Loyola University Chicago

Department of History

Imperial History

FORTH, Aidan

Title/s:  Associate Professor
On leave, 2020-2021 Academic Year

Office #:  Crown Center 546

Phone: 773.508.2237

Email: aforth@luc.edu

CV Link: Forth CV


Aidan Forth (Ph.D., Stanford University, 2012; M.A., Queen’s University, 2006, B.A., University of British Columbia, 2003) is an Associate Professor of History at Loyola University Chicago, where he teaches courses on modern British history, colonialism, transnational urban history and European urban history.

Professor Forth’s first book, Barbed-Wire Imperialism: Britain’s Empire of Camps, 1876-1903 (University of California Press, 2017) explores the British imperial pedigree of an emblematic institution of modern war and post-colonial conflict: the concentration camp. By examining the barbed-wire enclosures of the South African War (1899-1902), Forth highlights the British origins of the world’s first wartime concentration camps, thereby locating the origins of modern detention and encampment practices outside the traditional narratives of continental authoritarianism.  With a comparative and transnational scope, he also traces the development and management of South African camps to earlier practices of controlling the urban poor in metropolitan Britain and managing suspect colonial populations in the Empire. Forth argues that workhouses and prisons, along with coolie compounds, settlements for so-called “criminal tribes,” and enclosures for populations displaced by famine and disease in South Asia during the 1870s and 1890s offered early models for the mass collection and confinement of colonial populations in concentrated camps. Forth also explores the management and anatomy of individual British camps in South Africa and South Asia, examining the confined space of the camp as a microcosm of colonial rule that reflected the contested priorities and constraints of the British Empire. Barbed-Wire Imperialism: Britain's Empire of Camps, 1876-1903 received the Stansky Book Prize 2018 from the North American Conference on British Studies.

Professor Forth is now engaged in a second book project entitled The Passage to India: Connection and Mobility in a Globalizing World, which recreates the maritime world of travel and cultural interchange that connected Europe with its imperial outposts in the nineteenth century.

Professor Forth has lectured widely on his research at numerous national and regional venues.  He has presented papers at the North American Conference of British Studies, the Council of European Studies Annual Conference, the Pacific Coast Conference of British Studies, and the Social Science Research Council, as well as lectures at All Souls College at Oxford University, Goodenough College in London, Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Toronto.  His most recent presentation at Georgetown University compares the British camps with the Soviet gulag system of the twentieth century.

Prior to coming to Loyola, Forth was a Teaching Fellow at Stanford University from 2007 to 2009.  He is the winner of fellowships and grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Mabelle McLeod Lewis Foundation, the Social Sciences Research Council, the London Goodenough Association of Canada, the Anglo-California Foundation and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Research Interests

Modern Britain, imperialism and colonialism, violence and humanitarianism in liberal empires, global and transnational history.

Courses Taught

HIST 102: Western Civilization since 1500

HIST 102: Western Civilization since 1500 (online)

HIST 300E: Concentration Camps: A Global History of Mass Confinement

HIST 325: Great Britain since 1760

HIST 325A: History of the British Empire

HIST 410: Topics: Transnational Urban History

HIST 410: Topics in Western Imperialism 

HIST 410: Topics: Settler Colonialism

HIST 410 (to be revised to HIST 435 or 423): European Urban History

Selected Publications

An Empire of Camps: British Imperialism and the Concentration of Civilians (University of California Press, 2017)

“A Shared Malady: Concentration Camps in the British, Spanish, American and German Empires” (with Jonas Kreienbaum). Journal of Modern European History, 14(2), Spring 2016.

“Britain’s Archipelago of Camps: Labor and Detention in a Liberal Empire, 1871-1903.” Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, 16(3), summer 2015, 651-680.

“The Birth of the Concentration Camp? British Imperialism and the Origins of Modern Detention,” in Perspectives on Europe, Fall, 2013.