historians and political scientists, but also to business leaders and policy-makers today. Three themes within the research are particularly timely: the re-examination of the economic experience of Empire-Commonwealth during the great depression of the 1930s; a reconsideration of how Britain's links with the Commonwealth shaped relations with Europe; and the generation of fresh understandings of the role of business and of supranational polities in international development. Thus, re-examining the Empire-Commonwealth, and the role played by business within the Empire-Commonwealth, is of significance not merely for our understanding of modern Britain but also promises to shed new light on the global past and present.
Research Funding and Grants
AHRC Early Career Fellowship, 'Commerce and the Commonwealth', Sept 2015-Sept 2017