Colley, Linda 1949–

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COLLEY, Linda 1949–

PERSONAL: Born September 13, 1949, in Chester, England; emigrated to United States, 1982, naturalized citizen; daughter of Roy and Marjorie (Hughes) Colley; married David Cannadine (a writer and scholar), July, 1982; one daughter (deceased). Education: University of Bristol, B.A., Cambridge University, M.A., Ph.D.

ADDRESSES: Office—123 Dickinson Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, 08544. E-mail[email protected].

CAREER: Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, research fellow and lecturer in history, 1975–82; King's College and Newnham College, Cambridge, England, joint lecturer, 1978–79; Christ's College, fellow and lecturer in history, 1979–82; Yale University, New Haven, CT, assistant professor of history, 1982–85, associate professor of history, 1985–90, professor of history, 1990–92, Richard M. Colgate professor of history, 1992–98, senior faculty fellow, 1987, humanities advisory committee, 1988–1994, director of graduate studies, department of history, 1988–90, director of Lewis Walpole Library, 1988–96, department of history executive committee, 1991–93, council on West European studies, 1993–97; London University, London School of Economics, European Institute, professor of history and Leverhulme Personal Research Professor, 1998–2003; McMaster University, Hooker Distinguished Visiting Professor, 1999; Princeton University, Shelby M. C. Davis professor of history, 2003–. Has also lectured at various colleges and universities throughout the United States and England. Consultant to BBC-TV.

MEMBER: Tate Gallery of British Art (council member, 1999–2003), Paul Mellon Centre for British Art (advisory council, 1998–2003), British Library (board member, 1999–2003), North American Conference on British Studies (council member, 1995–98).

AWARDS, HONORS: Morse fellowship, Yale University, 1983; visiting fellow, St. John's College, Cambridge, 1988; fellow, Whitney Humanities Center, Yale University, 1991; Wolfson Prize for history, 1993; fellow of the British Academy.


In Defiance of Oligarchy: The Tory Party, 1714–1760, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1982.

Lewis Namier, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1989.

Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707–1837, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1992.

Captives: Britain, Empire, and the World, 1600–1850, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 2003.

Contributor to A Taste for Empire and Glory: Studies in British Overseas Expansion, 1660–1800, by Philip Lawson, Variorum (Brookfield, VT). Member of editorial board of Journal of Modern History, 1983–86, Eighteenth Century Studies, 1987–90, and Journal of British Studies, 1990–. Contributor of articles and reviews to magazines and newspapers, including Past and Present.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Colley's next book traces the experiences of an eighteenth-century woman's life from the Caribbean, to Britain, to the Mediterranean and North Africa, and on to India to explore how continents and cultures grow and change.

SIDELIGHTS: Linda Colley was born in Chester, England in 1949, and though she has spent much time teaching at American universities, she has dedicated her professional career to the study of British history. Her first book, In Defiance of Oligarchy: The Tory Party, 1714–1760, is an examination of England's Tory party during the rule of King George I and King George II, when the Tories were virtually excluded from all central and local positions of power in England. This period in history is often neglected by historians, but Colley provides a detailed exploration of how the Tory party managed to survive, even though they had lost almost all of their power. In Defiance of Oligarchy began Colley's personal tradition of writing about power. The author once told CA: "All my written work is primarily concerned with power and its uses, but also with power as it is viewed by those who have none."

In her second book, Colley delves into the life of Polish-born historian Lewis Namier (born Ludwick Bernsztain vel Niemirowski). As Daniel Snowman explained in History Today, Namier, like Sigmund Freud, believed that "to understand society you had to first study the individuals who composed it." Namier applied this theory to his study of England's history, combining biographies of former rulers and other people in power to compose a history of the country. Snowman noted, "Colley insists [that] Namier helped spearhead the reaction against 'Whig' history," a movement suggesting that England's success was inspired primarily by actions of the Whig party. Namier's work, according to Snowman, showed that the "governing elite … was thoroughly fragmented, its members—including Whig no less than Tory—being motivated more by opportunities for individual gain than by ideology."

Colley is perhaps best known for her next two works, Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707–1837 and Captives: Britain, Empire, and the World, 1600–1850, two books that reexamine and shed new light on the history of the British empire. In Britons, Colley's focus is on the three nations—England, Scotland, and Wales—that merged to create a national identity that has lasted since the eighteenth century. Colley explains that individuals still considered themselves English, Scottish, or Welsh, but that the new "Briton" identity celebrated the commonalities shared by the majority of people in each country. The driving forces behind the collaboration were many: a love of Protestantism and dislike of Catholicism; a fear of France; a string of successful wars that boosted faith in the power of the union between the three nations; and both economic and imperial advancement.

Response from critics for Britons was overwhelmingly positive. "The book at first glance is a collection of essays," wrote Peter D. G. Thomas in English Historical Review, "but it has an underlying coherence and thrust that make it a tour de force. Colley has discerned and developed a theme that gives her work a novel perspective: that Britain was an invented nation, superimposed on other loyalties." Canadian Journal of History writer Frederick Dreyer called the book "fresh and original," commenting, "History is often represented as the story of conflict. Here it is one of collaboration." Lawrence E. Klein of the Journal of Interdisciplinary History noted that Colley uses a "breadth of sources" and dubbed the book "one of the best general books covering the period." Klein concluded that "what emerges [from the book] is not just an argument about British nationalism but a distinctive vision of Britain in the long eighteenth century." Insight on the News critic James Bowman felt that Britons was "a fascinating book, full of first-rate historical thought and good writing," and National Review's Jeffrey Hart praised the "absolutely magnificent" book as "a dazzling work of imaginative scholarship."

Colley's Captives also takes a new approach to British history, documenting not the lives of citizens in territories under the British Empire's control, but rather the lives of the British soldiers and citizens held captive as a result of Britain's attempts to expand its power and control over the Empire. Colley focuses on three main regions: the Mediterranean in the area of North Africa, specifically the countries of Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, and Libya (then known as Barbary, part of the Ottoman Empire); North America during English settlement and the American Revolution; and India, where British troops served as "captives in uniform" to keep the Indian territory under British control. Colley also touches briefly on the conflict between Britain and Afghanistan in 1841–42. Colley uses personal captivity narratives, collected from historical records, diaries, letters, novels, and art, to tell the story of Britain's expanding Empire.

The first section of the book deals with captives taken by Barbary "pirates," privateers who collected taxes and tolls on trade goods and attacked the ships of enemies. Colley estimates that the Barbary privateers held approximately 20,000 British and Irish captives between the end of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth century. Some of these captives wrote of violence, cruelty, and possible escape, while others adjusted to a new life in North Africa, even adopting Islam as their religion. Colley wrote that, in the eyes of British citizens, the Barbary privateers "converted the sea from an emblem of commerce, freedom, power and proud British identity, into a source of menace and potential slavery." One of the captivity narratives quoted in the book presents a different view, stating, "I saw here nothing of that rudeness which our people imagine to be in all parts of Africa." Another claims, "I was in a much fairer way for honour and preferment in Algiers, than I could expect to have been in England." As David Gilmour pointed out in London's Times, "Colley shows how many of her captives survived by compromise and assimilation, by 'going native' and even converting to Islam; she also demonstrates an understanding of motive and its complexity, of why people fought for or against the British for so many reasons other than race."

The second section of Captives focuses on British captives in North America. Colley first writes of British settlers captured by Native Americans, perhaps the most famous of which is the narrative of John Smith, the British soldier captured by Native Americans and rescued by Pocahontas, a member of the tribe. Again Colley shows both sides of the story through the captivity narratives; some present stories of savagery and violence, while others merely explain how captives adapted to life in a Native American tribe. Some tribe leaders took English women as their wives, and young children grew up knowing only the Native American way of life. As this section continues, attention shifts from British captives of Native American tribes to British captives of American soldiers during the American Revolution. Colley sheds light on the often ignored numbers of British captives that died at the hands of American fighters during the War of Independence.

In the third and final section, Colley presents a different form of captivity—"captives in uniform." At the end of the eighteenth century, soldiers were stationed in India to protect British interests in the territory. Stories from the captives in uniform describe whipping by superior officers, and other forms of abuse. Colley writes that interest in imperial gains in India resulted in the soldiers being "literally whipped to work and win." John Mullan, writing in Times Literary Supplement, noted, "Colley's interest [is] in the experiences of those who did the hard labour of imperialism." The final section of the book also includes a brief discussion of the conflict in Afghanistan between 1841 and 1842, when British invaders entered Afghanistan to protect their interest in surrounding territories. The result of the invasion led to the deaths of thousands of Afghani citizens, and the capture, enslavement, or death of British men, women and children.

As with Britons, critical reception to Captives was positive. Roy Foster of the Financial Times explained the appeal, writing, "Linda Colley mixes genres, turns things around, takes micro-historical stories to the front of the picture in order to fracture the grand narrative; she brings into the canvas women, sex, minorities, and topics often excluded or trivialised. She refuses to take the moral high ground, relishes irony and paradox, and counters as many received truths as she can with bracing antidotes." Foster praised, "She is a historian of her time, but she is also a completely original intelligence," adding that her research "sits on a vast and varied bedrock of sources." A Publishers Weekly critic noted, "Colley brilliantly marshals an array of captivity narratives … to show the dizzying ethnic and cultural complexity of empire." New York Times reviewer Adam Hochschild remarked, "Colley examines the British captives' stories from every angle, and in her hands much is revealed." Mullan dubbed the book "an engrossing investigation" filled with "thoughtful, lucid prose, written to communicate rather than to impress or trick." "Colley, by her ingenuity in finding sources and by her boldness in bringing together accounts of different captivities over a very long period, puts her readers greatly in her debt," commented P. J. Marshall of English Historical Review. Wilson Quarterly's Martin Walker called the book "innovative" and dubbed Colley "one of the most interesting historians at work today." Richard Gott of New Statesman and Society said Captives was "a brilliantly illuminating study by one of Britain's most distinguished and adventurous historians," stating that the book, "cast[s] a new and wholly original light on the development of the British empire."



Colley, Linda, Captives: Britain, Empire, and the World, 1600–1850, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 2003.


American Historical Review, April, 1983; February, 1993, review of Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707–1837, p. 119.

Canadian Journal of History, December, 1993, Frederick Dreyer, review of Britons, p. 588.

Choice, April, 1993, review of Britons, p. 1367; February, 1995, review of Britons, p. 901.

Daily Telegraph (London, England), October 26, 2002, Philip Ziegler, "The Conquerors Conquered; Philip Ziegler Sees the British Empire from an Intriguing New Angle," review of Captives: Britain, Empire, and the World, 1600–1850.

Dissent, summer, 1993, E. P. Thompson, review of Britons, p. 377.

Eighteenth-Century Studies, fall, 1995, Trevor Lloyd, review of Britons, p. 118.

Encounter, April, 1990, review of Lewis Namier, p. 51.

English Historical Review, April, 1993, Peter D. G. Thomas, review of Britons, p. 403; June, 2003, P. J. Marshall, review of Captives, p. 719.

Financial Times, September 28, 2002, Roy Foster, "Slaves to Fortune: Roy Foster Gains a New Perspective on the History of the British Empire and Its Cast of Soldiers, Con-Men, Small-Time Traders, and Accidental Explorers," review of Captives, p. 5.

Guardian Weekly, October 4, 1992, review of Britons, p. 28.

Historian, spring, 1991, review of Lewis Namier, p. 535; autumn, 1993, review of Britons, p. 116.

History: Reviews of New Books, spring, 1990, review of Lewis Namier, p. 133; fall, 1993, review of Britons, p. 35.

History: The Journal of the Historical Association, October, 1993, Nicholas Phillipson, review of Britons, p. 516.

History Today, October, 1992, review of Britons, p. 56; January, 2003, Daniel Snowman, "Linda Colley: Daniel Snowman Meets the Historian of Britons and Captives," p. 18; March, 2003, David Armitage, review of Captives, p. 60.

Independent, August 25, 1992, Angela Lambert, "Even History Holds No Solace," interview with Linda Colley and David Cannadine, p. 10.

Insight on the News, January 4, 1993, James Bowman, review of Britons, p. 21.

Journal of British Studies, January, 1996, Gerald Newman, review of Britons, p. 118.

Journal of Interdisciplinary History, winter, 1995, Lawrence E. Klein, review of Britons, p. 474.

Journal of Modern History, March, 1995, Steven Pincus, review of Britons, p. 132.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1992, review of Britons, p. 1030; November 15, 2002, review of Captives, p. 1668.

Library Journal, September 1, 1992, Marilyn Dailey, review of Britons, p. 188.

London Review of Books, October 8, 1992, review of Britons, p. 6.

Maclean's, January 27, 2003, "Books: How a Small Island Ruled Much of the World," review of Captives, p. 51.

National Review, March 29, 1993, Jeffrey Hart, review of Britons, p. 77.

New Republic, March 8, 1993, Conor Cruise O'Brien, review of Britons, p. 37.

New Statesman and Society, September 11, 1992, Roy Porter, review of Britons, p. 37; October 14, 2002, Richard Gott, "In Durance Vile: Richard Gott on Stories of Britons in Distress Overseas," review of Captives, p. 52.

New York Review of Books, June 14, 1990, review of Lewis Namier, p. 46; November 19, 1992, Keith Thomas, review of Britons, p. 35.

New York Times, January 5, 2003, Adam Hochschild, "Captivity Nation: Britons around the Globe Suffered Anxiety, and Sometimes Much Worse Things, from People Not like Themselves," review of Captives, p. 10; January 12, 2003, review of Captives, p. 18; January 19, 2003, review of Captives, p. 18.

New York Times Book Review, October 11, 1992, review of Britons, p. 11.

Observer (London, England), October 4, 1992, review of Britons, p. 60; November 29, 1992, review of Britons, p. 2; January 23, 1994, review of Britons, p. 22; October 13, 2002, Martin Bright, "When Slavers Ruled the Seas," review of Captives.

Political Quarterly, April-June, 1993, Bernard Crick, review of Britons, p. 260.

Publishers Weekly, December 2, 2002, review of Captives, p. 46.

Social Science Quarterly, December, 1993, Jacquelin Collins, review of Britons, p. 926.

Spectator, September 19, 1992, J. Enoch Powell, review of Britons, p. 32; November 27, 1993, review of Britons, p. 33; November 26, 1994, review of Britons, p. 47; October 19, 2002, Raymond Carr, review of Spectator, p. 60.

Times (London, England), September 29, 2002, Andrew Lycett, "The Other Side of the Imperial Experience," review of Captives, p. 40; October 16, 2002, David Gilmour, "Britons Were Sometimes Slaves," review of Captives, p. 16.

Times Educational Supplement, October 16, 1992, Jeremy Black, review of Britons, p. R9.

Times Higher Education Supplement, October 2, 1992, John Derry, review of Britons, p. 26; March 28, 1997, Harriet Swain, "Flag of Convenience," interview with Linda Colley, p. 17; November 15, 2002, Gordon Johnson, "Empire of the Wretches," review of Captives, p. 25.

Times Literary Supplement, May 28, 1982; August 25, 1989; October 16, 1992, John Brewer, review of Britons, p. 5; October 4, 2002, John Mullan, review of Captives, pp. 4-5.

United Press International, January 21, 2003, review of Captives, p. 1008021.

Victorian Poetry, autumn, 1993, Linda M. Shires, review of Britons, p. 258.

Virginia Quarterly Review, autumn, 1994, review of Britons, p. 143.

Washington Post Book World, April 23, 1989.

William and Mary Quarterly, October, 1993, Eliga H. Gould, review of Britons, p. 822.

Wilson Library Bulletin, April, 1993, Stephanie Martin, review of Britons, p. 115.

Wilson Quarterly, autumn, 1992, Charles Townshend, review of Britons, p. 76; spring, 2003, Martin Walker, "Captives: The Story of Britain's Pursuit of Empire and How Its Soldiers and Civilians Were Held Captive by the Dream of Global Supremacy, 1600–1850," review of Captives, p. 119.


Danny Yee Book Review Web site, (June 14, 2004), Danny Yee, review of Captives.

Princeton University History Department Web site, (June 14, 2004), "Faculty: Linda Colley."

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Colley, Linda 1949–

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