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Dr Michael Collins

Dr Michael Collins is Associate Professor of Modern British History. He joined UCL History as a probationary lecturer in 2007 and was awarded his PhD in History by the University of Oxford in 2009. He became a permanent member of UCL History staff in 2010 and was promoted to associate professor in 2016. He previously studied the history of political thought at Cambridge University and politics at the London School of Economics.

Michael is a historian of politics, broadly defined, with a focus on the formation of political ideas and concepts. He is interested in how political ideas are developed for particular historical purposes, and how imperial, international and transnational historical networks impact upon this process. The historical problem within which Dr Collins explores these themes is decolonisation: the end of the European empires in the twentieth century, particularly after 1945.

His current book project develops the concept of ‘race thinking’ in 1950s and 1960s Britain. It looks at the complex evolution of ideas about Britain’s self-styled liberal empire and ongoing ‘civilising mission’ in Africa after World War II through the specific concept of ‘multiracialism’.

The book is part of a wider research agenda that seeks to understand and evaluate the diverse ways in which the experience of decolonization shaped Britain in terms of politics, ideas and intellectual life from the late 1940s onwards, especially with regard to questions of immigration, race and national identity.

Whilst Britain constitutes the primary focus of his research, Dr Collins is also interested in comparative perspectives, particularly with the French experience. To this end, he recently secured a UCL Global Engagement grant to establish an early career researcher (ECR) network on Empire’s Metropolitan Afterlives (EMA), linking scholars in London, Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam.

PhD supervision

Dr Collins welcomes applications from students wishing to study for a PhD connected to imperialism and decolonization in relation to the metropolitan legacies of empire post-1945.

Currently supervising: Saffron East, 'The Indian Workers' Association, the Southall Black Sisters and "black" politics in 1970s Britain'; Gavin Bacon, 'Teaching the history of empire in English secondary schools after decolonization'

Recently completed: Jack Saunders, ‘The British motor industry 1945-77: how workplace cultures shaped labour militancy’; Kieran O’Leary, ‘From Birmingham to Bulawayo: The Labour government, race and decolonization, 1964-1970’; Kevin Guyan, ‘Masculinities, planning knowledge and domestic space in Britain, c.1941-1961’; Jack Taylor, ‘The Attlee Government and the collapse of British Power in Iran, 1945-1951’; Hana Qugana, ‘The cultural politics of Englishness: John Gordon Hargrave, the Kibbo Kift and Social Credit, 1920-1939’.

Selected recent publications

For a full list of publications, see Michael's Iris profile.

Teaching

  • Writing History (first-year lecture core course)
  • British History, 1850-1997 (first- and second-year undergraduate lecture course
  • Britain and Decolonization since 1945 (second-year undergraduate research seminar)
  • London in the Twentieth Century (second- and third-year advanced seminar)
  • History and European History (MA core course)
  • Decolonization: Britain and the Afterlives of Empire (MA elective seminar)