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School of History

Dr Rob Waters


Senior Lecturer in Modern British History

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 8374
Room Number: ArtsTwo 3.09


I studied History at undergraduate and graduate level at the University of Edinburgh, before completing a PhD in English at Queen Mary University of London. I have since taught History, English, Sociology and Liberal Studies at Queen Mary, Birkbeck, New York University, the University of Sussex, and the University of Birmingham.


Research Interests:

My research is concerned with how global race politics and the struggles of decolonization have shaped the history of modern Britain.


My first book, Thinking Black: Britain, 1964–1985 (University of California Press), looked at Black Power as a political and cultural force in Britain. Ideas of blackness mobilized through the rubric of a transnational Black Power were crucial in the conceptualization of what a postcolonial Britain might become, and held a significant place in the development of New Left politics in Britain. In Thinking Black, I chart black radical Britain’s wide cultural-political formation, tracing it across new institutions of black civil society and connecting it to decolonization and black liberation across the Atlantic world. Thinking Black was shortlisted for the Royal Historical Society's 2020 Whitfield Prize.


My second book, Colonized by Humanity: Caribbean London and the Politics of Integration at the End of Empire (Oxford University Press) offers a history of racial integration as a social movement in Britain. Through a deep account of the work and ideas of integrationists active in the capital city in the era of large-scale Commonwealth migration, I show the depth of popular commitment to racial liberalism in Britain. However, I argue that we need to see this commitment not as the antithesis to the growing racism of this era, but as another arena through which race and racial hierarchy were reproduced. In this manner, the book recasts how we understand the historical relationship between race and liberalism in Britain—taking liberalism seriously, but refusing to herald it as racism’s counter-current.


I am currently working on a history of the rise of the border and bordering in Britain since the 1905 Aliens Act.









Waters, Rob, Thinking Black: Britain, 1964-1985 (Oakland: University of California Press, 2018).

Waters, Rob, Colonized by Humanity: Caribbean London and the Politics of Integration at the End of Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2023).


Edited collection

Matera, Marc, Radhika Natarajan, Kennetta Hammond Perry, Camilla Schofield, and Rob Waters (eds), Marking Race, thematic issue of Twentieth Century British History (2023).



Waters, Rob. ‘Race, citizenship and “race relations” research in late-twentieth-century Britain’, Twentieth Century British History (2023).

Matera, Marc, Radhika Natarajan, Kennetta Hammond Perry, Camilla Schofield, and Rob Waters, ‘Marking Race: empire, social democracy, deindustrialization’, Twentieth Century British History (2023).

Waters, Rob, ‘Respectability and race between the suburb and the city: an argument about the making of “inner-city” London’, in Aaron Andrews, Alistair Kefford, Daniel Warner (eds), Community, culture, crisis: the inner city in England, c. 1960–1990, special issue of Urban History, 50 (2023), 214-231.

Waters, Rob, ‘Time Come: Britain’s Black Future’s Past’, Historical Research 92. 258 (2019), 838–853.

Waters, Rob, ‘Thinking black: Peter Fryer’s Staying Power and the politics of writing black British history in the 1980s’, History Workshop Journal, 82 (2016), 104-120.

Waters, Rob, ‘Student politics, teaching politics, black politics: an interview with Ansel Wong’, Race & Class, 58 (2016), 17-33.

Waters, Rob, ‘Black power on the telly: America, television, and race in 1960s and 1970s Britain’, Journal of British Studies, 54 (2015), 947-970.

Waters, Rob, ‘“Britain is no longer white”: James Baldwin as a witness to postcolonial Britain’, African American Review, 46 (2013), 715-730.


Book chapters

Waters, Rob, ‘Existing Triply: Race, Space and the London Transport Network, 1950s–70s’, in Charlotte Grant and Alistair Robinson (eds), Cultures of London: Legacies of Migration (London: Bloomsbury, forthcoming).

Schofield, Camilla, Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite and Rob Waters, ‘“The privatisation of the struggle”: anti-racism in the age of enterprise’, in Aled Davies, Ben Jackson and Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite (eds), The Neoliberal Age?: Britain since the 1970s (London: UCL Press, 2021), 199–225.

Waters, Rob, ‘Henry Swanzy, Sartre’s zombie? Black power and the transformation of the Caribbean Artists Movement’, in Ruth Craggs and Claire Wintle (eds), Cultures of decolonisation: transnational productions and practices, 1945-70. (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2016), 67-85.



Waters, Rob, ‘Integration or Black Power?’ Political Quarterly, 89 (2018), 409–416. Special issue, Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ Speech: Fifty Years On.

Waters, Rob, ‘Au(x) rythme(s) des marchés de Londres’, in Angéline Escafré-Dublet, Martin Evans and Stéphane Malfettes (eds), Paris-Londres, Musique Connexions (Exhibition catalogue. Palais de la Porte Dorée, 2019).

Waters, Rob, ‘Strange familiarity’, Identities, 25 (2018), pp. 61-66. Special issue, Symposium: Stuart Hall’s Familiar Stranger: A life between two islands

Waters, Rob, ‘Stuart Hall on television’, African and Black Diaspora, 11 (2018), 315-317. Special issue, On Stuart Hall.







I am interested to hear from prospective PhD students working on any aspect of the history of race, immigration and ethnicity in twentieth-century Britain, or in black British or British Asian history.

Current PHD Students

  • Olivia Wyatt – "If You're Brown, You Can Stick Around": Complexions in Black Britain, c.1930-85.
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