Priya Satia

Raymond A. Spruance Professor of International History
Professor of 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)
What Matters to Me an Why - Priya Satia

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/Duckworth, 2018) won the 2019 Pacific Coast Conference on British Studies Book Prize, the Wadsworth Prize in Business History, and the AHA's Jerry Bentley Prize in world history. It was also a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize in History and shortlisted for the Laura Shannon Prize in Contemporary European Studies and the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize

Prof. Satia's third book, Time's Monster: How History Makes History  (Harvard University Press; Penguin Allen Lane, 2020), focuses on the role of the modern historical imagination in the history of the British empire, while also recovering alternative ethical visions embraced by anticolonial thinkers

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).


Featured News

October 20, 2020
Among Americans desperate for release from the era of Trump, one particular thought has often proved a consolation. Historians in the future, they prophesy, will look back and judge President Trump an abysmal president. It is a secular hope hallowed by the faint outlines of religious belief: the idea of comeuppance, karma, a vindicating day of...
October 7, 2020
On Wednesday, Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala D. Harris takes center stage as she debates Vice President Pence. While many celebrate Harris’s nomination as a landmark development in the crumbling of racial and gender barriers in American politics and Republicans portray Harris as a radical, some on the left have expressed disappointment...
August 19, 2020
The United States was formed through rebellion against the British empire, but well after the Revolutionary War ended in 1783, resistance to that empire continued to shape America’s history. The civil rights movement, for instance, was not only deeply influenced by the thought and practices of the Indian anticolonial movement, but it was also part...
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Essay on the British Empire and the formation of Harris and Obama,, August 19, 2020.

Essay on Orwell, policing, race, and the past, in, June, 30, 2020.

Selection of "Lessons from America's Worst Moments" in, June 25, 2020.

Review of William Dalrymple's The Anarchy, in the LA Review of Books, March 3, 2020.

Essay on "Frozen II" and colonial reparations, Washington Post, December 5, 2019.

Essay on colonialism and higher education, The Wire, July 20, 2019.

Essay on the British in the Middle East during World War I,, Nov. 10, 2018.

Oped on the movement against the arms trade after World War One and today, The New Republic, Nov. 9, 2018.

Oped on airpower in World War One and now, Time Magazine, Nov. 8, 2018.

Essay on how Empire of Guns can inform the American gun debate, "The Panorama," Journal of the Early Republic, July 2018.

Oped on how the trade in arms and bots are related, The New Republic, May 10, 2018.

Essay on arms manufacturing and the American economy today, April 25, 2018.

Interview with the Toynbee Prize Foundation, April 23, 2018.

Interview with, April 19, 2018.

Interview on Empire of Guns, Smithsonian Magazine, April 12, 2018.

Essay on the structural reasons behind the difficulty of achieving gun control in the US, Time Magazine, April 10, 2018.

Essay on our collective complicity in the gun industry, the Nation, April 2, 2018.

Essay on the historian's role in public debate, March 2018.

Oped, with Allyson Hobbs, on the costs of Stanford's relationship with the Hoover Institution, March 2018.

Short essay on British suppression of Indian industrial knowledge in the 18th century, February 2018.

News article Prof. Satia’s work on Empire of Guns is featured in in the AHA’s Perspectives on History article, September 2017.

Reflections on launch of 1947 Partition Archive exhibit at Stanford Libraries, August 2017.

Review of Sven Beckert, Empire of Cotton (2015) in Journal of Modern History © 2016 by The University of Chicago.

Oped on Kohinoor diamond controversy, in The Tribune (India), May 2016.

Viewpoint on the politics of doing South Asian academics abroad in the time of Modi, January 2016.

Oped on history and gun control in, October, 21, 2015

News article on Prof. Satia's recent lecture, "The Great War in the Middle East" at Grinnell College, December 2014.