Stephen Rainbird

Stephen Rainbird



I am a doctoral researcher in the School of History, working on the trilateral relationship between Spain, Portugal and Britain during the Second World War. Previously, I studied my BA in History here, graduating with first-class honours in 2016. From there, I took an MPhil in Modern European History at the University of Cambridge, graduating with a Distinction. I was subsequently elected to a Bateman Scholarship at Trinity Hall. I returned to Leeds to be supervised by Dr. Peter Anderson, Associate Professor of Twentieth-Century History, and Professor Richard Cleminson, Professor of Hispanic Studies.

Professional Experience

Between 2014-2015 I taught English at the Universitat de València (UV), Spain, co-funded by the UV and the European Union's ERASMUS+ fund. From 2017-2018 I was the co-convenor of the Contemporary History Workshop in the School of History at Cambridge. Subsequently I became a research assistant/archivist at Trinity Hall, lucky enough to work with Dr. William O’Reilly, extensively reorganising and cataloguing one of the country's most substantial private silver collections.

In 2018 I began working as a Research Assistant at the Cañada Blanch Centre at the London School of Economics. There, I work with the eminent historian of twentieth-century Spain, Professor Sir Paul Preston. For information on research, resources and events at the Cañada Blanch Centre, I can be contacted at:

I am available for consultancy in areas related to my research, especially historical insurance claims and war risk policy. 

Research interests

Research Biography

My research interests, broadly defined, are twentieth-century Spain and Portugal, the "forgotten dictatorships" of Europe. A common thread throughout my studies has been an emphasis on documentary sources; I am a first and foremost an empiricist, working with what might be described variously as an international, diplomatic, or political lens. My undergraduate dissertation, since published, explored the 'almost Pauline conversion', as Jill Edwards put it, of John Leche, British Ambassador to the Spanish Republic 1937-1938. My MPhil dissertation was far broader, addressing the oft-neglected question of British business during the Civil War. Using previously unexamined papers of British insurers, it demonstrated that there was a far less hetrogenous attitude to the Civil War amongst British business as preious works have suggested. It also argued that their experience of the conflict led to a sea-change in the world insurance market, the effects of which are still in force today. This work is currently under work for publication.

Current Research

At its broadest, my current project concerns the power, legitimacy and survival of the Iberian dictatorships in an international context. How did these dictatorships survive, protecting their authority and their regimes? How did they retain international legitimacy until 1974, in the case of the Estado Novo, and 1975, in the case of Francoist Spain? I work on these questions at the crucial intersection of the years 1939-47. In a conflict that broadly pitted authoritarianism against democracy, and its immediate aftermath, this was probably the most vulnerable moment for the Iberian dictatorships. Yet neither regime entered the War on the Axis side, neither regime was toppled after 1945, and both were eventually integrated into the US-led international order. I consider the inputs into their survival from 1939-45, and how these inputs flourished to ensure their survival from 1945-47.

Primarily, I consider the oft-neglected place of Portugal and the almost wholly forgotten factor of the Portuguese Empire. My research contends that the Anglo-Portuguese imperial relationship was one of the crucial factors in securing Portugal’s role as an authoritarian imperial power past 1945. There are two major questions that I work around. What was the role of the Portuguese Empire in the survival of the Portuguese regime? And what, in turn, was Portugal's place in the survival of the Spanish regime? The first strand concerns this Portuguese survival sui generis. The second concerns the Portuguese place in the survival of Spain. Ultimately, I contend that Salazar’s self-preservation had the effect - intended or otherwise - of preserving the Spanish regime.  

There are several thematic considerations that my work touches on. Many are imperial: intra-imperial relations, both British and Portuguese; imperial autonomy in the Portuguese Empire; inter-imperial relations during the War and its immediate aftermath. Many are international: the place of economics in inter-state relationships; the imperial factor in European relations; the place of neutral powers in the War. All are based on documentary research in the UK, Portugal and Spain. The over-arching consideration is the survival of dictatorial regimes against the international grain, and what lessons this might hold for the survival of dictatorships, both historically and in a contemporary context. 



  • BA
  • MPhil (Cantab.)