Dr Will Jackson

Dr Will Jackson


My first book, based on my PhD, was published in 2013: Madness and Marginality: The Lives of Kenya’s White Insane (MUP). Broadly speaking I work on intimacy and empire, settler colonialism, failure and the family.

I am currently working on a social history of colonial intimacy through the case records of British settlers in southern Africa during the early twentieth century who were subject to various kinds of disciplinary control: mental patients, bad or ‘immoral’ parents, asylum patients, suspected criminals. Its emphasis is less on the discursive apparatus of control than on using subject voices that emerge through colonial archives of surveillance. These include letters – from parents to their children and wives and husbands to each-other, as well as to hospital superintendents, charity organisations and politicians; the transcripts of sworn affidavits given before magistrates and probation officers; the petition letters of would be repatriates; the narratives of family pasts offered up by mental patients, ‘delinquent’ adolescents, deserted wives and people who seemed to have no stable material – or subjectively felt – home. The majority of these records are in the Cape archives but the stories they contain traverse the southern African subcontinent, challening the mythic hinterland suggested by Cecil Rhodes’ vision of a ‘road to the north’.

Research interests

'No Country for Old Men: The Life of John Lee and the Problem of the Aged Pioneer', History Workshop Journal, forthcoming, Spring 2019

‘The Private Lives of Empire: Emotion, Intimacy and Colonial Rule,’ Itinerario, 42:1 (2018)

'The Shame of Not Belonging: Navigating Failure in the Colonial Petition, South Africa 1910-1961', Itinerario, 42: 1 (2018)

‘An Unmistakable Trace of Colour: Racializing Children in Segregation-era Cape Town, 1908-1933’, Past and Present, 238: 1 (2018)

(with Nicola Ginsburgh), ‘Settler Societies’ in William Worger, Charles Ambler and Nwando Achebe (eds.), A Companion to African History (Blackwell, 2018)

‘The Settler’s Demise? Decolonisation and Mental Breakdown in Kenya Colony’ in Harald Fischer-Tin (ed.), Anxieties, Fear and Panic in Colonial Settings: Empires on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017)

 ‘Kenya, 1890-1963’ in Lorenzo Veracini and Ed Cavanagh (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of the History of  Settler Colonialism (Routledge, 2016)

 ‘Unsettled states: madness and migration in Cape Town, c. 1920’ in Marjory Harper, ed., Migration and Mental Illness: Past and Present (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) 

‘Not seeking certain proof: Inter-racial sex and archival haze in high-imperial Natal’ in Will Jackson and Emily Manktelow (eds.), Subverting Empire: Deviance and Disorder in the British World (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015)

(with Emily Manktelow), ‘Introduction: Thinking with Deviance’ in Will Jackson and Emily Manktelow (eds.), Subverting Empire: Deviance and Disorder in the British World (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015)

Madness and Marginality: The Lives of Kenya’s White Insane (Manchester University Press, 2013)

‘Poor men and loose women: the Poor White Problem in Kenya Colony’, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, 14, 2, 2013

‘Bad Blood: Poverty, Psychopathy and the Politics of Transgression in Kenya Colony’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 39, 1, 2011

‘White Man’s Country: The Making of a Myth’, Journal of Eastern African Studies, 5, 2, 2011

<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>

Student education

I teach a third year special subject, which is a social history of settler colonialism through the problematic focus on a colonising minority population. I also teach an MA module with a probably no less problematic focus on black resistance. Both modules encourage students to think critically about the kinds of stories that colonial historiographies produce, how they are told and how 'we' respond to them. Implicit here is the 'we' that is the seminar group (both these module are taught across a series of seminars only, with no lectures). I also teach another seminar-only, third year module, which thinks about how we cast current news events through a reference frame of imperial history. I enjoy this module because each year it is different from previous years. Though the idea of the module-as-product requires a commitment to knowing what the module will comprise - in terms of a list of seminar 'topics' for example -  we cannot predict history's unfolding in the discursive moment that followed - for example - the wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle, or the discovery of the Windrush scandal at the same time.

In the future I would like to design a 'social history of South Africa' module, which would allow me to teach a course that was not itself based on a racial categorisation such as 'white settlers' or 'black Africans' always must.

I am on research leave during 2018-19.

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