Colonial Empire & Colonialism

Colonial Empire & Colonialism Studies builds on our growing faculty expertise in Africa, Central Eurasia, South Asia, and Latin America and connects with our core strengths in North America and Europe.  This field is premised on the critical assumption that the transregional empires of the early and modern period laid the foundation for the globally inter-connected and trans-national world in which we live and function today.  These empires—Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, British, French, German, Ottoman, Russian/Soviet—and their spin-offs (such as the U.S. empire in the Pacific and the Japanese empire in Asia) provide the context in which to comparatively track the flow of ideas, images, institutions, goods and commodities, practices and peoples over time and across the various regions of the world from the 1500s down to the present.  These connections, moreover, did not flow only from colonizing to colonized societies, from “the West” to “the rest.”  Indeed the comparative study of these empires reveals mutually constitutive and interdependent histories that are global in scope even while being revelatory of localized processes.

This field will also build on and, in turn, contribute to the History department’s long-standing strengths in area studies, transnational and comparative history, and African diaspora and Caribbean studies, even as it connects to the University’s concern with deepening the internationalization of our curriculum.  Not least, we hope that this field will provide the context in which to develop a Triangle Empires Initiative, and enable our faculty and students to network with faculty and students working in other departments on our campus as well as at UNC and NCSU.


Juliana Barr, Associate Professor in the Department of History

Phone: +1 919 684 3626

Associate Professor Juliana Barr received her M.A. and Ph.D. (1999) in American women’s history from the University of Wisconsin Madison and her B.A. (1988) from the University of Texas at Austin. She joined the Duke University Department of History in 2015 after teaching at Rutgers University and... full profile »

Laurent Dubois, Professor of History

Office: 213 Language Center, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: +1 919 660 3112

I am a specialist on the history and culture of the Atlantic world, with a focus on the Caribbean and particularly Haiti. I am the faculty director of the Forum for Scholars and Publics at Duke University, and write for magazines including the New Republic, Sports Illustrated, and the New Yorker. I... full profile »

Barry Gaspar, Ph.D., Professor with Tenure

Office: 306 Carr Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: +1 919 684 2109

Dr. Gaspar concentrates on comparative slave systems, with a special interest in the development of slave society and the evolution of slave life in the United States and the Caribbean. The Atlantic Slave Trade, Atlantic history and culture, the legacy of slavery in post-slave societies, historical... full profile »

Adam Mestyan, Assistant Professor of History

Office: Office 318; 114 Campus Drive, Carr Building (East Campus), Durham, NC 27708
Phone: +1 919 684 2343

On leave in 2018-2019. I study the problem of nationalism in capitalist empires, especially in the Middle East. Currently, I am working on my second monograph, Modern Arab Kingship, an international history of Arab monarchies and Western imperialism from the late nineteenth century until the... full profile »

Sumathi Ramaswamy, Ph.D., James B. Duke Professor of History

Office: Dept of History, 325 Carr Bldg, BOX_90719, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: +1 919 684 5764

I am a cultural historian of South Asia and the British Empire and my research over the last few years has been largely in the areas of visual studies, the history of cartography, and gender. My recent publications in this area include The Goddess and the Nation: Mapping Mother India (Duke... full profile »

Peter Sigal

Peter Sigal, Professor in the Department of History

Office: 234 Classroom Building, Durham, NC 27708

The relationships between gender, sexuality, and colonialism have intrigued me since I began my first book on Maya sexuality. I recently completed a study on the interaction of writing and sexual representation in sixteenth and seventeenth-century Nahua societies--The Flower and the Scorpion:... full profile »

Philip Stern, Ph.D., Gilhuly Family Professor

Office: History Dept, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: +1 919 668 1695

My work focuses on the history of Britain and the British Empire, particularly in the early modern period (loosely defined). My first book, The Company-State, is a political and intellectual history of the English East India Company in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. I am currently... full profile »

Susan Thorne, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History

Office: 336 Classroom Building, 1356 Campus Drive, Durham, NC 27705
Phone: +1 919 593 2810

My research and teaching interests include the social history of modern Britain, the imperial history of modern Europe, and the ideological intersections of race, crime, and urban poverty in Anglo-American political culture.   Congregational missions and the making of an imperial culture in... full profile »