Imperial Measures: Round II*

It is with great excitement that I can announce that Imperial Measures is back! A few months ago, I got the news that my application to the Wellcome for funds to develop the scope of the original project had been successful. So, from today until early 2019, I will be once again visiting the India Office Archives at the British Library, as well as broadening out my research beyond its original focus, and into other archival repositories and holdings across the UK too.

I learned a great deal in my first period of funding, both in terms of the what was contained within the archive and where (the difference between IOR/L/MIL vs IOR/Z/E can be night and day…), but also in relation to my use of it; coming from a literature background, sifting large amounts of archival material, printed texts and other narratives, and then interpreting it all was occasionally challenging, but a very useful learning experience (all aided by the generosity of time and expertise of the wonderful Asian & African Studies Reading Room staff).

Of course, I also learnt a lot about the interrelation of alcohol and medicine in colonial


Picture taken from the diary of Mary Morely, privately published 1898.

India. My research alerted me not only to the variability of the kinds of and extent to which alcohol was consumed across boundaries of class, gender, rank and race, but also the importance of considering those national differences so often drawn together under the homogenising umbrella of ‘British experience’. In expanding my scope to explore the National Archives, the Glasgow Business Archives, and the National Library of Scotland, I intend to reflect on this regional diversity within Anglo-Indian drinking habits more fully in my research to come. Moving beyond the previous focus on beer and into a consideration of other forms of alcohol as well, I will also continue my engagement with the medicalisation of alcohol abuse and addiction by continuing to explore how alcohol operated in various social, cultural and medical contexts of colonial space.

As before, I will be blogging throughout the life of the project, and hopefully coercing inviting colleagues from related fields to submit guest posts on various topics too, so please do keep an eye out for those and spread the word if you are able. If anyone would be interested in writing a short post, then please do get in touch!

One other thing I will be doing very soon, is co-organising a conference with colleague Dr Sarah Arens, to be held at the University of St. Andrews. As you’ll see from the CFP below, entitled ‘Ailing Empires: Medicine, Science, and Imperialism’, this one-day event seeks to explore the extent to which narratives of health, medicine and science are inextricably bound with experiences of empire and colonialism throughout the nineteenth and twentieth-centuries. The conference will take place on May 4th, with a deadline for submission of abstracts on March 1st. We are delighted to announce that Dr Katherine Foxhall from the University of Leicester (@historikat) will be our first keynote speaker. Please follow us on Twitter at @AEconference, or email me at, or Sarah ( with any questions.

SG Feb 2018.


*I entirely avoided making an ‘Empire Strikes Back’ pun. Didn’t I do well?

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