Dr Rob Waters MA, MSc, PhD

Dr Rob Waters

Department of History
Lecturer in Modern British History

Contact details

Arts Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT


  • PhD in English, Queen Mary University of London (2014)
  • MSc in History, University of Edinburgh (2010)
  • MA (Hons), History University of Edinburgh (2008)


I studied history at undergraduate and graduate level at the University of Edinburgh, before completing a PhD in English at Queen Mary University of London. I have taught History, English, Sociology and Liberal Studies at Queen Mary, Birkbeck, New York University, and the University of Sussex, where I also worked as Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow in History from January 2017.

I joined the School of History and Cultures at Birmingham in September 2018 as a Lecturer in Modern British History. Until January 2020, I will continue as a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow in History. 


  • Historical Methods (postgraduate)
  • The Making of the Contemporary World (undergraduate)
  • Empires and Nations (undergraduate)
  • Dissertation supervision


My research is concerned with how global race politics and the struggles of decolonization have shaped the modern history of Britain.

My first book, Thinking Black: Britain, 1964–1985, looked at Black Power as a political and cultural force in Britain. Ideas of blackness mobilized through the rubric of a transnational Black Power were crucial in the conceptualization of what a postcolonial Britain might become, and held a significant place in the development of New Left politics in Britain. In Thinking Black, I chart black radical Britain’s wide cultural-political formation, tracing it across new institutions of black civil society and connecting it to decolonization and black liberation across the Atlantic world. The book shows how, from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, black radicalism defined what it meant to be black and what it meant to be radical in Britain.

My current research focuses on the history of multiculturalism in London. I am interested in how, in London’s transition to a mass multiculture in the second half of the twentieth century, integration was posed as a project of uplift, social reform and good citizenship, working through established institutions, practices and understandings of political and social integration developed through imperial liberalism, anti-colonial nation building, and Britain’s transition to a mass democracy. I am interested also in the limited traction that this framing of integration had, and how it stood in a contested relationship with popular cosmopolitanism, anti-racist activism, and forms of racial exclusion and violence. As part of this project, I have created a digital map of black London in the late-twentieth century, charting some of the research.

I am also interested in history writing as a practice of decolonization, and in memoirs and fiction as forms of historical evidence. In both these contexts, I am interested in the intersections between literary and historical studies.

Other activities

I am a member of the Raphael Samuel History Centre.

I co-convene the Conversations and Disputations Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research, and, from January 2019, the Black British History seminar, also at the Institute of Historical Research.



  • Waters, Rob (2018). Thinking Black: Britain, 1964-1985. Berkeley: University of California Press Berkeley Series in British Studies.

Articles and book chapters


Book reviews and short publications

  • Waters, Rob (2018) “Jed Fazakarley (2017) Muslim Communities in England 1962–90: Multiculturalism and Political Identity.” Immigrants and Minorities (forthcoming).
  • Waters, Rob (2018) “Wendy Webster (2018) Mixing It: Diversity in World War Two Britain.” Social History (forthcoming).
  • Ishmael, Hannah J. M. and Waters, Rob (2017). “Archive review: the Black Cultural Archives, Brixton.” Twentieth Century British History. ISSN 0955-2359.
  • Waters, Rob (2016) “Satnam Virdee (2014) Racism, class and the racialized outsider.” Contemporary British History, 30 (4). pp. 617-618. ISSN 1361-9462.
  • Waters, Rob (2016) “Gavin Schaffer (2014) The vision of a nation: making multiculturalism on British television, 1960-80.” Journal of History and Cultures (6). pp. 37-39. ISSN 2051-221X.
  • Waters, Rob (2015) “Robin D.G. Kelley and Stephen Tuck, ed. (2015) The other special relationship: race, rights and riots in Britain and the United States.” Twentieth Century British History, 27 (2). pp. 323-325. ISSN 0955-2359.
  • Waters, Rob (2014) “Camilla Schofield (2013) Enoch Powell and the making of postcolonial Britain.” Twentieth Century British History, 25 (4). pp. 663-665. ISSN 0955-2359.
  • Waters, Rob (2014) “Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin, Jr. (2013) Black against empire: the history and politics of the Black Panther Party.” Race and Class, 55 (3). pp. 98-101. ISSN 0306-3968.
  • Waters, Rob (2011) “Sam Selvon (1956) The lonely Londoners.” Literary Encyclopedia, 4 (1). ISSN 1747-678X.

View all publications in research portal