Dr Gareth Curless

ESRC Future Research Leader & Senior Lecturer in History


01392 724578

My research is concerned with the following broad themes:

  • British imperialism and decolonisation
  • Anti-colonial protest and colonial state violence

Research interests

My current project focuses on the relationship between labour unrest and the end of the British Empire. Using Ghana, Guyana, and Singapore as case studies, the project is principally concerned with the consequences of the labour riots and strikes that swept through the British Empire in the wake of the depression. Focusing on issues such as labour and social welfare policy, housing, policing, and the complex relationship between workers, trade unions and nationalist political parties, the project investigates how 'ordinary' colonial subjects - industrial workers, casual labourers, rural migrants, semi-employed youths and market traders - shaped the nature of late colonial governance. The project is concerned with not just the spectacular moments of labour protest but also the ‘everyday’ struggles of ordinary people, who were brought into increasing contact and conflict with the colonial state after 1945. By focusing on these daily struggles the project sets out to challenge traditional histories that  have conflated labour activism and social protest with homogenous understandings of anti-colonial nationalism and working class consciousness.

From October 2016 I will be working with my colleague, Professor Martin Thomas, on a three-year Leverhulme International Network project: 'Understanding Insurgencies: Resonances from the Colonial Past.' Hosted by the Centre for War, State, and Society, the aim of the Network is to investigate the violent ends of European imperialism from a comparative perspective. The Network will involve collaboration with partners from the Universities of Exeter, Oxford, Warwick and Glasgow in the U.K., the Université de Québec, Montreal, CNRS Paris, and the Royal Netherlands Institute of South East Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV), Leiden. More information about the Network can be found here.