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Dr Michael Collins

Academic profile

Dr Michael Collins is Associate Professor of Modern and Contemporary 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 currently on research leave (2022-23), and writing a book about Caribbean migration to England after 1945 (see below), a story narrated via the game of cricket, which was a key social and cultural activity for at least two generations of postwar Caribbean settlers in England.

Service

Michael served as Vice Dean for Advancement in the Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences from 2019-22. In this capacity, he worked with faculty colleagues on strategic planning for matters such as alumni relations, external engagement, philanthropic donations and equalities, diversity and inclusion. He was also the founding director of the Centre for Modern and Contemporary Britain (CMCB), set up in 2020 within UCL’s Institute of Advanced Study (IAS). 

Externally, in June 2021, Michael was appointed to serve as a Commissioner on the Butts Commission, an England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB)-funded - but rigorously independent - commission into equity in cricket, focusing on inclusion and exclusion in terms of race, class and gender. Combining his academic research (see below) with public service, the Butts Commission will report by the end of 2022.

Research

Dr Collins is a historian of modern and contemporary Britain, primarily focusing on the period 1940-present. He currently has two main research themes:

  1. The historical development of political ideas in post-war Britain. This work focuses on how ideas are formed and deployed by ‘elites’ to respond to specific problems and challenges, for example the decolonisation of the British Empire, Britain’s late-1950s orientation towards European political and economic integration, and the rise of identity politics within the United Kingdom.
  2. The social and cultural history of migration and settlement in post-war Britain. This research focuses more on the lived experience of migrants and settlers but connects to the ways in which these processes have challenged metropolitan racism and historically racialised understandings of national identity, thereby reconfiguring the meanings of Britishness and Englishness.

Alongside his teaching and academic service, over the past 18 months Dr Collins has been  pursuing a research project on the history of ‘Windrush Cricket’, which integrates his two core research themes. The project looked at the way in which cricket formed an integral part of the Windrush generation’s efforts to settle and build communities in English cities after 1945. It also considered the way in which the English cricket ‘establishment’ reacted to the presence of black cricketers, including the children of Windrush migrants from the 1970s onwards, and what this can tell us about the cultural politics of Englishness by the 1990s. In addition to research at the Black Cultural Archives in London, the London Transport archives, various private collections, and extensive newspaper collections, the project also drew heavily on oral history interviews. 

During his research leave (2022-23) he is writing up the book that emerges from this research project: Windrush Cricket: Caribbean Migration and the Remaking of Postwar England will be published by Oxford University Press (OUP) in 2024.

You can learn more about the Windrush Cricket Project here.

Selected recent publications

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

PhD supervision

Dr Collins welcomes applications from students wishing to study for a PhD connected to the history of political ideas, the end of empire, immigration and identity in Britain after 1945. Please note, before making an application and listing me as your prospective supervisor, you must contact me directly to discuss the viability of your PhD project and my ability and suitability to supervise you.

Currently supervising: Saffron East, 'The Indian Workers' Association, the Southall Black Sisters and "black" politics in 1970s Britain' and Sameema Rahman, 'The Figure of the Refugee 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

  • British History, 1850-1997 (UG Survey)
  • National Identity in Britain Since 1940 (UG Research Seminar)
  • Thinking Postcolonially: Race and Empire in Britain, 1900-1945  (UG Advanced Seminar)
  • Empire and its Afterlives in Britain Since 1940 (PG elective seminar)