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School of History

Dr Rob Waters


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.

I joined the School of History at Queen Mary in September 2019 as a Lecturer in Modern British History, and I will hold a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship at Queen Mary until the end of December 2019.


Research Interests:

My research is concerned with how global race politics and the struggles of decolonization have shaped the modern history of 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. The book shows how, from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, black radicalism defined what it meant to be black and what it meant to be radical in Britain. It was shortlisted for the Royal Historical Society's 2020 Whitfield Prize. 

My current project, the history of multiculturalism, is funded by a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship and focuses on the history of multiculturalism in London. I am interested in how, in London’s transition to a mass multiculture in the second half of the twentieth century, integration was posed as a project of uplift, social reform and good citizenship, working through established institutions, practices and understandings of political and social integration developed through imperial liberalism, anti-colonial nation building, and Britain’s transition to a mass democracy. I am interested also in the limited traction that this framing of integration had, and how it stood in a contested relationship with popular cosmopolitanism, anti-racist activism, and forms of racial exclusion and violence. As part of this project, I have created a digital map of black London in the late-twentieth century, charting some of the research:

I am also interested in history writing as a practice of decolonization, and in memoirs and fiction as forms of historical evidence. In both these contexts, I am interested in the intersections between literary and historical studies.



Waters, Rob, Thinking Black: Britain, 1964-1985. Berkeley: University of California Press Berkeley Series in British Studies, 2019.

Articles and book chapters

Schofield, Camilla, Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, Florence and Waters, Rob, '"The privatisation of the struggle": Anti-racism in the age of enterprise.' In: Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, Florence, Jackson, Ben and Davies, Aled (eds), The Neoliberal Age? Politics, Economy, Society and Culture in Britain since c.1970. London: UCL Press, (forthcoming).  

Waters, Rob (2019). '"Time Come": Britain's black futures past', Historical Research, 92 (258). pp. 838-850. DOI. 10.1111/1468-2281.12291.

Waters, Rob (2018). “Integration or Black Power?” Political Quarterly, 89 (3). Special issue, Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ Speech: Fifty Years On. pp. 409–416. DOI 10.1111/1467-923x.12543.

Waters, Rob (2016). “Thinking black: Peter Fryer's Staying Power and the politics of writing black British history in the 1980s.” History Workshop Journal, 82 (1). pp. 104-120. ISSN 1363-3554.

Waters, Rob (2016). “Henry Swanzy, Sartre’s zombie? Black power and the transformation of the Caribbean Artists Movement.” In: Craggs, Ruth and Wintle, Claire (eds) Cultures of decolonisation: transnational productions and practices, 1945-70. Studies in imperialism. Manchester University Press, Manchester, pp. 67-85. ISBN 9780719096525.

Waters, Rob (2016). “Student politics, teaching politics, black politics: an interview with Ansel Wong.” Race and Class, 58 (1). pp. 17-33. ISSN 0306-3968.

Waters, Rob (2015). “Black power on the telly: America, television, and race in 1960s and 1970s Britain.” Journal of British Studies, 54 (4). pp. 947-970. ISSN 0021-9371.

Waters, Rob (2013) “‘Britain is no longer white’: James Baldwin as a witness to postcolonial Britain.” African American Review, 46 (4). pp. 715-730. ISSN 1062-4783.

Essays and reviews

Waters, Rob (2019) “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 (2018). “Strange familiarity.” Identities, 25 (1). Special issue, Symposium: Stuart Hall’s Familiar Stranger: A life between two islands. pp. 61-66. ISSN 1070-289X.

Waters, Rob (2018). “Stuart Hall on television.” African and Black Diaspora, 11 (3). Special issue on Stuart Hall. pp. 315-317. DOI 10.1080/17528631.2018.1465254

Waters, Rob (2018) “Jed Fazakarley (2017) Muslim Communities in England 1962–90: Multiculturalism and Political Identity.” Immigrants and Minorities (forthcoming).

Waters, Rob (2018) “Wendy Webster (2018) Mixing It: Diversity in World War Two Britain.” Social History, 43 (3), pp. 420-422.

Ishmael, Hannah J. M. and Waters, Rob (2017). “Archive review: the Black Cultural Archives, Brixton.” Twentieth Century British History, 28 (3), pp. 465-473. ISSN 0955-2359.

Waters, Rob (2016) “Satnam Virdee (2014) Racism, class and the racialized outsider.” Contemporary British History, 30 (4). pp. 617-618. ISSN 1361-9462.

Waters, Rob (2016) “Gavin Schaffer (2014) The vision of a nation: making multiculturalism on British television, 1960-80.” Journal of History and Cultures, 6. pp. 37-39. ISSN 2051-221X.

Waters, Rob (2015) “Robin D.G. Kelley and Stephen Tuck, ed. (2015) The other special relationship: race, rights and riots in Britain and the United States.” Twentieth Century British History, 27 (2). pp. 323-325. ISSN 0955-2359.

Waters, Rob (2014) “Camilla Schofield (2013) Enoch Powell and the making of postcolonial Britain.” Twentieth Century British History, 25 (4). pp. 663-665. ISSN 0955-2359.

Waters, Rob (2014) “Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin, Jr. (2013) Black against empire: the history and politics of the Black Panther Party.” Race and Class, 55 (3). pp. 98-101. ISSN 0306-3968.

Waters, Rob (2011) “Sam Selvon (1956) The lonely Londoners.” Literary Encyclopedia, 4 (1). ISSN 1747-678X.


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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