James McDougall
Laithwaite Fellow and Tutor in Modern History, Dean

My research covers Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, African, and modern Islamic history, and modern France and the French colonial empire in Africa.


I went to a comprehensive school in County Durham and studied modern languages at St Andrews in Scotland before doing my graduate work in modern Middle Eastern history and politics at St Antony’s College, Oxford. I finished my DPhil there in 2002, and then held a Junior Research Fellowship at St Antony’s Middle East Centre. I moved to Princeton in 2004 as an Assistant Professor in the history department, and came back to the UK in 2007, to take up a post in London as Lecturer in the history of Africa at the School of Oriental and African Studies. I left SOAS to join Trinity as Fellow and Tutor in modern history in 2009. Having started out in languages and literature, I retain a strong interest in cultural and intellectual history as well as in politics and global history, and in the various intersections between the Arab world, Africa, and Europe.


At Trinity, I teach tutorials in nineteenth and twentieth century European and World history, historical methods, and some more specialised subjects, e.g. the French revolution, 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 interests are mostly in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, African, and Islamic history, and on 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, covering the period 1516-2016. 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 writing 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 since c.1740, in collaboration with colleagues in Islamic studies and global history in Paris and Berlin. 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. I am one of the organisers of the Arabic Pasts: Histories and Historiography workshops, 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.

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)
  • “The British and French empires in the Arab world: Some problems of colonial state-formation and its legacy”, ch.3 in Raymond A. Hinnebusch and Sally N. Cummings (eds), Sovereignty after empire: Comparing the Middle East and Central Asia Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2011.
  • History and the culture of nationalism in Algeria (Cambridge UP, 2006)