Sam Collings-Wells

Junior Research Fellow in American History

My research explores the transformation of American liberalism after the 1960s. It focuses in particular on the role of philanthropic organisations, and how these institutions adapted liberal policy in response to the 'white backlash' - particularly around issues of crime and public safety. In doing so, my PhD provides the first account of the liberal origins of 'broken windows' policing, a highly influential strategy of law enforcement which emerged during the 1980s.

Both my Bachelors (2018, Double Starred First) and MPhil (2019, Distinction) were undertaken at the University of Cambridge. My undergraduate dissertation focused on the influence of Hollywood Westerns on the foreign policy rhetoric of John F. Kennedy, and won the Sarah Norton prize for best essay in American political history.

I am currently a Research Fellow at Peterhouse. 

I am currently researching a project tentatively titled ‘The Ford Foundation and the Transformation of the Urban Crisis, 1970-1990’ under the supervision of Prof. Andrew Preston. It examines the role of liberal philanthropy in policing, criminal justice, and antipoverty reform in cities across the United States. My previous work has also touched upon the transnational circulation of policing experts.


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Key publications

"From Black Power to Broken Windows: Liberal Philanthropy and the Carceral State," Journal of Urban History, Vol. 8, No. 4 (2022).

"Developing Communities: The Ford Foundation and the Global Urban Crisis," Journal of Global History, Vol. 16, No. 3 (2021).

"'Can You Imagine Such a Marshal?': Hollywood Westerns and John F. Kennedy's Cold War,The International History Review, Vol. 43, No. 5 (2021).