Historian, broadcaster and film-maker David Olusoga has joined the University of Manchester as a Professor of Public History.
Olusoga, who presented the BBC’s landmark series Civilisations in 2018 alongside Simon Schama and Mary Beard, is one of the UK’s foremost historians of the British Empire. He was made an OBE in the recent New Year’s Honours List.
Born in Nigeria to a Nigerian father and British mother, he migrated to the UK with his mother when he was a young child and grew up in Gateshead, on a council estate. Later his home was attacked by the National Front on multiple occasions and his family eventually forced out of their home.
He later attended the University of Liverpool to study the history of slavery. “I got into history because I wanted to make sense of the forces that have affected my life,” he says. “I’m from that generation who would look at Trevor McDonald on television – his gravitas and authority – and see hope and potential.”
After leaving university, Olusoga became a television producer, working on programmes such as Namibia Genocide and the Second Reich, The Lost Pictures of Eugene Smith and Abraham Lincoln: Saint or Sinner. He subsequently became a presenter, beginning in 2014 with The World’s War: Forgotten Soldiers of Empire, about the Indian, African and Asian troops who fought in the First World War, followed by several other documentaries. His most recent TV series include Black and British: A Forgotten History, The World’s War, A House Through Time and the BAFTA award-winning Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners.
As well as his TV work, Olusoga is an award-winning author. His books include Civilizations: Encounters and the Cult of Progress, The World’s War, which won First World War Book of the Year, Black & British: A Forgotten History, which was awarded both the Longman-History Today Trustees Award and the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize and The Kaiser’s Holocaust: Germany’s Forgotten Genocide and the Colonial Roots of Nazism. He also writes for The Observer, The Guardian, The New Statesman and BBC History Magazine.
“For me, history has always been a public activity – it’s about reaching out to as many people as possible,” says Olusoga. “I’ve spent my career working with institutions similarly committed to making history inclusive, expansive and diverse. Joining the University of Manchester is to continue in that tradition.”