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Research focus: Professor Ashley Jackson

Professor Ashley JacksonHi Ashley, your primary research interest is British imperial and military history as well as European and ‘Wider World’ history with a focus on Africa, Asia and the Indian Ocean. What brought you to your current research?

I’ve been fascinated by the history of the British Empire since undergraduate days which remains my central area of research. Getting interested in the Empire’s wartime history and its strategic place in the world has also meant that from quite early on I began trespassing in the fields of military and naval history. I’ve recently diversified and also spent some time looking at popular culture and empire as well as the life of Winston Churchill.

You started your academic career at New College, Oxford and are now Professor of Imperial and Military History at the Defence Studies Department at King’s. What is the best thing about being based in the Defence Studies Department?
The Defence Studies Department is a unique environment because of its location at the Joint Services Command and Staff College, Defence Academy of the United Kingdom. There is quite simply nothing to compare with it in the country. I love the dynamism of the Staff College, the buzz one gets from working with professional people at the height of their powers. This is all around you every day as you interact with officers from the British Armed Forces and those from fifty other nations. It’s a very dynamic and friendly environment. 

"The Defence Studies Department is a unique environment because of its location... There is quite simply nothing to compare with it in the country."

What are you researching at the moment and what are your plans for the future?
Perhaps foolishly, I am the type of academic who tends to work on several projects at once. I enjoy the excitement of being able to turn from one project next to another as the mood takes me. I am currently working on three books on the British Empire - one about the Indian Ocean during the war, one on buildings of empire, and one for OUP’s ‘Very Short Introductions’ series. I’m currently also writing numerous things that further my interest in the impact of the Second World War from a global perspective.  A colleague at Royal Holloway and I recently won £189,000 from the AHRC for a project on the home fronts of India, Iraq, and Iran during the war, so a major new research project looms on that front. I also have a trip planned to Singapore later this year as part of the King's - National University of Singapore Partnership Scheme. 

"I love the dynamism of the Staff College, the buzz one gets from working with professional people at the height of their powers."

You are an avid writer and have published several books and articles. What inspires you as a writer?
Like many authors, I am motivated first and foremost by a passion for my subject. There’s then the enduring challenge of trying to write something worthwhile and doing it well. I feel that I have a really good book in me somewhere, a personal fantasy no doubt, but it keeps me striving and looking forward!

You are based in the School of Social Science & Public Policy, can you tell me a bit about how your work engages with policy / culture / society?
There are close points of contact between my department and its sister, the Department of War Studies, and in terms of my own work, history plays a major role in the courses taught at the Staff College, including our own MA in Defence Studies. There are also links to be explored with other departments such as Political Economy and the King’s Policy Institute. Although history may not appear to have a direct relevance for policy, talking about history can help people to make connections between the past and the world in which we live.

More broadly, I enjoy taking part in events that allow me to talk about my research to non-academic audiences, for example at museums, schools, literary festivals, and local societies.

Ashley Jackson is Professor of Imperial and Military History at King’s College London and a Visiting Fellow at Kellogg College, Oxford.

He is on the editorial board of the journal Global War Studies, chairs the King’s Imperial, Diplomatic, and Military History Research Group and is also a member of the Development Group and the Academic Advisory Panel of the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Trust museum project.

Professor Jackson was recently interviewed by the British Scholar Society.

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