My main field of interest has been in the history of empires, both their rise and fall, and in global history – that is the history of the movement of peoples, goods, ideas and information across the world and across national boundaries.
My particular focus has been on the ways in which empires exploit, adapt to and are often disrupted by global movements over which they have little if any control. I have explored these connections in three recent books: After Tamerlane: the global history of empire (Penguin, 2007); The Empire Project: the rise and fall of the British World System 1830-1970 (Cambridge University Press, 2009); andUnfinished Empire: the global expansion of Britain (Penguin, 2012).
My current research is into the role of the great port cities of the nineteenth and twentieth century (including Montreal, New Orleans, Cape Town, Calcutta, Singapore, Hong Kong) in shaping the growth not only of a new global economy, but also of the exchange of ideas and the different visions of modernity that accompanied earlier phases of globalisation.
John Darwin is involved in the following research projects:
Until very recently the focus of 'global history' has been on the origins of the modern world. Yet several features associated with 'modern' and 'early modern' global history (e.g. long-distance commercial interaction, voluntary and forced migration, multi-ethnic empires, and the transmission of cultural forms) were clearly also present in the centuries before 1500. As scholarly and popular interest mounts in pre-modern forms of global history, this network organised by historians at the Universities of Oxford, Birmingham and Newcastle is devoted to an exploration of the 'Global Middles Ages'.
The Geopolitics of Decolonisation
Exits and Colonial Administrations
Orphans of Empire
Empire and Ethnicity
The Empire Project
After Tamerlane The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000