Richard Crook has been named the first Anyaoku chair of Commonwealth studies at London University. It is hoped that the post will revitalise the Institute of Commonwealth Studies.
The ICS came near to closure last year but was reprieved with the appointment of Tim Shaw as director.
Dr Crook, who has extensive knowledge of West Africa and South Asia, is currently at the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University.
While in this post, he launched an MA in globalisation and development at the ICS. He will teach a new MSc concerned with globalisation in the context of the Commonwealth.
He was the unanimous choice of a selection committee, beating a Nigerian and a South African candidate.
Dr Crook's selection runs contrary to the view that the job should have gone to someone from outside the UK.
Some critics suggested that the Commonwealth was too London-dominated - the organisation's secretariat and many of its key organisations, including the Association of Commonwealth Universities, are based there.
But Dr Crook's internationalist credentials are impeccable, and he is ready to concede that the poor perception of the Commonwealth by UK-based commentators is an issue that he and the institute have to tackle.
His appointment accentuated a shift towards more policy-oriented research into governance and civil society and away from a historical emphasis.
The chair was named after the immediate past secretary-general of the Commonwealth, chief Emeka Anyaoku. The Nigerian government was one of a number of member states - the UK was a notable exception - that have contributed towards the chair's foundation.
The concentration of Commonwealth organisations in London made the hub of the old empire an ideal place from which to rebuild the academic study of the "unofficial" Commonwealth, Dr Crook said.
"If we can bring out more the policy and national relevance of what is going on in the Commonwealth and its member states, we can give it a newer and more interesting flavour," he said.
Research in the UK has been strong in specific regions - West Africa, South or East Asia - but has never matched the interest in the Commonwealth evident in Europe and North America.