Academic Profile

People Feature

Andrew Thompson

Professorial Fellow
Chief Executive, AHRC

Research Interests: humanitarianism, human rights, NGOs, globalisation, empire, imperialism, development, immigration and migration. 

Andrew Thompson is Professor of Global and Imperial History and a Professorial Fellow of Nuffield College. He is the co-chair of the Global and Imperial History Centre at the University of Oxford. Andrew's research interests span global histories of humanitarianism, human rights and development; the history of modern globalisation and the relationship between globalisation and empire; the effects of empire on British private and public life during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; histories of migration and mobility (especially postcolonial migrations to Britain and France); and the history of colonial and apartheid South Africa. He has also written on Anglo-Argentine relations, transnational migration and migrant remittances, and public memories and legacies of empire. 

He is currently researching international humanitarianism and human rights and the emergence of the modern aid and development sector which forms the subject of his forthcoming work Humanitariaism on Trial: How a global system of aid and development emerged through the end of empire (Oxford University Press). He has been given access to previously unseen archives of the United Nations and the International Red Cross. Part of this research has been published in his 2016 article on Nelson Mandela, Political Detention on Robben Island and the Apartheid in South Africa  and his 2015 article entitled 'Humanitarian Principles put to the test: Challenges to humanitarian action during decolonisation', both published in the International Review of the Red Cross. A further work, 'Unravelling the relationships between humanitarianism, human rights, and decolonisation: Time for a radical rethink?' has been published in Andrew's co-edited Oxford Handbook on the Ends of Empire (Oxford University Press, 2018). Andrew's current research closely alignes with a joint project, in partnership with Professor Sir Mike Aaronson, on International NGOs and the Long Humanitarian Century: Legacy, Legitimacy and Leading into the Future. 

Another line of Andrew's research examines postcolonial Britain and immigration in the twentieth century. His research on First Generation Asian Migrants in Britain (2005) was funded by the Institute of Public Policy Research and led to invitations to speak at the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit and DCLG. More recently, Andrew was invited to present evidence to the Home Office as part of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review (2019). 

Before joining Nuffield College, Andrew was Professor of Modern History and Director of the Centre for Imperial and Global History at the University of Exeter from 2011-2018. From 2009 to 2011 he was Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at the University of Leeds and, prior to this appointment, he was Professor of Imperial and Global History at the University of Leeds. 

From 2015 to early 2020 Andrew is Executive Chair of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). During his period in office he secured a £19 million grant for Museums and Galleries, as part of the Strategic Priorities Fund, Towards a National Collection: Opening UK Heritage to the WorldHe was responsible for securing the £10 million Policy and Evidence Centre for Modern Slavery and Human Rights and a further £80 million Creative Industries programme, funded by the Industrial Strategy. In adition, Andrew is the UKRI Champion for the £1.5 billion Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and the Newton Funds. He is also Chair of the UKRI Research, Innovation and Strategy Advisory Board. Andrew will step down as Executive Chair in early 2020. 

Andrew sits on the following strategic and editorial boards:

  • Chair of Strategic Advisory Group, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London 
  • External Academic Member of the International Editorial Board, Review of the International Committee of the Red Cross 
  • General Co-editor of Studies in Imperialism Series, Manchester University Press 
  • Research Board, British Museum
  • Education Advisory Committee, Royal Shakespeare Company 

Andrew welcomes enquiries from prospective research students interested in: humanitariaism, NGOs, human rights, Imperialism, decolonisation, legacies of empire, development, globalisation, immigration. 

Andrew Thompson


Selected Publications:

Oxford Handbook on the Ends of Empire (Oxford University Press, 2018)

Imagining Britain's Economic Future, c. 1800-1975. Trade, Consumerism, and Global Markets, co-edited with David Thackeray; Richard Toye (Palgrave, Macmillan, 2018)

'Restoring hope where all hope was lost': Nelson Mandela, the ICRC and the protection of political detainees in apartheid South Africa', International Review of the Red Cross, vol. 98 no. 903 (2016)

'Humanitarian principles put to the test: Challenges to humanitarian action during decolonisation', International Review of the Red Cross, vol. 97, no. 897-8 (2015)

'Empire and Globalisation: from "High Imperialism" to Decolonisation', International History Review, vol. 36, no. 1 (2014)

Empire, Identity and Migration in the British World, co-edited with Kent Fedorowich (Manchester University Press, 2013)

Writing Imperial Histories (Manchester University Press, 2013)

Britain's Experience of Empire during the Twentieth Century, companion volume in the Oxford History of the British Empire Series (Oxford University Press, 2012)

Empire and Globalisation: Networks of People, Goods and Capital in the British World, co-authored with Gary Magee (Cambridge University Press, 2010)

The Empire Strikes Back? The impact of imperialism on Britain from the mid-nineteenth century (Pearson Longman, 2005)

The Impact of the South African War, 1899-1902, co-edited with David Omissi (Macmillan Palgrave, 2002)

Imperial Britain: The Empire in British Politics, c. 1880-1932 (Longmans, 2000)