Alastair McClure

Dr Alastair McClure is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Indian Ocean World Centre. After completing his undergraduate and masters degrees from Cardiff University, he received an Arts and Humanities Research Scholarship to study for a PhD at the University of Cambridge. His doctorate study, titled ‘Violence, Sovereignty and the Making of Colonial Criminal Law in India, 1857-1914’ examined the role of violence in colonial criminal legal procedure, with a particular focus on its relationship to imperial political ideology. This involved case studies that traced the reintroduction of whipping as a judicial punishment, jubilee amnesty, punishments for everyday murder, and the laws for sedition. Sections of the thesis are being published in forthcoming journal articles, while a book manuscript is in preparation. In addition to the history of criminal law and violence in colonial India, Alastair has convened conferences on the history of nationalism from a world historical perspective, and the legal history of India, the proceedings of which have been collected for publication in special issues.

Alastair joined the Indian Ocean World Centre in November 2017 to begin work on a second project, titled ‘Disrupting Imperial Sovereignty: Law and Identity in the Indian Ocean World’. Focusing on deportation and repatriation cases from colonial port cities in the Western Indian Ocean, this project follows mobile colonial subjects whose unmanaged movement exposed the tensions embedded in liberal discourses of imperial rights. Comparing cases from diverse subjects that included paupers, pilgrims, widows, and religious preachers, these itinerant and marginal individuals skirted the very limits of imperial law and sovereignty, and in the process, revealed the political logic that informed law and its practice.


·         ‘Law and Legality in India: New Directions in Indian Legal History: Introduction’ Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 38:2, (Forthcoming, 2018), Co-written with Saumya Saxena.

·         ‘Sovereignty, Law and the Politics of Forgiveness in Colonial India’, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 38:2(Forthcoming,2018).

·         ‘Making and Unmaking the Nation in World History: Introduction’, History Compass, 15:1, (2017), pp. 1-9. Co-written with Joseph McQuade and Sophie-Jung Kim.

·         ‘State Building and Problematic Geopolitical Spaces in South Asia: The Himalayas and the Extradition Treaty of 1855’. In Transnational Frontiers of Asia and South America since 1800, edited by Jaime Moreno Tejado & Bradley Tatar, pp. 98-110. (New York: Routledge, 2017).

Select Awards

·         University of Cambridge, Faculty of History, Holland Rose Graduate Scholarship

·         Arts and Humanities Research Council, Doctoral Scholarship

Select Conferences

·         “Making and Remaking Legal Subjects: Age, Gender, Class and Caste in Colonial India”, Common Law Seminar Series, Max Planck Institute for European Legal History, Frankfurt, Germany. October 2017

·         “Violence, Law and Contested Political Vocabularies: The Reintroduction of Corporal Punishment in India 1864-1922”, Annual Young Scholars Conference, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. March 2017

·         “Legalized Violence and the Emergent Nationalist Response”, Law and Colonial Violence: An International Workshop, Queen Mary University of London. February 2017       

·         “Law, Identity, Citizenship in Modern India”, American Society for Legal History Conference, Las Vegas, USA. October 2017

·         “Realms of Governance”, British Society of South Asian Studies Annual Conference, University of Cambridge. April 2016

Contact Information

Indian Ocean World Centre
Peterson Hall
3460 McTavish Street, Room 100
Montreal, Quebec, H3A OE6