Profil Steel

Frances Steel

Visiting Professor of International History and Politics
Spoken languages
Areas of expertise
  • Colonialism
  • Labour mobilities
  • Transport networks
  • Commodity trades
  • Food cultures
Geographical Region of Expertise
  • Oceania


Dr Frances Steel teaches at the University of Otago. Her research focuses on the history of the Pacific world, with a particular emphasis on colonial networks, oceanic mobilities and transnational labour cultures. She has an ongoing interest in the interlinked colonial histories of New Zealand, Australia and the United States in the Pacific and their unfolding implications. Her first book, Oceania under Steam: Sea transport and the cultures of colonialism, 1817-1914 (Manchester University Press, 2011), examined transformations in the western Pacific following the advent of timetabled shipping and the new forms of industrial labour and regional mobility in its wake. These interests also led to the co-authored volume Colonialism and Male Domestic Service across the Asia Pacific (Bloomsbury, 2019), and the edited collection, New Zealand and the Sea: Historical Perspectives (Bridget Williams Books, 2018). Her next major project approaches British and American imperialisms in the Pacific through transpacific and inter-island mobilities, and considers how they channelled interdependence, conflict and friction across the Pacific as well as within the Anglo-world. 

Dr Steel received her BA/PGDip from the University of Otago and PhD in History from the Australian National University. She teaches and supervises in the fields of Australian, New Zealand and Pacific history.



  • Frances Steel, Oceania under Steam: Sea Transport and the Cultures of Colonialism, c.1870–1914 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011).
  • Julia Martínez, Claire Lowrie, Frances Steel and Victoria Haskins, Colonialism and Male Domestic Service in the Asia Pacific (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019).

Peer-reviewed Journal Articles and Book Chapters

  • Frances Steel, ‘Waitresses at Sea: Gender, race and service labour on ocean liners, c.1930s-1960s’, Women’s History Review 30, no. 2 (2021): 223-40.
  • Frances Steel, ‘Servant Mobilities between Fiji and New Zealand: The transcolonial politics of domestic work and immigration restriction, c. 1870-1910,’ History Australia 15, no. 3 (2018), 519-39.
  • Frances Steel, ‘“Time is on our side”: Shipping and the coming of flight in the Pacific,’ in Warwick Anderson, Miranda Johnson and Barbara Brookes, eds, Pacific Futures: Past and Present (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2018), 107-30.
  • Frances Steel, ‘Anglo Worlds in Transit: Connections and frictions across the Pacific,’ Journal of Global History vol. 11, no.2 (2016), 251-70.
  • Frances Steel, ‘Re-routing Empire? Steam age circulations and the making of an Anglo Pacific, c.1850-90,’ Australian Historical Studies vol. 46, no.3 (2015), 356-73.
Frances Steel