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/ Duckworth, 2018; paperback Stanford University Press, 2019) 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 is currently shortlisted for the Laura Shannon Prize in Contemporary European Studies.
Prof. Satia's third book, Time's Monster: How History Makes History (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press) / Time's Monster: History, Conscience and Britain's Empire (Penguin Allen Lane) appeared in October 2020. It is an account of the British empire that focuses on the role of the modern historical imagination in its unfolding, while also recovering alternative ethical visions embraced by anticolonial thinkers.
Her work has also appeared in the American Historical Review, Past & Present, Technology & Culture,Humanity, Annales, History Workshop Journal, the Journal of British Studies, the Journal of Global History, edited volumes across a range of fields (e.g. environmental history, the history of guns, 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 New Republic, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Aeon, the Tribune, the LA Review of Books, the San Francisco Chronicle, Slate.com, CNN.com, The Wire.in, and other sites).