Professor Sanjoy Bhattacharya

Professor Sanjoy Bhattacharya


Educated in West Germany, Bangladesh, India and the UK, I have helped develop and expand the historical sub-discipline of Global Health Histories, where the great complexity of social, cultural, economic and political determinants in national, international and global health are studied through a combination of careful archival research, oral history preparation and analysis, and detailed assessment of collections of private papers. These studies are then used to inform inclusive action within diverse policy settings, with a view to promoting and embedding all forms of diversity in project preparation and ownership.

I embarked on this work in 2004–05, in partnership with the World Health Organization’s Headquarters in Geneva, and Regional Offices worldwide, with the WHO Global Health Histories programme becoming an official, audited activity in 2008. In October 2013, the impact of these contributions was recognised formally, when I was appointed the Head of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Global Health Histories – the first such body that specialised in the use of historical data and analyses in the planning and delivery of work carried out by multiple WHO Divisions, Departments and Programmes. This Collaborating Centre status and my Headship was renewed by the WHO in October 2017 and October 2021 (via the organisation’s usual four year cycle of evaluation and approval of formal external partnerships). 

Based on the use of multiple languages and interdisciplinary collaboration, my own work has mainly focussed on the South Asian sub-continent, where I have studied colonial and independent India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. This research has brought me into engagement with wider collectives of national, international and global officials, non-government and civil society actors, and funders, think-tanks and ethics bodies around the globe. These engagements with governance, community engagement and ethics oversight have allowed me to pioneer new forms of history-policy work that consistently promotes racial and cultural inclusion in policy design, implementation and evaluation. This has been tied up with work on community empowerment, carried out in partnership with WHO Divisions for Knowledge Ethics and Research and Knowledge Management and Sharing, as well as multiple national governments (for example, Sri Lanka and Brazil).

This record of work allows me to remain productively engaged in international and global intersectoral partnerships, where I have provided leadership in connecting institutions of higher education, with international and global actors like the WHO and national aid and development agencies, and community and non-government organisations. Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, for example, I have been assisting with the WHO’s Epidemic & Pandemic Preparedness & Prevention initiative, which is part of the agency’s Health Emergencies Programme, working closely on community and Faith-based Organisation engagement; a role that also allowed me the honour of working with Religions for Peace, a global movement engaging the United Nations.

I am also currently active in supporting the WHO HQ’s Smallpox Eradication Secretariat, the WHO Regional Office for Europe’s Behavioural and Cultural Insights Division, the WHO Regional Office for Eastern Mediterranean’s Universal Health Coverage/Health Systems (UHS) Division, and the WHO’s Department of Communications. All these activities have drawn me into wider research and advisory roles, often relating to the promotion of equity and racial diversity within global health, where many actors now recognise the need to ‘decolonize’ practice through greater inclusion and consultation. In these roles, I have used my skills in history and international relations to work with the Nuffield Council on Bioethics on the preparation and dissemination of a major report on research in global health emergencies, and serves on advisory panels like the Lancet’s Advisory Group for Racial Equity (GRacE) and Wellcome Trust-funded research collectives working on Africa-centric perspectives on decolonising global health (led from Wellcome-KEMRI in Kenya).


  • Co-Director, Centre for Global Health Histories

Research interests

I am deeply interested in developing innovative and inclusive methodologies for history-policy research, relating to global and international policy design, planning and funding, and its implementation, adaptation and evaluation in low and middle income country contexts around the world. In this regard, I am interested in studying sub-national agency in the redesign of programmes and projects, as well as form and extent of national contributions to international and global initiatives. This work has necessarily involved collaborations with international relations and health policy practitioners from around the world, seeking to bring about evidence-led ethical codes and new moral frameworks of practice in global health diplomacy.

I continue to retain an interest in more ‘traditional’ forms of medical, health, social and political histories, with a focus on South Asia and its disaporas. I am currently completing books and articles dealing with the histories of smallpox eradication programme in India in the 1950s and 1960s, the birth and expansion of the World Health Organization between 1948 and 1980, the response to the AIDS pandemic in India in the 1980s and 1990s, South Asian practitioners in the British National Health Service, the connected development of urban and rural healthcare in colonial Bombay providence/independent Maharashtra State, and contemporary malaria elimination and eradication programmes in global, international and national health (drawing on templates from Sri Lanka’s successful elimination of the disease). That said, I continually seek to enrich such work through interdisciplinary and international collaboration, which I consider central to the creation of racially inclusive and socially impactful pedagogical practice.

I also combine this research and pedagogical experience to engage and inform the media globally, and have appeared in radio and TV programmes on wide-ranging health- and politics-related themes produced by the UK’s BBC, Channel 4, LBC, Times Radio and others. I acted as expert advisor to a BAFTA winning secondary school resource on the history of smallpox produced by Timelines TV.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • B.A. (Hons.) History, St. Stephen's College, University of Delhi, India
  • M.A. in Modern History, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India
  • Ph.D in History, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, UK

Student education

I am involved in supervising PhDs and MAs by Research, as well as teaching on MA and BA programmes.

Research groups and institutes

  • Empires and Aftermath
  • Health Histories
  • Politics, Diplomacy, and International History
  • Centre for Global Health Histories
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>