skip to primary navigationskip to content

Lachlan Fleetwood

Lachlan Fleetwood

PhD Candidate in History

Cambridge Trust Scholar

Clare College
Trinity Lane

Twitter: @lachlanfleet


I am currently preparing to defend my PhD in the Faculty of History under the supervision of Dr Sujit Sivasundaram, where I look at scientific practice and the role of global comparison in the exploration of the Himalaya in the first half of the nineteenth century. Prior to coming to Cambridge, I completed an MA in history at the University of British Columbia in Canada, and a BA(Hons) in history at the University of Queensland in Australia, where I have also worked as a senior library assistant, relief lecturer and tutor.

Research Interests

I am a historian of science, empire and geography. At the broadest level, my work asks how, why and to what extent science became global in the nineteenth century. I seek to show that this period saw unprecedented attempts by European empires to impose global norms in science and geography, and that these continue to shape the world in pervasive ways. In particular, my research examines the new instruments and practices on which these universalising standards relied. By studying knowledge production in the Himalaya during my doctorate, and extending these questions to Central Asia, Persia and Arabia in my next project, my work ultimately highlights the incomplete and locally contingent character of these globalising norms. My research thus demonstrates that it is essential we understand the long-term implications of supposedly universal categories by examining their origins in explicitly imperial interests.

My scholarship is built on two other overarching commitments. Firstly, to recovering the roles of individuals not traditionally given centre stage in the histories of science and geography. These include the guides, porters and brokers on whom expeditions depended for labour and expertise, as well as the women and men whose lives in and across empires are often overshadowed in a historiography often still populated by biographical studies of major scientific savants. Secondly, I am committed to developing methodologies for using geographical features as sites and scales for histories which transcend traditional national and area studies framings. Scholars have especially examined oceans, islands and beaches. Mountains and deserts have, however, been less quickly co-opted into this trend, perhaps because of recent scholarly emphasis on movement and connection. By placing geography at the centre of analysis, both my current and future work thus seeks to explain the long-term consequences of the way arid and upland regions were marginalised – socially, politically, scientifically and environmentally – by imperial agents.


Key interests: world/global history, history of science, history of exploration, spatial history, historical geography, South Asia, intermediaries, empire, colonial knowledge.


Historical Argument and Practice: Empire

Historical Argument and Practice: Global and Transnational History

Paper 30 - 'Islands and Beaches'

Other Professional Activities

Co-organiser of the conference "Global Mountains" (with Tom Simpson), 5-6 July 2018, University of Cambridge (Poster; ProgramCFP).

Co-organiser of the graduate conference "Geographies of World History," 30 September 2017, University of Cambridge

Convener of the World History Workshop (2016/17)

Key Publications


Fleetwood, Lachlan. “Bodies in High Places: Exploration, Altitude Sickness and the Problem of Bodily Comparison in the Himalaya, 1800-50,” Itinerario (accepted, forthcoming 2019).

Fleetwood, Lachlan. “‘No former travellers having attained such a height on the earth’s surface’: Instruments, inscriptions, and bodies in the Himalaya, 1800-1830,” History of Science 56, no. 1 (2018): 3-34. (Available here)

Book Chapters

Fleetwood, Lachlan. “Cultures of Regulation and Calibration,” in The SAGE Handbook of Historical Geography, ed. Mona Domosh, Mike Heffernan and Charles W.J. Withers. London: Sage Publications (forthcoming 2019)

Other Publications

Fleetwood, Lachlan. “Space and Place on High: Science in the Himalaya,” Viewpoint: Magazine of the British Society for the History of Science, no. 115 (March 2018):1-3. (Available here)