Professor WiIliam Gould

Professor WiIliam Gould


I did my BA (1992-5), MPhil (1995-6) and PhD (1996 - 2000) at the University of Cambridge, Pembroke College as an undergraduate (up to the MPhil), then Trinity College as a PhD student.  Before coming to Leeds I was a Research Fellow at the Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge (2000 - 2003). Since 2003 I have worked in the School of History, University of Leeds.


  • UOA Leader

Research interests

I am writing a co-authored book with Sarah Ansari, entitled 'Boundaries of Belonging' which will appear in 2019.  The book explores quotidian experiences of citizenship in the cities of India and Pakistan from 1947 to the 1960s.

I am currently working on two further projects.  Firstly, I am collaborating with a film maker in western India, exploring the experiences of two 'Denotified Tribes' (erstwhile 'Criminal Tribes') of the transition to Independence, which ostensibly brought an end to these communities' definition as 'criminal', but which was replaced by the Habitual Offender's Act.  This project employs methodological approaches drawn from my other projects on corruption, citizenship and the state, and will result in a historical documentary, a co-authored journal article, a short history and eventually, a monograph.  This project is being funded by the British Academy.  Secondly, I am continuing my research on corruption and anti-corruption, linked to my book Bureaucracy, Community and Influence (2011), by building a research network on colonialism, corruption and history, and via a knowledge transfer/impact project with an anti-corruption NGO based in Uttar Pradesh, India.  With the latter, I have set up a series of local Public Information Centres (Janata Suchna Kendra), which have facilitated the filing of Right to Information applications and citizens' rights in relation to the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA).

I have also been the Principal Investigator, recently, on a project exploring Indian citizens' experiences of the newly independent state of India between 1947 and 1964, as part of a larger AHRC project (see more below).  I am also continuing to research and write on the politics of religious conflict and 'communalism' in South Asia, and the historical narratives of South Asian migrants to the UK after 1947.

  • Hindu nationalism, the history of Gandhian nationalism
  • Notions of citizenship and state transformation over Indian independence and partition
  • Corruption, anti-corruption and the state in India
  • India's 'Criminal/Denotified Tribes'
  • South Asian diasporas

Current/Recent Research Projects

Identity, Performance and the State: India's Denotified Tribes over Independence (Funded by the British Academy)

In 1871 the colonial government in India officially defined 192 ethnic communities as ‘Criminal Tribes’ – groups considered to be ‘hereditary’ criminals. In consequence, these communities were subject to collective penal and ‘rehabilitative’ measures that included increased surveillance, forced resettlement and employment that the government deemed productive. After independence, they were reclassified as ‘Denotified Tribes’ (DNTs) in 1952.  However, through both formal legislation such as the 'Habitual Offenders Act', and informal measures these tribes continued to be subject to the state's special penal scrutiny, and were defined more broadly as social pariahs.  

This project will combine historical research with film documentary, to produce a subject-driven textual history and related film output, directed by a leading DNT film-maker, that explores DNT experiences of India’s changing state and constitutional structures.  The project explores the changing practices of community mobilisation among two communities – the Chharas (or Kanjars) based in Ahmedabad, and the Pardhis based in Mumbai.  It will examine the implications for these two communities of the process of denotification, which had a variable effect on the range of ‘criminal tribe’ groups, the continued use of police surveillance and enforced settlement, registration and rehabilitation.  It also explores the effects of new definitions of ‘habitual’ criminality; the changing processes of language formation and social stigma through the late colonial and early independence period.  It will explore these themes partly to examine how concepts of habitual criminality related to older colonial notions of biological determinism, labour, movement, and pan-European/Asian nomadic communities.  Finally, it will look at how community strategies since independence have been geared towards the larger project of promoting a special reservation list in civil service employment and political representation among disadvantaged castes and tribes.  Currently, denotified tribes do not enjoy a separate list of reservations, but some communities are included within other Scheduled caste categories.  This therefore cuts across a larger ‘denotified’ strategy, but allows certain local groups to lobby for ethnic representation.  This theme relates very closely to my long-standing research on the relationship between ethnic (caste) mobilisation and political corruption in India over the late colonial and early independence period.

Corruption, Colonialism and History

I am currently building a research network with colleagues at the Universities of Bristol and Manchester, which explores comparative historical approaches to corruption and anti-corruption in different parts of South Asia and West Africa.  The network has been based, so far, in a series of workshops at Bristol and Leeds, but will soon develop into a wider collaboration.  

My work on corruption and anti-corruption has also resulted in an impact project involving collaboration with a Right to Information (RTI) NGO in Lucknow, India. The research I conducted between 2005 and 2010 resulting in Bureaucracy, Community and Influence (2011), helped us to develop an electronic Public Information Centre between 2010 and 2012, which allows communities in Uttar Pradesh, India, to access information on government projects, including the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. Centres/booths are run in five locations and assist in the filing of RTI applications. Over 100 applications have been filed since July 2012.

From subjects to citizens: society and the everyday state in North India and Pakistan, 1947-1964

I am the Principal Investigator on this project with Dr Sarah Ansari of Royal Holloway, University of London. The project is funded by a major collaborative AHRC research grant.

South Asia's transition from colonialism to independence and democracy in 1947 was one of the most momentous events of the mid-twentieth century. Sixty years on, this project takes up the compelling history of citizens' experiences of independence over this period, and their everyday contacts with the new state. It asks how comparisons between India and Pakistan at this level provide unique insights into the question of the relative success or failure of the state in this politically sensitive part of the world. A comparative history of this nature is still waiting to be written. Hitherto, studies of India and Pakistan for this period have mostly been concerned with issues of economic development, the nature of the secular state (for India), the development of party politics and the nature of national state transformation (for Pakistan). Little work has looked at the development of popular, public cultures surrounding the state, and none has been comparative. In effect, histories of India and Pakistan since 1947 have been divided along nation-state lines - a division that artificially separates directly comparable social and political experiences.

Our grassroots comparative study of the transition from colonial rule to independence in two parts of the subcontinent (Uttar Pradesh, India, and Sindh, Pakistan) will unravel the explicit meanings, and relevance, of 'Independence' for Indian and Pakistani citizens between 1947 and 1964. Its key focus will be citizen experiences of the everyday state during this crucial formative period, the gap between the rhetorical, ideological platform set out in New Delhi and Karachi (Pakistan's capital for most of this period), and the interpretations of this agenda in the locality. Its principal argument will be that the South Asian state was, during this period, re-moulded in local political arenas, through social strategies for influencing, controlling or approaching state agencies. These were, in turn, linked into changing discourses about the nature of Indian and Pakistani governance. The project will research, specifically, the forms of cultural capital used by ordinary Indians and Pakistanis in their attempts to make sense of the state, and how that in turn shaped the new states' operation. Visit the project website.

Other Past Research

My PhD, 'Hindu nationalism and the politics of the Congress in UP, 1930 - 1947' was funded by an AHRC studentship.  Out of this I developed two journal articles and a monograph.  Since coming to Leeds, I have teamed up with other South Asianists, and we jointly submitted an AHRC network grant, on 'Writing British Asian Cities', which looks at how the Asian presence in the UK has been represented by different disciplines.  More recently, I have developed work around popular responses to the 'everyday state' in South, for which I have a book contract, and which has formed the basis of my large AHRC grant, 'From Subjects to Citizens' (see above).  I am also currently working on a third book project 'Religion and Conflict in South Asia'

<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>

Student education


Undergraduate modules

  • Nationalism, Colonialism and Religious Violence in India, 1857 - 1947
  • Gandhi and Gandhism in India and the Wider World, 1915 - 1948

Both of my undergraduate modules have arisen from the research surrounding my first book and have informed one of my current projects, 'Religion and Conflict in South Asia'.  The sources used in both modules are based around primary research that I conducted in my own specialisms.

Postgraduate modules

  • Approaches to Race this team-taught module includes classes which are based on the specific research and resources put together for our 'Writing British Asian Cities' project, particularly those available online
  • India Since 1947  this module is based heavily on my current research on the AHRC project 'From Subjects to Citizens: Society and the Everyday State in India and Pakistan, 1947 - 1964', and uses some of the specific oral interviews and research collections of that project

I teach these modules on the MA in Modern History, MA in Race and Resistance and MA in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies.

Postgraduate supervision

I can offer supervision in the following areas:

  • South Asian history and politics between the mid 19th Century and the present day
  • Religion, caste and conflict in India between the 19th Century and the present
  • British imperialism after 1857

Current students

  • Sarah Gandee has just submitted her PhD on Criminal Tribes and the Habitual Offender's Act in north-western India around independence
  • Ben Holt is working on the proliferation of small arms in India's north-east
  • Andrew Lunt is working on Criminal Tribes in 19th Century western India
  • Purba Hossain is working on 19th Century debates about indenture in Calcutta
  • Saarang Narayan is working on the economic philosophies of the Hindu right in India
  • Sam Plaxton is working on western views of Arab society in the context of South Asian migrant labour

Recent students 

  • Dr Oliver Godsmark competed a PhD on linguistic reorganisation in western India and concepts of federalism, has worked as a teaching fellow at Sheffield, LSE, Kent and is now wokring as a PDRA at the Universtiy of York.
  • Dr Catherine Coombs completed a PhD on change in the Punjab: Professional and Personal Experiences of British Civil Servants.  In 2012-2013, she is being employed as a Teaching Fellow in South Asian History at the University of Leeds
  • Dr Susanne Kranz completed a PhD on the All Indian Democratic Women's Association and is currently in an academic post in Dubai.
  • Dr Aaron Kent completed a PhD on the Jewish community in Leeds in the early 20th Century, and is now teaching in HE in the United States.
  • Dr Justin Jones completed a PhD (which I co-supervised at the University of Cambridge) on Shia politics in Uttar Pradesh in the early 20th Century, and is now a Lecturer at the University of Exeter.
  • Dr Eleanor Newbigin (who I supervised at Cambridge), completed a PhD on The Hindu Code Bill in India, and is now a Lecturer at SOAS.

Research groups and institutes

  • Empires and Aftermath
  • Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums

Current postgraduate researchers

<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>