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Professor Francisco Bethencourt is Charles Boxer Chair and a leading authority on the history of the Portuguese-speaking world. He recently published the first global history of racism from the crusades to the twentieth century based on original research. He previously published the only comprehensive history of the early modern Inquisition, which is available in French, Portuguese, Spanish, Serbian and English editions. Professor Bethencourt has edited and co-edited twenty books and issues of journals.

Prior to joining King's in 2005, Francisco Bethencourt lectured at Universidade Nova de Lisboa. He was Visiting Professor at the Universidade de São Paulo and Brown University. He has been a member of the advisory councils of historical institutes in London, Paris and Lisbon.

Professor Bethencourt currently serves on the advisory board of several Portuguese, Spanish and Brazilian journals and has been supervisor or consultant of doctoral and postdoctoral research programmes in London, Leiden, Bologna and Coimbra. He has been the co-ordinator and consultant at King's of protocols with the Instituto Camões and other Portuguese sponsors. In 2006-2008 he was Head of the Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies. He is currently a member of the Academic Staff Committee at King's College London.


  • World History: Power and Inequality
  • World History: Racism, Theory of Races and Civil Rights
  • Portuguese and European Expansion from the 15th to the 19th centuries
  • Missions and religious history in the Catholic world
  • Identities and Cultural Exchange in Iberia

Francisco Bethencourt is currently researching the history of inequality in the world. The book on history of racism tested his work on different scales (long term macro approach blended with the analysis of precise conjunctures), as well as his methods of analysing primary textual and visual sources. The book he published on the Inquisition in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Iberian colonies from 1478 to 1834 likewise addressed long term issues and was based on extensive archival sources.



  • 4AAH1004 Power, Culture and Belief in Europe 1500-1800
  • 5AAH1007 Religion and Society in Southern Europe
  • 5AAH1008 History of the Iberian World (1492-1822)
  • 5AAH1009 World History: Material Culture (1500-1900)
  • 5AAH1010 World History: Power & Inequality (1500-1900)
  • 6AAH4006 Cosmopolitanism


  • 7AAH2002 Approaches to Early Modern History
  • 7AAH5013 Inequality in World History

Further details

Please see Francisco's Research Profile for further details.

Expertise and Public Engagement

Francisco Bethencourt is a fellow of the Academia Europaea. He was also elected member of the Portuguese Academia da Marinha. He is a member of the Institut d’Histoire des Civilisations de l’Occident Moderne (Université de Paris IV-Sorbonne). He was made comendador of the Ordem do Infante D. Henrique by the President of the Republic of Portugal. He received the Salvador Madariaga Prize for his PhD at the European University Institute.  

Professor Bethencourt has served as member of the advisory councils of the Warburg Institute, Institute for the Study of the Americas (now Latin America), the Commission d'histoire moderne de l'Université de Paris IV-Sorbonne, the Centro de Estudos de História Religiosa (Universidade Católica Portuguesa) and the Instituto de História de Arte (Universidade Nova de Lisboa). 

Professor Bethencourt has also been supervisor or consultant of doctoral and postdoctoral research programmes funded by the European Research Council. He has been the co-ordinator and consultant of protocols with the Instituto Camões and other Portuguese sponsors at King's. He was engaged in cultural management as director of the National Library of Portugal (1996-98) and the Gulbenkian Cultural Centre in Paris (1999-2004). 

Professor Bethencourt is regularly invited for keynote lectures in different countries. He has contributed to the catalogues of major exhibitions at the Smithsonian and Biennale di Venezia. He has been interviewed by British, Portuguese, Brazilian and Italian media. Professor Bethencourt will talk about Racisms at the 2014 Hay Literary Festival.