Peter Gatrell


Personal profile


I am primarily a historian of population displacement in the modern world. This represents a change of direction, insofar as the first part of my career was mainly devoted to the economic and social history of Russia. Most of my current research activity is devoted to a monograph on the history of Europe since 1945, with a focus on migration in/to Europe. This will be published by Penguin Books and Basic Books in August 2019.

I've spent most of my academic career at the University of Manchester, with short spells teaching part-time at the University of Liverpool and at the London School of Economics. My first teaching post was at the University of East Anglia (1976). My undergraduate and PhD degrees are from the University of Cambridge. Between 1997 and 2002 I was Head of the School of History and Classics, which now forms part of the School of Arts, Histories and Cultures. I chaired Sub-panel 27 (Area Studies) for the REF (Research Excellence Framework), 2014. I was one of the founding members of the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute at the University of Manchester. See

The British Academy awarded me a Research Readership in 1995-1997, enabling me to research and to write A Whole Empire Walking: Refugees in Russia during World War 1 (Indiana University Press, 1999; paperback, 2005) as well as several related articles and conference papers. This book won the Wayne S. Vucinich Prize, 2000, awarded by the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies for 'outstanding work in Russian, East European or Eurasian studies in any branch of the humanities or social sciences', and the Alec Nove Prize, 2001, awarded by British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies, for an 'outstanding monograph in Russian and East European Studies'.

My research on population displacement has included collaborative research projects on population displacement, state-building and social identity in the aftermath of the First World War and the Second World War - see publications. I also became interested in the UN and global campaigns on behalf of refugees, and I published Free World? The campaign to save the world's refugees, 1956-1963 (Cambridge University Press, 2011). Details at

My latest book is entitled The Making of the Modern Refugee (Oxford University Press, 2013; paperback 2015). In 2017 I published an edited collection of original essays by 15 international scholars on the refugee crisis during the First World War.

I participate in the new research network on refugee history, at

Research interests

Specific research interests:

My research and teaching interests fall into two broad categories: population displacement in world history and the history of modern Europe. These twin interests are also brought together in my commitment to the cultural history of modern war. I would welcome enquiries from prospective graduate students in these fields.

My interests in population displacement derive in the first place from research I carried out into the mass movements of civilians in the Russian empire during the First World War.

Current research projects:

Common Ground [provisional title]: Migration in/to Europe since 1945, for Penguin Books and Basic Books

"Rehabilitation' and population displacement in the post-war world, 1945-1960s', funded by The Leverhulme Trust.

The Korean refugee crisis in the 1950s

The second main element of my research and teaching is modern European history, especially the economic and social history of modern Russia. I published Government, Industry and Rearmament in Russia, 1900-1914: The Last Argument of Tsarism (CUP, 1994). I have an interest in the broader economic history of Russia, which led to the publication of The Tsarist Economy, 1850-1917 (Batsford, 1986). My most recent book in this field was Russia's First World War: An Economic and Social History (Pearson, 2005)., but I have also published on the Russian fiscal state, 1600-1914; on the Russian economy in the 20th century; and on reconceptualising the Russian industrial revolution. See under Publications.

My interest in the cultural history of modern war originates from trying to understand the dynamics of World War 1 in Russia. I collaborate with other members of the research centre on the cultural history of war and the interdisciplinary Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI).  I am on the editorial board of "1914-1918 online", an international venture based at the Free University of Berlin.

Further information


My expertise is in the history of refugees and the history of humanitarianism in the modern world, and additionally in the cultural history of modern war and the history of modern Russia.

Social responsibility

Social engagement

I have worked with various external partners including the Society of Friends (Quakers) and the American Friends Service Committee, as well as UNHCR (Geneva). My students and I have worked with the Manchester Refugee Support Network.

I am involved in the Model UN project (Schools Linking Network) and in the Schools University Partnership Initiative on 'tomorrow's citizens'. See


Current teaching

My research interests inform my Level 3 course unit entitled 'Refugees in Modern World History' which, like the research projects mentioned elsewhere, draws upon a broad range of social and cultural theory. The course addresses case-studies in twentieth-century European and non-European history and explores such issues as how one can write 'refugee history'. My students work in small groups to produce posters and discussion logs on relevant topics. Many of them have written dissertations arising from this course unit; their research has taken them to libraries and archives in Geneva, Paris, New York, Dublin and Tel Aviv, as well as in the UK.

My teaching interests in modern history take the form of course units in the cultural history of modern war, Russian economic history, and the social and cultural history of the Russian revolution. I have aIso offered lectures at Level 2 on the economic history of Russia and Eastern Europe in the twentieth century.

At MA level I have contributed to the MA programme in Humanitarianism and Conflict Response and the MA in the Cultural History of Modern War.

Activities and esteem

In 2019 I was elected a Fellow of the British Academy (section: Modern History since 1850).

In 2011 I was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.

Between 1995 and 1997 I held a Research Readership awarded by the British Academy.

Additional academic activities:

I have served on the following panels:

  • REF 2014 Chair of Sub-panel 27 (Area Studies), and member of Main Panel D (Humanities)
  • (Until 2007) AHRC Postgraduate Panel 4 (Medieval and Modern History)
  • ESRC Research Grants Board
  • RAE Sub-panel 50, European Studies

I am on the editorial board of the MUP series on the cultural history of war and the journal Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History. I am a member of the editorial team for the online encyclopedia "1914-1918 online".

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 1 - No Poverty
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute


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