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Jon Wilson joined the department in 1999 as Lecturer in British Imperial and South Asian History. He was awarded a DPhil from Oxford University in 2000, following two years in New York studying for an MA in Anthropology at the New School for Social Research. He was Deputy Head (External Relations) of the School of Arts and Humanities from 2008-11, where he initiated the King’s Arts and Humanities festival. He has also worked as a parliamentary researcher and been a local councillor.

Research interests and PhD supervision

Prof Wilson’s work focuses on the everyday life of the state in South Asia, Britain and beyond. His first book, The Domination of Strangers was a study of the emergence of a modern regime in Bengal during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. His second major project was on the British conquest of India and its implications for imperial and Indian politics. India Conquered. Britain’s Raj and the Chaos of Empire, published by Simon and Schuster (or Public Affairs in the USA/Canada) was published in September 2016, and was shortlisted for the Longman-History Today prize.

Prof Wilson is currently working on a multi-national history of everyday concepts of government from the 1945 to the present, tracing particularly the rise and fall of ideas of national and democratic political power after the Second World War and end of empire. The project will result in a book whose provisional title is Out of Chaos. A Global History of the Rise and Fall of the Nation State. Part of it involves quantitative textual analysis, and is part of a collaborative project with colleagues in Digital Humanities and the Turing Institute developing digital methodologies for understanding global conceptual change.

Prof Wilson particularly welcomes interest from prospective research students interested in working in the following fields: 

  • Governance, law, politics or agrarian economic and social history in South Asia from 1780, particularly Bengal, Bangladesh, Karnataka and coastal Andhra Pradesh
  • The global history of the state and governance during the twentieth century
  • The relationship between political thought and political practice
  • Quantitative textual analysis in the history of political ideas and practice

 For more details, please see his full research profile.

Expertise and public engagement

Prof Jon Wilson is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, a member of the editorial board of Reviews in History and has been a Visiting Research Fellow at the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. He comments widely in both print and broadcast media on the state and politics in Britain and South Asia, and has made significance UK policy interventions on democracy and public sector reform, including with the Fabian pamphlet Letting Go.