Tom Young joined the University of Warwick in late 2020 as a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow at the History of Art Department. Previously, he lectured at the University of Warsaw and held fellowships at Yale University, the Huntington Library, and the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence.
In 2020, Tom was the project curator of the British Museum’s exhibition Tantra: Enlightenment to Revolution. The show charted Tantra’s sustained revolutionary impact, from its early transformation of Hinduism and Buddhism, to the fight for Indian Independence and the rise of 1960s counterculture.
Tom’s current research is centred on two projects. The first explores the global history of lithography, with the ambition of writing a book called Lithography and the Modern World. Lithography’s global impact has never previously been charted, despite the technology enabling the first truly international decentralisation of mass media. The book will chart how the technology’s invention catalysed dramatic cultural and political upheavals across the globe, giving rise to modern ideas and institutions. With societies reeling from the impact of contemporary social media technologies, the book would form the first attempt to map how this earlier revolution in mass media birthed novel identities, nations, religions, and ideas.
His second project is a book called Unmaking the East India Company: British Art and Political Reform in Colonial India, c. 1813–1858 (Yale University Press, forthcoming June 2023). This book explores how art shaped the nationalisation of the East India Company between the loss of its primary monopoly in 1813 and its ultimate liquidation in 1858. Challenging the idea that parliament drove political reform, it argues instead that the Company’s political legitimacy was destabilised by a novel mode of artistic production in colonial India—the result of new technologies like lithography and steam navigation, middle-class print formats like the periodical, the scrapbook, and the literary annual, as well as the prevalence of amateur sketching among Company employees. Such art reconfigured the colonial regime’s racial boundaries and practices of governance. It flourished within transimperial networks, integrating middle-class societies with new political convictions and moral disciplines, and thereby eroding the aristocratic corporate cultures that had previously structured colonial authority in India. The artistic practices examined in this book are usually considered marginal to British art history. By showing how they fundamentally reshaped the relationship between nation and empire, Unmaking the East India Company contributes to a reassessment of British art as a global, corporate, and intrinsically imperial phenomenon—highlighting the role of overlooked media, artistic styles, and print formats in crafting those distinctions of power and identity that defined ‘Britishness’ across the world.
Lithography, global art history, art and colonialism, C19th South Asian art history, C19th East and East-Central European art history.
- BA; MPhil; PhD (Cambridge)