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Professor Sarah Stockwell

Professor Sarah Stockwell

  • Academics
  • Supervisors

Professor of the History of Empire and Decolonization

Empires and Decolonizations Research Hub current lead.

Research subject areas

  • History

Contact details


Sarah Stockwell is Professor of Imperial and Commonwealth History. She studied at Cambridge and Oxford and joined King’s in 1992, completing her DPhil in history the following year. She worked part-time on a family-friendly flexible-working contract from 2002 before resuming full-time employment at King’s in September 2017. Her latest book, The British End of the British Empire was published by Cambridge University Press in 2018.

Research interests and PhD supervision

  • 20th century British Empire & Commonwealth, and especially the history of British decolonization.
  • 20th century colonial Africa
  • History of colonial and postcolonial development

Sarah Stockwell’s research interests lie in the field of twentieth-century British colonial and African history, in particular the end of empire and post-colonial period. She is especially interested in how different groups and institutions within Britain engaged with the process of British decolonization. Past publications have focused on the experience and response of British business to political change in West Africa (published as The Business of Decolonization: British Business Strategies in the Gold Coast (Oxford, 2000), as well as articles on other economic aspects of British decolonization. With S.R. Ashton she co-edited the first volume in the British Documents on the End of Empire Series, Imperial Policy and Colonial Practice, 1925-45, and has edited several other volumes including The British Empire. Themes and Perspectives (Blackwell, 2008). 

Her last monograph The British End of the British Empire was published in 2018 by Cambridge University Press. It considers the impact of the end of empire on Britain, and the ways in which Britain managed its transition from colonial power to postcolonial nation. These questions are explored principally via the history of the overseas engagements of key institutions that had acquired roles within Britain’s imperial system: the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, the Bank of England, the Royal Mint and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. She shows how these institutions fashioned new roles at the end of the Empire, reconfiguring their activities for a postcolonial world and deploying their expertise to deliver technical assistance essential for the development of institutions in new Commonwealth states. The book adopts a new approach to the history of the British end of the British Empire as well as offering a novel cross-sectoral analysis of institution-building during decolonization.

Another focus of her research is the involvement of the domestic Anglican church with decolonization: the subject of several recent chapters and articles. She is also currently researching the history of British postcolonial development aid. Current writing commitments relate to these two areas. In 2021 she published with Véronique Dimier an edited volume on The Business of Development in Post-Colonial Africa (Basingstoke). 

Sarah Stockwell would especially welcome applications from research students interested in working on:

  • the end of empire
  • the impact of imperialism on twentieth-century Britain
  • British colonialism in twentieth-century Africa, especially in relation to the history of colonial development and welfare

Expertise and public engagement

In the last year Sarah has given several public lectures  and participated in various conferences and seminars, including a round table discussion of her new book, The British End of the British Empire, workshops in Moscow and London organised by the AHRC in partnership with the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, the King’s annual Contemporary British History Conference, the 2019 North American Conference of British Studies, and at the German Historical Institute. She has also participated in various seminars at the Institute of Historical Research, London, where she is one of the convenors of the World and Imperial History Seminar. She has also recorded several podcasts about her new book.  

Selected publications 

  • The British End of the British Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2018)
  • Co-edited with L.J. Butler, The Wind of Change. Harold Macmillan and British Decolonization (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)
  • The British Empire. Themes and Perspectives (Blackwell, 2008)
  • The Business of Decolonisation. British Business Strategies in the Gold Coast (Oxford University Press, 2000)
  • Co-edited with S.R. Ashton, Imperial Policy and Colonial Practice, 1925-45 (British Documents on the End of Empire, Series A, Volume 1, HMSO, 1996).