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Tehila SassonAssistant Professor

Tehila Sasson, Assistant Professor of Britain and the World (B.A. Tel Aviv University; M.A. and Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley). British Empire and decolonization; economic life; history of capitalism; global and international history; Black British history; human rights and humanitarianism; gender and sexuality.

I’m a historian of the British empire and decolonization with a particular interest in the history economic life. The central question that drives my research is how empire shaped Britain even after decolonization, especially how it has structured economic inequalities in both postcolonial Britain and its former colonial territories.

My first book, The Solidarity Economy: NGOs and the Postimperial Origins of Neoliberalism, tells the history of how and why the ostensibly private world of NGOs reframed not just public morality in Britain and its shrinking empire but also economic thought writ large. It follows economists, campaigners, activists, and journalists of the British left, who between the 1940s and 1990s turned away from state-led development towards a vision of decentralized fair-trade markets. The book offers a corrective to the well-known interpretation of the origins of neoliberalism in which welfare politics and state-led economies were replaced by self-interest and market fundamentalism. It shows instead that attempts to moralize economic life were central to the transition from the old welfare world and the financialized policies that replaced it. I argue that the turn to neoliberalism emerged out of failed attempts to humanize the effects of capitalism.

I’ve authored several articles that focus on related themes: the history of boycotts and campaigns for corporate social responsibility, the history of humanitarianism and human rights, the history of famine relief, and British imperial history. My research has been supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from Past & Present as well as by numerous fellowships and awards from various institutions, including the National Endowment of the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation, the Institute for Citizens and Scholars, the American Historical Association, the University of Oxford, and the Institutes for International and European Studies at UC Berkeley.

I completed my PhD in Modern European History at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2013 I was also a visiting PhD student at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge. In 2015-2017 I was a Past & Present Junior Research Fellow at the Institute for Historical Research. In 2015-2016 I also held a research associateship at the Center for History and Economics, University of Cambridge. In 2019 I was the Oliver Smithies Visiting Lecturer at Balliol College, University of Oxford.

I offer both undergraduate and graduate courses on a wide range of topics, including the history of empire and decolonization; Black British history; race and migration; Europe After Empire; the history of capitalism; and history of human rights.


  • Ph.D. University of California Berkeley, History, Fall 2015
  • Postgraduate Student, Pembroke College, University of Cambridge 2013
  • M.A. University of California Berkeley, History 2012
  • B.A. Tel Aviv University, History, summa cum laude 2006


  • Modern Europe/Britain and the World
  • Global and international history
  • Decolonization
  • Economic history, the history of economic life, the history of capitalism
  • Humanitarianism and human rights
  • Environmental history 
  • Neoliberalism

Selected publications

Current Graduate Students