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Archaeology and History

Photo of Dr Gajendra Singh

Dr Gajendra Singh

Senior Lecturer


01392 724053


My research is focused upon histories of colonialism in South Asia. I have particular interests in the hybridities of Empire – of the networks of peoples and ideas that could make even the most marginal individuals polyglot, multicultural bodies. My previous work explored the war testimonies of Indian soldiers during the two World Wars. My current work is an investigation of communities of migrant Indian labourers across the Pacific and their connection to revolutionary movements at home and abroad.

A monograph on wartime soldiering identities and testimonies in the Indian Army was recently published by Bloomsbury (The Testimonies of Indian Soldiers and Two World Wars: Between Self and Sepoy) and an edited volume by Routledge (An Imperial World at War: Aspects of the British Empire's War Experience, 1939-1945).

I have been involved in separate BBC 1, BBC Radio 4 and World Service productions exploring Indian revolutionary movements and Indian soldiers’ experiences of France during World War 1.

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I have an interest in nineteenth and twentieth century South Asian history and postcolonial history-writing.

My previous work focused on Indian soldiers’ experiences of the First and Second World Wars. In the two World Wars, hundreds of thousands of Indian sepoys were mobilized, recruited and shipped overseas to fight for the British Crown. The Indian Army was the chief Imperial reserve for an Empire under threat. This work used soldiers testimonies – chiefly letters, depositions and interrogations – to discover how Indian soldiers understood and explained their own war experiences. How much did their testimonies reflect their own fragmented identities as both colonial subjects and imperial policemen? This work was published by Bloomsbury as The Testimonies of Indian Soldiers and Two World Wars: Between Self and Sepoy.

I am currently researching the Ghadar Movement: the most significant anti-imperial revolutionary movement in India during the First World War. The First World War, for the British in India, was a time of crisis. It was a period in which the Imperial periphery – especially India – was mobilized to provide material and manpower for the wider British war effort. It was also a time of profound imperial anxiety with emergencies in Ireland, Egypt and India. Ghadar was one of the chief causes of imperial panic during the First World War.

Ghadar became a threat to Empire because of its novelty. It was a source of imperial panic because it proved that the global web of Empire that was for Britain a source of strength could yet be the cause of colonial insurrection; that bodies and ideas could migrate to spaces they were not supposed to be. Ghadar emerged among a nascent Indian diaspora overseas; it was influenced by the radical movements and political thought of its time; and colluded with Imperial Germany in a series of failed insurrections in 1915. This project will produce a history of imperial anxiety but also of the imperial globalization of ideas and of migrants as experienced through the Ghadar Movement.

Recent Conference Papers

'Some Bhang, a Rape and a Killing: Everyday Violence and Anti-Colonial Imaginings in the Ghadar Movement, Punjab, January 1915'. Annual Conference of the British Association of South Asian Studies, Durham, April 2019.   ‘The Strange Life of W.C. Hopkinson: From Irrational Anxieties to Illegible Bodies in the Surveillance of Indians in British Columbia, 1908-1914’. North American Conference on British Studies, Providence, Rhode Island, October 2018.   '“We Beat the Bania and Shamed His Womenfolk”: Everyday Violence and Anti-Colonial Imaginings in the Ghadar Movement, Punjab, January 1915'. Between Indigenous and Immigrant: South Asian Migration in Global History, Victoria, British Columbia, October 2017.

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I am happy to supervise new research students wishing to explore modern South Asian history and wider histories of British Imperialism. Of particular interest are those wishing to research histories of the South Asian diaspora, colonial soldiering or revolutonary nationalisms in imperial spaces. 

If you are interested, email me a 500 word outline of your proposed research topic and a copy of your CV. 

Research students

Ghee Boman, '"No Pakis at Dunkirk": Remembering and Forgetting Force K6 in Europe, 1939-1945'.

Daniel Phillips, ‘The Proximity of Purpose in Colonial Zoological Gardens: An Entangled History of Empire and the Establishment of the Calcutta Zoological Gardens, 1867-1908'.  

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Copyright Notice: Any articles made available for download are for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and the copyright holder.

| 2019 | 2017 | 2016 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2006 |



  • Singh G. (2017) 'Mirrors of Violence: Interracial Sex, Colonial Anxieties and Disciplining the Body of the Indian Soldier during the First World War', Anxieties, Fear and Panic in Colonial Settings: Empires on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Palgrave Macmillan.


  • Jackson A, Khan Y, Singh G. (2016) An Imperial World at War: The British Empire, 1939-1945, Routledge.


  • Singh G. (2014) 'Throwing Snowballs in France: Muslim Sipahis of the Indian Army and Sheikh Ahmad's Dream, 1915-1918', Modern Asian Studies, volume 48, no. 4, pages 1024-1067, DOI:10.1017/S0026749X13000188.
  • Singh G. (2014) 'India and the Great War: Colonial Fantasies, Anxieties and Discontent', Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism, volume 14, no. 2.
  • Singh G. (2014) 'Revolutionary Networks (India)', 1914-1918 Online: International Encylopedia of the First World War.
  • Singh G. (2014) 'Evelyn Berkeley Howell', 1914-1918 Online: International Encylopedia of the First World War.
  • Singh G. (2014) 'Gurkhas', 1914-1918 Online: International Encylopedia of the First World War.
  • Singh G. (2014) The Testimonies of Indian Soldiers and the Two World Wars: Between Self and Sepoy, Bloomsbury. [PDF]


  • Singh G. (2013) '"Finding Those Men with Guts": The Ascription and Re-Ascription of Martial Identities in India after the Uprising', Mutiny at the Margins: New Perspectives on the Indian Uprising of 1857, Vol. 4: Military Aspects of the Indian Uprising, Sage.


  • Singh G. (2012) '"Breaking the Chains with Which We Were Bound": The Interrogation Chamber, the Indian National Army and the Negation of Military Identities, 1941-1947', The Indian Army in the Two World Wars, Brill.


  • Singh G. (2006) 'The Anatomy of Dissent in the Military of Colonial India during the First and Second World Wars', Edinburgh Papers in South Asian Studies, no. 20.

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External impact and engagement

Historical Consultant for the British Film Institute's 'India on Film, 1899-1947' Collection.

Blog Post: 'Victoria and Abdul: Simulacra & Simulation'; Not Even Past

Blog Post: 'Reading the Embattled Text: Muslim Sipahis of the Indian Army and Sheikh Ahmad's Dream, 1915-1918'; The Many-Headed Monster: The History of the 'Unruly Sort of Clowns and Other Early Modern Peculiarities

Contribution to discipline

Associate Editor for South Asian Studies

Fellow of the Royal Historical Society

Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society


'How Kipling Helped Quell an Indian Mutiny in First World War Trenches'; The Observer, 5th November 2017, 

Contributor to 'Other Voices, Other Battles', ABC Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), June 2014.

Interviewee for 'Soldiers of the Empire', BBC Radio 4, 15th and 22nd October 2014.

Interviewee for various stories in the Indian Press. (Eg., 'Were Army Pay and Perks Better Under the British'; Times of India, 6th July 2015; 'Book Busts War Myth: Rules Out Ghadar Connection in Singapore Mutiny, The Indian Express, 7th August 2014, etc.).

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I completed my Ph.D. at the University of Edinburgh in 2010. Since then I have taught at Edinburgh, been ERC (European Research Council) Postdoctoral Fellow at University College Dublin, AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) Early Career Fellow at the University of Oxford, and Visiting Fellow at the Department of Defence Studies, King’s College London. I joined the Department of History at Exeter in 2014 and was promoted to senior lecturer in 2019.

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