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)

Photo Credit: Steve Castillo

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

Prof. Satia is a cultural historian of the material and intellectual infrastructure of the modern world in the age of empire. Her work examines the origins of state institutions, military technologies, and ideas and practices of development in order to understand how 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. An essay on her formation as a historian is available here in the H-Diplo series "Learning the Scholar's Craft." 

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 (Belknap HUP/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).

Prof. Satia is working on two new book projects: a collection of essays on history, writing, and selfhood and a history of colonialism in Punjab.


Cultural History
Economic and Financial History
Genocide and Violence
Global, Transnational, and International History
Immigration, Borderlands, and Frontiers
Intellectual History
Political Culture
Race and Ethnicity
Science and Technology
The Indian Ocean World
War and Military History

Essay on: “History from Below,” on the making of E. P. Thompson,, December 18, 2020. 

Essay on: “From a Victorian to a Twenty-First Century Understanding of Why History Matters,” History News Network, November 1, 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