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. I previously studied 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 am lucky enough to be co-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. Since 2018 I have been 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, Western Europe’s longest-lasting modern dictatorships. I work with what might be described variously as an international, diplomatic, or political lens: what did one clerk write to the other? 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. 

In studying this three-way relationship, I am primarily concerned with international power and policymaking. In part, the project is a study of the culture of policymaking, and especially British policymaking. In part, it is also a study of power; how does one state hold power over another? At what points and in what ways were the three states “powerful” over the other? I contend that with regard to the survival of the Spanish and Portuguese dictatorships, these questions cannot be answered without reference to the other. Nor can they be answered without considering Britain, the paramount Allied power in both states, in whose policy furrow the United States later ploughed. 

There are several thematic considerations that my work touches on. I work extensively on the inter-imperial relations between Britain and Portugal, considering the place of the Portuguese Empire, often overlooked by international historians, and the importance of the imperial imagination amongst British policymaking elites. I also work on the place of economics in inter-state relationships, considering how this affected – and indeed constrained – both the Iberian dictatorships’ policy of neutrality during the War and the exercise of British power over Iberia in the War’s aftermath. 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. 



‘John Leche and his shifting sympathies in Spain, 1937-1938’, Association for Contemporary Iberian Studies, Norwich, September 2017

‘British Insurers and the Spanish Civil War’, Modern European History Workshop, Cambridge, April 2018

‘Liminal Empire: the Portuguese Empire and the Allied- Japanese Prisoner Exchanges’, New Voices in the History of War, All Souls’, Oxford, July 2019

‘The Portuguese Empire and the Allied- Japanese Prisoner Exchanges’, Association for Contemporary Iberian Studies, Lisbon, September 2019


Rainbird, Stephen, ‘Examining front-line diplomatic British attitudes to the Spanish Civil War through John Leche and his shifting sympathies in Spain, 1937-1938’, in: Mark Gant, Paco Ruzzante, Anneliese Hatton (eds.), New Journeys in Iberian Studies: A (Trans-)National and (Trans-)Regional Exploration (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2018), pp. 204-214.

(Book Review) Rainbird, Stephen, Democracy, Deeds and Dilemmas: Support for the Spanish Republic Within British Civil Society, 1936-1939, by Emily Mason, Family and Community History, 22, 1 (2019), 63-65.



  • BA
  • MPhil (Cantab.)