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Empire in Motion: Transnational Perspectives on the Indian Empire, 18th-20th Century

George Lambert and Samuel Scott, Fort William, Calcutta. c. 1731.

A vast historiography has successfully showed that the British Empire in India was more than just a land-based empire, rooted in the subcontinent. Beginning in the eighteenth century, the East India Company laid the foundations for an empire which, by the eve of the First World War, stretched from Egypt to Malaya, from the Arabian Peninsula to Afghanistan, encompassing the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the South China Seas. This empire relied on flows of people, goods, and ideas, with port cities like Calcutta, Rangoon, Aden or Malacca playing a vital role. The development of steamships and railways from the mid-nineteenth century only served to intensify these flows. This workshop will explore this Empire in movement over the longue durée, considering mobility as both necessary to but also potentially subversive of British control within the region.

Friday, 3 July 2020, online via Microsoft Teams
If you are interested in attending, please contact Callie Wilkinson at

Provisional programme

9.45-10.00 Welcome

Introductory remarks by Callie Wilkinson and Guillemette Crouzet

Short welcome by Anne Gerritsen, Director of the Global History and Culture Centre

10.00-11.00 Panel 1: Global Capitalism

Chair: Maxine Berg

Purba Hossain (Leeds/IHR), ‘Voices from Calcutta: Indentured Servitude and “Free Labour” Debates in the Calcutta Public Sphere’

Devyani Gupta (Leeds), ‘Opium and Empire: Circulatory Networks in South Asia in the Long Nineteenth Century’

11.30-12.30 Panel 2: Movement of People

Chair: Guido van Meersbergen

John Slight (Open University), ‘The Trans-Imperial Expansion of Indian Islam, c. 1830-1930’

John McAleer (Southampton), ‘“My Time Hangs Rather Heavy on My Hands”: East Indiamen and the Route to Asia in the Age of Sail’

1.30-2.30 Panel 3: Trans-Imperial Politics

Chair: Faridah Zaman (Oxford)

Joshua Ehrlich (Macau), ‘Raja Krishnachandra and Early Hindu-European Intellectual Exchange’

Bérénice Guyot-Réchard (King’s College London), ‘A Waltz of Islands: Decolonisation, Micro-Transfer of Powers and Empires in Motion’

3.00-4.00 Panel 4: Environmental Perspectives

Chair : James Poskett

Daniel Haines (Bristol), ‘Timescapes, Landscapes and Earthquakes in Colonial South Asia’

Tom Simpson (Cambridge), ‘Imperial Slippages: Encountering Ice in Colonial Asia’

4.30-5.30 Keynote

Sujit Sivasundaram (Cambridge), ‘Waves Across the South: A New History of Revolution and Empire’