Dr Cathy Coombs

Dr Cathy Coombs


I completed my BA degree in History at the University of Leeds in 2006, and continued to take a taught MA in Modern History in 2006-07, with a focus upon modern Indian topics. I began my doctoral study in October 2007 under the aegis of William Gould's AHRC-funded project, From Subjects to Citizens: Society and the Everyday State in India and PakistanThis collaborative project with Royal Holloway in London sought to shed new light on the independence and partition period by bringing together researchers working on India and Pakistan in the 1940s. I have taught part-time in the School of History at Leeds since 2007, and full-time since 2012. 


  • Senior Tutor for Wellbeing
  • Tutor to PGRs who teach
  • LITE Teaching Enhancement Project Co-leader

Research interests

Historical Research

Focussing on the partitioned state of Punjab, my thesis research used memoir and diary accounts from British civil servants to analyse the narratives surrounding 1947. The British accounts offer an interpretation of the independence period in Punjab that can be used to reflect on the colonial ideology, as practised at the local level. The way in which memories were recorded and fitted into a narrative of the period offers an indication of the mentality of individual colonial administrators at the transfer of power and beyond. The thesis considered how the way in which the period is remembered tells us about the colonial administration, the extent to which individuals were drawn into and retained a colonial mentality, and the effect of these narratives of partition upon postcolonial collective memory.

My current research investigates the prevailing notions of masculinity and deportment for British civil servants in the Punjab between 1857 and 1947. Key questions include: the role played by racial stereotyping (in the Punjab, the labelling of so-called 'martial races') in determining the reputation of a province's civil servants; the extent to which public school norms were altered and adapted into a specifically 'Anglo-Indian' set of standards for masculinity and behaviour; and the gap between mythologies of active, nineteenth-century civilians and the more bureaucratic reality of the twentieth-century officer. I also have an ongoing interest in the way that partition is remembered in the UK, both through the arrival of communities from the subcontinent and the return of British officers.

Pedagogical Research

I completed the University of Leeds Teaching Award (level 2) in 2014, developing reflective practice in delivering BA and MA-level teaching, and resulting in Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy of England and Wales. My research interests focus on innovative teaching and assessment methods, as well as enhancing student support and wellbeing. In 2016-17, I took a leading role in developing a multi-disciplinary blended learning module to introduce level one students to the discovery theme Power and Conflict

From January 2018 until January 2019, I am partially seconded to the Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence (LITE) to co-lead a Teaching Enhancement Project (TEP) with Dr Polly Wilding, entitled 'Keeping Everybody Happy? Delivering Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning on a Blended Learning Module’, exploring the success and impact of the undergraduate module PIED1551 Power & Conflict - an introduction.

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


  • PhD in History (2011)
  • MA Modern History (2007)
  • BA Hons History (2006)

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (since 2014)

Student education

As the School of History's lecturer in teaching / scholarship, I lead on our 'History in Practice' modules. These level 2 modules offer students the opportunity to develop and reflect on their skills ahead of final-year work and subsequent employment, as well as thinking about and trying out possible career paths, such as teaching.

I also deliver modules focussed on the British relationship with empire, around themes of race, gender and the role of ideas in shaping colonial experience.

I supervise students at BA dissertation, MA dissertation and PGR level, working on themes related to British engagement with and memories of empire in the UK, as well as topics focussed on the modern history of the Indian subcontinent.

Research groups and institutes

  • PRIA

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="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>