Dr Jonathan Saha

Dr Jonathan Saha

Associate Professor of Southeast Asian History

+44 (0)113 34 33544

Summary: Nineteenth and twentieth-century colonialism in Southeast Asia, focusing particularly on British Burma

Location: Parkinson Room 4.34 (a)



I completed my MA and PhD at the School of Oriental and African Studies, at the University of London. Before I came to Leeds, I was Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Bristol. You can keep up with my research on my 'Colonizing Animals' blog and via twitter @Jonathan_Saha.

Research Interests

I specialise in the history of nineteenth and twentieth-century colonialism in Southeast Asia, focusing particularly on British Burma. My research to-date has been into the history of corruption within the colonial state, exploring how the state was experienced and imagined in everyday life. I argue that corruption contributed to the maintenance of British rule and perpetuated racial divisions and gender ideologies.

As well as corruption, I have published on crime, medicine and ‘madness’ in colonial Burma. I have been particularly interested in how state medicine was entangled with discourses of race and gender. More recently I have commenced a new project on the history of animals, particularly the ways in which they shaped, and were shaped by, the colonisation of Burma. The research for this project has been funded by two grants from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. 

Research Projects

In collaboration with Bristol Museum and through an AHRC-funded research project called "A History of Animals in Colonial Burma", I helped to curate an online exhibition displaying artifacts from Burma held in the Museum's collections: Buddhas and Birdskins: Bringing Burma to Bristol in the Age of Empire

I am currently working on another AHRC-funded research project "Elephants and Empire" through which I have taken colonial-era photographs of working elephants currently held by the London Metropolitan Archives to be displayed at an exhibition at the Myanmar Deitta photographic gallery in Yangon. These are now being shown at the Green Hill Elephant Camp, a sanctuary for retired working elephants near Kalaw in Myanmar.



Law, Disorder and the Colonial State: Corruption in Burma, c.1900, Cambridge Imperial and Postcolonial Studies Series (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)

Journal Articles

‘Colonising Elephants: Animal Agency, Undead Capital and Imperial Science in British Burma’, British Journal for the History of Science: Themes (Forthcoming).

‘Whiteness, Masculinity and the Ambivalent Embodiment of “British Justice” in Colonial Burma’, Cultural and Social History (Forthcoming).

‘Murder at London Zoo: Late Colonial Sympathy in Interwar Britain’, American Historical Review, 121: 5 (2016), pp. 1468-1491.

‘Milk to Mandalay: Dairy Consumption, Animal History and the Political Geography of Colonial Burma’, Journal of Historical Geography, 54 (2016), pp. 1-12.

‘Among the Beasts of Burma: Animals and the Politics of Colonial Sensibilities, c.1840-1950’, Journal of Social History, 48:4 (2015), pp. 910-93.

with Simon Potter, ‘Global History, Imperial History and Connected Histories of Empire’, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, 16:1 (2015), np.

‘Colonization, Criminalization, and Complicity: Policing Gambling in Burma, c.1880-1920’, South East Asia Research, 21:4 (2013), pp. 655-672.

‘Madness and the Making of a Colonial Order in Burma’, Modern Asian Studies, 47:2 (2013), pp. 406-435.

‘A Mockery of Justice? Colonial Law, the Everyday State, and Village Politics in the Burma Delta, c.1890-1910’, Past & Present, 217 (2012), pp. 187-212.

‘“Uncivilized Practitioners”: Medical Subordinates, Medico-Legal Evidence and Misconduct in Burma, 1875-1907’, South East Asia Research, 20:3 (2012), pp. 423-443.

‘Histories of Everyday Violence in British India’, History Compass, 9:11 (2011), pp. 844-853.

‘The Male State: Colonialism, Corruption and Rape Investigations in the Irrawaddy Delta, c. 1900’, The Indian Economic & Social History Review, 47:3 (2010), pp. 343-376.

Book Chapters

‘Dis-Oriented in a Post-Imperial World’, in Antoinette Burton and Dane Kennedy eds., How Empire Shaped Us (Bloomsbury, 2016), pp. 195-204.

‘Devious Documents: Corruption and Paperwork in Colonial Burma c.1900’, in Emily Manktelow and Will Jackson eds., Subverting Empire: Deviance and Disorder in the British World (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), pp. 167-184.

‘Not Fit for Punishment: Diagnosing Criminal Insanity in Nineteenth-Century British India’, in Poonam Bala ed., Medicine and Colonialism: Historical Perspectives in India and South Africa (Pickering Chatto, 2014), pp. 127-142.

Postgraduate Supervision

I can offer PhD supervision on the following topics: colonial Burma, and British imperialism in South/Southeast Asia more widely; animal history; the history of corruption and criminality; and the history of colonial psychiatry.

Undergraduate Teaching:

HIST3697: Colonising Animals: More-than-human Histories of Empire in Asia

HIST3735: Crime and Punishment in Colonial Southern Asia