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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: On Research Leave 2023/2024

Academic Profile

  • 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


    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 awarded the 2023 Jerry Bentley Prize in World History by the American Historical Association. Horizons was also shortlisted for the 2022 British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding, the 2023 British Society for the History of Science Hughes Prize, and the 2023 Cosmos Book Prize. It has been translated into French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Romanian, Greek, Chinese, Japanese, 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.



    Edited Books

    • eds., Migration (Cambridge University Press, 2020), (with Johannes Knolle), 184pp.


    Book Chapters

    • 'Global history of science,' in Debating Contemporary Approaches to the History of Science, ed. Lukas Verburgt (Bloomsbury, 2024), (with Gianamar Giovannetti-Singh)
    • 'Racial science,' in The Routledge Handbook of Science and Empire, ed. Andrew Goss (Routledge, 2021)

    Book Reviews

    Other Writings

    Public Engagement

    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 Munich Literature FestivalLink opens in a new window, 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.




    Teaching Resources

    I developed the following open-access teaching resources for the history of science:

    Teaching Awards

    In 2023 I was "Highly Commended" in the Warwick Awards for Teaching Excellence (WATE).

    PhD Supervision

    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)

    Completed PhD Students

    • Jack Bowman, "Pan-African Print: Politics in Action—A Book History of the Pan-African Movement, 1935–1955" (co-supervised with Professor Daniel Branch)


    Horizons Cover

    Materials of the Mind

    Migration Cover