Douglas Peers



Profile image of Doug Peers
Two big questions have underpinned my programs of research since my days as an undergraduate. Firstly, how and why did the East India Company, a trading corporation, in the century after 1750 gain political and economic control of much of India, yet almost lose it between 1857 and 1858 in a violent uprising. Secondly, how do we account for the discrepancy between a dominant Victorian narrative which lingers to this day that located British imperialism within a storyline favouring liberal capitalism, individualism, and modernity, yet relied so heavily on coercion and illiberal attitudes. In seeking answers to these questions, my work has focused largely on how the structures, cultures, and ideologies of British imperialism were profoundly experienced by the prejudices and preoccupations of its military institutions and personnel. I am also interested in the historiography of imperialism, and in particular the degree to which our contemporary world continues to be shaped – consciously and unconsciously – by the history, memory, and mythologies of imperial rule.


  • B.A. (Hon) Political Science, History minor, University of Calgary, 1982
  • M.A. History, University of Calgary, 1984
  • Ph.D. History, University of London (King's College), 1988

Research and teaching interests

  • British Empire since 1700
  • South Asia since 1700
  • Britain since 1750
  • Transnational/global/world history
  • Historiography 

Key areas of graduate supervision

South Asia, especially the history and historiography of colonial rule in 18th and 19th century; British Imperialism.

Current projects

I am currently completing a monograph on how wars have shaped South Asian history, tentatively entitled Warfare and the Making of South Asia, 1750-1971. Longer-term projects include an analysis of order and disorder in the armies of the East India Company using courts martial records to examine how discipline in a multi-ethnic army functioned in practice as well as in theory; and also a study of how the histories of the siege of Lucknow (1857-58) have been written and rewritten over the past century and a half and why it has been deemed necessary to shift the narratives.

Douglas Peers CV 2018 (PDF)

Recent publi​cations

  • “The Indian Army and the Military State,” in David Gilmartin, Prasannan Parthasarathi, Mrinalini Sinha, eds. Cambridge History of the Modern Indian Subcontinent, forthcoming
  • “The Indian Rebellion of 1857/58,” in Stephen Miller, ed., Victorian Small Wars, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021, 8-39
  • “The blind, brutal, British public’s bestial thirst for blood”: Archive, Memory and W.H. Russell’s (Re)Making of the Indian Mutiny,” in Gavin Rand and Kaushik Roy, eds., Culture, Conflict, and the Military in Colonial South Asia, London: Routledge, 2017, 104-30
  • Ed. (with Nandini Gooptu), India and the British Empire. The Oxford History of the British Empire Companion Series.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012
  • “Innovation and Adaptation: Military Transformations in the Armies of Mir Qasim of Bengal and Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan of Mysore”, in Kaushik Roy and Peter Lorge, eds, Warfare and Society in China and India: a Comparative Analysis, New York: Routledge, 2012
  • “Army Discipline, Military Cultures, and State Formation in Colonial India, ca.1780-1860”, in Huw Bowen, Elizabeth Mancke, and John Reid, eds., Britain’s Oceanic Empire: Atlantic and Indian Ocean World, c.1550-1850, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012
  • “Military Revolutions and South Asia,” in Wayne E. Lee, ed., Imperial-Indigenous Military Relations in the Early Modern Era¸ New York: NYU Press, 2011
  • “The more this foul case is stirred, the more offensive it becomes’: Imperial Authority, Victorian Sentimentality and the Court Martial of Colonel Crawley, 1862-1864”, in Sameetah Agha and Elizabeth Kolsky, eds., Fringes of Empire: Peoples, Places, and Spaces at the Margins of British Colonial India, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2009, 207-35
  •  “Gunpowder Empires and the Garrison State:  Modernity, Hybridity and the Political Economy of Colonial India, ca.1750-1860”, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 27(2007): 245-258
  • “Conquest Narratives: Romanticism, Orientalism and Intertextuality in the Indian Writings of Sir Walter Scott and Robert Orme,” in Michael Franklin, ed., Romantic Representations of British India, London: Routledge, 2006, 238-259
  • India Under Colonial Rule: 1700--1885, London: Longman, 2006
  • “The Raj’s Other Great Game: Policing the Sexual Frontiers of the Indian Army in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century,” in Anupama Rao and Stephen Pierce, eds., Discipline and the Other Body: Correction, Corporeality, Colonialism, Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2006, 115-50
  • “Colonial Knowledge and the Military in India, 1780-1860,” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 33(2005): 157-180
  • “’There is Nothing More Poetical than War’: Romanticism, Orientalism, and Militarism in J.W. Kaye's Narratives of the Conquest of India.” in Julie F. Codell, ed., Imperial Co-Histories: National Identities and the British and Colonial Press, Madison: Fairleigh-Dickinson University Press, 2003, 273-299
  • Ed., (with David Finkelstein), Negotiating India in the Nineteenth Century Media, London: Macmillan, 2000 
  • Ed., (with Martin Moir and Lynn Zastoupil), J.S. Mill’s Encounter with India, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999 
  • “Privates Off Parade: Regimenting Sexuality in the Nineteenth-Century Indian Empire,” International History Review, 20(1998): 823-54
  • “Soldiers, Surgeons and the Campaigns to Combat Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Colonial India, 180 5-1860,” Medical History, 42(1998): 137-60
  • Ed., Warfare and Empire, a volume in the series, An Expanding World: the European Impact on World History, 1450-1800, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins and London: Variorum, 1997
  • “’Those Noble Exemplars of the True Military Tradition’; Constructions of the Indian Army in the Mid-Victorian Press,” Modern Asian Studies, 31(1997): 109-142
  • “Sepoys, Soldiers and the Lash: Race, Caste and Army Discipline in India, 1820-1850,” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 23(1995): 211-247
  • Between Mars and Mammon: Colonial Armies and the Garrison State in India, 1819-1835, London: I.B. Tauris, 1995.
  • “Torture, the Police and the Colonial State in Madras Presidency, 1816-1855.” Criminal Justice History, 12(1991): 29-56
  • “’The Habitual Nobility of Being’; British Officers and the Social Construction of the Bengal Army in the Early 19th Century.” Modern Asian Studies, 25(1991): 545-69

Offices and Award​s

  • Dean of Arts, University of Waterloo, 2011-2018
  • Director, Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, 2012-15
  • Dean of Graduate Studies and Vice-President Graduate, York University, 2007-2011
  • President, Canadian Association for Graduate Studies, 2010-11
  • Interim Dean of Social Sciences, University of Calgary, 2006-07
  • Vice President Programs (Interim), Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, 2004
  • Secretary, Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, 2002-04
  • Faculty of Social Sciences Distinguished Research Award, University of Calgary, 2001
  • Faculty of Social Sciences Distinguished Teaching Award, University of Calgary, 1999
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Standard Research Grant, 2001-04
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Standard Research Grant, 1992-1995
  • Elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, 1991
  • Department of National Defence Postdoctoral Fellowship, 1989 (declined)