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Personal profile


I completed my doctoral research in 2018 at SOAS, London. My thesis focused on large infrastructure projects on rivers in colonial and postcolonial India, thinking about 'technocratic' practicies, agrarian politics and economic life. Following this, I joined the Prediction, Emergence, Adaptation and Knowledge (PEAK) Urban GCRF project at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, to work on infrastructure and water in the city of Bangalore. I arrived in Manchester in November 2019, holding an ESRC postdoctoral fellowship at the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, working on a digital and public history project on deltaic landscapes in southern India. Currently, I am a Presidential fellow in environmental history at the history department, and have begun a new project, which examines cities and the built environment in the British colonial and postcolonial world. 

Research interests

Dams and experts in colonial and postcolonial India

My doctoral research traced the origins of the multipurpose reservoir in colonial and postcolonial India. It shows how 1) how colonial finance and technology began speculating on Indian rivers 2) why a range of experts such as agricultural scientists, irrigation engineers, hydroelectric engineers, urban planners, doctors etc. became interested in large dam projects and sites and 3) how events such as the Gread Depression and the Second World War created food scarcity as a major problem which large dams could resolve. I am currently revising the doctoral thesis for publication as a monograph. Further, I have an article forthcoming from Historical Journal directly from the thesis, and two journal articles on 19th century public works projects, law and environments in colonial India.

Deltaic environments

My ESRC funded postdoctoral project focuses on publishing further from my doctoral research, as well as translating the research into impact. Alongside my longstanding associates at the French Institute of Pondicherry, Puducherry (India), I am revisiting my fieldsites in southern India, namely the Cauvery delta, to understand the postcolonial history of water and climate. Using colonial and early postcolonial archives, I aim to build a dataset of various variables used to describe climatic conditions over the 20th century in the delta region, including temperature and rainfall. I am further working with the Geospatial lab at the French Institute to digitize 20th century several maps of the Cauvery delta held in the British Library and other repositories. Finally, I am recording the 'life histories' of several farmers in the delta, which was one of India's largest food producing regions in colonial times and is today beset by food insecurity, to understand how water has become a scarce resource. I am especially interested in the histories of emerging commodities produced in the delta, including salt and oil. Together, I hope to produce a web resource that will curate the environmental and climatic histories of the Cauvery delta in multiple accessible forms.  

Urban ecologies

My next project, which I will begin at Manchester from October 2020 will examine water, land and air in the cities of Chennai and Bangalore mainly, but include research on other cities such as Cape Town and Jaffna. This research is drawn from work begun initially as a PEAK Urban postdoctoral fellow at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bengaluru. Funded by a GCRF grant, I worked with urban planners, architects and geographers, in a major effort to rethink the contemporary city across Peking, Cape Town, Oxford, Medellin and Bengaluru.

Please do get in touch should any of the above themes interest you.


I offer doctoral supervision in the following areas:

British/British imperial environmental history

Transport history (railways, motor cars, roads etc.)

Indian Ocean histories

Commodity and labour histories

History of colonial and postcolonial health systems, zoonotics, epidemics.

Please get in touch to discuss proposals and possible funding applications 18 months in advance. For eg. for entry for September 2023, get in touch by May 2023.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, Water technocracy: dams, 'public works' and experts in south India, School of Oriental & African Studies (University of London)

27 Sept 2014 → …

Award Date: 31 May 2019

Areas of expertise

  • DS Asia
  • HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
  • D880 Developing Countries

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global inequalities
  • Sustainable Futures
  • Digital Futures
  • Manchester Environmental Research Institute
  • Creative Manchester


Dive into the research topics where Aditya Ramesh is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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