Photo of Dr David Thackeray

Dr David Thackeray

Senior Lecturer


01392 724345

My main research interest is in Britain's involvement in imperial and global trade networks during the twentieth century and the rise and decline of ideas of a 'British World' of trade. This research has been funded by the AHRC and will lead to a forthcoming monograph provisionally titled: 'Culture, ethnicity, and market in the British Empire: Britishness, nationalism, and anti-imperialism, 1880-1975'. A further book- 'Imagining Britain's economic future c.1800-1975: trade, consumerism and global markets', edited with Andrew Thompson and Richard Toye, emerges out of an AHRC network I lead. 

Building on the activities of the AHRC network, I have recently set up the History & Policy Global Economics and History Forum with Marc-William Palen (Exeter) and Andrew Dilley (Aberdeen). 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. I currently hold a British Academy Rising Stars Engagement Award: 'Trading partners: rethinking the history of Britain's global trade networks in a post- Brexit age' which will enable me to discuss these questions with academics and policy-makers.

My other key research interest is twentieth century British political history, particularly the history of electoral politics, and the role of class and gender in political representation. I published 'Conservatism for the democratic age: Conservative cultures and the challenge of mass politics in early twentieth century England', (2013) . I am currently Co-Investigator for 'The age of promises: manifestos, election addresses and political representation' a Leverhulme-funded project (2017-20) led by Richard Toye, 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.

Twitter: d_thackeray

Research interests

Political and cultural history: British public politics since the 1880s; Electoral culture; the history of class and gender in modern Britain

Economic history: Britain's relationship with its overseas markets, particularly in the Empire/Commonwealth; Business and consumer history; the politics of free trade, 'fair trade' and tariff reform

Global and Imperial History: Business networks within the British Empire/ Commonwealth; The expansion of international trade networks and organisations after 1918

AHRC Research Leadership Fellowship (2014-15): 'Backing Britain: Imagining a nations economic future since 1900'. This project focuses on changing cultural notions of 'British' trade identities in the UK and wider empire/commonwealth during the twentieth century. It involves substantial research in the UK, Australasia, North America, South-East Asia and South Africa, and utilises 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 aims to provide a bridge between historical and contemporary ways of thinking about Britain's future global economic orientation and will involve public policy activities organised with our project partners- the Churchill Archives Centre, History and Policy, and the Institute of Commonwealth Studies.

Principal Investigator for GW4 Modern British Politics and History community (2015-16). I co-ordinate activities for this community which brings 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.

Co-Investigator for Leverhulme Project Grant (2017-20): The age of promises: manifestos, election addresses and political representation (with Richard Toye).

For updates on the AHRC projects see

Research supervision

I am happy to supervise students who wish to study topics which broadly correlate with my research interests. 

Research students

PhD vivas undertaken:

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:

Stuart Mole, The Commonwealth and apartheid (1st supervisor, 2016-)

Neville Shack, Making the irrational work: the profile and politics of the House of Lords, 1951-1958 (2nd supervisor, 2016-)

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, (2nd supervisor, 2013-)

Joanna Thomas, Britain's seafaring men and women: an analysis of the maritime labour force 1850-1911 (2nd supervisor, 2015-)

Balint Tolmar, The "Adria" project: East-south relations and the European socialist countries' quest for energy security in the post-oil shock era (2nd supervisor, 2015-)

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 event s 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.

I am on the steering committees for the AHRC's Care for the Future ECR conference and the History of Parliament's 'From the Grassroots' oral history project. In addition, I was selected to participate in the AHRC Care for the Future/ Labex: Passes Dans Le Present research workshop held in Paris in 2015.


Various contributions to BBC radio programmes; Articles for Western Morning NewsHistory & 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.

Modules taught


I took my BA from the University of Nottingham in 2002. After spells travelling the world and working as a volunteer teacher in Ghana I studied for my Masters degree in Oxford. Following further globetrotting I moved to Cambridge producing a PhD under the supervision of Dr. Jon Lawrence between 2006 and 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.