Staff profile

Dr Oliver Godsmark

Senior Lecturer in History; Programme Leader for MA History

Oliver Godsmark in a classroom.




College of Arts, Humanities and Education



Research centre

Identity, Culture and Representation Research Centre




Kedleston Road, Derby Campus



I am Senior Lecturer in global and South Asian history, with particular expertise in late colonial and early postcolonial India. My research focuses on citizenship and democracy, caste and 'tribe', and borders and territory, principally in the context of India’s independence and partition. Simultaneously, I continue to be interested in global histories of the British South Asian diaspora, particularly in the context of industrial disputes and anti-racism activities in the 1960s.

I am also the programme lead for MA History at Derby.

Before arriving at Derby in 2019, I held lectureships at the Universities of Sheffield, Exeter, Kent and Loughborough, as well as a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of York.

Teaching responsibilities

I currently teach on the following modules:

History BA

History MA

Public History and Heritage MA

Research interests

My previous research traced the impact of decolonisation and the transition from colonial rule to independence on ideas about and the workings of democracy, citizenship and community amongst Indian society. My doctoral project drew upon the mechanics of state-society relations at the ‘everyday’ level to make inferences about the nature of citizenship and democracy during independence and partition, a moment of great historical change, fear and uncertainty on the Indian subcontinent. This research informed an updated monograph that draws upon and revises some of its central themes. The project also shaped a number of other research publications.

My current research focuses on the policing of 'criminal tribes' and dacoits ('bandits') in princely central India in the late colonial period. It assesses how policework came to serve as a novel and tangible representation of territorial sovereignty on the ground, capable of illustrating the increased reach of the central state's authority amongst subjects residing near or regularly traversing princely borders. At the same time, it re-centres 'criminal tribe' communities within the historical record, principally through an analysis of their interactions with local state structures and representatives. As a result of these imperatives, it also looks to influence accepted conceptualisations of colonial governmentality and state-society relations within existing historiography, whether in South Asia or beyond.

My future research concerns the global context that informed left-leaning politics, industrial disputes and anti-racism activism amongst the South Asian diaspora in the East Midlands during the 1960s. The project will be shaped by tracing interactions between individuals, ideas, and institutions in the East Midlands and beyond, as well as analysing analogies in the rhetoric they employed. In particular, I am interested in how members of the South Asian diaspora engaged with major developments in the Indian subcontinent during these years, including the Indo-China War of 1962 and Naxalbari in 1967. The project will also explore the impact of communal violence and caste-based assertion in South Asia upon political solidarity amongst diasporic organisations in the East Midlands.

Membership of professional bodies


Recent conferences

In the media

I have been actively involved in communicating my research to public audiences. In November 2020 I participated in the 'Free Thinking' series on BBC Radio Three for an episode entitled 'Postcolonial Derby'. This was linked to the Being Human Festival 2020, for which I also contributed a podcast on 'Curzon of Kedleston and the History of India' as part of the series on 'Global Derbyshire in 10 Objects'.

In October 2017, I appeared at Sheffield’s 'Off the Shelf' annual literature festival as an invited guest of the local Hindu Samaj, where I discussed Indian and Pakistani independence in the context of the life and writings of the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore.

In August 2017, I took part in a series of events to commemorate 70 years since the independence of India, including acting as an analyst during a special discussion on individual stories of displacement experienced by ordinary people caught up in partition violence. This discussion was broadcast live on BBC Radio Sheffield as part of 'Eastern Air', a weekly radio programme dedicated to the city’s South Asian diaspora.

Recent publications