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School of Politics and International Relations

Dr Madeleine Davis, BA, MA, PhD, (London)



Telephone: 020 7882 8596
Room Number: Arts One, 2.29A
Office Hours: Wednesdays 11am-12pm (Online) & Thursdays 2pm-3pm (F2F)


Madeleine’s main research interest is in the history of the left in Britain, with a focus on the development of socialist political thought in the mid to late twentieth century. She has a particular interest in the work of intellectuals and activists associated with the post-1956 British New Left, as well as some aspects of communist and labour history. Madeleine completed both her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at the University of London. She joined Queen Mary as a lecturer in 2000, shortly after completing her PhD.

Madeleine is a member of the editorial collective of Socialist Register, and of the advisory board of Soundings.  She is an associate of the Raphael Samuel History Centre (RSHC) and serves on the board of the George Lansbury Memorial Trust. She is a member of two specialist groups of the UK Political Studies Association, the Labour Movements Specialist Group, and Communism Specialist Group.  

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Undergraduate Teaching

  • POL100 Introduction to Politics (Level 4)
  • POL206 Modern Political Thought I and II (Level 5)
  • POL368 Socialist Political Thought (Level 6)


Research Interests:

My major research interest is in the history of the left in Britain. I have focused especially on the post-1956 British New Left, a vibrant activist and intellectual current whose best-known thinkers included E.P. Thompson, John Saville, Stuart Hall, Raymond Williams, Ralph Miliband, Perry Anderson and Tom Nairn. Following my PhD, a study of the ‘Nairn-Anderson theses’ developed within the journal New Left Review from the early 1960s, I pursued work examining the specificity of New Left ideas within the British ideological context, and its role in ‘brokering’ new developments in Marxist thought within Britain, as well as the contribution of its thought to a wider critical reworking of Marxist theory. I have written on the New Left’s relationship to pre-existing British communism; on the relationship between the New Left and the Labour Party; on its location within the broader international New Left of the 1960s, and on the somewhat neglected contribution New Left thinkers have made to broader developments in British political thought, for example their challenge to Croslandite revisionism. I have published several pieces on the ideas and activism of Edward Thompson.

Current projects:

The British New Left and its Legacy:  a book project aiming to provide a synoptic study of the New Left’s political thought and (to some extent) activism, organized around three broad themes: redefining socialism, political organization and the politics of culture.
Activist histories of the British New Left: a project that reconsider the New Left’s involvement in activist and grassroots political mobilisation and agitation. I staged an exhibition on this theme at the Radical Histories festival in 2016, have led a project to digitise the radical newspapers Black Dwarf and 7 Days, and have given several conference papers.

Examples of research funding:

2016-18: awarded £5000 from the Amiel-Melburn Trust to run a project to digitise two radical newspapers, Black Dwarf (1968-70) and 7 Days (1971-2)  for online archive of radical periodicals.

2015-16: awarded £1500 from the Amiel-Melburn Trust to stage exhibition ‘Activist Intellectuals: the British New Left as a social movement’, at Radical Histories Festival, July 2016, QMUL.



The British New Left and its Legacy (in preparation)

The Pinochet Case: Origins, Progress and Implications (edited book), London, ILAS, 2003, 266pp, ISBN 1900039524

Journal articles:

”Among the ordinary people”: New Left involvement in working class political mobilisation 1956-1968,  History Workshop Journal, Vol. 86, Autumn 2018.  DOI: 10.1093/hwj/dby018

‘Edward Thompson, MI5 and the Reasoner controversy: negotiating “Communist principle” in the crisis of 1956, Key Words: A Journal of Cultural Materialism, Issue 16, 2018.

‘Los principios comunistas’ y los historiadores en el 1956 británico’ Nuestra Historia, 2 (2016) ISSN 2529-9808 pp.123-30.

‘Edward Thompson’s ethics and activism 1956-1963: reflections on the political formation of The Making of the English Working Class’, Contemporary British History, 2014.

‘”Causes that were lost”? Fifty years of E. P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class as contemporary history’ (co-authored with Kevin Morgan): editors’ introduction to special issue of Contemporary British History, 2014.

‘Rethinking class: the lineage of the Socialist Register’ Socialist Register 2014, pp.287-304. Abstract here:

‘New Left anti-communism’: contribution to ‘A century of anti-communisms, a roundtable discussion’, with Gavin Bowd, Madeleine Davis, Paulo Drinot, Dianne Kirby, Carl Levy, and Matthew Worley, Twentieth Century Communism Issue 6 ‘A century of anti-communisms’, March 2014

 ‘Reappraising British socialist humanism’, Journal of Political Ideologies, 2013, 18 (1) pp. 1-25.

‘Can one nation Labour learn from the British New Left?’ guest editorial, Renewal, Vol. 21 No 1, 2013

 ‘Arguing affluence: New Left contributions to the socialist debate 1957-1963Twentieth Century British History, 23, 4 (2012) 496-528.

‘The Marxism of the British New Left’, Journal of Political Ideologies (Vol. 11, No.3 (2006) 335-358.

‘Externalized justice and democratization: lessons from the Pinochet case’ Political Studies Vol.54 No.2 June 2006.

‘Is Spain recovering its memory? Breaking the pacto del olvido’ Human Rights Quarterly 27 (2005).

‘The indictment of Pinochet: pursuing justice in Chile 1973-2003’ Hispanic Research Journal, 5/3, October 2004.

‘Dictators and democrats in Latin America; but can the poor tell the difference?’ Radical Philosophy, 104, November 2000, pp.2-6.

Book chapters:

‘The New Reasoner and the early New Left’ in David Howell, Dianne Kirby and Kevin Morgan (eds.) John Saville: commitment and history. Themes from the life and work of a socialist historian (Lawrence and Wishart, 2010) pp.30-50.

‘The Marxism of the British New Left’ in Zhang Liang (ed.) British New Left thinkers (Nanjing, Jiangsu Renmin Press, 2010), pp. 1-32.

‘The origins of the British New Left’ in ’ in M. Klimke and J. Scharloth (eds.) 1968 in Europe: a history of protest and activism 1956-1977, (Palgrave, 2008) pp.45-56.

‘Labourism and the New Left’ in Fielding, S., Ludlam, S., and Callaghan (eds.) Interpreting the Labour Party: Approaches to Labour Politics and History, Manchester, MUP, 2003, pp.39-56

‘The Politics of the Pinochet Case in the UK’ in Davis, M., (ed.) The Pinochet Case, pp.125-144

‘Law and politics in the Pinochet Case’ in Davis, M., (ed.) The Pinochet Case, pp.1-21


‘Rebirth of a small dark stranger: the Black Dwarf, the British New Left, and 1968’, openDemocracyUK, 18 May 2018. (with Ross Speer)

'The New Left' in Mark Bevir (ed.) Encyclopedia of Political Theory (Sage, 2009)

The Pinochet Case, Institute of Latin American Studies Research Paper, No. 53, November 2000, 76pp ISBN 1900039354

Selected recent conference papers:

‘Problems of socialist strategy redux’ Oxford Political Thought Seminar, Oriel College Oxford 26 January 2018

‘Gramcism, the New Left and problems of socialist strategy: the case of 7 Days’, 8 June 2017. Contribution to conference ‘Wars of Position: Marxism and Civil Society’ , 8- 10th June 2017, People’s History Museum, Manchester

‘Making socialists? Grassroots activism in the British New Left’, North American Conference on British Studies, Washington DC, November 11-13, 2016.

Exhibition: ‘Activist intellectuals: the British New Left as a social movement’, in collaboration with Mike Berlin and the Amiel Melburn Trust, exhibited as part of  Radical Histories 2016 (

‘Activist intellectuals: the British New Left as a social movement’. Contribution to ‘Before ’68: The Left, activism & social movements in the long 1960s’, 13-14 February 2016, University of East Anglia.

‘Commencing to reason: reflections on the political formation and early activism of Edward Thompson’, Political Studies Association Annual Conference, 15 April 2014.

‘Edward Thompson’s ethics and activism 1956-1963: reflections on the political formation of The Making of the English Working Class’. Contribution to conference ‘The global EP Thompson: Reflections on The Making of the English Working Class after fifty years, Harvard University, 3-5 October 2013.

Invited lecture series on the New Left at ‘Contemporary Anglo American Marxism’, Summer School, Department of Philosophy, Nanjing University, China, August 2013.

 ‘The New Left and the labour metaphysic’ Socialist Register 2014 workshop, Toronto, February 2013.


I have supervised doctoral work on topics including: ‘Poststructuralist readings of Marx’; ‘Dialectics and critical social theory’; ‘Genesis, development and consequences of post-Marxist critical thought’.

I very much welcome applications from prospective PhD students. I would especially like to hear from students interested in pursuing doctoral study on:

  • the history of socialist thought, especially in Britain;
  • the history, thought and political practice of individuals and movements of the British left, whether Communist, New Left or ‘far left’; 
  • aspects of Marxist political thought, especially but not exclusively in Britain.

Current PhD students:

Karl Pike: ‘Labour’s ethos and political change

Public Engagement

Invited public lectures/panel contributions:

Among the ordinary people’: the New Left and working class political mobilisation 1956-1968’, the inaugural Matthew Caygill Lecture at Leeds Beckett University, 3 May 2017.

‘Socialist humanism as the cultural politics of the early New Left’, talk given as part of panel discussion (with Nick Beech and Mike Berlin) 11 May 2017, to accompany the exhibition The Partisan Coffee House 2017,

‘Ralph Miliband and the Politics of Class Today’: House of Commons, 27 November 2013, with John McDonnell (Chair), Colin Leys, Andrew Murray and Hilary Wainwright.

‘The Socialist Register at 50: Class and Politics in Britain’, at Historical Materialism 10, 9 November 2013, with Colin Leys, Andrew Murray, Leo Panitch, and Greg Albo.

‘The Mayday Manifesto then and now’, launch event for new edition of The May Day Manifesto, Marx Memorial Library, 23 May 2013, in association with Soundings.

Outreach and external collaborations

I am an associate of the Raphael Samuel History Centre (, a research and educational centre devoted to encouraging the widest possible participation in historical research and debate. I serve on the management board of the centre and was a member of the organising team for Radical Histories/Histories of Radicalism, a major public history festival that took place at QMUL in July 2016.  A temporary exhibition based on my research on activist histories of the British New Left was staged at the festival, produced in collaboration with Mike Berlin (Birkbeck) and with funding from the Amiel Melburn Trust.

Recently I have led on a project, also funded by the Amiel Melburn Trust, to digitise the newspapers Black Dwarf (1968-70) and 7 Days (1971-2) for their free online archive of radical periodicals (

I am on the advisory board of Soundings and am a member of the editorial collective of Socialist Register. I am also on the Board of the George Lansbury Memorial Trust, which works to promote awareness of the life and work of George Lansbury and the progressive causes with which he was associated.


Aside from my academic work I am active in campaigning for affordable housing in Hackney and Tower Hamlets, and am vice-chair of the Victoria Park Community Association.  In 2010, with other affected tenant groups, we organised and ran a successful campaign to prevent some 1300 key-worker homes across London being sold to private landlords.  A selection of photographs documenting the campaign is available at

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