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) uses the gun industry as a window onto the relationship between wars of imperial conquest and the industrial revolution, focusing on the ethical dilemmas faced by the Galton family, Quakers who owned Britain’s largest gun-making firm.
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 Post, Time Magazine, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Aeon, the Tribune, Slate.com, CNN.com, and other sites).