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Professor David Lambert

David Lambert  
Office hours:

Humanities Building, H333
None; currently on research leave

Please note that I am currently on research leave.

Academic Profile

Internal and external roles



My research is concerned with slavery and empire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, focusing on the Caribbean and its place in the wider (British Atlantic) world. Working in cultural history, I draw on theories, methods and concepts from historical sociology, postcolonial studies and human geography. In so doing, I seek to foster interdisciplinary dialogue around notions of centre/margin, the ‘transnational’ and ‘transimperial’. I am currently Principal Investigator on an AHRC-funded project that focuses on the West India Regiments:

Africa’s Sons Under Arms: Race, Military Bodies and the British West India Regiments in the Atlantic world, 1795-1914

‘Africa’s Sons Under Arms’ (ASUA) is an ambitious research project that uses Britain's West India Regiments to explore the relationships between the arming of people of African descent and the changing nature of racial thought from the late 18th to early 20th centuries. It comprises three interrelated components that examine WIR soldiers from different perspectives: as objects of medical scrutiny during their time in the Caribbean; as figures of public interest who served within the wider British army; and as participants in organised sport watched by local and visiting spectators. ASUA is a collaboration based on well-established relationships between the three main investigators (David Lambert, Tim Lockley and Beth Cooper) and the two partner research institutions (Warwick University and the British Library), and drawing on the scholarly and outreach expertise of both.

My previous research has consisted of three main projects:

Knowledge, Exploration and Atlantic Slavery, c.1750-1850

This research project examined the relationship of colonial slavery to African exploration and cartography in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It brings together histories of science and ideas with transnational histories of the Atlantic world and its enslaved ‘others’. My monograph Mastering the Niger: James MacQueen’s African Geography and the Struggle over Atlantic Slavery (University of Chicago Press, 2013) and a number of British Academy-funded papers have re-shaped understanding of pre-Victorian geographical thought, the politics of abolition and the origins of European colonialism in Africa.

Imperial Networks and ‘Imperial Careers’

This project has made significant theoretical and substantive contributions to the study of transnational histories by challenging the core/periphery binaries inherent in much imperial history, and elaborating a ‘networked’ alternative to investigate the discourses, practices and identities that circulated around empires. Moreover, I have propounded new approaches for exploring these networks by examining the ‘imperial careers’ of those involved in empire. The main output of this research was an edited collection of historical-geographical biographies entitled Colonial Lives across the British Empire: Imperial Careering in the Long Nineteenth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2006; edited with Alan Lester). This research is at the forefront of work at the nexus of biography, history and geography, and represents a critical contribution to imperial histories.

Transimperial Affiliations and Discourses of Whiteness

This pioneering research analysed relationships between metropolitan societies and the settler populations of their overseas empires to demonstrate how these were articulated through discourses of ‘Whiteness’. Far from an unproblematic marker of transimperial affiliation, I have shown White identities to be multiple and contested. This extends work in ‘Whiteness Studies’ – the field that examines the cultural aspects of people identified as ‘white’ – by moving beyond the US focus and instead considering British colonists in the Caribbean (c.1780-1840) and Gibraltar (c.1800-2000). The main output of this research was a monograph entitled White Creole Culture, Politics and Identity during the Age of Abolition (Cambridge University Press, 2005), which was nominated for the 2005 Young Academic Author of the Year Times Higher Education Supplement award. Revealing the uneven geographies of Whiteness, this research thus relocates debates to a transnational context.

My future research continues to promulgate innovative approaches to researching the past and produce substantive historical studies that advance understanding of empire and slavery. This agenda is taken forward through greater concern with the histories of ideas and thought in the past and present:

Space, Politics and Mobility in the Caribbean, c.1780-1880

Based on comparative research in the English, Spanish and French-speaking Caribbean, this research project will draw on concepts of mobility, performance and place from History, Sociology and Cultural Geography to examine how movement at a variety of scales – including bodily gestures, forms of travel and large-scale migrations – were implicated in the articulation of politics and identity during the ‘age of abolition’.

American Counterfactualism

This project stems from a concern with counterfactual reasoning, not as a historical method to apply but as a historiographic object and way of relating to the past that has its own histories. Following work on demands for slavery reparations and my role in editing a collection of papers that interrogated counterfactuals, my next step will be to explore the potential for wider research on the role of counterfactual thought of the Americas. This will be achieved through a pilot project on ‘Dependency theory and counterfactual thought’ concerned with the intellectual and philosophical underpinnings to the field of dependency theory as in developed in the Caribbean and Latin America in particular. More broadly, I am interested how the notion of ‘worlds that might have been’ can communicate ideas about historical-geographical change to wider publics.

I would be interested in supervising doctoral research in any of these and related areas.

Postgraduate Students (current and recently completed PhDs)

  • Melissa Bennett (2014-), 'Picturing the West India Regiments in an Age of Unrest, Civil War and Tourism, c.1850-1914'
  • Kimberley Thomas (2013-), '"Oh, the trials! the trials! they make the salt water come into my eyes": Slaves and salt in the Caribbean, 1680-1850', Yesu Persaud Centre for Caribbean Studies/Warwick Collaborative Postgraduate Research Scholarship
  • Dr Natalie Cox (2012-16), 'Armchair geography: Speculation, synthesis and the culture of British exploration, c.1830-1880’, AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award; partner organisation: Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)
  • Dr Meleisa Ono-George (2011-15), 'To Be Despised: Sexual-Economic Exchange in Nineteenth-Century Jamaica,
    c. 1780-1890', Warwick Postgraduate Research Scholarship and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada funding
  • Dr Steven Gray (2010-2014), 'Black diamonds: Coal, the Royal Navy and British imperial coaling stations, c.1870-1914', AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award; partner organisation: National Maritime Museum - thesis awarded the Boydell & Brewer Prize by the British Commission for Maritime History
  • Dr Hugh Crosfield (2009-2014), ‘Bodies, commodities and thresholds: An historical-geographical investigation of consumer boycott movements, c. 1790 to the present’, studentship at Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Dr Anyaa Amin-Addo (2008-2011), ‘Place and mobilities in the maritime world: The Royal Mail Steam Packet Company in the Caribbean, c. 1838 to 1914’, AHRC Collaborative Studentship at Royal Holloway, University of London; partner organisation: National Maritime Museum
  • Dr Daniel Whittall (2007-2011), ‘Creolising London: Black West Indian activism and the politics of race and empire in Britain, 1931-1948’, ESRC Studentship at Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Dr Kirsten Greer (2007-2011), ‘Red coats and wild birds: Military culture and ornithology across the nineteenth-century British Empire’, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Graduate Scholarship (I was host supervisor in UK)





  • ‘Reflections on the concept of imperial biographies' Geschichte und Gesellschaft 40 (2014), S. 22-41.



  • ‘Critical geographies of slavery' Historical Geography 39 (2011), pp. 118-125. 


  • ‘Black-Atlantic counterfactualism: Speculating about slavery and its aftermath' Journal of Historical Geography 36 (2010), pp. 286-296. doi:10.1016/j.jhg.2009.12.006
  • 'Introduction to special issue: Counterfactual geographies' Journal of Historical Geography 36 (2010), pp. 245-252. doi:10.1016/j.jhg.2009.12.002
  • ‘Shrewsbury, William James (1795–1866)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, September 2010,, with Alan Lester. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/40417


  • '"Taken captive by the mystery of the Great River": Towards an historical geography of British geography and Atlantic slavery' Journal of Historical Geography 35 (2009), pp. 44-65. doi:10.1016/j.jhg.2008.05.017


  • ‘The “Glasgow King of Billingsgate”: James MacQueen and an Atlantic proslavery network’ Slavery and Abolition 29 (2008), pp. 389-413. doi: 10.1080/01440390802267816
  • ‘An Atlantic world – modernity, colonialism and slavery’ cultural geographies 15 (2008), pp 271-280. doi:10.1177/1474474007087503


  • ‘“Part of the blood and dream”: Surrogation, memory and the National Hero in the postcolonial Caribbean’ Patterns of Prejudice 41 (2007), pp 345- 371. doi: 10.1080/00313220701431468
  • ‘Sierra Leone and other sites in the war of representation over slavery’ History Workshop Journal 64 (2007), pp 103-132. doi:10.1093/hwj/dbm048
  • ‘Loyalty and royalty: Gibraltar, the 1953-54 Royal Tour and the geopolitics of the Iberian Peninsula’ Twentieth Century British History 18 (2007), pp 365-390, with Klaus Dodds and Bridget Robison. doi:10.1093/tcbh/hwm018


  • Colonial Lives Across the British Empire: Imperial Careering in the Long Nineteenth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2006), edited with Alan Lester.
  • ‘Currents, visions and voyages: Historical geographies of the sea’ Journal of Historical Geography 32 (2006), pp 479-493, edited with Luciana Martins and Miles Ogborn. doi:10.1016/j.jhg.2005.10.004
  • ‘Introduction: Geographies of empire and colonial life-writing’, with Alan Lester, in Colonial lives across the British Empire: Imperial careering in the long nineteenth century (Cambridge University Press, 2006), edited by David Lambert and Alan Lester.
  • ‘Making the past present: Historical wrongs and demands for reparation’ in Living in a Globalised World: A Demanding World (Open University, 2006), edited by Clive Barnett, Jennifer Robinson and Gillian Rose.
  • ‘Missionary politics and the captive audience: William Shrewsbury in the Caribbean and the Cape Colony’, with Alan Lester, in Colonial lives across the British Empire: Imperial careering in the long nineteenth century (Cambridge University Press, 2006), edited by David Lambert and Alan Lester.
  • ‘Sir John Pope Hennessy and colonial government: Humanitarianism and the translation of slavery in the imperial network’, with Philip Howell, in Colonial lives across the British Empire: Imperial careering in the long nineteenth century (Cambridge University Press, 2006), edited by David Lambert and Alan Lester. doi:10.1093/hwj/55.1.1


  • ‘“As solid as the Rock”: Place, belonging and the local appropriation of imperial discourse in Gibraltar’ Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 30 (2005), pp 206-220. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2005.00161x
  • ‘Producing/contesting whiteness: Rebellion, anti-slavery and enslavement in Barbados, 1816’ Geoforum 36 (2005), pp 29-43. doi:10.1016/j.geoforum.2004.03.007
  • ‘The counter-revolutionary Atlantic: White West Indian petitions and proslavery networks’ Social and Cultural Geography 6 (2005), pp 407-422. doi: 10.1080/14649360500111345
  • White Creole Culture, Politics and Identity during the Age of Abolition (Cambridge University Press, 2005). 


  • ‘Creole negotiations: White anti-Methodism in Barbados, 1823-26’ in Georgian Geographies: Essays on Space, Place and Landscape in the Eighteenth Century (Manchester University Press, 2004), edited by Miles Ogborn and Charles Withers.
  • ‘Deadening, voyeuristic and reiterative’? Problems of representation in Caribbean research’ in Beyond the Blood, the Beach and the Banana: New Perspectives in Caribbean Studies (Ian Randle, 2004), edited by Sandra Courtman.
  • ‘Geographies of colonial philanthropy’ Progress in Human Geography 28 (2004), pp 320-341, with Alan Lester. doi: 10.1191/0309132504ph489oa
  • ‘Landscapes of home’, with James Duncan, in A Companion to Cultural Geography (Blackwell, 2004), edited by James Duncan, Nuala Johnson and Richard Schein. 


  • ‘John Pope Hennessy and the translation of “slavery” between late nineteenth-century Barbados and Hong Kong’ History Workshop Journal 55 (2003), pp 1-24, with Philip Howell. 


  • ‘Landscapes/aesthetics/power’, with James Duncan, in American Space/American Place: Geographies of the United States on the Threshold of a New Century (University of Edinburgh Press, 2002), edited by John Agnew and Jonathan M. Smith.
  • ‘“True lovers of religion”: Methodist persecution and white resistance to antislavery in Barbados, 1823-1825’ Journal of Historical Geography 28 (2002), pp 216-236. doi:10.1006/jhge.2001.0399 


  • ‘Competing discourses of whiteness in the 1816 Barbados enslaved revolt: Theoretical possibilities and ethical dilemmas’ The Society for Caribbean Studies Annual Conference Papers 2 (2001).
  • ‘Liminal figures: poor whites, freedmen, and racial re-inscription in colonial Barbados’ Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 19 (2001), pp 335-350. doi:10.1068/d37j


Armed people of African descent
Dr Natalie Cox
Many congratulations to Natalie Cox for successfully defending her PhD thesis on "Armchair geography...c.1830-c.1870", 12 January 2017.
Seminar at l'École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, 16 December 2016.WISE
Lecture at the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation, Hull, 8 December 2016.
Joseph Banks workshop