Fellow and Tutor in Modern History

James McDougall

  • I am Professor of Modern and Contemporary History and Director of Graduate Studies in the Faculty of History.

  • My research interests are in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, African and modern Islamic history, especially modern and contemporary North Africa (Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco). I also work on modern France and the French colonial empire.

  • I previously held posts as Assistant Professor in the history department at Princeton, and Lecturer in the history of Africa at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. I have been at Trinity since 2009.

  • Before coming to Oxford as a graduate student at St Antony’s College, I went to a comprehensive school in County Durham and studied modern languages at St Andrews in Scotland.

James McDougall


At Trinity, I teach undergraduate tutorials in nineteenth- and twentieth-century European and World history, historical methods, and some more specialised subjects, including the French revolution and the history of European political thought.

For the Faculty, I lecture on twentieth-century history and organise and teach an option on the modern Middle East. I supervise master’s and doctoral dissertations in modern and contemporary Middle Eastern and North African history, and in French and comparative imperial history. My doctoral students have worked on topics including medicine and humanitarianism during the Algerian war of independence, gender justice-based readings of the Qur’an, the uses of news in colonial Algeria and of social memory in contemporary Algeria, critical thought in Morocco and Tunisia, Arab and Jewish education in mandate Palestine, and the history of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt since 1973.

Algeria - Bouteflika's allies abandon him - James McDougall's analysis


My interests are mostly in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, African, and Islamic history, and modern France and the French colonial empire in Africa. These histories come together most sharply in Algeria, the country that has been the focus of most of my research. My first book, History and the culture of nationalism in Algeria (2006) focused on the intersection of Islamic modernism and nationalism in colonial Algeria. I then spent ten years working on a more general history of the country. A History of Algeria, published in 2017, was one the Financial Times’ ‘best books’ of the year, a Choice ‘outstanding academic title’, and co-winner of the £10,000 BKFS Prize for the best scholarly work on the Middle East. I remain interested in North African history and politics and have also done collaborative work on the region with colleagues in anthropology and political science. This has led to books on space and mobility in the Sahara, and on the local effects of globalisation in Algeria and Morocco.

Having expanded my research to West Africa, I am currently completing Empire in Fragments, a book on the everyday life of French colonialism in Africa and the aftereffects of empire in France. Research for this project was supported by a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship in 2014-17. I am also working on the global history of Islam. An initial essay from this project, on the history of sociology, secularisation, and Islam in the twentieth century, was published in the journal Annales in 2019.

My next book project, Worlds of Islam: How Being Muslim Became Modern, aims to retell the global story of Muslim history for a wider audience. I am one of the founders and organisers of the Arabic Pasts: Histories and Historiography workshops at SOAS, now run annually at the Aga Khan University-Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations in London, that bring together scholars of all career stages working across different periods on the study of historical writing in Arabic. More generally, I am interested in historical methodology, the intersections of history and critical theory, comparative historiography, and the history of historical writing.

People with Algerian flags

Selected Publications

Laïcité, sociologie, et histoire contemporaine de l’Islam’, Annales: Histoire, Sciences sociales 73-2 (2019), 411-439, doi.org/10.1017/ahss.2019.6

Sovereignty, governance, and political community in the Ottoman empire and North Africa’, ch.6 in Joanna Innes and Mark Philp (eds), Reimagining democracy in the Mediterranean, 1780-1860, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2018.

The impossible Republic. The reconquest of Algeria and the decolonization of France, 1945-62’, Journal of Modern History 89, 4 (Dec. 2017), 782-811.

Modernity in “antique lands”: Perspectives from the Western Mediterranean’, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 60, 1-2 (Feb. 2017), 1-17.

A History of Algeria (Cambridge UP, 2017)

Global and local in Algeria and Morocco: The world, the state, and the village ed. with Robert P. Parks (Routledge, 2015)

Saharan frontiers: Space and mobility in northwest Africa ed. with Judith Scheele (Indiana UP, 2012)

Professor McDougall

Algeria’s modern history has not generally been approached through descriptions of a beautiful and fascinating country, or a diverse and creative society going about its daily life.