Photo of Professor Nandini Chatterjee

Professor Nandini Chatterjee

Associate Professor


01392 725067

I am a historian of South Asia. I work on law and cultural exchanges in the British and Mughal empires - with particular attention to religious identities, family formation, and the styling of selves. My first book was on the shaping on the minority religious community of Indian Christians, through legal, political, racial and theological contests over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. 

I then moved on to looking at law in the broader context of the British Empire, and especially at the role of  the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, erstwhile final court of appeal of the British empire, and a hub of legal, social and cultural interactions with empire-wide implications. From this research I grew interested in the role and place of Islamic law in the British Empire - including Anglo-Muhammadan law, eminent Muslim judges, and key cases involving either or both. In collaboration with Dr Charlotte Smith of Reading University, I have created an online catalogue of historic Privy Council papers.

Subsequently, my  interests have moved further back in time, and I am now interested in asking similar questions about law, culture and religion with relation to the early modern Islamic and Persian-writing world. I am currently working on a five-year ERC-funded project on Persian and bi-lingual legal documents from India, Iran and the northern Indian Ocean, which will look closely at forms, formulae and formularies, written in Persian, and in other associated languages. The project is called Forms of Law in the early modern Persianate World, 17th-19th centuries.

Together with Dr Gill Juleff, I am director of the Exeter Centre for South Asia

Research interests

I am currently working on a ERC Starting Grant-funded project called "Forms of Law in the Early Moderm Persianate World, 17th-19th centuries.

This is project about the writing of legal documents in the Persian language, which was common practice in a geographically vast and ethnically diverse cultural zone stretching from present-day Bangladesh up Yemen and east Africa. In many cases, Persian was combined with local vernaculars, and as such, this project is both the study of law in practice as well as multi-lingualism in operation. 

Full details may be found on the project web-pages. I welcome communication from individuals with associated interests.

Research collaborations

Philipps-Universität Marburg, Germany is project partner in the ERC-funded project, Forms of Law in the Early Modern Persianate World, 17th-19th centuries, of which I am the PI. Prof Christoph Werner, Centre for Near and Middle Eastern Studies, is the key academic leading Marburg's contribution to this project. The project's activitis will include, besides the usual research and publication work, collaboration between Marburg and Exeter on a major Digital Humanities proect, centred around the website Asnad

Dr Fahad Bishara of the Department of History, University of Virginia, is part of the project team of Forms of Law in the Early Modern Persianate World, 17th-19th centuries.

Professor Chander Shekhar, Department of Persian, Delhi University, is part of the project team of Forms of Law in the Early Modern Persianate World, 17th-19th centuries.

Research students

I am second supervisor, together with Dr Sarah Toulalan, for Sonia Wigh, who is working on a project titled "The Body of Words: A Social History of Sex and the Body in Medieval India." 

External impact and engagement

In 2013-14, I led a panel of scholars for curating a temporary public exhibition on empire, law and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, for the UK Supreme Court. The exhibition was hosted in the UK Supreme Court July-September 2014, and was visited by approximately 26,000 people. The exhibition was associated with a number of lectures and other public-oriented actvities. See: A Court at the Crossroads of Empire.