As a social historian of twentieth century Africa, Professor Parsons' research to date has been focused on understanding how ordinary people experienced imperial rule.
Parsons' books to date have explored how Africans from diverse walks of life navigated the shifting realities of repression and opportunity that emerged during the imperial and early national eras. Building on this earlier work, he is currently pursuing several research projects:
- The Historical Geography of Kenyan Identity Formation
- The Imperial Inheritance: The Legacies and Consequences of Empire for East Africa, the West, and the Wider World
- A World History of the Twentieth Century