Benjamin Holt

Benjamin Holt


After completing my taught MA at the University of Leeds in the 2015-16 academic year – and submitting a dissertation centred on the rise of the eugenics movement in Britain (supervised by Professor James Harris) – I stayed in Leeds to undertake my PhD. The focus of the PhD has shifted conceptual focus significantly by undertaking an analysis of the impact of weapons diffusion in Northeast India (especially after Partition). The project is co-supervised by Professor Simon Ball and Professor William Gould and generously funded by the White Rose College for the Arts and Humanities DTP.

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

2020: ‘Coercion or Consent? Civilian support for separatist conflict in India’s northeast.’ 2nd Modern Conflict Research Symposium. Imperial War Museum North (Manchester).

2019: ‘Cultural Subjugation in the Assam-Burmese borderlands: Weaponry, Symbolism and the colonial encounter.’ British Association for South Asian Studies Conference. University of Durham.

2018: 'Sowing the Seeds of Insurgency in India's North East: The Impact of Weapons Diffusion in the 1940s.' 2nd Annual White Rose South Asia Studies Conference. University of Sheffield.


Other Projects

I am actively involved in the running of the annual White Rose South Asia Conference series, having been the lead postgraduate sponsor since 2018. The yearly conference brings together researchers from a number of disciplines and regions to the White Rose Universities to present on aspects of South Asian study. In addition, I have also been involved in the organisation of the Weapons in Society Conference held at the Royal Armouries in Leeds in 2019.

Beyond academia I have an interest in the wider research into the effects of weapons diffusion globally. This has – among other things – led to a work placement with the London based NGO ‘Action on Armed Violence’ in 2019. This was made possible thanks to the ‘Research Employability Project’ sponsored by the WRoCAH Doctoral Training Programme.

Scholarships and Awards

WRoCAH Doctoral Studentship, 2017-2020. 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.