Dr Elisabeth Leake

Lecturer in International History

Summary: Intersections between South Asian and international history.

I completed my BA and MA in history at Yale University in 2009 before moving to the University of Cambridge for my PhD. I subsequently held a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship at Royal Holloway, University of London, from 2013-16.

My research focuses on the intersections between South Asian and international history. I look at state-building in postcolonial India and Pakistan and both countries’ interactions with foreign powers such as the United States and Great Britain. I am particularly interested in borderlands as spaces of contested sovereignty where local non-state actors come into conflict with state authorities and foreign interests. I am broadly interested in the global Cold War; the U.S. in twentieth-century world politics; empire and decolonization; borderlands studies and non-state actors; and nationalist and identity politics.

My first book is a history of the northwest frontier tribal area of the Indian subcontinent (what is now Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Area) in the context of decolonization and the global Cold War. It considers why this region has remained largely autonomous in the twentieth century, as well as why the region has persisted in interesting state actors in South Asia and the West.

I currently am working on an international history of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and a comparative study of borderlands autonomy movements and state-building in postcolonial South Asia.



The Defiant Border: The Afghan-Pakistan Borderlands in the Era of Decolonization, 1936-65 (Cambridge University Press, 2016)

with Leslie James, eds., Decolonization and the Cold War: Negotiating Independence (Bloomsbury Academic Press, 2015)


 ‘Spooks, Tribes, and Holy Men: The Central Intelligence Agency and the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan’, Journal of Contemporary History, forthcoming 2016

‘At the Nation-State’s Edge: Centre-Periphery Relations in Post-1947 South Asia’, The Historical Journal, 59:2 (2016), 509-39

‘British India versus the British Empire: The Indian Army and an impasse in imperial defence, c. 1919-39’, Modern Asian Studies, 48:1 (2014), 301-29

‘The Great Game anew: US Cold War policy and Pakistan’s North-West Frontier, 1947-65’, International History Review, 35:4 (2013), 783-806

Undergraduate Teaching

HIST 1817 - Skills and Concepts in International History
HIST 1819 - International History, 1919-1989: Conflict, Co-operation and Change
HIST 2800 - Documents and Debates in International History
HIST 2856 - From World War to Vietnam War, 1945-75
HIST 2900 - International History and Politics Long Essay