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Dr Alex Middleton

Alex Middleton is a historian of modern Britain. His main research interests lie in the political and intellectual history of the nineteenth century; and, more broadly, in the history of political, social, and international thought. His BA, MPhil, and PhD are from Cambridge. His Faculty web page is at

Research interests

My research centres on British politics and political ideas, c. 1780-1920, in their international contexts. I am mainly interested in the ideological disputes created by British imperial and foreign policy, and in how entanglements and exchanges with other polities affected domestic thinking about government, society, and political order. In exploring these problems I cast a wide geographical net, ranging so far from northern Borneo, to French Algeria, to Habsburg Austria, to post-revolutionary Spanish America, and beyond. All my work sits at the intersection between practical politics, political argument, and elaborated political thought, and aims to make sense of the relations between these things. Increasingly, it has come to prioritise the junctions between British debates and transnational intellectual histories.

I have particular interests in Liberal politics and political thought; in the intellectual histories of empire, imperial expansion, and international relations; in the history of political and social science; and in British entanglements with Europe, the Americas, and the East.

I am finishing a book called Rethinking Empire: English Liberalism and Imperial Government, 1820-1860, on early Victorian arguments about Britain’s machinery of imperial rule, and their place in the formation of the Liberal Party. My next monograph will be a study of the interpretation of Latin American politics and society in Britain and Ireland, c. 1820-1920. Latin American Politics in Nineteenth-Century Britain will argue that Latin America featured far more prominently than historians have realised in most of the nineteenth century’s headline debates about government. The book will show that British engagement with the region opened up new questions about race, religion, bondage, colonial rule, national character, sociology, and not least about the relative merits of republicanism, monarchy, and empire.

In due course, I plan to write a large-scale study of empires and the Liberal mind in Britain, 1850-1900. As a starting point, I am publishing a set of articles and book chapters on foreign empires in later-Victorian Liberal thought. Together, these will show how interrogations of the internal workings of other imperial states – transoceanic and territorial, past and present – not only transformed attitudes towards the concepts of ’empire’ and ‘imperialism’, but also had deep structural ramifications for British political and intellectual culture.


Modern British history; modern European history; imperial and global history; historiography and historical methodology.

Selected publications

– ‘Preface: Angus Hawkins and the Victorians’, in Angus Hawkins, Modernity and the Victorians (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

– (ed.) Angus Hawkins, Modernity and the Victorians (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

– ‘British Liberalism and the French invasion of Mexico’, Journal of British Studies (forthcoming).

– ‘Lord Brougham and the science of despotism’, History of Political Thought (forthcoming).

– ‘Carlyle’s European politics’, Carlyle Studies Annual (forthcoming). Special issue, Thomas Carlyle, Victorian Politics and Political Thought, ed. Paul E. Kerry.

– ‘British politics in transnational perspective’, Routledge Historical Resources: 19th Century British Politics, ed. Tom Crook, Richard Gaunt, and Kathryn Rix (Abingdon: Routledge, forthcoming).

‘International thought and Victorian Liberalism’, English Historical Review (advance access) [review article].

– ‘Britain and the Paraguayan dictatorship, c. 1820-1840’, Historical Journal (advance access).

– ‘William Rathbone Greg, scientific Liberalism, and the Second Empire’, Modern Intellectual History (advance access).

– ‘Corruption, despotism and the Colonial Office, c. 1820-1850’, in The Many Lives of Corruption: the Reform of Public Life in Modern Britain, c. 1750-1950, ed. Ian Cawood and Tom Crook (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2022), 136-55.

‘Robert Montgomery Martin and the origins of “Greater Britain”’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 49:5 (2021), 833-65.

‘Victorian politics and politics overseas’, Historical Journal, 64:5 (2021), pp. 1449-76 [historiographical review].

– ‘Conservative politics and Whig colonial government, 1830-41’, Historical Research, 94:265 (2021), 532-53.

‘“High politics” and its intellectual contexts’, Parliamentary History, 40:1 (2021), 168-91. Special issue, Historians and Parliament, ed. David Hayton and Linda Clark.

‘Mid-Victorian Liberalism and the Austrian state, 1848-1867’, History of European Ideas, 46:5 (2020), 582-600. Special issue, Britain, ‘European Civilisation’, and the Idea of Liberty, ed. Georgios Giannakopoulos.

‘The state of modern British political history?’, Parliamentary History, 38:2 (2019), 278-85 [review article].

‘European colonial empires and Victorian imperial exceptionalism’, in The Force of Comparison: a New Perspective on Modern European History and the Contemporary World, ed. Willibald Steinmetz (Oxford: Berghahn, 2019), 164-90.

‘The Second Reform Act and the politics of empire’, Parliamentary History, 36:1 (2017), 82-96. Special issue, ‘Shooting Niagara – and After?’ The Second Reform Act and its World, ed. Robert Saunders.

‘French Algeria in British imperial thought, 1830-1870’, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, 16:1 (2015). Special issue, Imperial History and Connected Histories of Empire, ed. Simon Potter and Jonathan Saha.

‘Rajah Brooke and the Victorians’, Historical Journal, 53:2 (2010), 381-400.

I have also written entries for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and shorter pieces for other outlets.


My book reviews and review essays have appeared in the English Historical Review, the Historical Journal, the Journal of British Studies, the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, the Journal of Modern HistoryVictorian StudiesParliamentary HistoryReviews in History, and Twentieth Century British History. In detail:

– Graciela Iglesias-Rogers, ed., The Hispanic-Anglosphere from the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Century: an Introduction (Abingdon: Routledge, 2021) – for the English Historical Review (2021).

– Alan Lester, Kate Boehme, and Peter Mitchell, Ruling the World: Freedom, Civilisation and Liberalism in the Nineteenth-Century British Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020) – for the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History (2021).

William Anthony Hay, Lord Liverpool: a Political Life (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2018) – for the Journal of Modern History, 93:3 (2021), 694-6.

Jeremy Adelman, ed., Empire and the Social Sciences: Global Histories of Knowledge (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020) – for History: the Journal of the Historical Association, 106:370 (2021), 347-8.

Luxe Blaxill, The War of Words: the Language of British Elections, 1880-1914 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press and the Royal Historical Society, 2019) – for Reviews in History, no. 2432 (2020).

Jeffrey A. Auerbach, Imperial Boredom: Monotony and the British Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018) – for the English Historical Review, 135:575 (2020), 1053-5.

Gregory Conti, Parliament the Mirror of the Nation: Representation, Deliberation, and Democracy in Victorian Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019) – for History of Political Thought, 41:3 (2020), 510-13.

Josep M. Fradera, The Imperial Nation: Citizens and Subjects in the British, French, Spanish, and American Empires (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018) – for the English Historical Review, 135:573 (2020), 504-6.

Gareth Atkins, Converting Britannia: Evangelicals and British Public Life, 1770-1840 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2019) – for History: the Journal of the Historical Association, 105:365 (2020), 340-2.

Amanda Behm, Imperial History and the Global Politics of Exclusion: Britain, 1880-1940 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018) – for Twentieth Century British History, 31:1 (2020), 125-7.

Dane Kennedy, The Imperial History Wars: Debating the British Empire (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018) – for the English Historical Review, 134:568 (2019), 773-5.

Miles Taylor, Empress: Queen Victoria and India (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018) – for the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 29:3 (2019), 547-9.

Krishan Kumar, Visions of Empire: How Five Imperial Regimes Shaped the World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017) – for the English Historical Review, 134:566 (2019), 268-70.

Jennifer Pitts, Boundaries of the International: Law and Empire (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2018) – for the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 47:1 (2019), 195-7.

Gareth Stedman Jones and Douglas Moggach, ed., The 1848 Revolutions and European Political Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018) – for Reviews in History, no. 2280 (2018).

James Heartfield, The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, 1838-1956: a History (London: Hurst Publishers, 2016) – for the English Historical Review, 133:563 (2018), 984-6.

Philip Williamson et al., ed., National Prayers: Special Worship since the Reformation. Volume 2, 1689-1870 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2017) – for Parliamentary History, 37:2 (2018), 308-10.

Jörg Neuheiser, Crown, Church and Constitution: Popular Conservatism in England, 1815-1867 (Oxford: Berghahn, 2016) – for Victorian Studies, 60:2 (2018), 296-8.

Kathryn Rix, Parties, Agents, and Electoral Culture in England, 1880-1910 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press and the Royal Historical Society, 2016) – for the English Historical Review, 133:560 (2018), 213-5.

Martin Thomas and Richard Toye, Arguing about Empire: Imperial Rhetoric in Britain and France, 1882-1956 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017) – for Twentieth Century British History, 29:1 (2018), 161-3.

Emily Jones, Edmund Burke and the Invention of Modern Conservatism, 1830-1914: an Intellectual History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017) – for the Journal of British Studies, 57:1 (2018), 200-201.

Mark Bevir, ed., Historicism and the Human Sciences in Victorian Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017) – for Reviews in History, no. 2187 (2017).

Lauren Benton and Lisa Ford, Rage for Order: the British Empire and the Origins of International Law, 1800-1850 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2016) – for Reviews in History, no. 2084 (2017).

Duncan Bell, Reordering the World: Essays on Liberalism and Empire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016) – for the English Historical Review, 132:556 (2017), 744-5.

James Kirby, Historians and the Church of England: Religion and Historical Scholarship, 1870-1920 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016) – for Twentieth Century British History, 27:4 (2016), 647-9.

Bernard Porter, Empire Ways: Aspects of British Imperialism, and Bernard Porter, British Imperial: what the Empire Wasn’t (London: I.B. Tauris, 2016) – for Twentieth Century British History, 27:3 (2016), 482-5.

Ryan A. Vieira, Time and Politics: Parliament and the Culture of Modernity in Britain and the British World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015) – for Parliamentary History, 35:3 (2016), 378-9.

Philip Eade, Sylvia, Queen of the Headhunters: an Outrageous Englishwoman and her Lost Kingdom (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2007) – for the English Historical Review, 123:503 (2008), 1083.

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