Oxford and Empire: Oxford and Oriental Studies

https://www.youtube.com/embed/Sn26yMpBhcE

Chair: Ben Grant

Mishka Sinha, ‘ “The East is a Career”: Oriental Studies and the Modern University in the Nineteenth Century’

Siobhán Daly, ‘Gertrude Bell: From Oxford to Empire’

Elisabeth Grass, ‘Oxford, Palmyra and the West Indies’


The relationship between Oxford and Empire has recently been the subject of considerable attention, both within and outside the institution, and the intersecting areas of travel and translation are ones in which Oxford has played a particularly prominent role. The University of Oxford was a leading institution for the teaching of Orientalism and Oriental languages, and the training of imperial administrators. It was also instrumental in the development of anthropology as an academic discipline. This close relationship between Oxford and Empire is embodied in the many prominent translators and travellers who have studied and worked here, including William Jones, Edwin Arnold, Max Müller, T.E. Lawrence, Gertrude Bell, and Amitav Ghosh.

This series will bring together researchers in Oxford and elsewhere to foster interdisciplinary communication and a more consolidated examination of Oxford's imperial legacies. It will therefore include a diversity of scholars and students who are working in this area in different disciplines and fields.


Ben Grant is a Departmental Lecturer in English Literature at the Department for Continuing Education, University of Oxford. He has a background in Postcolonial Studies, having written his first book, Postcolonialism, Psychoanalyis, and Burton (2009) was on the Victorian explorer and translator, Richard Francis Burton. His second book, The Aphorism and Other Short Forms (Routledge, 2016) was a study of the theory and practice of the aphorism. He is now writing a book on the contemporary British-Jewish writer Jenny Diski.

Mishka Sinha is a Research Associate at St. John’s College and co-directs the project on St. John’s and the Colonial Past with Professor William Whyte. She is a cultural and intellectual historian of the modern period with wide interests and experience and her research focuses on the  history of orientalism and the transcultural history of knowledge in the context of colonialism and empire, in particular, the transfer of knowledge from Asia to Europe. Her undergraduate degree was at St. Xavier's College, Bombay, followed by an M.Phil at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford and a PhD at Queens’ College, Cambridge. She has also studied at Emory University, Atlanta, GA, and was a Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute, Florence, a Zukunftsphilologie Fellow at the Freie Universität, Berlin, and, most recently, a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Faculty of History, Cambridge which she held in conjunction with a Research Associateship at St. John’s College Cambridge.

Siobhan Daly is currently a student on the MSt in Literature and Arts at the University of Oxford. She has an MA from King’s College London and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in Text and Performance, as well as a BA (Hons) in English and History from Goldsmiths College, University of London. She has an interest in post-colonialism and Oxford’s influence on Empire.

Elisabeth Grass is a DPhil student in the History Faculty, University of Oxford, and holds an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award with the National Trust. Through the prism of the country estate, her research focuses on the socio-cultural activities of West Indian slaveholders in Britain in the eighteenth century.  It offers perspectives on wealth derived from enslaved labour and its legacy in our built environment. Elisabeth works closely with the Colonial Countryside initiative and has given presentations and training to staff and volunteers in the heritage sector. A rare book specialist by profession, she is particularly interested in the colonial dimensions of collecting, and in the country house library as a repository of imperial knowledge.