Dr. Richard Drayton,
Rhodes Professor of Imperial History, Kings College in London
Richard Drayton was born in Guyana in 1964. His great-grandfather, the Reverend David Drayton, was a Barbadian who migrated to Barbados in the 1890s. In 1972, his family migrated to Barbados, where from 1974 to 1982 he attended Harrison College, where he was President of the Student Council and Captain of Armstrong House. In 1982 he won a Barbados Scholarship to Harvard University. At Harvard he was at the centre of the anti-apartheid movement, graduating magna cum laude in 1986 with a prize-winning thesis on the history of Sugar Cane Breeding in Barbados. He went on to Yale for graduate study in History, receiving his M.A. in 1987, then in 1988 winning the Caribbean Rhodes Scholarship, which took him to Oxford. He returned to Yale in 1990 to complete his doctoral study, receiving the M.Phil degree in 1991, and the Ph.D. in 1993 for a dissertation entitled “Imperial Science and a Scientific Empire: Kew Gardens and the Uses of Nature”.
In 1992 he began his career as a Research Fellow in History of St Catharine's College, University of Cambridge. In 1994, he moved to Oxford to become Darby Fellow and Tutor in History at Lincoln College, then in 1998 to the University of Virginia, where he was Associate Professor of British History from 1998 to 2001. In 2001, he returned to Cambridge as University Lecturer in Imperial and Extra-European History since 1500, and a Fellow of Corpus Christi College, where he also held office as a Tutor and Director of Studies in History. In 1992, he published in Conversations, the first collection of George Lamming's Essays and Speeches. In 2001, his book Nature's Government: Science, Imperial Britain and the 'Improvement' of the World was awarded the Forkosch Prize of the American Historical Association. In 2003, he was awarded the Philip Leverhulme Prize for History. In 2009, while retaining a Praelectorship at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, he moved to King's College London to become the sixth Rhodes Professor of Imperial History. He has been Visiting Professor at Harvard, the École des hautes études in Paris, the Advanced Research Collaborative of the City University of New York, and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Drayton has maintained a close involvement in Barbados, the Caribbean, and their diasporas. He has been a regular speaker at events of the National Council of Barbadian Associations in the United Kingdom. He gave the 21st Elsa Goveia Lecture in Barbados in 2004, he served as chief non-fiction judge for the Bocas Literary Prize in 2013, and in March 2016 gave the Distinguished Jurist's Lecture to the Judiciary of Trinidad and Tobago.The High Commission of Barbados in the United Kingdom has nominated him for the Golden Jubilee Award for service to Barbados in the United Kingdom.