Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Professor David Lambert

David Lambert  
Office hours:
3.07, third floor, FAB
024 76523408 (internal ext. 23408)
Tuesday, 1.00-2.00

Wednesday, 10.00-11.00

Academic Profile

External roles



My research is concerned with empire, race, warfare and slavery 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 historical geography. In so doing, I seek to foster interdisciplinary dialogue around notions of centre/margin, the ‘transnational’ and ‘transimperial’.

Campaigning and Counter-insurgency in the Creole Archipelago

Developing from my research on the West India Regiments, I am now working on a new project on the representation and experience of warfare in the Revolutionary Caribbean, focusing on the 1793-94 (Grey/Jervis) and 1795-1796 (Abercromby/Christian) expeditions. The British fought not only against Republicanism but a multi-ethnic alliance of indigenous, enslaved, and free people inhabiting what Tessa Murphy (2022) terms the ‘creole archipelago’. Yet, Britain’s counter-revolutionary forces were also multi-ethnic in character, including other European soldiers and mercenaries of uncertain loyalty, as well as rangers and regulars of African descent. Drawing on the history of emotions and environmental history to develop a postcolonial approach to military history, this research is concerned with how the British struggled not merely to overcome their enemies, but even to comprehend the complex, revolutionary nature of the conflict. Using first-hand accounts, maps and material culture, it thus examines how British soldiers tried to make sense of, and survive in, the creole archipelago (Murphy, 2021).

Leonard Parkinson, a captain of the Maroons

Other previous research has consisted of four main projects:

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) used 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 comprised 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 was 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.

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.

Postgraduate Students, current and recently completed PhDs and MRes (full list here)

  • Joshua Grey (2024-), 'The Right-Wing Press and the British World, 1780-1830', Monash/Warwick PhD Scholarship
  • Catriona Sharples (2021-), 'Colonial science and military service: The West India Regiments and circum-Atlantic networks of knowledge, c.1815-c.1900', AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award; partner organisations: Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
  • Jim Hulbert (2021-), 'Before High Imperialism: Exploring the trans-imperial nature of British colonial violence in Australia, India and South Africa', AHRC-funded M4C studentship at University of Leicester
  • Kit Maxwell (2021-23), 'The material culture of the British Caribbean in the long eighteenth century'
  • Liz Egan (2019-2023), 'Constructing and challenging creole whiteness in Jamaica, 1865-1938', AHRC-funded M4C studentship
  • Aleema Gray (2018-2023), 'Living in Babylon: An oral history of the Rastafarian movement in Britain, 1948-2016', Yesu Persaud Centre for Caribbean Studies/Warwick Collaborative Postgraduate Research Scholarship

Selected Publications (full list here)

A Dance in the Island of St. Dominica

14/9/23 - new PhD studentship available: 'Creolising Caribbean foodways: Breadfruit from the mid-nineteenth century to the present' (October 2024 start)

Empire and Mobility

11/6/20 - new book published in the 'Studies in Imperialism' series with Manchester University Press

Slavery & Abolition

1/1/20 - new role as Associate Editor of Slavery & Abolition journal