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Professor Samita Sen

Vere Harmsworth Professor of Imperial and Naval History

Trinity College
Cambridge CB21TQ
Office Phone: +44 (0)1223761891


Samita Sen received her Ph.D. from Cambridge University in 1992. She won the Trinity College Prize Fellowship earlier, in 1990.  She taught History at Calcutta University and Women's Studies at Jadavpur University from 1994 to 2018.  She was First Vice-Chancellor, Diamond Harbour Women's University, 2013-2015.  She was Dean, Faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies (Jadavpur University), 2016-2018.  Her monograph, Women and Labour in Late Colonial India (Cambridge University Press, 1999) won the Trevor Reese Prize in Commonwealth History.  She is a member of editorial boards of various academic journals, including Modern Asian Studies and South Asian History and Culture.  She is on the advisory board of Review of Women's Studies, Economic and Political Weekly.    She edited Global South: Sephis e-Magazine, a south-south platform for young scholars, from 2004 to 2014.  She was a member of the governing body of Calcutta Mahanirvana Research Group (2014-2018) and General Secretary to the Indian Association of Women's Studies (2008-2011).  She has been a member of a Calcutta-based voluntary association of women, Sachetana, since 1983.

Subject groups/Research projects

World History:

Global History, Imperial History and Histories of Colonialism

Departments and Institutes

Trinity College:
College Senior Lecturer

Research Interests

South Asian History and Society, Global History, Colonialism and Post-colonial Studies, Gender Studies, Labour Studies, Education (especially Higher Education), Migration, Women's Movement, Trade Union Movements, Transport workers, Domestic workers (and their movements), History of domesticity, Slavery and Indenture, History of Marriage  Systems and Legal History.   

Research Supervision

I supervise M.Phil and Ph.D. students on a range of issues relating to South Asian History and contemporary social and political developments. I have supervised students working on the history of social reform, love marriages and widows.  Among those working on more contemporary themes, there have been theses on hawkers, potters, women police, nurses, women's movements, women in local governance, domestic workers and migration and women's role among folk singers (bauls) to name a few.  My particular interests just at present are gender and labour issues, migration, domesticity and domestic workers.


I lecture mainly for Paper 23 and 28.  I also teach varied themes across the world history subject group and in M.Phil, especially relating to South Asia.

Other Professional Activities

I have been active in a number of campaigns relating to equality and gender justice in higher education institutions.  I have participated in programmes of gender sensitization and helped to create mechanisms to deal with sexual and/or gender harassment in campuses. 

I have been consulted on local governance efforts, especially district level planning and local self-government, both rural and urban (West Bengal, India).  I have worked with trade unions, most recently with a successful effort to unionise domestic workers in Kolkata.

I have been associated with a variety of pedagogical innovations, especially within open university curricula.  One aspect of this work has been experimentations with new digital media.  In the past few years, I have led and collaborated with a variety of digital archives initiatives.

I had an active engagement with the Sephis programme (Amsterdam), which created south-south linkages in higher education.  At present I am a member of the M.S. Merian-R. Tagore International Centre for Advanced Studies: Metamorphoses of the Political (New Delhi, India), an Indo-German research programme involving an international group of academics.


  • Global History
  • Academic related
  • International History
  • Histories of Colonialism
  • Imperial History

Key Publications

  1. ‘Slaves, Servants and Concubines: Domestic Workers in Ninteenth-Century Bengal’ in Arun Bandopadhyay and Sanjukta Dasgupta (eds.) In Quest of the Historian’s Craft: Essays in Honour of Professor B.B. Chaudhuri, Manohar Publications, New Delhi, 2018.
  2. ‘Impossible Immobility, Marriage, Migration and Trafficking in Bengal’, Economic and Political Weekly, 51, 44-45, 5 November 2016.
  3. Accumulation in Post Colonial Capitalism, Springer, Singapore, 2016 (co-edited with Iman Mitra and Ranabir Samaddar)
  4. Domestic Days: Women, Work and Politics in Contemporary Kolkata, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2016 (co-authored)
  5. Passage to Bondage: Labour in the Assam Tea Plantations, Samya Publications, Kolkata, 2016 (edited and compiled)
  6. “Addressing Domestic Violence: Changing Strategies within the Women’s Movement, Kolkata 1980-2010” in Samir Das (ed.) India, Democracy and Violence, Oxford University Press,New Delhi, 2015.
  7. ‘Wrecking Homes, Making Families: Women’s Recruitment and Indentured Labour Migration from India’ in Joya Chatterji and David Washbrook (eds), Routledge Handbook of the South Asian Diaspora, Routledge, London and New York, 2013.
  8. ‘Crossing Communities: Religious conversion, Rights in Marriage, and Personal Law’ in Flavia Agnes and Shoba Venkatesh Ghosh (eds) Negotiating Spaces: Legal Domains, Gender Concerns and Community Constructs, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2012.
  9. ‘A Parliament of Women: Dystopia in Nineteenth-century Bengali imagination’ in Barnita Bagchi (ed.) The Politics of the (Im)Possible: Utopia and Dystopia Reconsidered, Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2012.
  10. “‘Kidnapping in Chotanagpur’: Recruitment for Assam Tea Plantations in a ‘Tribal’ Area” in Sanjukta Dasgupta and Rajsekhar Basu (eds.) Narratives from the Margins: Aspects of Adivasi History and Culture in Colonial and Post-Colonial India, New Delhi: Primus Books, 2011.
  11. ‘A History of the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, 1885-1936’ (with Anirban Das) in Uma Dasgupta (ed.) Science and Modern India: An Institutional History, c. 1784-1947, History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization, Volume XV, Part 4, Pearson Education, New Delhi, 2011.
  12. Intimate Others: Marriage and Sexuality in India, Stree, Calcutta, 2010 (co-edited).
  13. “Commercial Recruiting and Informal Intermediation: Debate over the Sardari System in Assam Tea Plantations, 1860–1900”, Modern Asian Studies 44, 1, 2010, pp. 3–28.
  14. “Gender and Class: Women in Indian Industry, 1890-1990”, Modern Asian Studies, 42, 1, 2008, pp. 75-116.
  15. ‘"Without his consent"? Marriage and Women’s Migration in Colonial India’ in Rick Halpern et al (ed.) Special Issue, International Labour and Working Class History, 65, Spring 2004.
  16. “Women, Work and Household in Industrialising Asia” in Amarjit Kaur (ed.) Women Workers in Industrialising Asia: Costed, Not Valued, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2004.
  17. “Questions of Consent: Women’s recruitment for Assam Tea Gardens, 1859-1900”, Studies in History, 18, 2, n.s. 2002 (pp. 231-260).
  18. ‘“A Father’s Duty?”  State, Patriarchy and Women’s Education’ in Sabyasachi Bhattacharya (ed.) Education and the Disprivileged. Nineteenth and Twentieth Century India, Orient Longman, New Delhi, 2002.
  19. “Towards a Feminist Politics? The Indian Women’s Movement in Historical Perspective” in Karin Kapadia (ed.) The Violence of Development. The Politics of Identity, Gender and Social Inequalities in India, Kali for Women, New Delhi, 2002.
  20. ‘Histories of Betrayal: Patriarchy, Class and Nation’ in Sekhar Bandopadhyay (ed.)  Bengal: Rethinking History.  Essays in Historiography, Manohar Publications, International Centre for Bengal Studies 29, New Delhi, 2001.
  21. “Offences Against Marriage: Negotiating Custom in Colonial Bengal” in Janaki Nair and Mary John (eds.) A Question of Silence?  The Sexual Economies of Modern India, Kali for Women, New Delhi, 1999.
  22. Women and Labour in Late Colonial India.  The Bengal Jute Industry.  Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1999.
  23. “Gendered Exclusion: Domesticity and Dependence in Bengal”, International Review of Social History, 42, 1997.
  24. “Unsettling the Household: Act VI (of 1901) and the regulation of women migrants in colonial Bengal” in Shahid Amin and Marcel van der Linden (eds.) “Peripheral” Labour? Studies in the history of partial proletarianisation, International Review of Social History, Supplement 4, 41, 1996.
  25. “Honour and Resistance: Gender, Community and Class in Bengal, 1920-40” in Sekhar Bandopadhyay, Abhijit Dasgupta and Willem van Schendel (ed.) Bengal: Communities, Development and States, Manohar publications, 1994.
  26. “Motherhood and Mothercraft: Gender and Nationalism in Bengal” in Gender and History, 5, 2, Summer 1993.

Other Publications

  1. A Pragmatic Intimacy? Familiality, Dependency and Social Subordination in Prasanta Ray and Nandini Ghosh (eds.) Pratyaha: Everyday Lifeworlds.  Dilemmas, Contestations and Negotiations, Primus Books, New Delhi, 2016, ISBN 9789384082406
  2. ‘Women in Modern India: Changing Position and Attitude’ in Aparna Bandyopadhyay, Krishna Dasgupta (eds.)  The Other Universe: An Anthology of Women’s Studies, Setu Prakashani, Kolkata, 2015, ISBN 9789380677736
  3. ‘Abolishing English in schools: Implications for Higher Education in West Bengal’ in Inter-Asian Cultural Studies, 16:2, DOI: 10.1080/14649373.2015.1037084, 2015, pp. 269-281.  ISSN 1464937.
  4. ‘Gender and the Jute Industry: the Calcutta Chapter, 1890-1990’ in International Journal of Management Concepts and Philosophy, 8, 2/3, 2014 (Indersciences Enterprises, UK), 2014 (pp. 126-140) ISSN 1478-1484 (Print) & 1741-8135 (Online)
  5. “Labour, Organisation and Gender” in Helmut Konrad and Wolfgang Maderthaner (eds) Routes into the Abyss: Coping with Crises in the 1930s, Berghahn Books, New York, Oxford, 2013. ISBN 978-0-85745-784-4; 978-0-85745-785-1
  6. 'Marriage, Work and Education among Domestic Workers in Kolkata(co-authored), Economic and Political Weekly, XVVII, 43, 27 October 2012.
  7. ‘Bargaining over Wages: Part-time Domestic Workers in Kolkata’ (co-authored), Economic and Political Weekly, XLVIII, 43, 26 October 2013.
  8. Mapping the Field: Gender Relations in Contemporary India, Volumes 1 & 2, Readings in Gender Studies I, Stree, Calcutta, 2011 & 2012 (co-edited).
  9. “Feminisms and the Politics of Gender: A History of the Indian Women’s Movements” (co-authored) in Nirmala Banerjee, Samita Sen and Nandita Dhawan (eds.) Mapping the Field: Gender Relations in Contemporary India, Volumes 1 & 2, Readings in Gender Studies I, Stree, Calcutta, 2011 & 2012.
  10. “Cohabitation and Conflict: Legalising the Convict Marriage System in the Andamans, 1860-1890” in Samita Sen, Ranjita Biswas and Nandita Dhawan (eds.) Intimate Others: Marriage and Sexuality in India, Stree Publications, Calcutta, 2010.
  11. “Religious conversion, infant marriage and polygamy: Regulating marriage in India in the late nineteenth century”, Journal of History, 26, 2008-2009, pp. 99-145.
  12. ‘Working Class  Struggles, Labour Elites and Closed Shops: The Lessons from India’s Trade Unions and Experiences of Organisations’ in Martha Chen, Renana Jhabvala et al. ed Membership-based Organisations of the Poor, Routledge Studies in International Economics, USA and Canada, 2007.
  13. ‘Migration and Marriage: Labouring Women in Bengal in Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries’ in Shakti Kak and Biswamoy Pati (eds), Exploring Gender Equations: Colonial and Post Colonial India, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, 2005. 
  14. “Politics of Gender and Class: Women in Indian Industries” in Margrit Pernau, Imtiaz Ahmad and Herlmut Reifeld (eds.) Family and Gender. Changing Values in Germany and India, Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2003.