Dr James Poskett
Email: j dot poskett at warwick dot ac dot uk
Office: 3.50, Third Floor, Faculty of Arts Building
Term-Time Office Hours: 3-4pm, Thursdays (online, email to book) and 3-4pm Fridays (online, email to book) (excluding Reading Week)
- 2021 onwards: Associate Professor in the History of Science and Technology, University of Warwick
- 2017–2021: Assistant Professor in the History of Science and Technology, University of Warwick
- 2015–2017: Adrian Research Fellow, Darwin College, University of Cambridge
- 2012–2015: PhD, Trinity College, University of Cambridge
- 2011–2012: MPhil, King's College, University of Cambridge
- 2007–2010: BA, King's College, University of Cambridge
Centres and Networks
- Global History and Culture Centre
- History of Science and Technology Hub
- Warwick Institute of Engagement
- Connecting Cultures Global Research Priority
My research engages broadly with the global history of science and technology from the early modern period to the present day.
Before joining Warwick, I completed my PhD at the University of Cambridge and held the Adrian Research Fellowship at Darwin College, Cambridge. I have also held research fellowships at the University of Sydney, Harvard University, and the Philadelphia Area Center for the History of Science. I am a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.
My most recent book, Horizons: A Global History of Science (Penguin, 2022), provides a major reassessment of the rise of modern science. Beginning in the fifteenth century and moving right through to the present, Horizons pushes the history of science beyond Europe, exploring the ways in which Africa, America, Asia and the Pacific fit into the story. It presents familiar characters, like Newton and Einstein, in a new light, whilst also uncovering the contributions of lesser-known scientists from around the world. From Chinese astronomers and Mexican geneticists to Japanese physicists and Indian chemists, this is the story of the scientists who have been written out of history. Horizons was shortlisted for the 2022 British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding and has been translated into French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Romanian, Greek, Chinese, and Korean.
My first book, Materials of the Mind: Phrenology, Race, and the Global History of Science, 1815–1920 (University of Chicago Press, 2019), followed the making of the most popular mental science of the Victorian age. Skulls were collected in China and Africa, societies cross-circulated journals between Edinburgh and Calcutta, and translations of French phrenological works were imported into Melbourne and Boston. Bringing together museum and archival collections from across the world, Materials of the Mind presented the history of nineteenth-century science as part of global history. It showed how the circulation of skulls, plaster casts, letters and photographs underpinned the emergence of a new materialist philosophy of the mind. Materials of the Mind was awarded the 2020 President's Book Award by the Social Science History Association.
I am currently working on a new project titled The Scientific Revolution as Global History, 1200–1800. This project is supported by a British Academy / Wolfson Fellowship.
- Horizons: A Global History of Science (Penguin, 2022), 446pp., 38 B&W illustrations, 16pp. colour plates
- Materials of the Mind: Phrenology, Race, and the Global History of Science, 1815–1920 (University of Chicago Press, 2019), 373pp., 47 B&W illustrations
- Winner of the President's Book Award, Social Science History Association
- eds., Migration (Cambridge University Press, 2020), (with Johannes Knolle), 184pp.
- 'Race, material culture, and the global history of science,' Global Intellectual History 6 (2021), pp. 142–57
- 'Science in history,' Link opens in a new windowThe Historical Journal 62 (2020), pp. 209–42
- 'Phrenology, correspondence, and the global politics of reform, 1815–1848,'Link opens in a new window The Historical Journal 60 (2017), pp. 409–42
- ‘National types: the transatlantic publication and reception of Crania Americana (1839),’Link opens in a new window History of Science 53 (2015), pp. 264–95
- ‘Sounding in silence: men, machines and the changing environment of naval discipline, 1796–1815,’Link opens in a new window The British Journal for the History of Science 48 (2015), pp. 213–32
- ‘Forgotten dreams: recalling the patient in British psychotherapy, 1945–1960,’Link opens in a new window Medical History 59 (2015), pp. 241–54
- 'Global history of science,' in Debating Contemporary Approaches to the History of Science, ed. Lukas Verburgt (Bloomsbury, forthcoming 2024), (with Gianamar Giovannetti-Singh)
- 'Racial science,' in The Routledge Handbook of Science and Empire, ed. Andrew Goss (Routledge, 2021)
- 'Eric Herschthal, The Science of Abolition: How Slaveholders Became the Enemies of Progress (Yale, 2021),' American Historical Review 128 (2023). pp. 539–40
- 'Sebastian Conrad, What is Global History? (Princeton, 2016),'Link opens in a new window Itinerario 40 (2016), pp. 334–5
- ‘William Burns, The Scientific Revolution in Global Perspective (Oxford, 2015),’Link opens in a new window The British Journal for the History of Science 48 (2015), pp. 689–90
- ‘David Lambert, Mastering the Niger: James MacQueen's African Geography and the Struggle over Atlantic Slavery (Chicago, 2013),’Link opens in a new window Reviews in History, review no. 1655 (2014)
- ‘Bernard Lightman, Gordon McOuat, and Larry Stewart, eds., The Circulation of Knowledge between Britain, India and China (Brill, 2013),’Link opens in a new window The British Journal for the History of Science 47 (2014), pp. 567–9
- 'Modern Bilimin Küresel Kökenleri' [The Global Origins of Modern Science], Toplumsal Tarih 346 (2022), pp. 2–4 (translated by Atilla Polat)
- 'Scientists in Ukraine have long fought for scientific freedom,' Nature 609 (2022), pp. 243–4 (with Claire Shaw)
- 'Plaster phrenological bust of Pierre-François Lacenaire (1803–36),' in Materials for the History of Science, eds. Joshua Nall, James Hyslop, and Boris Jardine (Whipple Museum, 2022)
- 'Science's global revolution,' BBC History Magazine, October 2022.
- 'We must recognise science's unsung global pioneers to alter its future,' New Scientist, 23 March 2022
- 'Understanding underrepresentation in STEM from a historical perspective,' Science and Technology Committee, UK Parliament, 14 January 2022
- 'The phrenological bust,' Modern History Review, November 2019
- 'Five millennia of Indian science,'Link opens in a new window Nature, 18 October 2017
- 'Ten global milestones in the history of science and technology,' BBC History: The Story of Science and Technology, September 2017
- ‘Victorian phrenology,’ Link opens in a new windowBBC History Magazine, December 2015
‘Skulls in print,’Link opens in a new window University of Cambridge: Research News, 19 February 2014
‘Django Unchained and phrenology,’Link opens in a new window The Guardian, 5 February 2013
‘Letters of Alfred Russel Wallace go online,’Link opens in a new window Nature, 23 January 2013
‘Mathematics: a life computed,’Link opens in a new window Nature 486 (2012), p. 321.
- 'Doctors, Dissection and Resurrection Men,'Link opens in a new window The Guardian, 19 October 2012
- 'Scott's Last Expedition,'Link opens in a new window The Guardian, 20 January 2012
‘Big science in a big world,’Link opens in a new window Physics World, 30 September 2011
‘From Arabick Roots to the Arab Spring,’Link opens in a new window The Guardian, 25 July 2011
- 'A chance to meet real live scientists,'Link opens in a new window The Guardian, 6 July 2011
I aim to bring the history of science to as wide an audience as possible. I write for newspapers, websites and magazines including The Guardian, New Scientist, and Nature. I also appear on broadcast media, including for BBC Radio 3, BBC World Service, Classic FM, Dan Snow's History Hit, and Audible.
I work closely with museums, curating displays and acting as a consultant for major exhibitions. In the past, I've worked with the Science Museum, the National Maritime Museum, the Royal Geographical Society, Historic Royal Palaces, the Whipple Museum, and Cambridge University Library.
I've spoken at major literary festivals, including the Hay Festival, the Cambridge Literary Festival, the Wimbledon Book Festival, Imagine Festival Belfast, and the British Library History Festival.
I sit on the Advisory Board for a Wiley Digital Archives project on the collections of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.
I develop teaching resources for GCSE science subjects in order to present a more diverse curriculum. I continue to work with the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham and Leeds City Council (with Dr Arjan Gosal) on projects related to science curricula.
I also provide policy recommendations and have submitted evidence to the Science and Technology Committee of the UK Parliament.
In 2022, I was appointed as a Fellow of the Warwick Institute of Engagement. In 2013 I was shortlisted for the BBC New Generation Thinker Award and in 2012 I was awarded the Best Newcomer Prize by the Association of British Science Writers.
- HI153 Making of the Modern World (first-year core module)
- HI2H5 Race and Science: Histories and Legacies (second-year option module)
- HI3S6 Science, Technology, and Global Politics, 1900 to Present (final-year option module)
- IL023 Genetics and Society (interdisciplinary option module in the Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning)
I developed the following open-access teaching resources for the history of science:
I am very happy to supervise a wide range of PhD topics related to the history of science, technology or medicine, broadly construed. I am particularly interested in supervising topics which address the history of science and technology in global and colonial contexts. Please email me in the first instance.
Current PhD Students
- Anaïs Walsdorf, "Metallic Empire: Science, Energy, and Industrial Imperialism in the John Percy Collection, 1817–89" (co-supervised with Dr Katayoun Shafiee)
- Nilakshi Das, "Commonwealth Students, UK Higher Education, and the Making of Global Knowledge Networks, 1950–2000" (co-supervised with Dr Sally Horrocks)
- Catriona Sharples, "Colonial Science and Military Service: The West India Regiments and Circum-Atlantic Networks of Knowledge, 1815–1900" (co-supervised with Professor David Lambert)
- Chen Qing, "The British Empire’s Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, 1915–1941" (co-supervised with Dr Song-Chuan Chen)
- Jack Bowman, "Pan-African Print: Politics in Action—A Book History of the Pan-African Movement, 1935–1955" (co-supervised with Professor Daniel Branch)