Benjamin Holt

Benjamin Holt


Small arms in the shatter zone: Arms diffusion in North East India. The project is generously funded by the White Rose College for the Arts and Humanities.

I completed my taught MA at the University of Leeds in the 2015-16 academic year after taking a few years out of academia following the completion of my undergraduate degree (2009-2012, Teesside University). My MA dissertation was entitled ‘the theoretical affinity between socialism and eugenics’, a study of trends of socialist thought in Edwardian Britain, supervised by Professor James Harris. My PhD, starting in the 2017-18 academic year, shifts focus somewhat to a study of the effect of weapons proliferation in the North East region of India. A long timeframe is employed in this project, dating back to the establishment of colonial rule in the region from 1826, and concludes around the time of the 'Assam Agitation' which began in 1979. The project is co-supervised by Professor Simon Ball and Professor William Gould.

Current Project

My current project surrounds North East India, a region that has been susceptible to sustained periods of conflict fuelled by questions of identity that often results in violence. Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) are the tools through which this violence is enacted, yet the impact of their presence has not been understood. This project extends beyond viewing SALW as purely mechanistic tools. Instead they are understood as an ‘underlying dynamic’ which forms part of a complex milieu which shapes and determines the development of the Northeast. The aim is to produce a new historical perspective of the North East which seeks to understand the roots and development of conflict so prevalent in the area. The study can deepen our view of South Asian history by questioning dynamics of centre-periphery relations in India, as well as extending beyond political boundaries to incorporate a transnational perspective. The project simultaneously offers a case study of how prolonged exposure to SALW can affect the development of a region.

Conference Papers

2018: 'Sowing the Seeds of Insurgency in India's North East: The Impact of Weapons Diffusion in the 1940s', University of Sheffield.

Scholarships and Awards

WRoCAH Doctoral Studentship, 2017-2018. Arts & Humanities Research Council.

School of History Postgraduate Scholarship, 2015-2016. University of Leeds.

Historical Association Prize, 2011-2012. School of History, Teesside University.

Dick Richardson Memorial Prize, 2011-2012. Schools of Arts and Social Sciences, Teesside University.