Simon Ball

Simon Ball


The Chair of International History & Politics

I was appointed to the University’s chair of International History & Politics in 2012. Previously I was Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Glasgow. My tenure is the latest chapter in the University of Leeds’ sustained commitment to the study of modern and contemporary international history: the chair of International History was created in 1966 as Leeds' second established professorship of Modern History. 


  • Director of Research and Innovation in History

Research interests


My research has concentrated on five interrelated themes: the Cold War; the Second World War; the legacy of the First World War; assassination in international politics; and security & intelligence in the twentieth century. I am the editor of War in History and sit on the editorial boards of Intelligence & National Security and also Diplomacy & Statecraft.  


I am the author of a number of important studies including: Alamein (Oxford: OUP, 2016); The Bitter Sea: The Struggle for Mastery in the Mediterranean, 1935-1949 (London: Harper Press, 2009); The Guardsmen: Harold Macmillan, Three Friends, and the World They Made (London: HarperCollins, 2004); The Cold War: An International History 1947-1991 (London: Arnold & New York: OUP, 1998, reprinted Bloomsbury USA, 2009); The Bomber in British Strategy: Doctrine, Strategy and Britain’s World Role, 1945-1960 (Boulder, Co. and Oxford: Westview, 1995). 

Recent publications include:

 'The State and the Assassination Threat in Britain, 1971-1984', The Historical Journal (2018). 

'War and the State' in David Brown, Robert Crowcroft and Gordon Pentland, eds, The Oxford Handbook of Modern British Political History, 1800 to 2000 (Oxford: OUP, 2018).

Alamein (Oxford: OUP, 2016). ISBN 978-0-19-968203-4.  

'The Mediterranean and North Africa, 1940-1944' in John Ferris and Evan Mawdsley, eds, The Cambridge History of the Second World War: Volume I - Fighting the War (Cambridge: CUP, 2015), pp. 358-388. 

Research Projects

I was the Principal Investigator on the AHRC-funded project AH/J000175/1 Cultures of Intelligence: Military Intelligence Services in Germany, Great Britain and the USA: Britain, 1918-1947 which ran between 2012 and 2016. The main aim of the project was to deepen our knowledge of the mid-twentieth century intelligence services in Britain. It did so by going beyond the institutional history of particular intelligence services and interrogating the nature of an overarching culture of intelligence, manifested both in the intelligence community and the wider public sphere. Britain was placed in comparative perspective through formal co-operation with a parallel project Kulturen der Intelligence: Ein Forschungsprojekt zur Geschichte der militärischen Nachrichtendientse in Deutschland, Grossbritannien und der USA , 1900-1947 funded by the Gerda Henkel Stiftung, Dusseldorf. A German documentary film was made about the project.

Between 2015 and 2017 both I and Peter Jackson (University of Glasgow) led The Practice of International History in the 21st Century (PIH21) an international network that interrogated the underlying practice-based conceptual framework of international history in the contemporary era. The project partner was the Chief Historian, Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

External Collaboration

AlliiertenMuseum, Berlin

I sit on the International Board (Beirat) of the AlliiertenMuseum, Berlin. The museum was created in 1994 by the government of the Federal Republic to mark the end of the post-war occupation regime in Berlin. It is part of the Federal museums system. Members of the board are nominated by the director of the museum but are approved by the military attachés of Britain, the USA and France on behalf of their respective governments. The main business of the board concerns the long-running project to establish the museum as the museum in residence at the Tempelhof complex in central Berlin. In November 2015 the Federal Government announced that it had awarded the AlliiertenMuseum 26 million euros to complete the Tempelhof Project. I have also worked on the creation of Liberation Route Europe, a European Union-funded alliance of museums collaborating to commemorate the liberation of Europe from Nazi rule in 1944-1945.


I have collaborated closely with BBC Radio 4’s Document series. Document is Radio 4’s historical investigation programme, taking a document as a starting point from which to shed new light on past events. The series has won Sony Radio Academy Gold and Radio Story of the Year awards. My research formed the centrepiece of an investigation of Britain’s use of torture in WW2.  I was a major participant in Radio 4's documentary series, Conservatism: The Grand Tour, presented by Anne McElvoy. I have been consulted also by Germany’s leading public-service television channel, ZDF, to assist in the making of historical documentaries, including  Rommel: Mythos und Wahrheit as as part of ZDF’s major documentary series Geheimnisse des Dritten Reiches and Die Akte He?, the first episode of Geheimnisse des Zweiten Weltkriegs.

<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>

Student education

International History and Politics

Since 1969 the holder of the Chair of International History and Politics has overseen a specialised undergraduate degree programme in the discipline. International History and Politics (IHP) remains a highly successful history degree at Leeds. In both 2016 and 2017 IHP scored 100% in the National Student Survey.

Ph.D Supervision

I have a track-record of successful Ph.D supervision and welcome new candidates in any field of international or military history.  I currently supervise an outstanding group of Ph.D researchers.

White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities

In 2014 I was appointed to serve as the inaugural chairman of the White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities (WRoCAH) History Subject Panel. WRoCAH is the Collaborative Doctoral Training Partnership of the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York. It has received £19m from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to fund Ph.D studentships over the next five years. WRoCAH is the top-ranked and largest AHRC doctoral training partnership in Britain. I completed my three year term of office in 2016. Previously I sat on the International Advisory Board of Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences. The role of the IAB was to advise IRCHSS on the award of Government of Ireland Scholarships for doctoral candidates. 

Research groups and institutes

  • War and Peace

Current postgraduate research students

<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>