Reader in World History
Fellow, Gonville and Caius College.
Co-editor 'The Historical Journal.'
Cambridge CB2 1TA
Sujit Sivasundaram was born and educated in Sri Lanka and came to Cambridge in 1994 to study engineering and then natural sciences and history and philosophy of science. In 2008-10 he taught at the London School of Economics, in South Asian and Imperial History. In 2012, he was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize for History (awarded to early career scholars in the UK for contributions to research in their discipline). He has been a Visiting Professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris; a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Asia Research Institute of the National University of Singapore and the University of Sydney. He is the Sackler Caird Fellow, 2015-7, at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. He is a Councillor of the Royal Historical Society.
Subject groups/Research projects
Departments and Institutes
- Gonville & Caius College:
Sujit Sivasundaram has worked primarily on the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries in the Indian and Pacific oceans, with a special emphasis on South and Southeast Asia and Polynesia. He has worked thematically on the intersection of empires and globalisation with science, medicine, technology, the environment, anthropology, archaeology and culture. He has published edited work on primary sources in the history of race. He maintains an interest in the history of maritime and oceanic history. His earlier work on Christian missionaries and scientific knowledge has opened up a broader focus on the trans-national histories of religiosity.
He is currently working on two major projects.
First, for HarperCollins, a book tentatively titled, Revolutionary Empire, which tells the story of the rise of the British Empire before 1840 from zones of maritime interchange in the Indian and Pacific oceans which do not normally play a central role in that narrative, such as the Tasman Sea, the Bay of Bengal, the Persian Gulf, Polynesia, and the South-west Indian Ocean. The book presents these spaces of the 'imperial meridian' in the context of alternative imperial stories, Dutch, French and American, in relation to revolution and counter-revolution and, with an attention to forms of militarism, religion, migration, culture and trade which operated alongside and within the imperial complex and across the waters. The end is to repluralise the story of the rise of the British Empire, and its relation to the age of revolutions, and to point to the alternative tracks through which empire came to take form by the middle of the nineteenth century. Thus far, he has undertaken archival work for this project in Cape Town, Yangon, Hobart, Wellington, Sydney, Canberra, Singapore, Delhi, London and Colombo.
Second, for Cambridge University Press, he is editing a summation of where the global turn has taken the discipline of the history of science, tentatively titled, Histories of the Sciences: Globe, Area, Empire, Nation and Beyond.
In the longer-term he is hoping to work on a project on the cultural history of engineering and the 'new imperialism' of c.1900 in the Indian Ocean.
From October 2015, the Part II Specified Paper, Paper 30 ''Islands and Beaches'': The Pacific and Indian Oceans in the Long Nineteenth Century', will return to the Faculty's offerings. This paper closely mirrors my present research interests.
I will be convening the new MPhil in World History from October 2015. I supervise MPhil and PhD students working in the broad field of world and imperial history and will continue to do so while on leave. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss potential post-graduate research.
The following PhD students have recently completed:
Sandagomi Coperahewa (lecturer at the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka) on 'The Politics of Language in Colonial Sri Lanka, c.1900-1948'; Dwayne Menezes on 'Hybridity, Agency and the Catholics of South Canara'; Jagjeet Lally (lecturer at University College London, UK) on 'Indo-Central Asian Trade, c.1600-1900'; Kate Stevens (postdoc at University of Otago, New Zealand) on 'Criminal Justice, race and gender in the colonial SouthwestPacific, 1880-1920'; and, Tom Simpson (research fellow, Gonville and Caius), 'Frontiers in North-west and North-east British India.'
Recent graduate work under my supervision includes: the early British history of Hong Kong; the history of mountain science in the Himalayas; liberal reform and public spheres in the nineteenth-century South Atlantic; the recurrence of rebellion in early nineteenth century Sri Lanka; time and theology in Protestant missionary and islander contexts in Polynesia; early modern British perceptions and historical narratives in India and Ireland; the 17thC Spanish Philppines; the Anglo-Dutch imperial transition in the Cape Colony, Sri Lanka and Java; and, gender and factories in the Ottoman empire and late-nineteenth century India.
Other Professional Activities
Sivasundaram is the Principal Investigator on an AHRC-funded grant which he holds together with Prof. Simon Schaffer of HPS, Cambridge with the title 'Exploring Traditions: Sources for a Global History of Science.' This is also connected to the Graduate Research Group at CRASSH with the title, 'Global Science' and aims to critique and discuss the present global turn in histories of science.
Series co-editor for Palgrave Macmillan's new 'World Environmental History' series; Series co-editor for CUP's new 'Cambridge Oceanic Histories' series.
Associate Editor for The Journal of British Studies.
Co-editor for The Historical Journal.
On the editorial board of The International History Review; Medical History.
- Nature and the Godly Empire: Science and Evangelical Mission in the Pacific, 1795-1850 (Cambridge University Press, 2005, paperback 2011).
- Islanded: Britain, Sri Lanka and the Bounds of an Indian Ocean Colony (University of Chicago Press, 2013; South Asian ed. from Oxford University, Press, Delhi, 2014 with foreword by Gananath Obeyesekere). Press review from Sri Lankan national newspaper, Daily News (Jan 2016).
- Science, Race and Imperialism ed. with Marwa Elshakry in Victorian Science and Literature, Vol 6, eds. Bernard Lightman and Gowan Dawson (Chatto and Pickering, 2012).
- Editor, Focus section for Isis on 'Global histories of science' with own contribution titled, 'Sciences and the Global: On Methods, Questions and Theory' Isis, Vol. 101, 2010, pp.146-158. This forum includes essays by Marwa Elshakry, Shruti Kapila, Niel Safier and Helen Tilley.
- Co-editor with Rohan Deb Roy, special issue, 'Nonhuman empires' in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Vol.35, 2015, pp.66-173, with own contribution titled, 'Imperial Transgressions: The Animal and Human in the Idea of Race.' This special issue includes essays by Alan Mikhail, Jagjeet Lally, Rebecca J. H. Woods and Etienne Benson.
- in American Historical Review, 2010, pp.428-452.
- 'Buddhist Kingship, British Archaeology and Historical Narratives in Sri Lanka, c.1750-1850', in Past and Present, No. 197, 2007, pp.111-142.
- 'Appropriation to Supremacy: Ideas of the 'native' in the rise of British imperial heritage' in Astrid Swenson and Peter Mandler eds. From Plunder to Preservation: Britain and the Heritage of Empire. c.1800-1940 (Oxford University Press, 2013), pp.149-170.
- 'Science' in David Armitage and Alison Bashford eds. Pacific Histories: Ocean, Land, People (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).
- 'Islanded: Natural History in the British Colonization of Ceylon' in David Livingstone and Charlie Withers eds. Geographies of Nineteenth-century Science (University of Chicago Press, 2011), pp.123-148.
- 'Race, Empire and Biology before Darwin' in Denis Alexander and Ron Numbers eds. Biology and Ideology (University of Chicago Press, 2010) pp.114-128.
- 'A global history of science and religion' in Thomas Dixon et. al eds. Science and Religion: New Historical Perspectives (University of Cambridge Press, 2010), pp.177-198.
- ''A Christian Benares': Orientalism, science and the Serampore Mission of Bengal' in Indian Economic and Social History Review, Vol. 44, 2007, pp.111-145.
- 'Trading Knowledge: The East India Company's Elephants in India and Britain' in The Historical Journal, Vol. 48, 2005, pp. 27-63.