Professor Simon Hall

Professor Simon Hall


After receiving a BA in History (1997) and then an MA in American History (1998) from the University of Sheffield, I moved to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, to begin work on my Ph.D under the supervision of Professor Tony Badger.  I subsequently spent a year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a semester at Yale University as a Fox International Fellow.  Having held a temporary lectureship at the University of Cambridge, I joined the University of Leeds in September 2003 as Lecturer in American History.  I was promoted to Professor of Modern History in 2016, and served as Head of School from 2015-2018.

Research interests

My research interests lie in the post-war social and political history of the United States - with a particular focus on the civil rights and Black Power movements; the student radicalism of the 1960s; and political dissent during the 1970s and 1980s.  I am also interested in global protest during the Cold War.

Fidel Castro, Harlem, and the Making of the 1960s 

My latest book, Ten Days in Harlem: Fidel Castro and the Making of the 1960s explores the extraordinary trip that Fidel Castro made to New York, in September of 1960, for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly.  24 hours after his arrival, and with wild rumours circulating that the Cubans had “killed, plucked, and cooked chickens in their rooms… and extinguished cigars on expensive carpets”, Castro – dressed in his trademark drab olive fatigues – stormed out of his plush, mid-town hotel after being asked to stump up an additional security deposit. After meeting with the UN Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjold, and threatening to set up a makeshift camp in Central Park (“we are a mountain people”, he explained, and “used to sleeping in the open air”), the Cuban leader accepted an offer of hospitality from the Hotel Theresa, the so-called “Waldorf of Harlem”.  Over the coming days, Castro would receive a rapturous reception from the local African American community, hold court with a succession of political and cultural luminaries (including Malcolm X, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Nikita Khrushchev, Amiri Baraka, and Allen Ginsberg), and promote the politics of anti-imperialism, racial equality, and leftist revolution with a fervour, and an audacity, that would make him an icon of the 1960s.

Previous Research

My previous book, a narrative history of the year 1956, explores that year's various rebellions and revolutions - including the struggle against white supremacy in the United States and South Africa; the challenge to European colonialism in Africa and the Middle East; and the uprisings against Communist rule in Poland and Hungary. Drawing on my long-standing research interests in the role of people's movements and the relationship between the Cold War and the African American freedom struggle, my book frames that year's tumultuous events as part of an interconnected, global story of revolution.  1956: The World in Revolt, was published in the U.K. by Faber and by Pegasus Books in the United States in 2016.  It has also been translated into German, Dutch, Polish and Chinese.

Peace and Freedom: The Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements in the 1960s, which was published in 2005, explored the complex and fascinating relationship between the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements of the 1960s.

American Patriotism, American Protest: Social Movements Since the Sixties (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010) analyzed the ways in which various social movements, from across the political spectrum, engaged with 'Americanism' in support of their respective causes, and drew on the protest traditions of the 1960s.  The British Academy and the Arts and Humanities Research Council funded some of this research. Read more about my findings.

Rethinking the American Anti-War Movement, an overview of the American protests against the Vietnam War, was published by Routledge in 2012.  You can find out a bit more about some of my arguments here.

I have also written a number of articles and essays that explore sixties radicalism, the Black Power movement, and grassroots civil rights campaigns.

Postgraduate Supervision

I can offer supervision in the following areas:

Post-1945 American social, political and cultural history;
American protest movements;
The Civil Rights and Black Power movements;
The gay and lesbian rights movements in the United States;
Histories of race, ethnicity and sexuality in the USA.

Current & Recent PhD students

  • Julio Decker, The Immigration Restriction League and the Political Regulation of Immigration, 1898-1924 (co-supervised with Kate Dossett).  Completed spring 2012.
  • Tom Davies: 'Black and White Politics' -The Federal Government and Black Power, 1960-1972 (co-supervised with Kate Dossett). Completed Autumn 2013.   
  • Say Burgin: White Anti-Racism Organising in 1960s and 70s U.S. Social Movements (co-supervised with Kate Dossett).  Completed spring 2013.
  • Gina Denton, 'Motherhood and Protest in the United States, 1960-1989' (co-supervised with Kate Dossett). Completed spring 2015.
  • Jack Noe, 'The American South, Sectionalism and American Nationalism.'  Completed spring 2018. 
  • Mark Walmsley, “The First Draft of History”: How the Process of News Construction has Influenced our Understanding of the Civil and Gay Rights Movements of the Long 1960s', completed spring 2016
  • Sangdon Lee, 'Communes and the New Left' (co-supervised with Stephan Petzold), completed spring 2017.
  • Lauren Mottle, 'African American GIs, Anti-Vietnam War activism, and the Citizen-Soldier' (co-supervised with Say Burgin & Jessica Meyer), completed spring 2019.
  • Sabina Peck, 'Multiracial activism around reproductive rights in America from the second wave of feminism.' (co-supervised with Kate Dossett), completed summer 2018.
  • Toby Lanyon Jones, 'American Opposition to the Vietnam War in Britain during the 1960s and 1970s'
  • George Francis-Kelly, 'Black and Latina/o activism in Los Angeles during the 1980s and 1990s' (co-supervised with Kate Dossett), completed autumn 2020.
  • Scott Hamm, Ethics and the U.S. Military Since the Vietnam Era (co-supervised with Nir Arielli and Sean Fear)
  • Amanda Stafford, The Radical Press and the New Left in Georgia, 1968-1976 (co-supervised with Kate Dossett)
<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 History
  • MA American History
  • BA History

Professional memberships

  • Royal Historical Society
  • British Association for American Studies
  • Organization of American Historians
  • Historians of the Twentieth Century United States

Student education

I am committed to delivering high-quality research led teaching, and offer a range of U.S. history modules across our undergraduate and taught postgraduate curriculum (including on our MA in Race and Resistance).  I am also interested in the relationship between historians, the past, and the present - and regularly convene, and contribute to, modules that offer an in-depth exploration of historiography.

Research groups and institutes

  • Politics, Diplomacy, and International History

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>