Professor David Thackeray
Professor of Modern British and Imperial History
My main research interests are in the political history of Britain and its relations with Europe and the Empire/Commonwealth since the 1860s. I am currently Principal Investigator for a Leverhulme Research Project Grant (2021-25): Parliamentary Empire: Settler Colonialism and British Democracy, c.1867-1939, a collaboration with Amanda Behm (York) and Richard Toye (Exeter). By exploring how different groups appealed to values of British parliamentarianism, we shed new light on the connected debates about democratic governance and political inclusion that characterised the emergence of nations within a fractious British Empire. Being ‘parliamentary’ was central to claimants' appeals for political inclusion and authority as representing 'British' values, and appealed particularly to those on the fringes of the political nation- such as working men, women, and indigenous peoples. In addition, I have a developing research interest in exploring Britain's relations with the European Parliament from its entry into the EEC until Brexit. This builds on my earlier work on the history of British trade networks and a grant I received from the Economic History Society to conduct research at the European University Institute on the first British-led Cabinet at the European Commission.
Previously, I was Co-Investigator for 'The age of promises: manifestos, election addresses and political representation' a Leverhulme-funded project (2017-21) led by Richard Toye (Exeter), which uses these sources to explore the nature of political representation in twentieth century Britain and the evolution of programmes and promises in electoral politics. This has led to a jointly authored monograph- The Age of Promises: Electoral Pledges in Twentieth Century Britain (Oxford University Press, 2021), a jointly edited book 'Electoral Pledges in Britain since 1918: The Politics of Promises' (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), and articles which have used the Mass Observation archive to explore issues of political engagement and attitudes to women politicians in mid-twentieth century Britain.
I have an ongoing interest in the political economy of the 'British World', which emerged from my initial post-doctoral work.Forging a British World of Trade: Culture, Ethnicity and Market in the Empire/Commonwealth, c.1880-1975' appeared with Oxford University Press in 2019. I edited 'Imagining Britain's economic future, c.180 0-1975: Trade, Consumerism and Global Markets' with my colleagues Andrew Thompson and Richard Toye (Palgrave MacMillan, 2018). My first book explored cultures of twentieth-century British popular politics: 'Conservatism for the democratic age: Conservative cultures and the challenge of mass politics in early twentieth century England' (Manchester University Press, 2013).
I have an interest in connecting history with policy-making and was involved in the British Academy/ Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Trade Policy History, where Iwrote about 'Britain's turn to Europe' prior to its entry into the EEC. I lead the History & Policy Global Economics and History Foum with Marc-William Palen (Exeter) and Andrew Dilley (Abderdeen). The forum aims to bring together academics, business groups, policy makers and members of the general public interested in how understandings of historical trade relations can inform current policy debates.
Political and cultural history: British public politics since the 1880s; Electoral culture; the history of class and gender in modern Britain and the wider British World; Mass-Observation; Parliament and popular politics in the British World; Britian and the Euopean Parliament.
Economic history: Britain's relationship with its overseas markets, particularly in the Empire/Commonwealth and Europe; Consumer history; the politics of free trade, 'fair trade' and tariff reform
Global, European and Imperial History: Political and business networks within the British Empire/ Commonwealth; The expansion of international trade networks and organisations after 1918; Debates about women's parliamentary representation in the British World.
AHRC Research Leadership Fellowship (2014-15): 'Backing Britain: Imagining a nations economic future since 1900'. This project focused on changing cultural notions of 'British' trade identities in the UK and wider empire/commonwealth during the twentieth century. It involved substantial research in the UK, Australasia, North America, South-East Asia and South Africa, and utilised film and advertising archives, as well as more conventional economic history records such as the archives of business and political associations.
Principal Investigator for AHRC international research network (2014-16): 'Imagining Markets: Conceptions of Empire/Commonwealth, Europe an China in Britain's economic future since the 1870s'. This project, organised with my Exeter colleagues Richard Toye and Andrew Thompson aimed to provide a bridge between historical and contemporary ways of thinking about Britain's future global economic orientation and involved public policy activities organised with HM Treasury, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, History and Policy, and the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum.
Principal Investigator for GW4 Modern British Politics and History community (2015-16). I co-ordinated activities for this community which brought together scholars from the universities of Bath, Bristol, Cariff and Exeter to collaborate on a variety of research projects connected with the theme of political engagement.
British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award (2017-18)
Co-Investigator for Leverhulme Project Grant (2017-21): The age of promises: manifestos, election addresses and political representation (with Richard Toye).
Principal Investigator for Leverhulme Project Grant (2021-25): Parliamentary empire: Britsih democracy and settler colonialism, c.1867-1939 (with Amanda Behm).
Principal Investigator for AHRC research network (2014-16)- 'Imagining Markets: Conceptions of Empire/Commonwealth, Europe and China in Britain's economic future since the 1870s'. The network will involve participants drawn from the UK, Australia, Canada, China, Italy and Taiwan and the fields of Economics, English, History, Human Geography, International Business, and Media and Cultural Studies. History & Policy is a partner organisation for the network and, working with colleagues, I have since established a Global Economics and History Forum with them.
On advisory committee for History of Parliament project: 'From the grassroots: an oral history of community politics in Devon' and have subsequently collaborated with them in the development of the GW4 Modern British Politics and History community.
Organised exhibition and film conference in spring 2015 with Bill Douglas Cinema Museum on the theme of 'Trade, development and identity in documentary film culture at the end of the British Empire, c.1950-70' connected to my AHRC fellowship
I am happy to supervise students who wish to study topics which broadly correlate with my research interests.
PhD vivas undertaken:
Yuhei Hasegawa, 'An intellectual and political biography of Leopold Amery (1873-1955) (2022)
Ben Holmes, 'To love ones enemies': Humanitarian relief for German civilians, 1914-25 (2019)
Clare Maudling, Utopian Dreams or Peacetime Pragmatism? The Successes and Constraints of Post-War Reconstruction in the South West (2018)
Frederick Cooper, Health, balance and women's 'dual role' in Britain, 1945-1963 (2018)
James Parker, Trade unions and the political culture of the British Labour party, 1931-1940 (2018)
Hannah Charnock, Girlhood, sexuality and identity in England, 1950-1980 (2017)
Amanda Phipps, Learning through performance: theatre, education and the First World War at the beginning of the centenary moment (2017)
Begum Yildizeli, W.E. Gladston and British policy towards the Ottoman Empire (2016)
Sarah Jones, Constructing 'free love': Science, sexuality and sex radicalism, c.1895-1913 (2015)
James Freeman, Talking Liberties: The rhetoric of freedom in post-war British politics (2014)
Tony Chamberlain, 'Stokers- the lowest of the low?': A social history of Royal Navy stokers 1850-1950 (2013)
Current PhD students:
As first supervisor:
Edward Ford, Imperial identity and parliamentarianism in British settler colonies, 1867-1939.
As second supervisor:
Josh Hockley-Still, Euroscepticism in the Labour Party: The role played by the Labour Common Market Safeguards Committee from 1975.
Arran Jenkins (York), British and settler reactions to voting rights and political representation in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, c.1867-1920
Chuanyou Zhou, Imperial federation in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
As first supervisor-
Lisa Berry-Waite, Women parliamentary candidates and electoral culture, 1918-1931.
Stuart Mole, The Commonwealth and apartheid (1st supervisor, 2016-2020)
As second supervisor:
Helen Frost, The representation of the strategic bombing campaign against Germany in the allied media and the its interpretation by the general public, 1939-45.
Nicholas Hall, Seeking the "unofficial Russian": the challenges of sincerity in Soviet and British encounters in the Soviet Union 1928-39 (Russian).
Neville Shack, Making the irrational work: the profile and politics of the House of Lords, 1951-1958.
Emil Sokolov, Addressing immigration: a study of Conservative and Labour election addresses and immigration issues, 1960-1980.
External impact and engagement
Imagining Markets: Organised workshop with History & Policy at HM Treasury in Sep. 2015 which discussed the lessons of the 1975 referendum for civil servants' planning for the upcoming EU referendum. Invited participants from the Treasury, FCO and Cabinet Office participated in the event.
I have organised and participated in research events at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Public exhibition at Bill Douglas CInema Museum, Exeter in summer 2015 connected to my AHRC fellowship research.
I have received public engagement training through the AHRC/Institute for Government 'Engaging with Government' programme.
History and Policy Global Economics and History Forum: The forum, set up in spring 2016, will bring together academics and policy-makers interested in how understandinfs of historical trade relations can inform current policy debates. We plan to hold policy workshops and public seminars focused on the connections between Britain's historical trade relations and contemporary trade challenges such as the EU referendum. In collaboration with the Centre for Imperial and Global History at Exeter, the forum will also publish opinion articles and policy papers on how economic history can inform international trade discussions of topical interest.
Contribution to discipline
Member of AHRC peer review college since 2014.Outer Board assessor for Irish Research Council.
Various contributions to BBC radio programmes; Articles for Western Morning News, History & Policy, and The Conversation.
I am an HEA fellow.
My teaching is closely informed by my research. In summer 2015 I organised an exhibition at the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum in Exeter based on my AHRC fellowship research. This has subsequently formed the basis of several special collections seminars with students.
In addition, the Yes Minister special subject is informed by my work with History & Policy and civil servants. In September 2015 Richard Toye and myself organised a History Lab event with History & Policy at HM Treasury. I have since repeated the History Lab exercise with students, who are encouraged to consider themselves in the role of civil servants making use of historical thinking in policy-making.
The course also builds on my training with the AHRC/Institute for Government 'Engaging with Government' programme. We discuss recent IfG reports on governmental practice, as well as more conventional historical sources and students are encouraged to consider the processes of action planning within the civil service.
I moved to the UK from Aotearoa New Zealand at a young age and undertook degrees at Nottingham (BA History) and Oxford (Mst History). I studied for a PhD in History at Cambridge under the supervision of Prof. Jon Lawrence, graduating in 2009. After teaching at The Queen's College, Oxford for a year I moved to Exeter in autumn 2010 as a Lecturer. I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2013 and Associate Professor in 2019.