Renu and Anand Dhawan Professor of History
Academic Year 21-22
Fields of interest:
Modern South Asian, Southeast Asian and Indian Ocean history; the history of migration and diasporas; environmental history, especially the history of water and climate; the history of port cities
Sunil Amrith is the Renu and Anand Dhawan Professor of History. He is currently on leave from his role as chair of the South Asian Studies Council, which he will resume in fall 2022. His research focuses on the movements of people and the ecological processes that have connected South and Southeast Asia. Amrith’s areas of particular interest include environmental history, the history of migration, and the history of public health. He is a 2017 MacArthur Fellow, and recipient of the 2016 Infosys Prize in Humanities.
Amrith’s most recent book is Unruly Waters (Basic Books and Penguin UK), a history of the struggle to understand and control the monsoon in modern South Asia. It was shortlisted for the 2019 Cundill Prize, and was reviewed in Nature, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Review of Books. His previous book, Crossing the Bay of Bengal: The Furies of Nature and the Fortunes of Migrants (Harvard University Press, 2013) was awarded the American Historical Association’s John F. Richards Prize in South Asian History in 2014, and was selected as an Editor’s Choice title by the New York Times Book Review. He is also the author of Migration and Diaspora in Modern Asia (Cambridge University Press, 2011), and Decolonizing International Health: South and Southeast Asia, 1930-1965 (Palgrave, 2006), as well as articles in journals including the American Historical Review, Past and Present, The Lancet and Economic and Political Weekly. Amrith serves on the editorial boards of the American Historical Review and Modern Asian Studies, and he is one of the series editors of the Princeton University Press book series, Histories of Economic Life.
Amrith is currently writing The Ruins of Freedom, an environmental history of the modern world to be published W.W. Norton and Allen Lane.
Current and planned future collaborations include research with Professor David S. Jones (Harvard University) on the history of air pollution and health in India, with Professor Maya Prabhu (Yale School of Medicine) on climate change and migration, and with Professor Akiyuki Kawasaki (Tokyo University) on water-related disasters in South and Southeast Asia. Amrith also serves on the advisory committee for a new film project on water in India to be produced by Krea University.
Professor Amrith welcomes inquiries from prospective graduate students interested in working on any aspect of modern South and Southeast Asian history.
Before coming to Yale, Amrith was the inaugural Mehra Family Professor of South Asian History at Harvard University from 2015-20, where he also served as co-director of the Joint Center for History and Economics, and Interim Director of the Mahindra Humanities Center (in 2019-20). From 2006-2015, he taught at Birkbeck College at the University of London. Sunil Amrith grew up in Singapore, and received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Cambridge.
Empires & Colonialism
Science, Technology, Medicine