Dr Leslie James

Dr Leslie James

Department of African Studies and Anthropology
Leverhulme Early Career Fellow

Contact details

University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

My research examines the political and intellectual history of Africa and the African diaspora, with particular interest in black radical discourses and the global and local dimensions of anti-colonial movements in the twentieth century. I am currently researching newspapers in the late colonial period in West Africa and the Caribbean as a medium for the construction of not only local/national but also transnational identities.  My broad interests include print cultures, imperial history and the history of anti-imperialism, decolonization, the Cold War, and African and Caribbean history.


  • BA Hons in History (University of Guelph)
  • MA in International History (London School of Economics and Political Science)
  • PhD in International History (London School of Economics and Political Science)
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education


I obtained a degree in History from the University of Guelph in 2003 and a Masters in International History from the LSE.  I then worked in Toronto for three years, as a Senior Project Manager on projects that advocated for Canadian immigrants in the higher education system and in the job market. 

I took up a PhD in 2008, at LSE, studying the life and thought of the anti-colonial organiser, George Padmore.  After completing my PhD I was the Pinto postdoctoral fellow at the LSE, where I wrote the manuscript for a book on George Padmore, recently published in the Cambridge Imperial and Postcolonial Studies series with Palgrave.  

Prior to joining DASA, I was Lecturer in World History at the University of Cambridge, Faculty of History.  I have also taught courses at Goldsmith's College, and served as Managing Editor of the journal Cold War History.  I am researching a new project, on the print practices and international dimensions of newspapers in the late colonial period in West Africa and the Caribbean.  This is a Leverhulme funded Early Career project. 


I have recently completed two books, one on the political practice of the anti-colonial organiser, George Padmore, and a co-edited volume on Decolonization and the Cold War. George Padmore and Decolonization from Below emphasizes the strategies and tactics of a central figure of radical anti-colonial movements in the first half of the twentieth century. By examining the interactions between colonial rule, ‘tribal’ politics in Africa, decolonization, and the tensions of the early Cold War, I ultimately show how the 1950s became the testing ground for interwar antiimperialism that had built anti-colonial politics simultaneously within and outside nationalist visions. I analyse how diasporic notions of ‘nationalism’, and differing opinions of modernity and citizenship in West Africa, collided around issues of postcolonial state building in very specific ways that require not only local but global explanations.

My research now focuses on the intellectual debates contained outside of the structures of formal text manuscripts and, rather, in the everyday letters, editorials, and news items of the ephemeral press. I am examining newspapers in West Africa and the West Indies that often served as a mouthpiece for local nationalist movements. I'm particularly interested in the practices of editorship, journalism, and how the printed page served to facilitate not only national but transnational identifications.  



Edited books

Peer-reviewed journal articles

Chapters in books

  • 'Introduction'. With E.Leake. Negotiating Independence (2015)
  • ‘Trans-Atlantic Passages: black identity construction in West African and West Indian newspapers, 1935-1950’. In D. Peterson, S. Newell, and E. Hunter (eds.) African Print Cultures. (under review, University of Michigan Press)