Shankar Nair


Twitter: @shungaran


Small-scale Industries in Colonial India, 1870-1947.


My work looks at the history of small-scale industries in late colonial India. It traces the

transformations in the technologies, nature of work, and organisation of production in

India’s ‘non-factory’ industries. My project analyses the conceptualisation of small-scale

(variously, ‘cottage’, ‘traditional’, ‘handicraft’, and ‘uregulated’) industries by agents

(colonial officials, nationalists, and industrial reformers) who sought a coherent category

of industrial production as distinct from the large-scale factory. Through an engagement

with the political economy of small-scale industrial production in the first half of the 20th

century – in the form of representative case studies of regional industries – my work

examines the historical as well as historiographical constructions of industries on the basis of scale (small vs. large), technology (mechanised vs. hand tools), law (regulated vs. unregulated), place (rural vs. urban, household vs. factory), and time (traditional vs. modern). Through this study, I hope to contribute to our understanding of histories of production and technological change in the global industrial ‘periphery’.  

1st Supervisor: David Edgerton

2nd Supervisor: Caitjan Gainty


I am a first-year PhD student, with an interest in social and political histories of science and technology. I am interested in the intersection of histories of STM and the history of production. I am particularly interested in the historical and sociological relationship between technology and work.

In 2019, I was awarded the Hans Rausing (1+3) scholarship to pursue an MA in Modern History and a PhD at King’s College London. Before joining King’s, I graduated from Uppsala University in 2017 with an MSc in Theoretical Physics. I subsequently taught Physics at a high school in Mumbai.


Grants, Awards, and Prizes:

2020 – MA in Modern History Prize, for the highest cumulative score in the Modern History MA program.