Sam Ellis

Sam Ellis



I study colonial-era encounters in the Himalayas. 

My thesis focuses on a series of expeditions on behalf of the British East India Company to Nepal and Tibet, as a lens through which to study Anglo-Nepalese relations and eighteenth-century colonial peripheries. I examine how the existing historical interpretations of these expeditions came into being, highlight their limitations, and then posit an alternative by drawing upon the works and criticisms of postcolonial and subaltern studies. The key tool of analysis for this is a close reading of related texts from within the colonial archive alongside Nepalese sources, often but not exclusively travel writing, asking questions of agency and agenda, highlighting the roles played by different individuals, some of whom could be called ‘subaltern,’ who have been marginalized in existing accounts.  

My research contributes to a reinterpretation of who, or what, pulled the strings of empire. I have a wider interest in postcolonial theory, indigenous resistance and British colonialism in the eighteenth-century. I also maintain an enthusiasm for the history of climbing in the Himalayas. 


I completed my BA in History at the University of Warwick in 2012, and my MA in Eighteenth Century Studies at the University of Sheffield in 2014, where I was firstly a writer and later an Editor-In-Chief for the New Histories online magazine. I began my PhD study here at the University of Leeds in 2015. As an Undergraduate Dissertation Mentor I have supported students to write extended essays on subaltern studies, indigenous agency in Australasia and East India Company rule. As an Education Outreach Fellow I have taught an introduction to postcolonial studies and the history of Mount Everest to school and college classes. 

I have helped digitise the India Office Records, the National Fairground Archive, and maintain an interest in the construction of the archive. I am a tutor at the University of Leeds. Present and past teaching includes Historiography and Historical Skills, the 1857 Indian Uprising, Primary Sources for Historians, Captain Cook’s Voyages, Mughals, Merchants and Mercenaries, and The Modern World.

I have helped co-ordinate the ‘Leeds War & Peace Studies Conference 2017', the ‘Futures Past: South Asia Now and Then’ 2017 Workshop, the 'South Asian Studies: Voices Through History' 2018 PG Symposium and the 'Redcoats, Tommies, and Dusty Warriors: British Soldiers c.1650 to the Present' 2018 Conference. I am a member of the White Rose South Asia network. 

I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Awards and Prizes

University of Leeds 110 Anniversary Scholarship for Doctoral Study, University of Leeds, 2015.

The Bryan Marsden Prize for American History, University of Sheffield, 2014 

Publications & Presentations

Article: ‘The Sepoy Abroad: East India Expeditions beyond South Asia,’ East India Company, Marlborough: Adam Matthew, 2017. 

Paper: 'Contesting the Greatest Market: English, French, Dutch and Bengali Power-Brokering in 18th Century Patna, presented at the European Conference On South Asian Studies, Paris, July 2018.

Paper: 'The Name of the Mountain: Positionality and Localities in Himalayan Colonial Etymology', South Asian Studies: Voices Through History, University of Sheffield, June 2018.

 Paper: 'Challenging Himalayan Mythologies: Shangri-La, the Orient, and Visions of South Asia in British Secondary Education', South Asian Studies: Voices Through History, University of Sheffield, June 2018. 

Paper: 'Contracting For the Company: The Role of Independent Contractors in Trade, Supply and Knowledge Exchange in the late 18th Century Bengal-Himalayan Borderlands', IHR Corporate History Seminar, 1500-1800, Institute for Historical Research, March 2018.

Paper: 'Reading Marginalized Historical Agency in William Kirkpatrick's Account of the Kingdom of Nepaul: Difficulties, Limitations, Opportunities,' presented at the Hakluyt Society Symposium, Trading Companies and Travel Literature, September 2017.

Paper: 'Reflections on "Gurkha" and Nepalese Involvement in the 1857 Indian Uprising,' presented at War & Peace Studies ConferenceUniversity of Leeds, June 2017.

Paper: ‘Digitising the Colonial Archive: Some Historiographical, Methodological and Ethical considerations’ presented at Historian’s WorkshopUniversity of Leeds, November 2016. 

Paper: ‘Revisiting the East India Company’s 1767 Expedition to Nepal’, presented at the 'War and Peace Colloquium,' University of Leeds, June 2016.  

Paper: “Those whose interest is against you:” Marginalized Agendas, Marginalized Agency and the East India Company’s encounters with in the Himalayas’ presented at Historian’s WorkshopUniversity of Leeds, May 2016.  

Paper: ‘Lightening Talk - Introducing Captain Kinloch: Revisiting the East India Company’s failed 1767 expedition to Nepal’ presented as part of the ‘British History in the Long Eighteenth Century Seminar Series’Institute for Historical Research, November 2015.  

Paper: ‘Winterers and Wolves: Anthony Henday’s journey, Indian guides and Indian agency within the Hudson Bay fur trade’ presented at the ‘MA Symposium’, University of Sheffield, May 2014.  

If you would like the script for any of these presentations, please do not hesitate to get in contact. 


Professor Kevin Linch and Professor Andrea Major