Professor Philip Murphy

Contact details

Professor Philip Murphy
BA & DPhil (Oxford)
Director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies; Professor of British and Commonwealth History; Joint editor, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History
Institute of Commonwealth Studies
Senate House Malet Street London WC1E 7HU
020 7862 8841
Email address:

Research Summary and Profile

Research interests:
Colonies & Colonization, emigration & immigration, Contemporary History, International Relations, Modern History
Africa, Europe
Summary of research interests and expertise:
Twentieth-century British and Commonwealth history, including aspects of post-war British decolonization particularly in Africa, and post-war African politics. The British Monarchy and the Post-War Commonwealth. Also an interest in the Conservative party, right wing politics in Britain, and the European colonial empires since the nineteenth century. Intelligence History, MI5 (the Security Service) in the colonial Empire, and the activities of the British, Commonwealth and US intelligence communities in the twentieth century. Currently writing a biography of the journalist Andrew Roth.
Publication Details

Related publications/articles:

Date Details
01-Jul-2021 The Empire's New Clothes: The Myth of the Commonwealth


Revised paperback edition with new 10,000-word concluding chapter.

ISBN-10 1787384934

17-Sep-2020 'State Visits Made and Received by the British and other European Monarchical Heads of State'


'State Visits Made and Received by the British and other European Monarchical Heads of State' in Robert Hazell and Bob Morris (eds), The Role of Monarchy in Modern Democracy European Monarchies Compared (London, Hart Publishing, 2020), ISBN: 9781509931033, pp. 133-148.

16-Jul-2020 Review of 'British Civic Society at the End of Empire: Decolonization, Globalisation and International Responsibility' byAnna Bocking-Welch.


Journal of Contemporary History, Volume: 55 issue: 3, page(s): 704-705

04-Nov-2019 Review of 'Britannia's Zealots, Volume I: Tradition, Empire and the Forging of the Conservative Right', by N C Fleming.


Published online in 'Cerles: revue pluridisciplinaire du monde anglophone', November 2019.

04-Mar-2019 Review of 'The Veiled Sceptre: Reserve Powers of Heads of State in Westminster Systems, by Anne Twomey'


The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 47:1, 197-200, DOI: 10.1080/03086534.2019.1580868

19-Apr-2018 The Empire’s New Clothes: The Myth of the Commonwealth


 Published by Hurst, ISBN: 9781849049467 296pp

01-Mar-2015 Acceptable Levels? The Use and Threat of Violence in the Decolonization of British Central Africa, 1953-1965


Bandeira Jerónimo, M. , Costa Pinto, A. (eds.) (2015) The Ends of European Colonial Empires: Cases and Comparisons, Palgrave MacMillan, ISBN 9781137394057

06-Dec-2013 Monarchy and the End of Empire: The House of Windsor, the British Government and the Postwar Commonwealth


Oxford University Press

01-Jan-2012 ‘Britain as a Great Power in the Twentieth Century’


In Andrew Thompson (ed), Britain's Experience of Empire in the Twentieth Century: Oxford History of the British Empire Companion Series (Oxford, OUP, 2012), pp. 33-75.

01-Jan-2012 The Queen and the Commonwealth


Jones-Parry R. and Robertson A. (eds) The Commonwealth Yearbook 2012. Nexus/Commonwealth Secretariat, pp. 172-3

01-Jan-2011 Britain and the Commonwealth: Confronting the Past - Imagining the Future


The Round Table 100 (414), pp. 267-283

21-Nov-2010 ‘South African intelligence, the Wilson Plot and post-Imperial trauma’ in Patrick Major and Christopher R Moran (eds), Spooked: Britain, Empire and Intelligence since 1945

Cambridge Scholars Press

01-Jan-2010 ‘A Police State? The Nyasaland Emergency and Colonial Intelligence’


Journal of Southern African Studies, 36 (4), (Dec. 2010), pp. 765-780.

01-Jan-2010 Review of several books

International History Review, 31/4, pp. 890-893

01-Dec-2009 Review article covering several books

Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 37/4

01-Jan-2009 Review of Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009)

Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 38/2, pp. 340-44

01-Jan-2009 Review of the Daily Telegraph Book of Imperial and Commonwealth Obituaries (2009)

Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 38/1, pp. 157-8

01-Jan-2009 The Commonwealth at 60. A Success Story?

Global: the International Briefing

01-Jan-2005 British Documents on the End of Empire: Central Africa

London, Stationery Office: Part I, cxxviii + 448 pp, ISBN 0112905862; Part II, xl + 602 pp, ISBN 0112905870

01-Jan-2001 ‘Intelligence and Decolonization: The Life and Death of the Federal Intelligence and Security Bureau, 1954-63’


The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 29 (2), (May 2001), pp. 101-130

01-Jan-1999 Alan Lennox-Boyd: A Biography


London, I.B.Tauris, 1999, xi + 276pp.

01-Jan-1995 Party Politics and Decolonization: The Conservative Party and British Colonial Policy in Tropical Africa 1951-1964

Oxford, Oxford University Press: xii + 259pp

Research Projects & Supervisions

Research projects:


Commonwealth Oral History Project Institute of Commonwealth Studies
Project period: 01-Oct-2012 - 30-Sep-2015

Research interests: Colonies & Colonization, emigration & immigration, Communities, Classes, Races, Contemporary History, International Relations, Modern History , Political Institutions

Quantitative Research Skills Training Institute of Commonwealth Studies
Project period: 01-Mar-2013 - 01-Jul-2014

Research interests: Academic Support, Digital resources, Social Sciences

An Oral History of the Modern Commonwealth, 1965-2010

Philip Murphy was Principal Investigator on this 3-year AHRC funded research project which ran from September 2012 to August 2015.

Current PhD topics supervised:

Dates Details
From: 01-Sep-2014
'Investigating Hidden Voices in the Struggle for Independence in Northern Rhodesia, 1958-64, with Particular Focus on the Cha Cha Cha Uprising of July-October 1961'

Beatrice Randall. Part-time PhD study, co-supervised by Dr Susan Williams

From: 01-Aug-2020
Analysis of human rights violations during decolonisation in order to determine the effectiveness of traditional justice and restorative justice legal mechanism and remedies

Carollann Braum. Co-Supervised by Professor David Cantor.

Past PhD topics supervised:

Dates Details
From: 01-Oct-2012
Until: 30-Sep-2015
Placing knowledge in a decolonizing world: the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation and histories of expertise for development

AHRC-Funded Collaborative Doctoral Award held by Matthew Battey. Jointly supervised by Dr Ruth Craggs and supported by the Commonwealth Secretariat.

From: 01-Aug-2010
Until: 31-Aug-2016
'From the Organisation of African Unity (AOU) to the African Union (AU): a transition from non-intervention to the right to intervene. A case study of Uganda’s interventions in the Great Lakes Region, 1986-2009'

Charles Rukwengye, co-supervised by Dr Leo Zeilig

'Pursue Counter-terrorism and Prevent Counter-radicalisation: Applying Classical Enemy-centric and Population-centric Approaches in the post-9/11 Context.'

Chamila Liyanage. Co-supervised by Professor Peter Neumann (King’s College London).

Professional Affiliations

Professional affiliations:

Name Activity
Colonial and Postcolonial Policing Group member
Commonwealth Democracy Forum member


Name Type Activity Start date End date
Study Group on Intelligence Research and policy-related network bringing together academics and current and former members of the intelligence community Termly meetings at the Royal United Services Institute
Relevant Events

Related events:

Date Details
24-Jun-2020 'Taking Stock of the Commonwealth'

Online conference linking speakers across the Commonwealth with panels on the World after Covid 19, Media Freedom, Threats to Democracy, the Windrush Scandal, Reparations for Slavery and Colonialism, and LGBT+ Rights.

13-Sep-2019 ‘The Commonwealth and Brexit: A severe case of “Imperial nostalgia”?’

Speaker at conference ‘Striking Back? On Imperial Fantasies and Fantasies of Empire’ at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen, Germany.

14-May-2019 ‘A stolen past? Europe and the compensation of colonial injustice’

Panelist at the Körber Stiftung History Forum, Berlin

17-Jan-2019 'The Empire's New Clothes: thinking about the Commonwealth in the era of Brexit.'

In Conversation with Dr Joanna Lewis, LSE IDEAS and Department of International History (LSE).

17-Sep-2018 'Defining British nationality in the era of decolonisation'

Special lecture in the presence of the British Ambassador, Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea.

09-Jun-2018 'The Commonwealth of Nations'

Participant on a panel discussion about the Commonwealth alongside Lord Howell, Philip Murphy, Salil Tripathi,Y K Sinha and John Elliott at the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival at the British Library.

27-Apr-2018 'Foreigners, Friends and Family: The Conservative Party and the Problem of British National Identity since 1945.'

Keynote lecture at the conference ‘Contested Borders? Practising Empire, Nation and Region in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries’, German Historical Institute, London.

25-Apr-2018 'Imperial Echo'

Interviewed on Radio 4 documentary about the Commonwealth presented by Jonny Dymond.

19-Apr-2018 'The State of the Commonwealth'

Panelist (along with former UK Minister Lord Boateng and former New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark) at special debate at the British Library about the Commonwealth, chaired by BBC journalist Reeta Chakrabarti.

12-Apr-2018 'The Queen: Her Commonwealth Story'

Historical consultant for the BBC 1 documentary presented by George Alagiah.

09-Mar-2017 'Andrew Roth’s End of Empire: an unfinished history of decolonization'

Centre for the History of Colonialisms Annual Lecture, University of Kent.

22-Jun-2016 'Rhodes, Reparations and the Future of Imperial History'

Keynote Lecture at the British Scholar Society ‘Britain and the World’ Conference, King's College London

15-Jan-2016 'Time Come? The Persistence and Future of the Commonwealth Realms.'

Keynote Lecture (delivered remotely) at the International Conference ‘The Crown in the 21st Century’, Victoria, Canada.

07-Dec-2015 'The Role of the Monarchy in the UK'

The Chevening Christmas Lecture (delivered alongside Professor Robert Hazell), Organised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at Queen Mary University of London.

06-Feb-2015 'The Commonwealth Charter'

Presentation to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference, ‘Human Rights in the Modern Day Commonwealth: Magna Carta to the Commonwealth Charter’, Houses of Parliament.

28-Aug-2014 British Constitutional Monarchy in the context of the Commonwealth

Workshop on 'Monarchy and Politics' at the Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich

08-Jul-2014 The Queen's Commonwealth: Monarchy and the End of Empire

Gresham College public lecture

02-Jul-2014 The Long Indian Century: Historical transitions and social transformations

Conference at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Delhi

06-May-2014 'The Accidental Intelligence Chief: Bob de Quehen and intelligence liaison in late-colonial Southern Africa'.

University of Warwick conference, ‘Spy Chiefs: Intelligence Leaders in History, Culture and International Relations’, at the Palazzo Pesaro Papafava, Venice

10-Mar-2014 The House of Windsor, the British Government and the Commonwealth

Séminaire Histoire du politique dans les mondes Anglophones, Paris Diderot University

14-Jun-2013 The British monarchy and the Commonwealth’

Lecture at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Delhi

01-Jan-2012 The Headship of the Commonwealth

The Making of a Monarchy for the Modern World, Kensington Palace, 6-8 June 2012

01-Jan-2012 Peddling Gossip or Cheating the Censor? An Intelligence Historian writes about the British Royal Family

The British Scholar 'Britain and the World Conference', University of Edinburgh, 22 June 2012

01-Jan-2012 Religious Freedom in the Commonwealth

Workshop on Relgious Freedom in the Commonwealth organised by the Commonwealth Advisory Bureau. Sponsored and hosted by the Canadian High Commission, London, 22 March 2012.

01-Jan-2012 The Monarchy and Empire and Commonwealth

Interview on the Radio 4 documentary series 'The Art of Monarchy'. Broadcast 24 March 2012.

01-Jan-2012 The Queen and the Commonwealth

Interview on the French radio station Outremer Première, for a documentary entited 'God Save L'Empire?', broadcast 25 June 2012.

01-Jan-2012 The British Empire

Interview on Australian ABC Radio National for Rear View documentary entitled 'The British Empire and What Became of it'. Broadcast 3 June 2012.

01-Jan-2012 The Commonwealth in the World: Resistance, Governance and Change

Université Paris Diderot
Institute of Commonwealth Studies / Commonwealth Advisory Bureau
University of London

19 October 2012, 2 - 4 pm, Institut Charles V, Room A 50

Occasional seminar series
The Commonwealth in the World: Resistance, Governance and Change

Leslie James (London School of Economics)
"Writing anti-imperial solidarity from London:
George Padmore and the strategy of anti-colonial resistance"

Followed by a discussion with
Professor Philip Murphy (Institute of Commonwealth Studies)
Intelligence and British Decolonisation

01-Jan-2011 Invited paper

Conference at the University of Northumbria, 'The American and British Relationship with Africa since 1960', 10 June 2011

01-Jan-2011 The British Monarchy and the Post-War Commonwealth

Paper presented to the University of Cambridge World History Seminar, 10 February 2011

01-Jan-2011 Britain and the Commonwealth: Confronting the Past - Imagining the Future

Inaugural Lecture, Beveridge Hall, Senate House, London, 23 February 2011

01-Jan-2011 '"Unstable and Volatile": British perceptions of African nationalist leaders during the era of decolonization

Conference on British Foreign Policy in Africa since 1957, 25 March 2011

01-Jan-2011 The threat of nationalist violence in British Central Africa, 1953-1965

Convenor, speaker and roundtable panellist at conference on The End of The Portuguese Empire in Comparative Perspective, Institute of Social Sciences – University of Lisbon, 20-21 June 2011

01-Jan-2011 The Commonwealth: A unique institution

Commonwealth Secretariat Induction Programme for Commonwealth Diplomats, Farnham Castle, 6 September 2011

01-Jan-2010 Academic organiser

'Negotiating with the "Enemy": perspectives past and present' Workshop on counterinsurgency organised in conjunction with the Open University, 24 September 2010

01-Jan-2010 The Inaugural Commonwealth Conference: Citizenship in the Commonwealth

Cumberland Lodge, Windsor, UK 10-12 November 2010

01-Jan-2010 The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group

Commonwealth Secretariat Induction Programme for Commonwealth Diplomats, Farnham Castle, 8 September 2010

01-Jan-2009 Invited paper on the Nyasaland Emergency

Open University Conference on Policing and Empire

01-Jan-2009 Invited speaker

Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Conference at Marlborough House

01-Jan-2009 Invited to present paper

Commonwealth History seminar, University of Oxford

Other editing/publishing activities:

Date Details
2020 Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History

Joint editor since October 2007

Consultancy & Media
Media experience:
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