I am a historian of empire and of colonial warfare, with a particular focus on the Russians in Central Asia. My background is in South Asian History, and much of my work compares Russian and British Imperial and military history. I read Modern History at Oriel College, and was then elected to a Prize Fellowship at All Souls College, which I held from 2000 – 2007. From 2007 - 2013 I was Lecturer in Imperial History at the University of Liverpool, where in 2012 I won a Philip Leverhulme Prize. From 2014 – 2017 I was Professor of History at Nazarbayev University, Astana, Kazakhstan, before returning to Oxford as Fellow and Tutor in History at New College, which I hold in conjunction with a Faculty post in the History of Modern War.
At New College I teach general papers in European History, and specialised papers in Russian and Eurasian History and the History of warfare. In my previous post at Nazarbayev University one of my main responsibilities was teaching the obligatory course in the History of Kazakhstan, which covered the Eurasian steppe from the 15th to the late 20th century. At Liverpool and in Astana much of my teaching was focused on South Asia, and I have designed courses on Indian Nationalism and Partition, on British encounters with India between 1757 and 1857, and on India since Independence through Bollywood Cinema. I have also taught a comparative course on European imperialism in the Islamic world, and courses on Islam and the Russian Empire and the Russian Empire and its Asian neighbours in the 19th century.
I am happy to take undergraduates for the following papers:
Approaches to History
General History IV: 1815-1914 (Society, Nation, and Empire).
Foreign Texts: Trotsky
General History XI: 1789-1871
General History XII: 1856-1914
General History XIII: Europe Divided, 1914-1989
General History XIV: The Global Twentieth Century, 1930-2003
General History XVIII: Eurasian Empires 1450-1800
General History XIX: Imperial and Global History, 1750-1914.
FS 23: Imperialism and Nationalism, 1830-1980
FS27: A Comparative History of the First World War, 1914-20
FS29: The Soviet Union, 1924-41
SS 21: Terror and Forced Labour in Stalin’s Russia.
SS 22: From Gandhi to the Green Revolution: India, Independence and Modernity 1947-73.
I am interested in supervising undergraduate, Master’s and DPhil theses in Russian and Eurasian history, and the history of warfare since 1800.
Much of my research to date has concentrated on understanding the nuts and bolts of how Russian imperial rule functioned (or failed to do so) in 19th and early 20th-century Central Asia, which is best described as the political and administrative history of Russian colonialism. In Russian Central Asia this means a considerable focus on the social background and institutional culture of the military, who administered the region. I also interested in the ways in which the local population engaged with, exploited and suffered from these new structures of power, and in Russian imperial ideologies.
I am currently completing a History of the Russian Conquest of Central Asia in which I seek to avoid the grand narrative of the 'Great Game' and return the British in India to the margins of the story, where they belong. Instead I will focus on the processes of decision-making which prompted the Russian advances, their entanglement with the politics of the steppe and of the Central Asian khanates, the logistical challenges of Inner Asian warfare and (to some extent) the local response, at least as far as this is revealed in Persian-language chronicles. British and Anglo-Indian sources and perspectives only feature on the rare occasions where they were relevant or well-informed. Instead my book, though a series of micro-historical studies of the different phases of the advance, places Central Asia itself at the heart of the narrative.
Future research projects include a comparative history of Semirechie as Russian settler colony, an exploration of the literary culture of the Russian Imperial officer corps, a study of Soviet novels and films about the ‘Basmachi’ rebellion in Central Asia in 1917 – 1924, and a microhistorical biography of General Alexei Nikolaevich Kuropatkin (1848-1925).
‘The Turkestan Generals and Russian Military History’ War in History (2017 – forthcoming)
‘Beyond the Great Game. The Russian Origins of the Second Anglo-Afghan War’ Modern Asian Studies Vol.51 No.3 (2017) pp.686-735
‘Peasant Settlers and the Civilising Mission in Russian Turkestan, 1865-1917’ Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History Vol.43 No.3 (2015) pp.387 – 417
‘Camels and Colonial Armies. The Logistics of warfare in Central Asia in the early nineteenth century’ Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient Vol.57 No.4 (2014) pp.443-485
‘ “Nechto Eroticheskoe”? “Courir après l’ombre”? logistical imperatives and the fall of Tashkent, 1859-1865’ Central Asian Survey Vol.33 No.2 (June 2014) Special Issue: The Russian Conquest of Central Asia ed. Alexander Morrison pp.153-169
'Twin Imperial Disasters. The Invasions of Khiva and Afghanistan in the Russian and British Official Mind, 1839 – 1842' Modern Asian Studies Vol.48 No.1 (2014) pp.253 – 300
‘Amlakdars, Khwajas, and mulk land in the Zarafshan Valley after the Russian Conquest, 1868-1874’ in Paolo Sartori (ed.) Explorations in the Social History of Modern Central Asia (19th-early 20th centuries) (Leiden: Brill, 2013) pp.23-64.
‘Metropole, Colony, and Imperial Citizenship in the Russian Empire’ Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History Vol.13 No.2 (Spring 2012) pp.327 – 364.
‘Sufism, Panislamism & Information Panic. Nil Sergeevich Lykoshin and the aftermath of the Andijan Uprising’ Past & Present No.214 (February 2012) pp.255 – 304.
‘Sowing the Seed of National Strife in this Alien Region. The Pahlen Report and Pereselenie in Turkestan, 1908-1911’ Acta Slavica Iaponica Tomus 31 (2012) pp.1 – 29.
‘ “Applied Orientalism” in British India and Tsarist Turkestan’ Comparative Studies in Society and History Vol.51 No.3 (July 2009) pp.619-647.
Russian Rule in Samarkand 1868-1910. A Comparison with British India Oxford Historical Monographs. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)
All my publications can be found on my academia page:
I write occasional journalistic pieces for eurasianet.org, which can be found here: