Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


Short Histories of the British Empire, 1816-1856

16 September 2016, 10:00 am–6:30 pm

Short Histories of the British Empire, 1816-1856

Event Information

Open to



IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building

While historians have often sought out big events and explosive moments, this geographically wide-ranging conference seeks to explore what short histories, individual biographies and innovative timespans can tell us about the British empire. By excluding the Napoleonic War and the Indian Revolt of 1857, we seek to move away from these large-scale, historically dominant events. Building on a vibrant field of imperial history, this conference roots itself in geographical specificities of individual imperial hubs and plays close attention the routes between the metropole and settler and sojourner British colonies.

Examining four set of key themes (rule and resistance, work and capital, movement and networks, and knowledge) this conference offers the specificities and dislocations of the local in a time of extraordinary and accelerated change. Steampower, increasing bureaucracy, the end of the slave trade and developments in warfare all contributed to a period when the British empire expanded at a swift rate.

By bringing together historians, geographers, art historians, and architects at the interdisciplinary UCL Institute of Advanced Studies, this conference will ask how approaches from disparate regions might fruitfully inform one another. Drawing attention to the 'short' but important events that shaped the British empire, we will propose revisionist chronologies and open up new terrains for study. 


10:00-10:15 - Introductory remarks: Sascha Auerbach (Nottingham)

10:15-11.15 - Rule and Resistance: Law, Justice and Governance: Natasha Eaton (UCL) Comment

  • Ellen Filor (UCL) - Sex, Virginity and Consent in Colonial Bombay: Circumventing the Cornwallis Reforms, c. 1820-1830
  • Kristy Warren - Enslavement and Childhood on Sugar Plantations in St Kitts

11:15-11:30 - Coffee Break

11:30-13:00 - Work and Capital: Economy, Labour and Social Experience: Jon Wilson (KCL) Comment

  • Kate Boehme (Sussex) - Reforming Everywhere and All at Once: Emancipation, convictism and indenture across the British Empire 1837-1838
  • Fae Dussart (Sussex) - 'Such an establishment and such arrangements!' Marianne Williams, her household and colonial community in 1840s New Zealand
  • Meleisa Ono-George - 'Procuring a Livelihood': The Politics of Interracial Concubinage in Jamaica, 1829-1833

13:00-13.45 - Lunch

13.45-15.15 - Movement and Networks: Emigration, Immigration and Migration: David Lambert (Warwick) Comment

  • Andrea Major (Leeds) - 'Hill Coolies': The Globalisation of Indian Labour, 1834-1838
  • Hannah Young (UCL) - The absentee Duchess: Jamaican emigration and the English country estate
  • Chris Wingfield (Cambridge) -The Art of Travel: Missionary authors as collectors in southern Africa, 1816-1856

15.15-15.30 - Coffee Break

15.30-17.00 - Knowledge: Science, Technology and Medicine: Kate Smith Comment

  • Tania Sengupta (UCL) - Colonial Life-worlds: Cutcherry spaces, record rooms and mufassal administration in Bengal
  • Onni Gust (Nottingham) - 'Emotion and empire: Maria Edgeworth's Ennui as colonial narrative'
  • Pete Mitchell (Sussex) - Propulsive change: steam, the East India Company and global governmentalities in 1838

17.00-17.30 - Reflections and round up: Catherine Hall (UCL) 

17.30-19.00 - Wine Reception

19.30-21.00 - Conference Meal

Please register here.