I work on early modern global history (1500-1800), with a special interest in those parts of the world that came into contact with Portuguese imperialism and the theme of religious encounters. Most of my published work has focused on Sri Lankan history. This includes a book, Kingship and Conversion in Sixteenth Century Sri Lanka: Portuguese Imperialism in a Buddhist Land (Cambridge 2007), and articles on such themes as origin myths, source criticism, and the development of ethnic consciousness. In the past seven or eight years, my research has increasingly taken a comparative, inter-disciplinary and global approach. One project will result in a book, Sacred Kingship and Religious Change in the Early Modern World (Cambridge, forthcoming) looking at why the rulers of some societies – ranging from Kongo to Japan – converted to monotheism and others did not. And a second project considers the global relationship between religion and state as a product of 'early modernity'. I teach both European and world history as a Fellow and Tutor at Brasenose College, and a Lecturer at St. John's College. I was on leave 2011-13 following the award of a Philip Leverhulme Prize for History in 2010. I'm happy to consider DPhil supervision across a wide range of areas in the early modern world.
Sacred kingship and the relationship between religion and politics more broadly
Ethnic identity and origin myths
Otherworldly Power: Sacred Kingship and Religious Conversion in Global History. Why does the religious map of the world today look the way it does? The voluntary conversion of kings has played a very important part in shaping this map, and this book sets out to explore how and why this happened. It is particularly concerned with why the rulers of some societies converted to monotheism and others did not? Why did large stretches of Asia remain immune to its allure? The main case studies are 16th to 17th century Central Africa, Japan, Thailand, island Southeast Asia, and early 19th century Hawaii, but I also draw on material across global history. While the core cases concern conversion to Christianity, in recent publications I also have begun to extend my work to Islam. My thinking and methodology are heavily influenced by anthropological scholarship and by the long-term historical sociology of religion reaching back to the first millennium BCE. The book therefore sets out to make a contribution to more theoretical questions regarding the nature of the relationship between religion and political legitimacy. The Early Modern World: Religion and State 1450-1750. This provisional title may sound similar to the one above, but the content will be quite different, both in geographical coverage and in its analytical objectives. The book is a response to the growing feeling among scholars that the whole world (and not just Europe) participated in an 'early modern period'. I am interested in pursuing the implications that this may have for the relationship between religion and state across Eurasia in particular.
Lastly, I am in the final stages of putting together an edited book with Zoltán Biedermann (UCL) on cosmopolitanism in Sri Lankan History over the long term: Sri Lanka at the Crossroads of History (UCL Press, forthcoming)
Sri Lanka at the Crossroads of History
Global Patterns of Ruler Conversion to Islam and the Logic of Empirical Religiosity
'Thailand’s first revolution? The Ayutthaya rebellion of 1688 and global patterns of ruler conversion to monotheism'
Introduction: Querying the cosmopolitan in Sri Lankan and
Indian Ocean history
The digestion of the foreign in Lankan history, c. 500– 1818
Religion and Empire
Vijaya and Romulus: Interpreting the Origin Myths of Sri Lanka and Rome
Drawing the veil of sovereignty: early modern Islamic empires and understanding sacred kingship
Sri Lanka in the Missionary Conjuncture of the 1540s
Immanence and Tolerance: Ruler Conversions to Islam and Christianity in Archipelagic Southeast Asia