Department of History

If you wish to get in touch with our administrative staff, please see the admin staff contact page.

Image of Spencer Mawby

Spencer Mawby

Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts



I studied for an undergraduate degree in History and Politics at the University of Durham between 1987 and 1990. During the 1990s I completed a Masters degree in International Politics at University College Wales and then a PhD at the London School of Economics. At the end of the decade I secured a full-time post in the Deparment of Politics at the University of Leicester. A few years later I came to work in the Department of History at the University of Nottingham. I live in Beeston so I can walk to work, which means that none of the assorted cars and bikes outside Lenton Grove belongs to me.

Expertise Summary

My area of expertise is post-war British foreign and colonial policy. I have related interests in the theory, practice and history of diplomacy, colonial labour politics, institution-building, anticolonial activism and the history of the Cold War. My last book examined the role of institutions, such as the army, the press and trade unions in Uganda during the period of late imperialism and early independence. I have also published books about the end of empire in the Caribbean and the Middle East.

Teaching Summary

My two undergraduate modules are:

Liberating Africa- This is a second year or part 1 module which examines the current literature on the end of empire in Africa. It encompasses topics such as the emergence of anti-colonial ideas in Africa, the history of war and conflict during the process of decolonization, the role of business and labour, the impact of the Cold War and the significance of racial politics.

Suez and the End of Empire- This is a Special Subject which focuses on an intensive study of the 1956 Suez Crisis during which Britain, France and Israel fought a short war against Egypt which ended in humiliation for the western powers. The module covers the origins of the conflict, the gradual emergence of the war plot and the aftermath of the fighting in terms of its impact on British imperialism and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Students engage with a very wide range of primary source material including secret government documents and correspondence, memoirs and autobiographies, newsreel film, cartoons, newspapers and documentary film.

Research Summary

My most recent publication is an analysis of the institutions that the British left behind them after Ugandan independence entitled The End of Empire in Uganda: Decolonization and Institutional… read more

Recent Publications

I am on Study Leave during the second semester of 2021-2022.

Current Research

My most recent publication is an analysis of the institutions that the British left behind them after Ugandan independence entitled The End of Empire in Uganda: Decolonization and Institutional Conflict 1945-1979. It investigates the Ugandan parliament and army as state institutions alongside the press, trade unions and the Anglican church. It also analyses the significance of the Commonwealth in Ugandan history. In the next few years I intend to conduct further investigations into the relationship between business interests, national institutions and foreign policy making in independent Uganda.

My other academic interest is in the role which labour politics played in the process of decolonisation and in particular the relationship the British TUC established with emerging colonial unions. As I discovered when I conducted research into the activities of the Jamaican trade unionist Ferdinand Smith there is a Cold War dimension to this conflict which took institutional form in the international conflicts between the World Federation of Trade Unions and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. British Policy in Aden and the Protectorates 1955-67


I am keen to supervise postgraduate students with an interest in topics which relate to the 20th century history of the British empire. In geographical terms, proposals focusing either on East Africa, the Middle East or the British Caribbean would be particularly welcome. On the question of broader thematic issues arising from the study of the late British empire, the role of national and international labour movements still requires much closer examination and I would particularly welcome proposals from students interested in studying the role of trade unions in decolonisation.

Past Research

have conducted research on British foreign and colonial policy after 1945. My PhD was concerned with British attitudes towards the arming of the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1999 my first monograph, Containing Germany, was published by Macmillan, before it turned into Palgrave. Having determined that the research field in which I had conducted my thesis was small and over-cultivated, I moved on to the study of British decolonization where I found a surprisingly fertile patch of academic territory in South Arabia. Routledge inherited my proposal for a book on the subject from Frank Cass and in 2005 they published British Policy in Aden and the Protectorates: Last Outpost of a Middle East Empire. Recently I have continued this world tour with some new research on British policy in the Caribbean in the 1950s and 1960s and this led to the publication of a monograph entitled Ordering Independence: The End of Empire in the Anglophone Caribbean in 2012.

Future Research

My future research will deal with the relationship between domestic institutions, campaigning organisations and national foreign policy in the context of debates about Britain's policies on decolonisation and the post-independence policies of the Ugandan government.

Department of History

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

Contact details