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, repatriates, 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 home or place of belonging. 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’.


  • Director of Joint Honours

Research interests

My most recent publications give a sense of my current and ongoing research:

‘The Kindness of Strangers: Single Mothers and the Politics of Friendship in Interwar Cape Town’, Journal of Social History, forthcoming.

'No Country for Old Men: The Life of John Lee and the Problem of the Aged Pioneer', History Workshop Journal, 87, 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-Tine (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 undergraduate modules on: failure and the family in Southern Africa 1880-1939; Apartheid in South Africa and White Africans: Intimacy, Race and Power.

I teach a postgraduate module on Anti-Apartheid: Histories of the Struggle.

Research groups and institutes

  • Health Histories
  • Women, Gender, and Sexuality
  • Empires and Aftermath

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>