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Dr Bill Foster

Dr Bill Foster

Vice-Principal, Homerton College.

Lecturer in the History of Modern War


I am a British historian, born in America and educated in Switzerland. I hold degrees from Pennsylvania, Cornell and Cambridge.

Subject groups/Research projects

American History:
Modern European History:

Departments and Institutes

Homerton College:

Research Interests

My research career continues to focus on the politics and cultures of societies at or affected by war. My geographical focus is international, but continues to centre on Europe and European overseas interests.

My first book, The Captors' Narrative, dealt with the problem of conversion and 'becoming the enemy' -- using the backdrop of British-French inter-colonial warfare in North America. A new book approaching completion, Empire in the Blood, deals with what might be called the 'family values of war' -- tracking the involvement of one family, the Earls Grey of Howick and Fallodon (Northumberland) over a thousand years of English/British engagement with the wider world from the Norman Conquest (Anchetil de Grai) to the First World War (Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey).

In recent years I have increasingly focused on the twentieth century, and especially on the collateral effects of US-USSR rivalry during the Cold War. My current research focuses on the history of Switzerland and the historically-rooted Swiss ideologies and practices of national security via armed neutrality and non-alignment.

My long-term research plans include a comparative investigation of European national cultures of secret intelligence gathering in relation to emerging international/supranational commitments (especially concerning the EEC, EU, and NATO in historical perspective). 

Research Supervision

I am not currently accepting new research students.


History Part I: paper 18 (modern Europe); paper 24 (modern America); selected topics in paper 23 (modern world)

Key Publications

The Captors' Narrative (Cornell University Press, 2003; paperback 2011).

Empire in the Blood (due mid-2018).

Crossroads of Secrecy: Switzerland and the Wars of the 20th and 21st Centuries (in progress).