School of History, Classics and Archaeology

Staff Profile

Professor David Saunders

Professor of Russian history



I introduced Russian history at Newcastle in 1979 and compulsory World History in 1998. Although my specialist interests are still in the history of the Russian Empire (and to a lesser extent the history of the Soviet Union), I have tried increasingly in recent years to relate what I know in detail to what I know in general terms about historical patterns in other parts of the world. Themes that particularly attract me include ethnicity, individuality, cross-cultural linkages, the environment, social interaction, and the consequences of the fact that genetic change is Darwinian in nature but cultural change Lamarckian.

Roles and Responsibilities

Professor of History of Russian Empire


MA, DPhil (Oxford)


British and American Slavic Studies organizations (BASEES, AAASS), Study Group on the Russian Revolution, World History Association

Honours and Awards

Antonovych Prize, 1986


Good Russian, some Ukrainian / Polish / French / German / Italian

Informal Interests

Music (choral scholar and lay clerk, New College, Oxford, 1971-4, 1977-8; trustee, Tallis Scholars, 1983-2006)


Research Interests

All aspects of the history of the Russian Empire (1721-1917); some aspects of the history of the Soviet Union (1917-91); in particular Ukrainian-Russian relations, Anglo-Russian relations, Russian social history, and Russian-language historiography.

Other Expertise

C19th-C20th general European history; World history

Current Work

'Anglo-Russian Relations in Northern Waters, 1880-1930'. I am working on this project in the years 2004-6 whilst the AHRB Centre for North-East England History covers my teaching. My grant application promised seven papers by way of product, but a book may be possible instead or as well.

Future Research

A general social history of the Russian Empire 1801-1917, perhaps turning in particular on the idea that long-term social changes which had been just about manageable prior to 1914 accelerated uncontrollably in the First World War, contributing significantly to the collapse of the regime. I gave a paper in the field of this project at the annual conference of BASEES (the British Slavic Studies organization) in 2005, and it is to be published in a forthcoming volume of essays.

Research Roles

I was Director of Research in the School of Historical Studies at its inception in 2002, gave up the position when I went on study leave, but could perhaps do the job again one day.

Postgraduate Supervision

I saw a student through to the completion of her PhD in the field of Anglo-Russian relations in 2004, and would welcome more students in that area. The fact that I had an MLitt student who completed her degree in the field of C20th Spanish history in 2005 may be an indication that I am capable of supervising in the general field of modern European history. As my current research progresses, I should think I might become qualified to supervise in sub-fields of local (north-eastern) history, or even in certain aspects of modern British history as a whole. I would obviously be keen to supervise students in any aspect of Russian history from about 1700 to the present, in Ukrainian history, and in some sorts of the history of ideas (because of my interest in historiography).

Esteem Indicators

I received something called the 'Antonovych Prize' ($5000) for my 1985 book. I have had many invitations to speak at foreign conferences (notably Warsaw 1995, where I had to give my paper twice; most recently Pittsburgh 2002). I am a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. My second book was translated into Italian. Three of my papers since 2001 have been translated into Ukrainian or Russian.


My largest individual grant was about £5000 in 1996 for study in Russia, but because I was about one-third responsible for Newcastle's part of the bid in 2000 which gave rise to the AHRB Centre for North-East England History (I largely wrote the section of the bid which described Newcastle's 'international' aspect of the Centre's activities), I claim some £30,000 (I have forgotten exactly how much) in the light of the success of that application.

Industrial Relevance





Undergraduate Teaching

I do not teach all of the following every year, but at Level 1 I am sometimes involved in Encounters in World History, where my particular interest lies in Environmental History, and in 'Themes in European History', where I teach the history of European Agriculture from about 500 AD to the present. At Level 2 I teach Russian history from Ivan the Terrible to the present (four modules). At Level 3 I provide Special Subjects on the Russian Revolution of 1917 and Gorbachev (two modules), and supervise student dissertations.

Postgraduate Teaching

I teach on our MA in European History, and I welcome research students in all fields of Russian history, in particular social history, questions of ethnicity, historiography, and Anglo-Russian connections.