Professor John Darwin

Professor John Darwin CBE FBA

Alumnus and Professor of Global and Imperial History, Nuffield College Oxford


John Darwin is one of the most distinguished historians currently at work. For the last three decades, he has been a path-breaking historian of the British empire. His first three books – Britain, Egypt and the Middle East (1981); Britain and Decolonization (1988), and The End of the British Empire (1991) – were pioneering studies of their subjects and are still fundamental to debates today.

Darwin’s most important contribution not just to scholarship but to the wider public understanding of history can be found in his most recent trilogy of books. These are genuinely global histories – history writing on an epic scale – and they have been greeted rhapsodically by reviewers. After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000 was celebrated in the Sunday Times as ‘Elegant and brilliant....wonderful and imaginative...a deeply significant book’. The Empire Project: The Rise and Fall of the British World System, 1830–1970 was described by the Independent as ‘the finest, and will be the most influential, general survey of British imperial history’, whilst Unfinished Empire: The Global Expansion of Britain was hailed by History Today as a masterpiece which ‘deserves to supplant every other book on this topic’.

These achievements have made him a scholar with a genuinely global reputation. His work has been translated into Chinese, German, Greek, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish. After Tamerlane was awarded Wolfson Prize, the pre-eminent award for a history book. The Empire Project won the triennial Trevor Reese prize for Commonwealth and Imperial history. Darwin was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2012.

John Darwin read Modern History at St John's, matriculating in 1966.