Linda Colley

Linda Colley, CBE, FBA, FRSL, FRHistS (born 13 September 1949 in Chester, England) is a British historian of Britain, empire and nationalism. She is currently Shelby M. C. Davis 1958 Professor of History at Princeton University in the United States. Her research focuses on British history from a global context and often examines history from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Linda Colley

Born (1949-09-13) 13 September 1949
Chester, Cheshire, England
Spouse(s)David Cannadine
AwardsWolfson Prize (1992)
Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship (2017)
Academic work

Colley is married to fellow historian David Cannadine.[1]

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. She subsequently held a Research Fellowship at Girton College, a joint lectureship in history at Newnham and King's Colleges,[2] and in 1979 was appointed the first woman Fellow at Christ's College, where she is now an Honorary Fellow.


Colley is currently Shelby M. C. Davis 1958 Professor of History at Princeton University in the United States. She previously held chairs in History at Yale University and the London School of Economics.

Linda Colley's books include In Defiance of Oligarchy: The Tory Party 1714–1760 (1982), Namier (1988), Captives: Britain, Empire and the World 1600–1850 (2002) and The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History (2007), which was named by The New York Times as one of the ten best books of the year. Her third book, Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837 (1992), won the Wolfson History Prize,[3] and has attracted wide and continuing attention both as a study of the evolution and complexities of British national identities, and as a contribution to understandings of nationalism more broadly.

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".[4]

In 1998, Colley was offered a Sterling Professorship, Yale's highest Professorial rank, but declined it in favour of an offer of a Research Chair in England. Her work has been translated into ten languages.

In 1999 she was invited by the then Prime Minister Tony Blair to deliver the Prime Minister's Millennium Lecture at 10 Downing Street on 'Britishness of the 21st Century'. Among many other scholarly and public lectures, she has delivered the Trevelyan Lectures at Cambridge University (1997), the Wiles Lectures at Queen's University, Belfast (1997), a James Ford Special Lecture and the Bateman Lectures at Oxford University (1998 and 2003), the Nehru Memorial Lecture at the London School of Economics (2003), the Lewis Walpole Memorial Lecture at Yale University (2000), the Carnochan Lecture at Stanford University (1998) and the President's Lecture at Princeton University in 2007. As well as the annual ISEHR Lecture, University of Delhi, 2011; the Jon Sigurossen Memorial Lecture, University of Iceland, 2012; the Margaret Macmillan Lecture in International History, University of Toronto, 2013, and the Gomes Lecture, Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and the Robbs Lectures at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, in 2015.

Her most recent book, Acts of Union and Disunion (2014), which was based on a series of fifteen talks broadcast on BBC Radio 4 ahead of the referendum that year on Scottish independence, and examined the formation over time of the United Kingdom, and what has helped to hold it together and what might drive it apart.

Colley has served on the Board of the British Library (1999–2003), the Council of Tate Gallery of British Art (1999–2003), and on the Board and Trustees of Princeton University Press (2007–12). She is currently a member of the Research Committee of the British Museum.

Colley writes occasionally for The Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement and The New York Review of Books.

Influence and honours

Below is a list of honours and awards bestowed upon Linda Colley:


  • In Defiance of Oligarchy: the Tory Party 1714–1760 (1982)
  • Lewis Namier (1988)
  • Britons: Forging the Nation 1707–1837 (1992)
  • Captives: Britain, Empire and the World 1600–1850 (2002)
  • The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh (2007)
  • Taking Stock of Taking Liberties (2008) published in connection with an exhibition she guest-curated at the British Library
  • Acts of Union and Disunion (2014)


  1. "INTERVIEW / Even history holds no solace: Their brilliant careers as". 25 August 1992. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  2. "Honorary graduates: Professor Linda Jane Colley". University of Bristol. 21 July 2006.
  3. "Winners of the Wolfson History Prize: 1972–2009" (PDF). Wolfson Foundation.
  4. "The Times", 8 March 1993
  5. "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.
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