World History

Research theme

Our work proceeds on two scales. First, it is characterised by a deep commitment to engagement with specific places and from the ground up. We have expertise in South Asian, Southeast and East Asian, Pacific, Middle Eastern, African, and Latin American histories. Second, it compares and connects the history of regions and empires into global histories that consider convergence, divergence and enduring historical dynamics, from c. 1500 to the late twentieth century. In work that spans early modern to late modern contexts, we interrogate a range of world-historical processes, from imperial intrusion and resistance, to the making of modern sovereignties, postcolonial nationalisms and globalization.

Our work in this area

In order to analyse the experience of non-European peoples, understood on their own terms, and through their own sources, problems and historiography, we take it to be important to work in the relevant languages and to engage with scholars and universities in the wider world.

In methodological terms, our Faculty members interrogate World History from a range of perspectives. Some work within area studies and have strong links to the Latin American Studies Centre, the South Asian Studies Centre and the African Studies Centre. Others bring new areas and spaces to light. There is a concentration of expertise in histories of oceans, ideas, migrations, religions, gender, sciences, law and culture. Specific research projects in the World History group range widely, from South Asian family law and Chinese migration in Southeast Asia to African Christianity and revolutionary socialism in Tanzania.

This breadth is apparent in the large suite of undergraduate and graduate papers and options offered. First and second year students read ‘Empires and World History, c.1500-1914’ and ‘World History since 1900’. Large themes are taught in primary-source based papers: ‘Comparative Histories of Race, Class and Culture: South Africa’ (convened by Ruth Watson); ‘The History of Collecting’ (co-convened by Sujit Sivasundaram), ‘Fighting for Algeria, Fighting for France, 1945-1962’ (convened by Arthur Asseraf).

Third year students can choose from a wide range of specialist regional papers in World History. We offer Specified Subjects on the history of Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the Middle East, and Latin America. We also offer Special Subject papers on Africa (‘Missionary science, ethnic formation and the religious encounter in Belgian Congo, 1908-60’, convened by David Maxwell), East Asia (‘Sources of East Asian Modernity: China and the Chinese overseas, c. 1895-1927’, convened by Rachel Leow), South Asia (‘Indian Democracy: Ideas in Action c.1947-2007’, convened by Shruti Kapila), and the Ottoman Middle East (‘The Palace and the Coffeehouse: The Power of Place in Ottoman History, 1300-1800’, convened by Helen Pfeiffer). 


Page credits & information

Banner image: adapted by Rachel Leow from 

 Claus Homfeld, "Zerbrochene Welt" [The Broken World] (1970)

(original image here:,_Zerbrochene_Welt.jpg)