Professor Clare Anderson FBA

Professor of History and Director of LIAS


School/Department: History



Clare was “first in family” to attend University, receiving her MA (hons) in History and Sociology and PhD in History from the University of Edinburgh. During this time, Clare spent a year teaching English in each of France and Japan, and in 1997 became a lecturer in the then Department of Economic and Social History at Leicester. Clare joined the Department of Sociology at the University of Warwick as a reader in 2007 and returned to Leicester as Professor of History in 2011, moving to a research-focused chair in 2017. As dean for research excellence (interim), Clare is the academic lead for REF2029 across the University.  She is also director of the Leicester Institute of Advanced Studies (LIAS), where she endeavours to encourage and support interdisciplinary excellence across departments, schools and colleges, including through university and wider partnership working locally, nationally, and internationally.

Clare is a scholar of the history of empires and global history and focuses on the history and legacies of colonial prisons, penal colonies, and forced migration and labour. Clare has given public and keynote lectures in many countries and has been a visiting fellow at UT Sydney and the University of Tasmania. Clare has held both the Caird Research Fellowship and Sackler-Caird Senior Research Fellowship at the National Maritime Museum, and is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Higher Education Academy.

Over her 25-year career, Clare has gained a wide range of experience in undergraduate admissions, joint degree convening, module development and curriculum review, research management and leadership, international collaboration, impact working, and the mentoring of early-career researchers. Clare was on the History sub-panel for REF2014 and has also contributed to the discipline nationally and internationally through service on British Academy and Economic and Social Research Council funding panels, executive committee working for the Institute for Historical Studies and British Association of South Asian Studies, membership of a range of research and project advisory boards, and peer reviewing for all the major research funders and academic publishers.

Clare has served as external examiner for universities across the UK and examined graduate student work in the UK and in France, Italy, Mauritius, India, the USA, and Australia. Clare’s values in promoting opportunities for all were exemplified between 2020-1, when she led a British Academy funded “writing workshops” programme which supported a cohort of early career researchers from the majority world in developing articles for submission to international journals in history and related disciplines.

Clare sits on a range of international editorial boards, including the successor to the Annales school, Éditions de l'INED, and is the editor of the Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History. She is a member of the External Advisory Board for the University of Lisbon's Institute of Social Sciences.  In 2022 then Prime Minister Boris Johnson appointed Clare as a trustee of Royal Museums Greenwich, and she is now vice-chair of its Collections and Research Committee. In 2023 Clare was elected as a Fellow of the British Academy.


My research career began with a PhD that pieced together the story of Britain’s nineteenth-century penal settlement for Indian convict labour in Mauritius. I went on to map and analyse networks of Asian penal transportation to settlements all over Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean, as well as enhancing knowledge of the transportation of African, Asian, and Creole convicts to Britain’s penal colonies in Australia. With colleagues in India, I then completed work on convict histories of the Andaman Islands. This regional specialism led me to an interest in more global approaches. In a major recent project, I led a team that explored the penal settlements and colonies of all the European empires, Russia, Japan, China, and post-colonial Latin America, dating from the fifteenth century into the 1950s (see a short video interview at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales).

In all my work, I have been interested in writing histories from below, and mindful of historians’ responsibilities in balancing macro and micro history. This has led me to approach my subject area in diverse ways, from considering the potential of biography as a means of giving dignity to the lives of ordinary, colonized peoples, to asking what convicts’ tattoos might tell us about the politics of colonial oppression and identity and how convicts resisted colonial labour demands.

Most recently, I have started to think about how colonial histories of punishment might hold relevance in the present day. I co-edited the 2021 centenary issue of The Howard Journal, launched through a "lessons for contemporary penal policy" panel. I also collaborated with University of Guyana researchers and the Guyana Prison Service to explore patterns and experiences of incarceration, mental health, and addiction since 1825. When the COVID-19 lockdown hit in 2020-21, this came to include work on pandemics. You can read our blog. I am currently undertaking research on descent and descendants of Asian, African, Creole, and Indigenous convicts shipped around the British and French empires in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which includes archives, interviewing, and focus group work (read the blog). In recognition of my work, I was a finalist in the University’s Citizens’ Awards 2022, in the category of “research excellence”.

My research has been greatly enabled through external resource. In the course of my career, I have secured over £3m as “principal investigator” of various projects (British Academy, Carnegie Trust, ESRC, ERC, Leverhulme Trust), and over £250,000 as “principal investigator” of collaborative and partnership AHRC and ESRC PhD awards. I have also supported successful Leverhulme Trust, Wellcome Trust, and Rutherford Commonwealth early career fellowships held by stellar independent postdoctoral researchers from Ireland, India, North America, and Australia. I have been fortunate to undertake archival research and visit former penal colony sites all over the world, including in the Caribbean and South America, Bermuda, South Africa, Indian Ocean, India, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, and the Pacific.

I worked with the Australian government on its successful bid for UNESCO World Heritage Status for its linked convict sites. This underpinned an impact case study for REF2014. Since then, and supported by Leicester’s ESRC Impact Accelerator Award and Knowledge Exchange, Impact and Proof of Concept fund, I have worked on three new partnerships. The first is with colleagues at UWI (Cave Hill), in which we are developing resources on colonial/ post-colonial sentencing patterns to raise awareness of historical continuities among criminal justice practitioners working in the Caribbean. The second is a partnership with the Association Témoignage d’un Passé and Site Historique du Bagne de l’île Nou, where we are co-curating a 2024 exhibition on penal transportation from Vietnam to the French penal colony of New Caledonia. The third is co-creating historical resources with the community that takes care of the Makam Dato Koyah (shrine) in Penang, Malaysia. Previously, I have worked with colleagues from Leicester Museum and Art Gallery, on its 2017 ‘Splendours of the Subcontinent’ exhibition and events; and I have appeared on BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time and Making History, Radio New Zealand, and BBC1’s Heir Hunters and A House Through Time. 


(2023) Anderson C., Birch T., Cox S., Couronne N., Crockett C. & Paterson L., Genealogies of Enslavement and Convictism: family histories and their legacies in Barbados, Mauritius, and Australia, Family & Community History, 26 (3), 111-36.

Anderson C. (2022) Convicts: a global history (Cambridge University Press).

Anderson C., Moss, K. & Joseph Jackson S. (2022) Coloniality and the Criminal Justice System: Empire and its legacies in Guyana, Slavery and Abolition, 43 (4), 682-704.

Anderson C., Ifill M., Adams E. & Moss K. (2020) Guyana’s Prisons: Colonial Histories of Post-Colonial Challenges, The Howard Journal of Crime and Justice, 59 (3), 335-49.

Anderson C., ed. (2018) A Global History of Convicts and Penal Colonies (London: Bloomsbury).

Anderson C., De Vito, C.G. & Bosma U., eds, Penal Transportation, Deportation and Exile: Perspectives from the Colonies in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. International Review of Social History, 63 (S26).

Anderson C. (2016) Transnational histories of penal transportation: punishment, labour and governance in the British Imperial World, 1788-1939, Australian Historical Studies, 47 (3), 381-97.

Anderson C., Mazumdar M. & Pandya V. (2014) New Histories of the Andaman Islands: landscape, place and identity in the Bay of Bengal, 1790-2012 (Cambridge University Press).

Frykman N., Anderson C., van Voss L.H., Rediker M., eds, (2013) Mutiny and Maritime Radicalism in the Age of Revolution, International Review of Social History, 58 (S21).

Anderson C. (2012) Subaltern Lives: biographies of colonialism in the Indian Ocean world, 1790-1920 (Cambridge University Press).

Anderson C. (2007) The Indian Uprising of 1857-8: prisons, prisoners and rebellion (London: Anthem).

Anderson C. (2004) Legible Bodies: race, criminality and colonialism in South Asia (London: Berg).

Anderson C. (2000) Convicts in the Indian Ocean: transportation from South Asia to Mauritius, 1815-53 (Basingstoke: Macmillan).


I have supervised over 20 PhD students; 15 of these have been funded by the ERC, ESRC or AHRC.

I currently supervise PhD students working on capital punishment in the British Empire; prisons in Kenya; and the impact of penal transportation on communities in England. These include partnerships with the University of Warwick (Prof. David M. Anderson) through the ESRC’s Midlands Graduate School Doctoral Training Partnership.

Funded by ESRC and the AHRC Midlands4Cities programme, I also supervise PhD students in partnership with the National Trust, Leicester Museum and Art Gallery, Salvation Army International Heritage Centre, and The Howard League for Penal Reform.

These students are researching the India Museum at Kedleston Hall; Harry Peach’s European and global collections; the Salvation Army's overseas migration schemes; and the history of The Howard League’s penal reform campaigns. Co-supervision of the AHRC awards is drawn from the University of Birmingham (Dr Kate Smith).

I have previously supervised students working on the East India Company warehouses of London; lascars in the Indian Ocean; Indigenous-settler relations in colonial Canada; the making of history in post-colonial Bermuda; extraterritoriality in treaty port China; colonisation and penal confinement in Australian islands; Western Australian labour history; British officers in the Indian army; criminal justice in 1820s Britain; gender and the convict colony of Sakhalin Island; British convict hulks in the nineteenth century; opium use amongst South Asian indentured migrants; William Wilberforce and the abolition of slavery; migration from Guernsey; the Palestinians of Syria since 2011; and letter writing in British India.


I have experience of BA and MA teaching in the areas of imperial and global history, colonialism and postcolonialism, migration, penology and criminology, research methods, social theory, and historiography. I received a “superstar award” from Leicester’s Student Union in 2016 and was nominated in the category of “best lecturer” in 2021.

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