Catherine Hall

Principal investigator

Catherine Hall is Emerita Professor of Modern British Social and Cultural History at University College London.

My research centres on rethinking the relation between Britain and Empire in the early/mid-nineteenth century. It reflects on the ways in which metropolitan ideas and practices have been shaped by the colonial experience. Some of my work has focused on the long relationship between England and Jamaica (Civilising Subjects. Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination 1830-1867 [2002]). More recently I completed a study of the Macaulays, father and son (Macaulay and Son. Architects of Imperial Britain [2012]). Zachary was a leading evangelical and abolitionist, his son, Thomas Babington, the great historian of England. Both were architects of imperial Britain. I am currently working on the writings of the slave-owners both before and after abolition.

Macaulay narrated the English as a homogeneous race with an 'island story': a conception that has profoundly influenced both English historiography and common sense. His political career, oratory and writings provide the lens through which to investigate how far his familial life and imperial experience shaped his assimilationist vision of the nation. The intention is to explore the power and tenacity of Macaulay's nationalist vision for his own times and beyond and thereby to contribute to the making of a transnational history of Britain and its empire for the twenty-first century. This interest in making histories will inform my work on the Legacies of British slave-ownership project.

I have a great interest in public history and was part of the consultative group working with the Museum of London in Docklands on their new permanent gallery London, Sugar and Slavery.

Recent publications include:

Macaulay and Son. Architects of Imperial Britain (New Haven and London, 2012).

Civilising Subjects: metropole and colony in the English imagination, 1830-1867 (2002) awarded the Morris D. Forkosch Prize by the American Historical Association.

Edited with Keith McClelland, Race, Nation and Empire: making histories 1750 to the present (Manchester University Press, 2010).

Edited with Sonya O. Rose, At Home with the Empire: metropolitan culture and the imperial world (2006).

'Making Colonial Subjects: Education in the Age of Empire' in History of Education, 37 (6) (Nov. 2008), pp. 773-87.

'An Empire of God or of Man: the Macaulays, father and son' in Hilary M. Carey (ed.) Empire of Religion (2008).

'Culture and Identity in Imperial Britain' in Sarah Stockwell (ed.) The British Empire. Themes and Perspectives (2008), pp. 199-218.

'Britain, Jamaica, and Empire in the Era of Emancipation' in Tim Barringer, Gillian Forrester and Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz (eds), Art and Emancipation in Jamaica. Isaac Mendes Belisario and his Worlds (2007), pp. 9-26.

Introduction to Special Feature, 'Remembering 1807: Histories of the Slave Trade, Slavery and Abolition, History Workshop Journal, 64 (Autumn 2007), pp. 1-5.

In 2021 Catherine was awarded the highly prestigious Leverhulme Medal and Prize 2021 by the British Academy. The prize has been awarded in recognition of the impact of her work across modern and contemporary British history, particularly in the fields of class, gender, empire and postcolonial history. Read more about this here on the British Academy website.