Aditya Ramesh (He/Him)

Assistant Professor
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Smith 104B
Office Hours
Tue 14:00-15:00 & Wed 11:30-12:30


I joined the History Department in Winter 2024, from the University of Manchester, where I was a Presidential fellow in Environmental History. Previously, I was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine at the University of Manchester. My work revolves largely around environmental history, agrarian history, and the history of science, technology, and medicine in South Asia.

My current book project, which is (hopefully) approaching completion, is titled Undercurrents: Dam, Delta, and the Making of a Regional Economy in South India, tells the story of British India’s first multipurpose reservoir on the Cauvery (now spelt Kaveri) River. A heavily engineered landscape since Ancient times, the Cauvery provided fertile and stable ground from the 19th century for colonial and postcolonial governments and international organizations to infrastructurally intervene in. The book shows how, prior to the arrival of the Tennessee Valley imported dams into South Asia from 1945, the Cauvery emerged as a ‘natural’ space for a large assemblage of experts ranging from irrigation engineers, electrical engineers, urban planners, epidemiologists, entomologists, paddy specialists, malariologists, and chemical engineers among others. Tracing the history of the river across famines, the Great Depression, and two World Wars, the book reveals how these global events were imbricated in the politics around river water, amongst federated states, caste groups, landholder associations, and newly emergent democratic structures. Some of this work has been collective, and over the years we have built a ‘Cauvery Delta group’, with researchers worldwide, with a base at the French Institute of Pondicherry. 

I am now turning my attention to cities in South Asia. The next project is an urban history of the city of Madras, one of the first colonial outposts in South Asia. Alongside traditional archives, the research is organized around maps and mapping. While delving into themes such as transport, ecology, health, and labor, the form is more an ‘Atlas’ than a traditional monograph. It draws inspiration from Anna Tsing’s idea of a ‘Feral Atlas’ and Rebecca Solnit’s Atlas series. A lot of this work again is collective in nature, and I work closely with Dr. Bhavani Raman, an early modern historian (but many others including anthropologists, urban planners, geographers, and architects). Here is a joint talk (my first ever) that we gave at the Roja Muthiah Library, one of the largest repositories of Tamil language books and journals in the world. I have published some of this research on cities in South Asia in the journals Urban History and Journal of Urban History. 

My teaching is closely linked to my research, and I have taught courses on British Colonialism, History of Disease and Medicine, Environmental History, the History of Technology, and Cities and Urban Landscapes. I am looking forward to teaching courses on mapping and digital history. 

I welcome inquiries from graduate students, especially those with an interest in the environmental history, the history of public health, and history of infrastructure and technology in South Asia and the British colonial world. I’m particularly keen on working with students interested in working on newly opened postcolonial archives in the sub-continent. 

For more on writing and a current update on where projects are headed, see this website.