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Professor David Edgerton

Hans Rausing Professor of the History of Science and Technology and Professor of Modern British History


Twitter Handle: @dehedgerton

David Edgerton studied chemistry at Oxford where he was introduced to the history and

philosophy of science by Margaret Gowing,  Allan Chapman, and Peter Lipton. He went

on to do his PhD at Imperial College with Gary Werskey, working on the history of British

industrial policy. He joined the University of Manchester in 1984 at first to teach the

economics of science and technology. There he was one of the original staff members of

the CHSTM, founded by John Pickstone in 1986, and worked mainly on the history of

aviation and of industrial R&D. He moved to Imperial College London in 1993 where he

was the founding director of CHoSTM, which he led until 2003 and moved with it to

King’s College in 2013. Since 2002 he has been Hans Rausing Professor of the History

of Science and Technology.  He has won the T.S. Ashton Prize (with Sally Horrocks)

and gave the 2009 Bernal-Wilkins-Medawar Prize Lecture at the Royal Society.

His work rethinks the ways we think about the past of science and technology, and suggests frameworks in which it becomes possible for the history of science and technology to contribute to rethinking their historical context. He is particularly known for a new account of science, technology and the state, for advocating a non-innovation-centric approach to the history of technology and for a remapping of the history of science to avoid taking a small part of academic research as the whole. He has written a number of books which put new histories of science and technology into twentieth-century British and global history, changing those histories in the process.  Among them are Warfare State: Britain 1920-1970 (2005) and The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History since 1900 (2006 and 2019). They have been translated into French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Japanese. He has also written on the history and political economy of research policy and been engaged in discussion on contemporary research policy with parliament, government departments and learned societies.  He appears regularly on TV and radio and has written for many journals and newspapers including Nature, BMJ, Research FortnightFinancial Times, The Times, Observer, Guardian, New Statesman, Spectator, Literary Review  and the London Review of Books.

Postgraduate Supervision:

Current Students (CHoSTM ONLY):


Past Students: (CHoSTM History of science only)

  • Emily Mayhew

  • Sabine Clarke

  • Tom David (with Andrew Warwick)

  • Ralph Desmarais

  • Alex Oikonomou

  • Waqar Zaidi

  • Michael Kershaw, (with Andrew Warwick)

  • Hermione Giffard 

  • Aparajith Ramnath, (with Abigail Woods)

  • Michael Weatherburn,  ESRC.

  • Kapil Supramanian, Rausing Fellowship.

  • Ben Taylor

  • Galina Shyndriayeva

  • Stephen Marsh (PT)

  • Angelica Agredo Montealegre

Current/Past Visitors:

Jonathan Coopersmith

Aaro Sahari


Recent Publications:


  • The Rise and Fall of the British Nation: a Twentieth-Century History

       (Allen Lane, June 2018; Penguin,  April 2019).

  • Britain’s War Machine: Weapons, Resources and Experts in the Second World War                                            (Allen Lane, 2011 - Penguin, 2012). US Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

  • The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History since 1900 (London: Profile, 2007                                  and second edition 2019, with new preface). Recent translation  Quoi de Neuf? Du role                                    des techniques dans l’histoire globale (Paris: Le Seuil, 2013),  낡고 오래된 것들의 세계사                            (Seoul: Humanist Press,  2015) and traditional Chinese (Taipei, Rive gauche, 2016), and              new Simplified Chinese, Imaginist Press, Beijing (2018). 

  • Warfare State: Britain 1920-1970  (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).                               Japanese translation, Nagoya University Press (2017). 

  • Second edition,  England and the Aeroplane: Militarism, Modernity and Machines                                  (Penguin, April 2013) with additional preface.


Recent Papers:


  • ‘What came between New Liberalism and Neo-Liberalism? Rethinking Keynesianism, the                       welfare state and British Social Democracy’, In Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, Ben                                 Jackson, and Aled Davies (eds), The Neoliberal Age? Politics, Economy, Society, and                                 Culture in Britain since c. 1970 (UCL Press, in press 2020)

  • (with John Pickstone), ‘The United Kingdom’ in Cambridge History of Science, volume 8                          Modern Science in National, Transnational, and Global Context (Cambridge: CUP, in                                  press, 2020).

  • ‘War and the development of the British welfare state’ in Herbert Obinger, Klaus Petersen                              and Peter Starke (eds), Warfare and Welfare: Military Conflict and Welfare State                                Development in Western Countries (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), pp. 200-229.

  • ‘The Political Economy of Science – prospects and retrospects’, in David Tyfield, Rebecca                            Lave, Samuel Randalls and Charles Thorpe (eds), Routledge Handbook of Political                                Economy of Science (London, 2017), pp. 21-31.

  • ‘England the Aeroplane Revisited’, in Katarina Hoffman et al (eds), Myths, Gender and                                    the Military Conquest of Air and Sea (Oldenburg: BIS-Verlag, 2016), pp. 21-30

  • ‘L'Etat entrepreneur de science’, in  C. Bonneuil and D. Pestre (eds), Histoire des Sciences                                 et des Savoirs : Moderne Volume 3 Le Siecle des Technosciences, 1914 – 2014 (Paris: Le                                Seuil, 2015), ca. 15pp.

  • ‘Control of Resources: Coal, Iron Ore and Oil in the Second World War’, in Adam Tooze                                    and Michael Geyer (eds), Cambridge History of World War II, Vol, III Total War: Economy                                 , Society, Culture at War (Cambridge: CUP, 2015), pp. 122-148.

  • ‘Brains at War: War, Invention and Experts' in Richard Overy (ed.), Oxford Illustrated History                         of the Second World War (Oxford: OUP, 2015), pp. 344-372.


Recent short articles:

  • Contribution to British Academy report for BEIS on the History of British Science Policy                                      (2019) ‘What has British science policy really been?

  • Entries on ‘Flying Boats’ and ‘Oil from Coal’, for Adrian Forty and Barbara Penner (eds),                            Extinct: A Compendium of Obsolete Objects (London: Reaktion, in press 2020).

  • ‘Rethinking Britain: ruptures and global connections’, for Jessica Reinisch and David                                Brydan (eds), Exploring and Teaching Twentieth-Century History (London: Historical                        Association, in press 2019)

  • ‘ Pour une histoire critique de la nouveauté’, Criticat: revue semestrielle de critique                        d’architecture  no 19 (June 2017), pp. 47-57

  • Editorial - ‘Time for evidence-based research policy’, British Medical Journal 13 June 2016.

  • ‘Eléments pour une nouvelle histoire global de la production du XXème siècle / Elements                                   of a new global history of twentieth-century production’, in Serge Benoit and Alain Michel                                 (eds), Pierre Bézier, les machines-outils et le monde du génie industriel  (Belfort : Pôle                              éditorial multimédia UTBM, 2016), pp. 5-10

  • ‘Doomed to failure? Wilson’s “white heat of the scientific revolution” and renewal of                                         Britain’, British Politics Review, 9 , 3  (2014), p. 12-13

  • ‘What was modernity?’, P. Alonso and H.  Palmarola (eds.), Monolith Controversies:                                      Chile National Pavilion (Hatje Cantz, 2014), pp. 169-174.  .

  • ‘And the word became technology’, Francesca Hughes (ed), Drawings that Count: the work                                 of diploma 15 (London: Architectural Association Publications, 2013), pp. 142-152. 

  • (with Santiago M. Lopez), ‘Las relaciones entre los investigadores científicos y la actividad                        económica’, Artefactos (University of Salamanca, 2013)


Recent engagement activities:


  • ‘Le neuf ne remplace pas toujours l'ancien : Entretien avec David Edgerton’,  Propos recueillis par Thomas Lepeltier, Sciences Humaines, Grands Dossiers N° 38 - mars-avril-mai 2015

  • John Thornhill, ‘Big Tech v Big Brother: how do you view technology?’, Financial Times  (April, 2017)

  • ‘Die Ideen des Silicon Valley sind uralt’, Philosophie Magazin (Febuary 2018)

  • ‘England & The Aeroplane: An interview with historian David Edgerton’, Hush-Kit : the alternative aviation magazine

  • Interview on Maintenance for Project M magazine.

  • Stagars interviews

  • ‘Books interview with David Edgerton: “We need to tackle British history as we would the turbulent story of Germany”’, Ellie Cawthorne, BBC History Magazine (Book of the Month Interview) (August 2018)

  • ‘Britisk historiker: Nej, det er ikke en ’imperialistisk tankegang’, der har ført til Brexit. Det er snarere Margaret Thatcher’ - Information Dagblet 13 December 2018 (paywall)



  • ‘Edgerton et la critique de l’innovation’, par TECHNIQUESETCULTURE, October 2017

  • ‘The Rise and Fall of the British Nation’,  New Books in History,  NBN, 2018

  • ‘Rethinking 20th-century Britain’, HistoryExtra Podcast BBC History Magazine, August 2018

  • ‘David Edgerton on Britain and the declinist narrative,  PoliticsTheoryOther (Alex Doherty)  (2018)

  • ‘Britain and Empire in the 20th Century with David Edgerton’, History Hits (Dan Snow) (June 2019)



  • Obituary of John Pickstone, The Times (March 2014)

  • ‘Devil's Advocates’ (Chief Scientific Advisers), Research Fortnight (October 2014).

  • Review of  Science, the State, and the City: Britain’s Struggle to Succeed in Biotechnology, by Geoffrey Owen and Michael Hopkins,  Financial Times,  2016

  • Review of 1956: The World in Revolt, by Simon Hall and 1956: The Year That Changed Britain, by Francis Beckett and Tony Russell,  Spectator (February 2016).

  • Review of Continental Drift: Britain and Europe from the End of Empire to the Rise of Euroscepticism by Benjamin Grob-Fitzgibbon, and Britain's Europe: A Thousand Years of Conflict and Cooperation by Brendan Simms, for Literary Review (September 2016).

  • Review of Ellsberg, Armageddon, for Spectator (2018)

  • Review of Hamilton-Paterson,  What We Have Lost: The Dismantling of Great Britain for The Times (2018)

  • Review of Kenny and Pearce, Shadows of Empire for  OpenDemocracy (2018)

  • ‘Why does the left ignore the British nationalism of the post-war government?’, OpenDemocracy (2018)

  • ‘The Idea of Deep Continuity in British History is Absurd’, Observer (on Brexit) (December 2018)

  • ‘Haldane principle’s ‘centenary’ is a good time to bury its myth’ Research Fortnight (December 2018)

  • Review of Keegan,  Nine Crises: Fifty Years of Covering the British Economy, for Literary Review (2019)

  • Review of Spandefur, Jacob Bronowski,  for Nature (2019)

  • ‘A misremembered empire’, for Tortoisemedia (2019)

  • ‘Brexit is not a product of history: it’s something entirely new’, New Statesman Staggers blog June 2019

  • ‘The Brexiteers’ greatest trick was convincing the old they hated Brussels more than London’, New Statesman Staggers blog August 2019


TV and Radio

  • Radio Three Essay, Minds at War series, ‘The Memorandum on the Neglect of Science’, June 2014.

  • ‘World War Two: Total War’, Australian TV series, dir. Mike Keneally, Wildbear Entertainment (six episodes, 2018)

  • Today Programme, Radio Four, June 2018.

  • ‘You and Yours’, Radio Four, 2018

  • ‘War Factories’ TV Series on the Economics of WW2 (WAGTV for UKTV/Yesterday) 2019

  • Newsnight package on Brexit – BBC2, December 2018

  • Newsnight package on Break up of Britain, BBC2, June 2019

  • ‘Analysis’, Radio Four, on Maintenance, July 2019.

  • Contribution to ZDF Television (Germany) on the anniversary of the Northern Ireland Troubles (August 2019)

  • Contributions to Radio Four series on the Economics of the Second World War (August 2019)

Upcoming Events:

See David’s blog

DE Warfare State.jpg
DE England and Aeroplane.jpg
DE Britains War Machine.jpg
DE Science, Tech & Brit Indus
DE Rise and Fall of British Nation.jpg
DE Shock of the Old.jpg
Postgraduate Supevision
Recent Publications
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