Photo of Professor Martin Thomas

Professor Martin Thomas

Research interests

My research interests focus on the following broad themes:

  • French colonialism and European decolonization:
  • Forms of anti-colonial protest in North Africa;
  • Colonial security service, policing, and the nature of state violence;
  • 'Dirty wars' and counter-insurgency, particularly human rights abuses in asymmetric conflicts;
  • French international politics since World War I.


My current research addresses two big questions: Why was the end of European empire bitterly - and violently - contested in some places but less so in others? And what were the underlying political economies of colonial violence in particular places? These questions feed into my work on European decolonization and the socio-economic determinants of coercive policing in North Africa, the Caribbean and colonial South East Asia. This is a development of my previous research into the role of information collection and political surveillance in ordering colonial societies. As part of that work, between 2008 and 2010, I was chief investigator on the ESRC project ‘Cultures of Repression: the Legacy of Colonial Violence and State Repression in the Maghreb’.

Recent Conference Papers

September 2018: 'Thinking through decolonisation,' University of Geneva conference on post-colonial transitions in West Africa.

September 2016: 'Insurgencies and War to Peace Transitions,' Understanding Insurgencies research network workshop, University of Exeter.

October 2014, ',Recasting Resistance: Delegitimizing Anti-Colonial Violence in Vietnam and Algeria after 1945' University of Quebec, Montreal.

December 2013, 'Violence and Colonial Order: Political Economies of Protest and Repression,' University of Brussels, Colonial Policing conference keynote.

October 2013, 'Feeding the Fury: The Political Economy of Algerian Dissent, 1940-45,' Jacques Berque Research Centre, Rabat.

September 2013, 'Legacies of Fight or Flight: Contested Decolonization in Contested Memory,' Institute of Historical Research, London.

July 2011, 'Coolies, Communists and Capital: Policing the Rubber Crash in Malaya and Indochina,' 'Colonial Circulations' Conference, University of Bristol.

June 2011, 'Locating Colonial Violence: The Role of Police and Labour Control,' Workshop on Comparative Colonial Violence, Paris I.

February 2011, 'Ringleaders, Mobs, and Enemies: Defining ‘Minimum Force’ in Colonial Protest Policing after 1914,' International Studies Association Conference, Montreal.