Dean of the Faculty of Arts

BA, PhD Nottingham

Office: 10.42, Run Run Shaw Tower

Professor David M. Pomfret’s research specialisations are in British and French history, histories of Childhood and Youth, and the transnational and comparative history of modern Europe and its empires. His recent work engages with British and French cultures of colonialism through the lens of childhood and youth and utilises a comparative and transnational approach. Focusing upon histories of children, their agency, and how concepts of childhood traveled this research has illuminated how metropolitan and colonial discourses and practices intersected and interacted. His work engages an interdisciplinary audience of scholars and students working on empire(s), specialists working in British or French imperialism, regional (Asian) colonial studies, and the interdisciplinary field of the history of childhood and youth.


Currently, Professor Pomfret is working on a RGC GRF project examining trans-colonial cultures of youth in Asia from the late 19th to the mid 20th century. European society in colonial places was often strikingly young. What implications did this have? The project examines the difference that age made to colonialism and imperialism in Europe’s empires.

Research Interests

  • Histories of childhood and youth
  • Transnational methodologies
  • Colonial and imperial history
  • Social and cultural history
  • European comparative history


A Cultural History of Youth in the Age of Empire
Bloomsbury, 2023

In the age of empire, a period marked by earth-shattering transformations, youth and cultural representations of it served dreams of ʽprogressʼ and liberation as well as systems of coercion, constraint and economic subjugation. This book examines the anxieties and aspirations surrounding youth in the decades between 1800 and 1920, a period marked by breakneck urbanization, the rise of mass culture, extraordinary scientific and technological advancements, and the dramatic expansion of empires.

Surveying global trends in the light of local cases this volume reveals how a world becoming more connected produced new concepts of youth and reshaped experiences of it through migratory movements, labor markets, armies, systems of education, and medical surveillance. Drawing together contributions that range broadly and highlight diversity this volume surveys the cultural history of youth in relation to key issues such as gender and sexuality, war and leisure, education and work, authority and belief, in a period of dramatic political and economic change.

Youth and Empire: Trans-colonial childhoods in British and French Asia
Stanford University Press, 2015

Grace Abbott Book Prize, 2016

Faculty Research Output Prize, 2017

“Brilliantly connecting the local with the global, Pomfret weaves together richly detailed case studies drawn from new archival and primary research. This book will make a major contribution not only to histories of childhood, imperalism, and modern France and Britain, but also to ongoing theoretical scholarship on global empires, space and urban reform, and the history of emotions.”

– Lydia Murdoch, Vassar College

“This book is a striking and original approach to childhood in the British and French Asian colonial world. By examining the various contradictory and overlapping meanings of childhood in colonial Asia, Pomfret is able to provide new and often surprising readings of a set of problems that continue to bedevil our contemporary world.”

– Sander Gilman, Emory University

“Fusing two areas that have attracted a good deal of attention over the last few years but have rarely been integrated—the history of childhood and the history of the European Empires—this pioneering work brings to light a wealth of material from archives and libraries across the globe.”

– Colin Heywood, University of Nottingham

Youth and Empire can genuinely be said to break new ground. It is hoped that this book will inspire scholars of colonialism to turn to the study of childhood in other geographical contexts.”

– Kirsten Kamphuis, Itinerario 41, 1 (2017), 183-4.

“Pomfret… brings to these issues hefty research and a wide background in Asian social issues. He has not produced a narrative history. He eschews an approach based on battles and high diplomacy; rather he has taken his concerns out on to the ground so that his history is from the bottom up… an important addition to more narrowly based studies conceived on a single-country basis.”

– P. Cheeseright, Asian Affairs 47, 2 (2016): 292-4

“Pomfret’s wide-ranging study is based upon artful readings of published and archival sources that span the globe and two centuries of colonial history… By elucidating how the hallmarks of empire were mapped onto children and their colonial childhoods, Pomfret elucidates the simultaneously varied and entangled nature of imperial interaction.”

– M. Giblin, Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth 10, 2 (2017): 271-2

Transnational Histories of Youth in the Twentieth Century
[co-edited with Professor Richard Ivan Jobs]

“Mixing two innovative fields of research does not automatically ensure good scholarship. Yet in the case of Transnational Histories of Youth in the Twentieth Century, a collection of essays edited by Richard Ivan Jobs and David M. Pomfret, the result commands admiration… Jobs and Pomfret’s collection adds important new pieces to the historiographical puzzle and greatly enhances our understanding of the reciprocities of the histories of modern youth and modern globalization.”

– Mischa Honeck, The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth 9:2 (2016), 356-8.

“The global reach of this excellent volume – from China to the Middle East, Japan to South America – is well served by well researched, well argued, and well written chapters on youth, transnationalism, mobility, and modernity. The volume has an excellent introduction and many compelling and original chapters. Some chapters are truly outstanding, many are very, very good… The volume will be of interest to scholars, graduate students, and advanced undergraduates.”

– Anne Gorsuch, University of British Columbia

“offer[s] substantial insight into how young people variously functioned as emblems and agents of modernity, reconstruction, national identity, mobility and hybridity.”

– Briony Neilson, Modern and Contemporary France 25, 2 (2017): 236-7.

Diasporic Chineseness after the Rise of China: Community, Culture and Communication
[co-edited with Kam Louie and Julia Kuehn]

“True to its title, this book articulates and updates the notion of Chinese identity through representational studies of literature, art, dance, drama and film produced in diasporic Chinese communities in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and North America, against the backdrop of China rising as a political and economic superpower over the past three decades.”

– Jennifer Jay, The China Journal 73 (2015): 300-1.

“This book of collected essays is an excellent starting point from which to explore the growing literature that examines the cultural production of the Chinese diaspora in a contemporary era that acknowledges China’s changing political and economic landscape. The diverse range of cultural production that the authors collectively study presents an effective means of exploring such a landscape.”

– S.K. Tan, Pacific Affairs 88, 2 (March 2015): 292-4.

Imperial Contagions: Medicine and Cultures of Planning in Asia, 1880-1949
[co-edited with Robert S. Peckham]

“This substantial collection greatly enriches our understanding of medicine, disease, and policy in colonial Asia. The contributors, from a range of disciplines, grapple fruitfully with questions surrounding medical space and the shift from enclavism to public health. In doing so, they make important theoretical and empirical contributions to medical and imperial history.”

– David Arnold, author of Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in Nineteenth-Century India.

“Europeans in Asia developed powerful anxieties about contagion, and made many plans to keep it at a safe distance. Commercial ventures depended on mobility of people and goods, yet for the personal safety of their members the Europeans in Asia wished to stabilize and control the spaces they inhabited and the behaviors of those around them. By exploring the tensions and contradictions that arose from these efforts to stay safe, the authors of Imperial Contagions—among the best authorities now writing—offer not only fascinating accounts of historical events but fresh views of the processes often termed colonial or imperial.”

– Harold J. Cook, author of Matters of Exchange: Commerce, Medicine, and Science in the Dutch Golden Age

Imperial Contagions takes us a step further toward more interactive, and less bounded, histories of colonial medicine in Asia. It draws attention to the pathologizing of colonial space, the heterogeneity of medical practice, and the fragmentary and partial authority of imperial public health. It leads us to consider again the late-colonial obsession with improvement and benevolence, and the relations of this self-serving and often delusory project to later national and international enthusiasm for development. An important collection, the book complements Health and Hygiene in Chinese East Asia: Policies and Publics in the Long Twentieth Century, edited by Qizi Liang and Charlotte Furth (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2010): together these collections provide a platform for more extensive comparative, intercolonial studies of Asian biomedicine and public health.”

– Warwick Anderson, The Journal of Asian Studies (Cambridge University Press) 73, 203-4.

Young People and the European City: Age Relations in Nottingham and Saint-Etienne, 1890-1940

“This book makes a significant contribution to the growing study of age relations in modern Europe. Its localized context enables nuances to emerge that are missed by national studies, while its comparative element provides a new dimension to existing research on youth… he adds a new dimension to our understanding of concern over industrialization, particularly how it affected governance and voluntarism at local level … A well-structured, genuinely comparative piece of scholarship that will enrich knowledge of urban young people, and particularly their place in political discourse. Pomfret achieves his aim of demonstrating the worth of comparative urban histories.”

– Selina Todd (University of Cambridge), Urban History 32, 1 (2005), 186-7.

“This clearly structured book, which is written in an intelligent and accessible prose, is the latest addition to the growing list of historical studies of childhood and youth, although it is one of the few to offer a comparative account … an interesting and valuable study that deserves to be added to all relevant reading lists.”

– Harry Hendrick (University of Southern Denmark), Social History, vol 30, number 4 (November 2005), 546-7.

Full list of publications


Professor Pomfret has received The University of Hong Kong’s Outstanding Teacher Award, and the University Grants Committee’s Teaching Excellence Award, the highest award for teaching at tertiary level in the HKSAR.

  • HIST1016 The Modern World  
  • HIST2013 Twentieth Century Europe, Part One, 1914-1945
  • HIST2014 Twentieth Century Europe, Part Two, 1945-1990
  • HIST2042 The History of Sport
  • HIST2046 The Modern European City: Urban Living and Open Spaces
  • HIST2048 The History of Childhood and Youth
  • HIST2062 From Empire to EU: Culture, Politics and Society in Twentieth Century Britain
  • HIST2063 Europe and Modernity: Cultures and Identities
  • HIST4028 History without borders: Special field project 
  • CCHU9003 Making History: Engaging with the Powerful Past 


A Cultural History of Youth in the Age of Empire


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