Dr Thom Rath

On sabbatical leave: 2023/24

Thom specializes in modern Latin America and is interested in how governments govern people, places, nature, and the past. His research traverses political, social, military and environmental history and aims to highlight Latin America's connections to big global processes. He wrote The Dread Plague and the Cow Killers: The Politics of Animal Disease in Mexico and the World (Cambridge University Press, 2022), which examines how a huge international campaign against animal disease reshaped Mexican politics, society, science and the wider world. Before that, he wrote a book about the military and Mexico's postrevolutionary state, which explored violence, popular protest, and memory.  Thom continues to work on traditions of military policing in Mexico, and is developing further research on animals and projects of development and modernization in Latin America and beyond. 
Thom also co-edits the Journal of Latin American Studies, co-convenes the IHR Latin American history seminar, and organizes the 'Latin American in the World' reading group. He was an undergraduate at UCL History, did an MPhil in Latin American Studies at Oxford, and then went to Columbia for a PhD. 

PhD supervision

Thom welcomes applications from students whose research overlaps with his thematic interests. Please get in touch at the start of the academic year in which you wish to apply. 
Thom currently supervises Francesca Edgerton (exiles and the Mexican Revolution; LAHP funded) and co-supervises Haiyun Liu (China and Porfirian Mexico); he second-supervises José Manuel Castro (Intellectuals in Cold War Chile; Becas Chile); and Pablo Soffia Palma (Historical thought in Latin America; Becas Chile). 

Major publications

  • Rath, T. (2024) 'Radiating South: Atomic Agriculture, US-Mexico Relations, and the Screwworm', Agricultural History (forthcoming)
  • Rath, T. The Dread Plague and the Cow Killers: The Politics of Animal Disease in Mexico and the World (Cambridge, 2022)
  • Rath, T. (2020) 'Burning the Archive, Building the State? Politics, Paper, and US Power in Postwar Mexico', Journal of Contemporary History.
  • Rath, T. (2020). 'A Tale of Four Laboratories: Politics, Science and Animal Disease in Cold War Latin America'. In A. Chastain, T. Lorek (Eds.), Itineraries of Expertise: Science, Technology, and the Environment in Latin America’s Long Cold War. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
  • Rath, T. (2018) 'Modernizing Military Patriarchy: Gender and State Building in Postrevolutionary Mexico, 1920-1960', Journal of Social History, Volume 52, Issue 3, Spring 2019, 807–830.
  • Rath, T. (2014) 'Camouflaging the state: the army and the limits of hegemony in priísta Mexico, 1940-1960'. In: Gillingham, P. and Smith, B.T. (eds) Dictablanda: Politics, Work and Culture in Mexico, 1938-1968 (pp.89-107). Raleigh: Duke University Press.
  • Rath, T. (2013) Myths of Demilitarization in Postrevolutionary Mexico, 1920-1960. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
  • Rath, T (2012) 'Revolutionary citizenship against institutional intertia: cardenismo and the Mexican army, 1934-40'. In: Fallaw, B. and Rugeley, T. (eds) Forced marches: Soldiers and military caciques in modern Mexico (pp.172-209). Tuscon: University of Arizona Press

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


Thom's project on animal disease received support from the Wellcome Trust. He also sponsored the Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship of Dr. Nathaniel Morris.

Media appearances

Thom has contributed commentary to the BBC World Service, Sky News, Berfrois magazine and the Financial Times, among other outlets.


  • History, Memory, Democracy: Politics and the Past in Modern Latin America (second-year thematic module)
  • Foreigners and Revolutionary Mexico c.1910-1940 (second-year research seminar)
  • Animals and Modernity, 1750-present (MA module)
  • The Perfect Dictatorship? State and Society in Mexico, c.1940-1982 (special subject)
  • History of Latin America, c.1830-1930 (first- and second-year survey course)