Professor Crispin Bates (MA, PhD, FRAS, FRHS)

Professor of Modern and Contemporary South Asian History


I am a graduate of Sidney Sussex College Cambridge, where I also completed my PhD on the social and economic history of colonial central India. I was first appointed to a lectureship in modern South Asian History at Edinburgh University in 1989. Previously, I held a Research Fellowship at Churchill College, Cambridge. I have also been a visiting Professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris (1992), a Visiting Professor at Calcutta University, a JSPS Research Fellow at the Institute for Oriental Culture, University of Tokyo (2002-3), and a Visiting Professor (2009-10) at the National Museum of Ethnology, Japan.

I have a strong and highly successful track record in MSc and PhD training, supervising research students in diverse subjects relating to modern and contemporary South Asian (particularly Indian) history as well as more general topics in imperial, colonial and postcolonial history. I also organise and teach M.Sc. programmes on South Asia in the School of Social and Political Science.

External appointments

Former Director, Edinburgh University Centre for South Asian Studies (SPS) (2003-2015)

Member of the modern and medieval history review college of the UK Arts & Humanities Research Council.

Series Editor, Routledge Edinburgh South Asian Studies and Routledge New Horizons in South Asian Studies

Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society

Fellow of the Royal Historical Society

Member of the Editorial Board for the journal History Compass

Member of the Advisory Board of the journals Rethinking History and South Asian Diaspora

Member of the Indian Association of Labour Historians, the British Association for South Asian Studies, and the European Association for South Asian Studies

Previous editor of the 'South Asia' series published by Anthem Press, and the series 'New Historical Perspectives on Migration' published by Leicester University Press.

Makes regular appearances, discussing current events in South Asia on BBC. TV and Radio.

Useful Links

Responsibilities & affiliations

Centre for South Asian Studies, Edinburgh Centre for Global History

Principal Investigator AHRC research project "'Becoming Coolies": rethinking the origins of the Indian ocean labour diaspora' -

Undergraduate teaching

  • India 1700-1947: Raj, Rebellion and Ryot (3/4 MA)
  • Postcolonial South Asia (3/4 MA)
  • Gandhi and Popular Movements in India 1915-1950 (4MA)
  • History in Theory (postcolonial theory)
  • History in Practice
  • South Asia Studies 2a and 2b (SPS)
  • Asia, Africa, Australasia History 2

Postgraduate teaching

  • South Asian Studies: Issues and Debates  (SPS)
  • South Asian Studies: Concepts and Theoretical Underpinnings  (SPS)
  • Gender and Empire (HCA)
  • The Politics of Historiography in Postcolonial South Asia (HCA)

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Current PhD students supervised

Spencer, Dustie - PhD - Transnational Communities in South Asia - Primary

Anderson, Malcolm - MScR - Friendship in 18th and early 19th colonial India - Secondary

Lewis, Caroline - PhD - Behind the Zenana: women's missionary organisations in colonial India - Primary

Parr, Rosalind - PhD - PhD Beyond Nationalism: Indian Nationalist Women and Internationalism, 1900-1964 - Primary

Piyush, Roy - PhD - The role and influence of Navarasa Aesthetics in shaping Indian cinema - Primary  

Past PhD students supervised

Ellis, Catriona - PhD - Children and childhood in the Madras Presidency, 1920s-1930s - Primary - 2016

Dhillon, Rajwinder - MScR/PhD - Crime and Police in Colonial Bengal - Primary - 2013

Kakkar, Ankur - MScR - Why did the Orientalists lose the Indian Education Debate of 1835? - Primary - 2013

Soherwordi, Syed - MScR/PhD - Pakistan Foreign Policy Formulation, 1947-64: An analysis on institutional interaction between American foreign policy making bodies and the Pakistan Army - Primary - 2008/2010

Ellis, Catriona - MScR - Childhood in colonial South India - Primary - 2008

Singh, Gajendra - MScR/PhD - Between Self and Soldier: Indian Soldiers and Their Testimony During the Two World Wars - Primary - 2005/2010

Lloyd, Thomas - MScR/PhD - States of Exception: sovereignty and counter-insurgency in British India, Ireland and Kenya circa 1810-1960 - Primary - 2005/2010

Malhotra, Ashok - MScR/PhD - The Making and Consumption of British India Fictions, 1772-1823 - Primary - 2005/2010

Research summary


  • Asia


  • Comparative & Global History
  • Economic History
  • Imperialism
  • Politics
  • Society
  • War


  • Eighteenth Century
  • Nineteenth Century
  • Twentieth Century & After

Research interests

I have conducted many years of research in provincial and district archives in the subcontinent, mostly in Madhya Pradesh (the largest state in central India), and have written numerous research articles and book contributions on the social and economic history of this region, with particular reference to the peasants and adivasis or tribals who live there. My other research interests include Indian labour and labour migration, Gandhi and the Indian Independence Movement, Orientalism and colonial discourse, and the study of social, economic and political movements in contemporary India. 
In the late 1990s I was part of an Edinburgh consortium engaged in a project concerning village participation in Indian forest management, funded by the ESRC. Most recently I have been the principal investigator in a major AHRC-funded research project entitled 'Mutiny at the Margins: New Perspectives on the Indian Uprising of 1857'. I have also been the coordinator of an international network of scholars working on 1857, funded by the British Academy. For further details see

Current research activities

Outcomes from the ‘Mutiny at the Margins’ project includes a source book and six edited volumes – published in 2012-13. 'Savage Attack' - a conference on adivasi (tribal) insurgency held in 2008, lead to a further volume on this theme, co-edited with Dr. Alpa Shah (Goldsmith’s College, London) and published in 2014.

My planned future publications include a monograph on adivasis and migration in colonial India, a co-authored volume with Dr Marina Carter addressing the legacies of 1857, A Handbook of Modern South Asian History (to be published by Routledge), and A Political History of India since Independence to be co-authored with Dr Subho Basu.

Research projects

Watch a short video of Professor Bates speaking about his research interests - Media Hopper


C. Bates and M. Carter (ed.), Mutiny at the Margins: New Perspectives on the Indian Uprising of 1857: Volume VII: Documents of the Indian Uprising (New Delhi: Sage, 2017).

C.Bates and M.Mio (eds), Cities in South Asia (London: Routledge New Horizons in South Asian Studies, 2015)

C.Bates, A.Tanabe and M.Mio (eds), Human and International Security in India  (London: Routledge New Horizons in South Asian Studies, 2015)

C. Bates (ed.), Mutiny at the Margins: New Perspectives on the Indian Uprising of 1857: Volume VI: Perception, Narration and Reinvention: The Pedagogy and Historiography of the Indian Uprising (SAGE Publications, 2014).

C. Bates and A. Shah, co-editors, Savage attack: tribal insurgency in India (New Delhi: Social Science Press, 2014).

C. Bates (ed.) , Mutiny at the Margins: New Perspectives on the Indian Uprising of 1857 - Volume V: Muslim, Dalit and Subaltern Narratives (SAGE Publications, 2014)

C. Bates & G. Rand (ed.) , Mutiny at the Margins: New Perspectives on the Indian Uprising of 1857 - Volume IV: Military Aspects of the Indian Uprising (SAGE Publications, 2013)

C. Bates & M. Carter (ed.), Mutiny at the Margins: New Perspectives on the Indian Uprising of 1857 - Volume III: Global Perspectives (SAGE Publications, 2013)

C. Bates & A. Major (ed.), Mutiny at the Margins: New Perspectives on the Indian Uprising of 1857 - Volume II: Britain and the Indian Uprising (SAGE Publications, 2013)

C. Bates (ed.) , Mutiny at the Margins: New Perspectives on the Indian Uprising of 1857 - Volume I: Anticipations and Experiences in the Locality (SAGE Publications, 2013)

C. Bates, Subalterns and Raj: South Asia since 1600 (Routledge, 2007)

C. Bates, Editor of Beyond Representation: constructions of identity in colonial and postcolonial India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2005).

C. Bates, Co-editor (with Subho Basu) of Rethinking Indian Political Institution (London: Anthem Press, 2005).

C. Bates, Editor of Community, Empire and Migration: South Asians in Diaspora (Palgrave, UK hb, 2001 & New Delhi: Orient Longman pb, 2003).


Articles and Book Chapters

‘Migration in the time of empire’, Open Democracy (December 2017)

‘La grande peur des cipayes’, in Les Mondes de L’Inde, LHistoire, no. 437-438 (Paris, July-August 2017), 60–64.

‘Eine Geschichte des Versagens: Die kaum erzählte Seite der Teilung’ [A History of Failure: the scarcely told story of Partition] in Bitter kinship - intimate enmity: 70 years of Partition, SÜDASIEN (Bonn: July 2017),  20-24.

‘Some Thoughts on the Representation and Misrepresentation of the Colonial South Asian Labour Diaspora’, South Asian Studies, 2017, 33(1), 7–22.

‘Sirdars as intermediaries in nineteenth century Indian Ocean indentured labour migration’ (co-authored with Marina Carter), Modern Asian Studies, 2017, vol 51 (02), 462-484.

C. Bates & M.D. Carter, 'Enslaved Lives, Enslaving Labels: reinterpreting the colonial Indian Labour Diaspora' (with Marina Carter) in Sukanya Banerjee, Aims McGuinness & Steve McKay (eds.), New Routes for Disapora Studies (Indian University Press, 2012)

C. Bates, ‘The State and Subaltern Assertion in the Diaspora: Towards a Pan-South Asian Identity?’ in H. Bhattacharyya, A. Kluge, L. Konig (eds), The Politics of Citizenship, Identity and The State in South Asia (Heidelberg Series in South Asian and Comparative Studies, New Delhi: Samskriti, 2012)

C.Bates, 'Creating, Changing, and Recovering Community: an introduction to the annual conference edition of the British Association for South Asian Studies', Contemporary South Asia, Volume 18, Issue 1, 2010

C.Bates and M.D. Carter, 'Empire and Locality: a Global Dimension to the 1857 Indian Uprising' Journal of Global History, 5 (2010), 51-73

C.Bates and M.D. Carter, 'Religion and retribution in the Indian rebellion of 1857', Leidschrift. Empire and Resistance. Religious beliefs versus the ruling power  24-1 (2009), 51-68

C. Bates and P. Lamont, ‘Conjuring images of India in nineteenth century Britain’, Social History, 32, 3, pp 309-325 (2007)

C. Bates, 'Introduction' (pp xi-xxvi) & 'The Development of Panchayati Raj'’ * (pp 169-184), in C. Bates and S. Basu (eds.), Rethinking Indian Political Institutions (London: Anthem Press, 2005). (*Also reprinted in Sudha Menon (ed.), Panchayati Raj: Perspectives and Experiences (Hyderabad: Icfai University Press, 2007), pp. 3-23)

C.Bates, ‘Introduction’ (pp 1-18), and ‘Human Sacrifice in Colonial Central India: Myth, Agency and Representation’ (pp 19-54) in C. Bates (ed).), Beyond Representation: constructions of identity in colonial and postcolonial India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2005).

C.Bates, 'Courts, ship rolls and letters: reflections of the Indian labour diaspora', in Creating an Archive Today, Toshie Awaya, ed. (Tokyo: Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, 21st COE Programme, Centre for Documentation & Area-Transcultural Studies, 2005 ).

C. Bates, 'Selves and Others: reflections on sports in South Asia' (co-authored with G. Armstrong) Contemporary South Asia (2001) Vol. 10, pp. 191-205

C.Bates, Communalism and Identity among South Asians in Diaspora (Heidelberg Papers in South Asian and Comparative Politics, no. 2, August 2000).

C.Bates, Coerced and migrant labourers in India: the colonial experience, Edinburgh Papers in South Asian Studies, no. 13, (Edinburgh: Centre for South Asian Studies, 2000).

C. Bates, 'Community, conflict and the dilemmas of identity among South Asians in diaspora', Asian Studies, vol. XVIII (nos. 1 & 2): Netaji Institute, Calcutta, December 2000.

C.Bates, 'Race, caste and tribe in central India: the early origins of Indian anthropometry', in P. Robb (ed.), The Concept of Race in South Asia (Delhi, 1996), 219-59.

C.Bates, '"Lost innocents and the loss of innocence": interpreting adivasi movements in South Asia ', in R.H. Barnes, A. Gray and B. Kingsbury (eds.), Indigenous Peoples of Asia (American Association for Asian Studies, Michigan, 1995), 103-19.

C.Bates, 'Regional dependence and rural development in central India: the pivotal role of migrant labour', reprinted in D. Ludden (ed.), Agricultural Production and Indian History (New Delhi, 1995), 354-68.

C.Bates, 'Class and economic change in central India: the Narmada valley, 1820-1930', in C.J. Dewey (ed.), Arrested Development in India: the historical perspective (Manohar, New Delhi: 1988), 241-82.

C.Bates, 'Congress and the tribals', in C. Simmons and M. Shepperdson (eds.), The Indian National Congress and the Political Economy of India, 1885-1985 (London, 1988), 231-52.

C.Bates, 'Tribalism, dependency and the sub-regional dynamics of economic change in central India,' in C.J. Dewey (ed.), The State and the Market: studies in the economic and social history of the third world (New Delhi, 1987), 105-27.

C.Bates, 'The nature of social change in rural Gujarat: the Kheda district, 1818-1918', Modern Asian Studies, 15 (1981), 771-821. This article has also been translated into Gujarati and republished in the Indian journal Arthat.