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.
In addition to his role in the Department of History, Michael is Vice Dean for Advancement in the Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences. In this capacity he works with faculty colleagues on strategic planning for matters such as alumni relations, external engagement, philanthropic donations and equalities, diversity and inclusion.
Michael is a historian of politics, broadly defined, with a focus on the formation of political ideas and concepts in twentieth-century Britain. He is interested in where ideas come from and how ‘elites’ develop and articulate political ideas for particular reasons, or to respond to specific problems. In general, he argues that our understanding of the role of empire, decolonisation, race and immigration in influencing the development of political ideas in modern Britain still needs further development.
To this end, his current book project highlights the concept of ‘race thinking’ in 1950s and 1960s Britain. It looks at the complex evolution of Britain’s self-styled liberal empire and ongoing ‘civilising mission’ in Africa through the specific concept of ‘multiracialism’. Why were ideas about multiracial polities important at that time, and what does the idea of a ‘multiracial Commonwealth’ tell us about political thought and Britain’s self-image after World War II?
Selected recent publications
- 'Nation, State and Agency: Evolving Historiographies of African Decolonization', in A.W.M. Smith and C. Jeppesen (eds.), Britain, France and the Decolonization of Africa: Future Imperfect? (London: UCL Press, 2017), pp. 17-42
- 'Decolonization', in J. Mackenzie (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Empire: Volume 2 (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2016), pp. 1-15
- Empire, Nationalism and the Postcolonial World London: Routledge, 2015
- 'Rabindranath Tagore and Nationalism: An Interpretation', in A. Fischer and C. Speiss (eds.), State and Society in South Asia: Themes of Assertion and Recognition (New Delhi: Samskriti, 2014), pp. 101-144
- 'Decolonization and the "Federal Moment"', Diplomacy and Statecraft 24/1, (2013), pp. 21-40
- ‘Rabindranath Tagore and the Politics of Friendship’, South Asia: The Journal of South Asian Studies 35/1 (2012), pp. 118-142
For a full list of publications, see Michael's Iris profile.
Dr Collins welcomes applications from students wishing to study for a PhD connected to the history of political ideas in modern Britain as well as imperialism and decolonization in Britain after 1945.
Currently supervising: Saffron East, 'The Indian Workers' Association, the Southall Black Sisters and "black" politics in 1970s Britain'.
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’.
UG and PGT courses
- Writing History (first-year lecture core course)
- British History, 1850-1997 (first- and second-year undergraduate survey)
- Britain and Decolonization since 1945 (second-year undergraduate research seminar)
- London in the Twentieth Century (second- and third-year advanced seminar)
- Decolonization: Britain and the Afterlives of Empire (MA elective seminar)