Historian wins NEH grant for work on British-India empire building

Historian Robert Travers has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Grant to work on his newest book, a deeper look at the impeachment trial of Warren Hastings from 1787-1795.

Travers, professor of history in the College of Arts and Sciences, has long been curious about the British empire in India. Hastings, who rose through the ranks of the East India Company and served as the first governor-general in British India, was accused of misconduct and corruption, but was eventually acquitted after a trial that took seven years to complete, amid fits and starts.


While other historians have written about the trial, most focus on the role of prosecutor Edmund Burke, who became an important political theorist of the period, Travers said.

“During the trial, we can see that the different sides were drawing on Mughal law, not only British theories of justice, when constructing their arguments,” Travers said. “I’m interested in this as a moment of intellectual encounter between European political theory and the Persianate political theory of the Mughal Empire.”

The $60,000 grant will allow Travers to extend a sabbatical next year to a full year and travel to the United Kingdom and perhaps India for archival research. His book project is titled “Law Between Empires: The Impeachment of Warren Hastings and the Origins of the Modern State in Britain and India.”

Read the full story on the College of Arts & Sciences website.

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