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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 new book, The British End of the British Empire will be 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 development

Sarah Stockwell’s research interests lie in the field of twentieth-century British colonial and African history, in particular the end of empire. She is especially interested in how different groups and institutions within Britain engaged with the process of British decolonisation. Past publications have focused on the experience and response of British business to political change in West Africa, as well as on other economic aspects of British decolonisation. 

Her latest book The British End of the British Empire will be 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 decolonisation. The history of British overseas development in Africa and the impact on, and involvement of, the domestic Anglican church with British decolonisation has been another focus of her research (and the subject of several of her most recent articles and chapters). Current writing commitments relate to these two areas. 

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

For more details, please see her full research profile.


Sarah teaches various undergraduate and postgraduate modules on the history of the British empire and Britain and decolonisation.

Expertise and public engagement

In the last year Sarah has participated in various conferences and seminars, including the Business, Decolonization and Development workshop in Strasbourg, the European Network in Universal and Global History Congress in Budapest, a conference on the Anglosphere at the British Academy, the King’s Contemporary British History Inaugural Conference, and in various seminars at the Institute of Historical Research, London, where she is one of the convenors of the World and Imperial History Seminar. With Philip Murphy, she helped convene a day workshop on ‘Decolonization ‘at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies London, the latest in a series of such events. She appeared in the BBC Radio 4 ‘Analysis’ programme on overseas development and was interviewed for and quoted in ‘What the break-up of the British Empire can tell us about Brexit’ Economist, 9 Feb. 2017.