Gerald Graham was born on 27 April 1903 in Ontario, Canada. His father was a Presbyterian minister from Scotland, his mother was Irish. He was an outstanding student at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, gaining a BA in 1924, and an MA in 1925. He won a scholarship to Harvard in 1927 and another to Trinity College Cambridge where he completed his PhD in 1927. He won a Rockefeller fellowship for 1929-30, spending time in Germany and then taught at Harvard from 1930. He moved back to Ontario to Queen’s as professor in 1936. In 1941 a Guggenheim fellowship took him back to the USA but in 1941 he joined up ending as an instructor at Canada’s navy officer training school as a lieutenant commander. He served on destroyers during his vacations and saw service on D Day. After the war he moved permanently to London, as a lecturer and in 1947 a reader in history at Birkbeck College. In 1949 he was appointed Rhodes professor in imperial history at King’s College, London and published a series of important books analysing the links between sea power and imperial policy.
His tenure of the Rhodes chair coincided with growing African nationalism and decolonisation. His seminar at the IHR became an engine for the decolonisation of imperial history, attracting students from all over the world. After his retirement a list of his post-graduate students occupying university positions contained over two hundred names. He died on 5 July 1988.
His publications include
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