Professor Dame

Linda Colley

Princeton University
Humanities and Arts

Dame Linda Colley, the Shelby M.C. Davis 1958 Professor of History, is an expert on British, imperial and global history since 1700.

Born in Britain, she graduated from Bristol University with First Class Honors in history, and completed her Ph.D. in history at Cambridge University. She was the first female Fellow of Christ’s College, Cambridge.

Her career, outlook and ideas have been critically shaped however by moving between different continents and countries. From 1982 to 1998, she was attached to Yale University, ultimately becoming a University Professor in History there. From 1998 to 2003, she held a Research Chair and School Professorship at the London School of Economics. Since 2003, she has worked as Shelby M.C. Davis 1958 Professor of History at Princeton University. Travelling still further, she is also now a long-term Fellow in History at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in Uppsala.

Her first book, In Defiance of Oligarchy: The Tory Party 1714-1760 (1982), challenged the then-dominant view by arguing that the Tory party remained active and influential during its years out of power, exploring the consequences of this for ideas, popular politics and political action. Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837 (1992), which won the Wolfson Prize for History, and has passed through five editions, investigated how - and how far - inhabitants of England, Scotland, and Wales came to see themselves as British over the course of the 18th and early 19th centuries. Colley has written books on a range of topics and with a variety of approaches, including Captives: Britain, Empire and the World, 1600-1850 (2002), which used captivity narratives to investigate the underbelly and sporadic vulnerability of the British empire and its makers; Namier, a reappraisal of the Polish-born and Zionist historian Lewis Namier; and The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History which was named one of the best books of 2007 by The New York Times and was a pioneer of the technique of using the life experiences of an individual to explore trans-national and trans-continental histories.

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