Dr Gajendra Singh
My research is focused upon histories of colonialism in South Asia. I have particular interests in the hybridities of Empire – of the networks of peoples and ideas that could make even the most marginal individuals polyglot, multicultural bodies. My previous work explored the war testimonies of Indian soldiers during the two World Wars. My current work is an investigation of communities of migrant Indian labourers across the Pacific and their connection to revolutionary movements at home and abroad.
A monograph on wartime soldiering identities and testimonies in the Indian Army was recently published by Bloomsbury (The Testimonies of Indian Soldiers and Two World Wars: Between Self and Sepoy) and an edited volume by Routledge (An Imperial World at War: Aspects of the British Empire's War Experience, 1939-1945).
I have been involved in separate BBC 1, BBC Radio 4 and World Service productions exploring Indian revolutionary movements and Indian soldiers’ experiences of France during World War 1.
I have an interest in nineteenth and twentieth century South Asian history and postcolonial history-writing.
My previous work focused on Indian soldiers’ experiences of the First and Second World Wars. In the two World Wars, hundreds of thousands of Indian sepoys were mobilized, recruited and shipped overseas to fight for the British Crown. The Indian Army was the chief Imperial reserve for an Empire under threat. This work used soldiers testimonies – chiefly letters, depositions and interrogations – to discover how Indian soldiers understood and explained their own war experiences. How much did their testimonies reflect their own fragmented identities as both colonial subjects and imperial policemen? This work was published by Bloomsbury as The Testimonies of Indian Soldiers and Two World Wars: Between Self and Sepoy.
I am currently researching the Ghadar Movement: the most significant anti-imperial revolutionary movement in India during the First World War. The First World War, for the British in India, was a time of crisis. It was a period in which the Imperial periphery – especially India – was mobilized to provide material and manpower for the wider British war effort. It was also a time of profound imperial anxiety with emergencies in Ireland, Egypt and India. Ghadar was one of the chief causes of imperial panic during the First World War.
Ghadar became a threat to Empire because of its novelty. It was a source of imperial panic because it proved that the global web of Empire that was for Britain a source of strength could yet be the cause of colonial insurrection; that bodies and ideas could migrate to spaces they were not supposed to be. Ghadar emerged among a nascent Indian diaspora overseas; it was influenced by the radical movements and political thought of its time; and colluded with Imperial Germany in a series of failed insurrections in 1915. This project will produce a history of imperial anxiety but also of the imperial globalization of ideas and of migrants as experienced through the Ghadar Movement.
Recent Conference Papers
'The Strange Life of W.C. Hopkinson: From Irrational Anxieties to Illegible Bodies in the Surveillance of Indians in British Columbia, 1908-1914'. Annual Conference of the British Association of South Asian Studies, University of Exeter, April 2018.
'Some Bhang, a Rape and a Killing: Everyday Violence and Anti-Colonial Imaginings in the Ghadar Movement, Punjab, January 1915'. European Conference on South Asian Studies, University of Warsaw, July 2016.
‘“He May Be of the Homosexual Type”: Jodh Singh and the Construction of Ghadar Deviance in the Anglo-American Imagination During the First World War.’ European Conference on South Asian Studies, University of Zürich, July 2014.
I am happy to supervise new research students wishing to explore modern South Asian history and wider histories of British Imperialism. Of particular interest are those wishing to research histories of the South Asian diaspora, colonial soldiering or revolutonary nationalisms in imperial spaces.
If you are interested, email me a 500 word outline of your proposed research topic and a copy of your CV.
Ghee Boman, '"No Pakis at Dunkirk": Remembering and Forgetting Force K6 in Europe, 1939-1945',
External impact and engagement
Historical Consultant for the British Film Institute's 'India on Film, 1899-1947' Collection. https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-india-on-film-1899-1947-trailer-2017-online
Blog Post: 'Victoria and Abdul: Simulacra & Simulation'; Not Even Past, https://notevenpast.org/victoria-abdul-simulacra-simulation/
Blog Post: 'Reading the Embattled Text: Muslim Sipahis of the Indian Army and Sheikh Ahmad's Dream, 1915-1918'; The Many-Headed Monster: The History of the 'Unruly Sort of Clowns and Other Early Modern Peculiarities, https://manyheadedmonster.wordpress.com/2015/07/17/reading-the-embattled-text-muslim-sipahis-of-the-indian-army-and-sheikh-ahmads-dream-1915-1918/
Contribution to discipline
Associate Editor for South Asian Studies. http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rsas20/current
'How Kipling Helped Quell an Indian Mutiny in First World War Trenches'; The Observer, 5th November 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/nov/04/rudyard-kipling-india-first-world-war-mutiny-british-intelligence
Contributor to 'Other Voices, Other Battles', ABC Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), June 2014. http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/worldwarone/9-other-voices2c-other-battles/5529072
Interviewee for 'Soldiers of the Empire', BBC Radio 4, 15th and 22nd October 2014.
Interviewee for various stories in the Indian Press. (Eg., 'Were Army Pay and Perks Better Under the British'; Times of India, 6th July 2015; 'Book Busts War Myth: Rules Out Ghadar Connection in Singapore Mutiny, The Indian Express, 7th August 2014, etc.).
- HIH2016A - Living Through the Global: Colonial Migrants and the British Empire from the Eighteenth Century to the Present
- HIH3005 - General Third-Year Dissertation
- HIH3167 - Violence or Non-Violence? Gandhi and Popular Movements in India, 1915-1950: Sources
- HIH3168 - Violence or Non-Violence? Gandhi and Popular Movements in India, 1915-1950: Context
- HISM029 - Soldiers in the Twentieth Century: A Global History
I completed my Ph.D. at the University of Edinburgh in 2010. Since then I have taught at Edinburgh, been ERC (European Research Council) Postdoctoral Fellow at University College Dublin, AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) Early Career Fellow at the University of Oxford, and Visiting Fellow at the Department of Defence Studies, King’s College London. I joined the Department of History at Exeter in 2014.