Dame Linda Colley

Linda Jane Colley

(1949-09-13) 13 September 1949 (age 74)
Chester, Cheshire, England
(m. 1982)
AwardsWolfson Prize (1992)
Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship (2017)
Academic work

Dame Linda Jane Colley, DBE, FBA, FRSL, FRHistS (born 13 September 1949 in Chester, England) is an expert on British, imperial and global history from 1700. She is currently Shelby M. C. Davis 1958 Professor of History at Princeton University and a long-term fellow in history at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in Uppsala. She previously held chairs at Yale University and at the London School of Economics. Her work frequently approaches the past from inter-disciplinary perspectives.[1]

Personal life

Colley is married to fellow historian Sir David Cannadine. They have one child.[2]

Early life and education

Linda Colley took her first degree in history at Bristol University before completing a doctorate on the Tory Party in the eighteenth century at the University of Cambridge, supervised by John H. Plumb. She subsequently held a Research Fellowship at Girton College, a joint lectureship in history at Newnham and King's Colleges,[3] and in 1979 was appointed the first woman Fellow at Christ's College, where she is now an Honorary Fellow.[citation needed]


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Colley's first book, In Defiance of Oligarchy: The Tory Party 1714-1760 (1982), challenged the then dominant view by arguing that the Tory Party remained active and influential during its years out of power, exploring the consequences of this for the evolution of ideas, popular politics and political action in eighteenth century England and Wales.[4] Britons: Forging the Nation 1707–1837 (1992), which won the Wolfson History Prize and has passed through five editions, investigated how – and how far – inhabitants of England, Scotland, and Wales came to see themselves as British over the course of the 18th and early 19th centuries.

In March 1993, Colley gave a half-hour Opinions lecture televised on Channel 4 and subsequently published in The Times as "Britain must move with the times to be great again".[5]

In 1998, Colley accepted a Senior Leverhulme Research Professorship in History at the London School of Economics. She spent the next five years researching the experiences of thousands of Britons taken captive in North America, South Asia, and the Mediterranean and North Africa between 1600 and 1850. Captives: Britain, Empire and the World 1600-1850 (2002), the result of this work, used captivity narratives of different kinds to investigate the under-belly and sporadic vulnerability of this empire and its makers.

She authored Namier (1988), a reappraisal of the Polish-born and Zionist historian Lewis Namier, and The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History. This was named as one of the best books of 2007 by the New York Times,[6] and was a pioneer of the technique of using the life experiences of an individual to explore trans-national and trans-continental histories. In 2008-99, Colley guest-curated an exhibition at the British Library, London, Taking Liberties, on the meanings of constitutional texts in the British past, and published an interpretative essay in connection with this: Taking Stock of Taking Liberties: A Personal View (2008).

In 2014, and in advance of the referendum on Scottish independence, she was invited to deliver fifteen talks on BBC Radio 4 on the formation and fractures of the United Kingdom. These were published as Acts of Union and Disunion (2014). Her next book The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen: Warfare, Constitutions, and the Making of the Modern World, a global history that explores the relationship between warfare, crises and the spread of written constitution, appeared in 2021. Her work has been translated into fifteen languages.

In 1999, Colley was invited to deliver the Prime Minister's Millennium Lecture at 10 Downing Street in London. Among other scholarly and public lectures, she has delivered the Trevelyan Lectures at Cambridge University, the Wiles Lectures at Queen's University Belfast, Ford and Bateman Lectures at Oxford University, the Nehru Memorial Lecture at the London School of Economics, the Lewis Walpole Memorial Lecture at Yale University, the Carnochan Lecture at Stanford University, the President's Lecture at Princeton University in 2007, the Sir Douglas Robb Lectures at the University of Auckland in New Zealand in 2015, the Prothero Lecture for the Royal Historical Society in 2020, and the Wittrock Lecture at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in 2022.

In 1999, Colley was elected a Fellow of the British Academy. She is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the Royal Historical Society, and the Academia Europaea. In 2009, she was awarded a CBE for services to history and, in 2022, Colley was made a DBE. She holds seven honorary degrees.

Colley has served on the board of the British Library (1999–2003), the council of Tate Gallery of British Art (1999-2003), the board and trustees of Princeton University Press (2007–2012), the research committee of the British Museum (2012–2020).

She writes occasionally for the London Guardian, the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books.



Colley was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2009 and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2022 Birthday Honours for services to history.[7]


  1. ^ "Linda Colley | Department of History". history.princeton.edu. Retrieved 30 November 2022.
  2. ^ "INTERVIEW / Even history holds no solace: Their brilliant careers as". Independent.co.uk. 25 August 1992. Archived from the original on 14 June 2022. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  3. ^ "Honorary graduates: Professor Linda Jane Colley". University of Bristol. 21 July 2006.
  4. ^ Colley, Linda (1982). In Defiance of Oligarchy. Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511560460. ISBN 9780521313117.
  5. ^ "The Times", 8 March 1993.
  6. ^ "The 10 Best Books of 2007". The New York Times. 9 December 2007. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  7. ^ "No. 63714". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 June 2022. p. B26.
  8. ^ "The New York Public Library's Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers Announces 2013-2014 Fellows". The New York Public Library. Retrieved 16 December 2017.