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Travers, Robert

Associated Professor
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Travers specializes in modern British history and the history of the British empire, with a particular focus on colonial India. His earlier research looked at how British officials of the English East India Company approached the government of vast Indian territories conquered in the middle decades of the eighteenth century. His book, Ideology and Empire in Eighteenth Century India, examined British ideas about restoring an 'ancient constitution' in India, apparently discovered among the remnants of the Mughal empire, and how this project floundered in the chaotic aftermath of colonial conquest.

In his new research he is continuing to work at the intersection of intellectual, political and imperial history, studying how new ideas about political life were generated through colonial encounters. Travers' new work focuses more on issues of political economy, and how the early colonial regime in India addressed issues of famine, grain markets, land rights, the organization of textile production, money and banking. He is especially interested in the huge number of petitions from Indian subjects, claiming various kinds of rights, and how these claims were handled by the colonial government.

His teaching ranges broadly over British and European history, imperial history, and South Asian history from the eighteenth century to the present, and reflects his interests in political thought, political-economy, global and comparative history, and the history of 'globalization'. Travers is also planning new courses on the history of British economic theory in relation to imperialism, and on changing understandings of India in European political thought in the early modern period. In both his survey courses and seminars, he encourages students to participate actively in lectures and discussions, and invariably find that Cornell students bring an exciting range of experiences, opinions and questions into the classroom. His assignments are designed to encourage close-reading of primary sources, to allow students to develop their own historical interpretations and arguments, and also to let students pursue their own particular historical interests.

Geographic Focus


administrative responsibilities

  • Director of Graduate Studies

member of graduate field