Professor Peter Anderson

Professor Peter Anderson


I gained a PhD in history at Royal Holloway, University of London and went on to hold a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Department of International History and the Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies, both at the London School of Economics and Political Science. I have worked at the University of Leeds since 2012 and during the academic year 2016–17 I was a British Academy Mid-Career Fellow.



  • Deputy Head of School (2021-2022)
  • Co-director of the Centre for the History of Ibero-America
  • Co-Editor European History Quarterly

Research interests

Major Publications

The Age of Mass Child Removal in Spain: Taking, Losing, and Fighting for Children, 1926–1945 (Oxford University Press, 2021) analyses the ideas and practices that underpinned the age of mass child removal. This era emerged from growing criticisms across the world of 'dangerous' parents and the developing belief in the nineteenth century that the state could provide superior guardianship to 'unfit' parents.

In the late nineteenth century, the juvenile-court movement led the way in forging a new and more efficient system of child removal that severely curtailed the previously highly protected sovereignty of guardians deemed dangerous. This transnational movement rapidly established courts across the world and used them to train the personnel and create the systems that frequently lay behind mass child removal. Spaniards formed a significant part of this transnational movement and the country's juvenile courts became involved in the three main areas of removal that characterize the age: the taking of children from poor families, from families displaced by war, and from political opponents.

The study of Spanish case files reveals much about how the removal process worked in practice across time and across democratic regimes and dictatorships. These cases also afford an insight into the rich array of child-removal practices that lay between the poles of coercion and victimhood. Accordingly, the study offers a history of some of most marginalized parents and children and recaptures their voice, agency, and experience. The book also analyses the removal of tens of thousands of children from General Franco's political opponents, sometimes referred to as the lost children of Francoism, through the history and practice of the juvenile courts.

Franco’s Famine: Malnutrition, Disease and Starvation in Post-Civil War Spain (Bloomsbury, 2021) (Co-edited with Miguel Ángel del Arco Blanco). At least 200,000 people died from hunger or malnutrition-related diseases in Spain during the 1940s. This book provides a political explanation for the famine and brings together a broad range of academics based in Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia to achieve this. Topics include the political causes of the famine, the physical and social consequences, the ways Spaniards tried to survive, the regime's reluctance to accept international relief, the politics of cooking at a time of famine, and the memory of the famine.

The volume challenges the silence and misrepresentation that still surround the famine. It reveals the reality of how people perished in Spain because the Francoist authorities instituted a policy of food self-sufficiency (or autarky): a system of price regulation which placed restrictions on transport as well as food sales. The contributors trace the massive decline in food production which followed, the hoarding which took place on an enormous scale and the vast and deeply iniquitous black market that subsequently flourished at a time when salaries plunged to 50 per cent below their levels in 1936: all contributing factors in the large-scale atrocity explored fully here for the first time.

Friend or Foe: Occupation, Collaboration and Selective Violence in the Spanish Civil War (Sussex Academic Press/Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies, 2016) examines the Francoist occupation of Spain from the perspective of controlling the population rather than capturing territory or the state. It also shifts attention from the Francoist initial use of terror against the population to the selective violence the Franco regime exercised to forestall international scandals. This led the regime to embark on the huge task of classifying the population into varying grades of friend or foe to whom contrasting degrees of punishment or freedom were granted.

To acquire the necessary information, the Francoists turned to their supporters who proved able to ‘define’ the identity of Spaniards at the grassroots of society: facts which force us to rethink the extent to which the regime followed a ‘plan of extermination’ and the degree to which the regime imposed itself from above through state institutions and violence. The book traces the evolving policy of occupation through the conquests of Málaga (February 1937), Bilbao (June 1937) and Barcelona (January 1939) and so provides a national perspective on a debate often characterised by provincial studies.

The Francoist Military Trials: Terror and Complicity, 1939–1945 (Routledge, 2010). In Spain between 1936–1945, the Franco regime carried out one Europe's more brutal but less remembered programs of mass repression. Many were murdered by the regime's death squads, and in some areas Francoists also subjected up to 15 per cent of the population to summary military trials. Here many suffered the death sentence or jail terms up to thirty years. Although historians have recognised the staggering scale of the trials, they have tended to overlook the mass participation that underpinned them. In contrast to the discussion in other European countries, little attention has been paid to the wide scale collusion in the killings and incarcerations in Spain.

Exploring mass complicity in the trials of hundreds of thousands of defeated Republicans following the end of the Spanish Civil War, The Francoist Military Trials probes local Francoists' accusations whereby victims were selected for prosecution in military courts. It also shows how insubstantial and hostile testimony formed the bedrock of 'investigations', secured convictions, and shaped the harsh sentencing practices of Franco's military judges. Using civil court records, it also documents how grassroots Francoists continued harassing Republicans for many years after they emerged from prison.

Challenging the popularly prevalent view that the Franco regime imposed a police state upon a passive Spanish society, the evidence shown in the book illustrates that local state officials and members of the regime's support base together forged a powerful repressive system that allowed them to wage war on elements of their own society to a greater extent than perhaps even the Nazis managed against their own population.

Collaboration and Engagement

I have helped organise events with the Instituto Cervantes, where I have also given talks.

I have worked extensively with the Basque Children of ‘37 Association UK on conferences, exhibitions, essay prizes and producing, with students, a zine.

I am working with the International Brigade Memorial Trust on producing materials for history school teachers working at Key Stage 3. The materials look at popular anti-fascist responses to appeasement.

I am also currently writing a popular history of children in the Spanish Civil War and I have featured in podcasts for the Historical Association and in the series Real Dictators.



<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD. Modern History

Professional memberships

  • Royal Historical Society

Student education

At undergraduate level, I teach a second-year module on the history of Spain between 1898–1936; a third-year, and two-semester course, on the Spanish Civil War and a third-year module on efforts to come to term with the violence carried out behind the lines by supporters of General Franco. 

I supervise a number of PhD and Masters by Research students on twentieth-century Spanish history.

Research groups and institutes

  • Politics, Diplomacy, and International History
  • War Studies

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>