Matthew Birchall

PhD candidate in World History

I am a Smuts Scholar at Jesus College, where I am working towards a PhD in History under the supervision of Professor Duncan Bell. My research concerns the suite of British colonisation companies that flourished in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, among them the Canada Company, the South Australian Company and the New Zealand Company. I am particularly interested in assessing these companies in light of global capitalism.

Prior to starting my doctorate, I served as the Editor for Learnerbly, an education technology platform launched by Rajeeb Dey. I hold an MPhil in Political Thought & Intellectual History from Cambridge and an MA(Hons) in International Relations and Modern History from the University of St. Andrews.

British imperial history 

History of capitalism 

History of international law 

Political thought & intellectual history 

'The Global', concepts class for the History & Politics tripos 

"The Inner Lives of Colonial Corporations"
Australian Studies in Britain and Ireland Symposium, Menzies Australia Institute, Postponed due to COVID-19
"History, Sovereignty, Capital: Company Colonisation in South Australia and New Zealand"
The Second Eric Richards Symposium in British and Australasian History, University of New England, September 2019
Max Planck Summer Academy in Legal History 2019
Max Planck Institute for European Legal History, Frankfurt am Main, August 2019
“The Van Diemen’s Land Company in Global Context”
Australian Historical Association Conference, University of Southern Queensland, July 2019
AHA-Copyright Conference Bursary. Mentored by Professor Lisa Ford. 
“What is a Treaty?”
Invited guest at David Armitage’s workshop on treaties in global context, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, March 2019
“Company Colonisation and the Rage for Speculation”
ANZSANA 2019, University of Texas at Austin, February 2019
Awarded the John Higley Prize for best paper by a graduate student
“Gentlemanly Capitalism and Antipodean Land Settlement”
Pacific History Association Conference, University of Cambridge/Royal Academy, December 2018
"Companies and Colonisation, 1820–1840"
Humanities Showcase, University of Tasmania, September 2018
“Visions of Colonial Reform: Emigration and the Pacific New World, 1815–1840”
The Centre for Australian, New Zealand and Pacific Studies, Georgetown University, March 2018


Tags & Themes


Jesus College, Cambridge CB5 8BL, United Kingdom


Key publications

History, Sovereignty, Capital: Company Colonisation in South Australia and New Zealand, Journal of Global History, FirstView.

Colonial Capitalism and the Dilemmas of Liberalism, by Onur Ulas Ince, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 47:1, 193-195

Indigenous Peoples and the State: International Perspectives on the Treaty of Waitangi, by Mark Hickford and Carwyn Jones, New Zealand Journal of History, 53:2, 107–109