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Dr Robert Fletcher

Associate Professor of Britain and Empire


Office Hours:

H008, ground floor of the Humanities Building
+44 (0)24 76575536 (internal extension 75536)
Mondays, 3-4; Tuesdays, 5-6.

Associate Professor of Britain and Empire
Research Fellow, Natural History Museum
D.Phil (Oxon.), 2011; F.R.G.S.


I’m a historian of the imperial and global past, with a broad interest in the movements of peoples, practices and ideas. My research brings together a particular interest in the histories of imperialism, nomadic societies and desert environments in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

fletcher_front_cover.jpgMy first book, British Imperialism and ‘The Tribal Question’: Desert Administration and Nomadic Societies in the Middle East, 1919-1936, was published by Oxford University Press in 2015. It tells the story of what happened when the British Empire and Bedouin communities met on the desert frontiers between the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf, as British officials, Bedouin shaykhs, and nationalist politicians jostled to influence desert affairs. In revealing the centrality of practices of 'desert administration' and tribal control to the working of Britain's empire, the book repositions neglected frontier areas as nerve centres of imperial activity.

From 2015-17 I will hold an AHRC Leadership Fellowship to explore how the world’s desert environments became sites of heightened contest between nomads, nations and empires in the modern world. I am also the Principal Investigator on an interdisciplinary and collaborative AHRC Science in Culture project on the international campaign against the desert locust in the twentieth-century. You can read more about both of these projects here. I’m interested in concepts of frontiers and borderlands in general, and have also written about maritime, mercantile and evangelical networks in the mid-nineteenth-century Pacific.

My teaching interests include the histories of imperialism and globalisation, the history of the British Empire, Middle Eastern history, Anglo-Japanese relations, and histories of migrations and mobility; I welcome enquiries from prospective research students in these fields.

Some of my publications are available online at and @rsgfletcher.

I grew up in Colchester, Essex and graduated from Magdalen College, Oxford with a BA in Modern History and an MSt in Imperial and Commonwealth History. Between 2005 and 2007 I worked in Tokushima, Japan, before returning to Magdalen to read for a D.Phil. I worked at the Universities of Oxford and Exeter before coming to Warwick in 2015 as Associate Professor of Britain and Empire.


  • The Road to Namamugi: the life, death and letters of Charles Lenox Richardson (Renaissance: forthcoming 2018).
  • 'Decolonization and the Arid World', in M. Thomas and A. Thompson (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the
    Ends of Empire
    (Oxford University Press: forthcoming).42639241.jpg
  • 'The Locust, the Empire and the Museum', evolve, Vol. 31 (2017), pp. 46-53.
  • British Imperialism and ‘The Tribal Question’: Desert Administration and Nomadic Societies in the Middle East, 1919-1936 (Oxford University Press, 2015).
  • '"Between the Devil of the Desert and the Deep Blue Sea": re-orienting Kuwait, c.1900-1940',
    Journal of Historical Geography, Vol. 50 (Oct. 2015), pp. 51-65.
  • 'The ʿAmārāt, their Sheikh, and the Colonial State: Patronage and Politics in a Partitioned Middle East', Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient (Vol. 58, No. 1-2 (May), 2015).
  • ‘Running the Corridor: Nomadic Societies and Imperial Rule in the Interwar Syrian Desert’,
    Past and Present, Vol. 220, No. 1 (Aug., 2013), pp. 185-215.
  • ‘“Returning Kindness Received”? Missionaries, Empire and the Royal Navy in Okinawa, 1846-1857’,
    The English Historical Review, Vol. 125, No. 514 (June, 2010), pp. 599-641.

Academic Career

  • From 2015: Associate Professor of Britain and Empire, University of Warwick
  • 2015-18: Fellow of the Centre for Arts and Humanities Research, the Natural History Museum, London
  • 2012-15: Lecturer in Imperial and Global History, University of Exeter
  • 2011-13: Research Fellow, Nuffield College, University of Oxford
  • 2011-12: Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Global History, History Faculty, University of Oxford
  • 2009-10: Visiting Fellowship, History Department, Princeton University
  • 2007-11: D.Phil in History, Magdalen College, University of Oxford

Research Interests

  • British imperialism in the 19th and 20th centuries
  • Deserts, oceans and airways in global history
  • Nomadic societies under colonial rule
  • Maritime frontiers and arid borderlands
  • Mobility, space and transnational networks