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Priya Satia

Headshot of Priya Satia

Priya Satia

Professor of British History
Raymond A. Spruance Professor of International History
Ph.D., UC Berkeley 2004 (History)
M.A., UC Berkeley 2004 (History)
M.Sc. London School of Economics (Development Economics)
B.A. Stanford (International Relations)
B.S. Stanford (Chemistry)

Priya Satia specializes in modern British and British empire history, especially in the Middle East and South Asia.

Prof. Satia uses the methods of cultural history to study the evolution of the material infrastructure of the modern world in the age of empire--state institutions, military technologies, economic development. Her work examines the ways in which the imperial past has shaped the present and how the ethical dilemmas it posed were understood and managed.

Prof. Satia has explored these questions in studies of British policing of the Middle East in the era of World War One, the invention of radio during the Boer War, the British Indian development of Iraq, state secrecy in mass-democratic Britain, the gun-making exploits of a Quaker family during the industrial revolution, and other projects. Her work on aerial policing has also informed her analysis of American drone use in the Middle East. Prof. Satia also works on the Partition of British India in 1947.

Her first book Spies in Arabia: The Great War and the Cultural Foundations of Britain's Covert Empire in the Middle East (OUP, 2008) won the 2009 AHA-Herbert Baxter Adams Book Prize, the 2009 AHA-Pacific Coast Branch Book Award, and the 2010 Pacific Coast Conference on British Studies Book Prize.

Her second book, Empire of Guns: The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution (Penguin Press, 2018) won the 2019 Pacifc Coast Conference on British Studies Book Prize and is a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize in History. 

Prof. Satia is currently writing a book about how the modern historical imagination guided the unfolding of empire--and the alternative ethical visions embraced by anticolonial thinkers. It is tentatively titled "Time's Monster: History, Conscience, and Empire."

Her work has also appeared in the American Historical Review, Past and Present, Technology and Culture,Humanity, Annales, History Workshop Journal, edited volumes across a range of fields (e.g. environmental history, Middle Eastern history, the Indian Ocean world, British politics, aerospatial theory, humanitarianism), and mainstream media (the Financial Times, the Nation, Times Literary Supplement, the Washington PostTime Magazine, the Chronicle of Higher EducationAeon, the Tribune,,, and other sites).


Selected Publications & Projects

Priya Satia
Empire of Guns: The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution
Priya Satia
Winner of the:
AHA-Herbert Baxter Adams Book Prize (2009)
AHA-Pacific Coast Branch Book Award (2009)
Pacific Coast Conference on British Studies Book...

Selected Journals & Book Chapters

Priya Satia
The Guardians is an ambitious work of institutional history with a global reach by a world-class historian at the height of her powers. It...
Priya Satia
"Byron, Gandhi, and the Thompsons: The Making of British Social History and Unmaking of Indian History," History Workshop Journal 81 (Spring...
Priya Satia
"Poets of Partition,", Issue 10, January 2016.
Priya Satia
“Side-Shows at the Center: The Middle Eastern British Campaigns of the Great War,” Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales 71:1 (2016): 87-126.
Priya Satia
"Turning Space into Place: British India and the Invention of Iraq," in Asia Inside Out: Connected Places, eds. Eric Tagliacozzo, Helen Siu...
Priya Satia
“Drones: A History from the British Middle East,” Humanity 5 (Spring 2014).  link:
Priya Satia
“The Pain of Love: The Invention of Aerial Surveillance in British Iraq," in Peter Adey, Mark Whitehead, and Alison Williams, eds., From Above:...
Priya Satia
“Interwar Agnotology: Empire, Democracy and the Production of Ignorance,” in Laura Beers and Geraint Thomas, eds., Brave New World: ...
Priya Satia
“‘A Rebellion of Technology’: Development, Policing, and the British Arabian Imaginary,” 23-59, lead essay in D. K. Davis and Edmund Burke, III, eds...
Priya Satia
“War, Wireless, and Empire: Marconi and the British Warfare State, 1896-1903,” Technology and Culture 51 (October 2010): 829-53. Link: http...