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Dr Tom Cordiner

Dr Tom Cordiner

Director of Studies, Queens'

Queens' College
Silver Street

Cambridge CB3 9ET


I trained as a historian here at Cambridge and now teach at Queens' College. I was previously a Fulbright Scholar at Columbia and a Fellow at the Kluge Center, Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

In addition to my position at Queens', I serve as external Director of Studies for all historians at Hughes Hall and Wolfson College.

I am the Convenor of the new paper, 'Historical Project', for Part IB History and Politics students. Students considering this option are welcome to contact me.

Subject groups/Research projects

Modern British History:

Departments and Institutes

Queens' College:
Director of Studies

Research Interests

I am principally a historian of modern Britain, though much of my research over several years has been concerned with Israel/Palestine and various aspects of Jewish/Middle East history. I am also interested in the history of cities in comparative perspective.

  • Modern British history

I research and teach across most aspects of the political, cultural and intellectual history of Britain and the British Empire c.1900 to the present. Generally my work focuses on the period since 1945 and, while broadly "political" in character, particular interests include race, immigration, and religion.

Within political history, I have a strong interest in the history of the Labour Party and have published on the party's foreign policy; notwithstanding my long-standing interest in Labour and progressive history, I have also supervised many dissertations and other research projects on the Conservative Party and conservatism more widely in the English-speaking world.

  • Zionism and Israel/Palestine

My primary research project straddles my interests in British and Jewish/Middle East history. Specifically, I am extending the scope of my earlier work on Zionism and British political culture since 1945. My principal argument is that the extensive literature on Britain and Israel/Palestine is flawed by a persistent confusion between attitudes to Jews and attitudes to Zionism. My work has tried to sort out this confusion by putting the question of Israel/Palestine back into other relevant contexts apart from anti- and philosemitism; the point here is not to exclude antisemitism altogether but, rather, to recognise the significance of antisemitism where it is historically relevant in the formation and expression of attitudes towards Israel while simultaneously acknowledging a broader array of relevant factors that have shaped perspectives on Israel-Palestine.

  • London and New York City

I am currently working on a new study of the social unrest that occurred in Brixton (south London) in April 1981 and the connections between those events and Thatcherism, Imperial legacy and race/class in late 20th century London. I am also interested in the comparative history of London (where I was born) and New York City (where I now think of as "home").

Research Supervision

I have previously supervised and examined a wide range of theses on modern British and Jewish/Middle East history topics as well as urban history, especially London and New York; I would be particularly keen to hear from undergraduates with proposals for Part II dissertations in these areas. While I have extensive experience of supervising theses dealing with postwar Conservative Party politics and conservatism, I welcome research proposals dealing with all parts of the political spectrum.

I am available to supervise M.Phil. dissertations, most often, but not exclusively, for the M.Phil. in Modern British History; I have also supervised dissertations for the M.St. in History. Prospective students are encouraged to email me their research proposals for further discussion.

Currently, I have students working on M.Phil. and Part II dissertations in the following areas: working-class identities in the 1970s and 80s examined through a micro-history of the Bilston Steelworks; Thatcherism and the miners' strike of 1984-5; political cartoons and New Labour; British Jewish relief agencies after the Holocaust; attitudes to Germany in postwar Britain; Newnham College graduates and feminism, c.1965-80; the British left and the Vietnam War; everyday life in London's Chinatown, c.1960-85; Asians and the welfare state in two west London boroughs, c.1965-85; radical student politics in Scotland, c.1956-74.

Dissertation students in recent years have worked on projects as varied as: British Indians and the Conservative party, c.1975-1990 (winner of the History of Parliament Trust's Prize for the best dissertation in political history); counter-culture in New York City in the from the late 1950s to early 1970s; Thatcherism and 'urban regeneration'; Churchill and the Holocaust; Thatcher and the 1985 London riots; the Conservative Party and Scottish devolution, c.1966-79; Anglo-American conservatism in the 1980s; multiculturalism in Leicester in the 1970s and 80s; the Conservative Party in opposition between 1997 and 2010; British attitudes towards the Palestinians in the 1970s and 80s; Manchester youth culture in the 1980s/90s; black radicalism in 1970s London; a reassessment of the relationship between think tanks and Thatcherite economic ideas, c.1974-83; international media coverage of the Six-Day War of 1967; the experience of Pakistani women in West Yorkshire, 1960-1980 (winner of the Faculty prize for best dissertation and shortlisted for the RHS/'History Today' prize for best dissertation in the UK); depicitions of class in postwar electioneering; Jewish-Muslim relations in Vichy France (co-supervised with MML colleague); the miners' strike of 1984 in Kent; memories of the Korean War in Britain; the Conservative Party and homosexuality in the 1950s; the Conservative Party and electoral strategy in the 1950s; Margaret Thatcher and policy towards Apartheid South Africa; Anglo-Canadian relations 1961-1982; Thatcher's relationship with Mary Whitehouse and debates about morality, taste, and obscenity in the 1980s.


  • Convenor, 'Historical Project' (Part IB, History and Politics Tripos)
  • British political history since 1880 (Part I, Paper 6)
  • British social and economic history since c.1880 (Part I, Paper 11)
  • Historical Argument and Practice (Various seminars, including "What is history?", "Religion", and "Race and ethnicity".)

Other Professional Activities

I am an Associate of the Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism at the University of London; the Institute's work emphasizes that the study of antisemitism is vital to understanding racism, religious intolerance and xenophobia more broadly.

I play a supporting role to Professor Mandler and other Cambridge colleagues in the New York-Cambridge Training Collaboration (NYCTC):  Since 2015 PhD students in 20th-century British history have had the opportunity to participate in this innovative collaboration, in association with Susan Pedersen of Columbia University and Guy Ortolano of New York University.   NYCTC workshops have so far been held at all three institutions, with NYCTC4 held in Cambridge in July 2017.


  • International History
  • Imperial History
  • Modern British History