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Shankar Nair


Twitter: @_shankarnair


Small-scale and Unorganised Industries in Late Colonial India, 1900-1947.


My work looks at the history of small-scale and unorganised industries in late

colonial India. My research follows two inter-related lines of inquiry. The first

traces the transformations in the technologies, nature of work, and social

relations of production in early 20th century India’s ‘non-factory’ industries.

It argues for a more robust engagement with the political economy of

production in our histories of technology as well as in our social and economic

histories of industrialisation. It does so in the form of case studies of small-scale

and unorganised industries in the regional centres of the Bombay Presidency

and the Central Provinces. Secondly, my project studies the conceptualisations

of these industries by various arms of the colonial state and non-official bodies. Through an engagement with the decennial census, industrial statistics, statistical abstracts, official and non-official surveys, it explores the sociological assumptions and political-economic considerations underpinning the ‘ways of knowing’ industrial production in interwar India. The relationship between the knowledge of production and the aforementioned world of production will shed light on the historical and latter-day historiographical characterisations of India’s late colonial industrial development. Through this study, I hope to contribute to the literature on the unevenness of capitalist development and technological change in the global industrial ‘periphery’, as well as being a contribution to the scholarship on colonial knowledge formation. 

1st Supervisor: David Edgerton

2nd Supervisor: Caitjan Gainty


I am a second 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.


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