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Priya Satia

Headshot of Priya Satia

Priya Satia

Professor of 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/ 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 PostTime Magazine, The New Republic, the Chronicle of Higher EducationAeon, the Tribune, the LA Review of Books, the San Francisco Chronicle,,, The, and other sites).


Selected Journals & Book Chapters

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...
Priya Satia
"Air Control in Iraq and the British Idea of Arabia," in Penultimate Adventures with Britannia: Personalities, Politics and Culture in Britain...
Priya Satia
"Developing Iraq: Britain, India and the Redemption of Empire and Technology in the First World War," Past and Present 197 (November 2007):...
Priya Satia
American Historical Review 111 (February 2006): 16-51.
*Winner of the 2007 Article Prize of the Pacific Coast Conference on British Studies...