CfA: Edited Volume on Railways and Empire

Norman Aselmeyer's picture

Railways and Empire
an edited volume on the history of imperial railways 

(intended for Manchester University Press’s series Studies in Imperialism)

Deadline for Abstracts: 1 March 2022

We are seeking contributions for a forthcoming edited volume that examines new directions in imperial railway studies, including labour, environmental, urban, mobility, or migration approaches. Contributions may include theoretical or empirical analyses covering all topics, approaches, and geographical regions within a timeframe of approximately 1850-1950. A special emphasis should be placed on the everyday or lived history of imperial railways. Young scholars and those working in the Global South are encouraged to apply.

Scope: The edited volume is a continuation of an ongoing conversation that started with a panel at the 2019 SHOT conference in Milan ("Railway Imperialism Reconsidered"). This conversation has been about how recent research on imperial railways has been looking beyond the standard linear narrative of railways as “tools of empire” that has dominated the field for the past several generations and contributed to railway history languishing in the shadow of other infrastructure and generating little interest among academic historians. In the last two decades, the new directions in the cultural and social history of railways have nevertheless been focused on the economic and political aspects of the technology. 

For this volume, we seek contributions that engage with broader social, economic, or cultural questions and reconsider the history of imperial railways through the lens of labour history, environmental or urban studies, migration and mobility cultures, and others. New approaches in the fields of cultural, imperial, and global history as well as the history of technology provide ample inspiration for rethinking railway history. We wish to shift the focus from a functionalist approach of infrastructure to consider complex processes of negotiation, cooperation, and resistance that occurred in the context of both large scale projects and everyday interactions. Contributions to this volume will reassess the complex relationship between railways and empire beyond the classic narratives.

Proposals: To express your interest in the publication, please submit a 300-word abstract and a brief CV to the editors Norman Aselmeyer ( and Erica Mukherjee ( by 1 March 2022.

Timeline: All those who send in a proposal will be notified of the result by 1 April 2022. Contributors will have until 1 October 2022 to submit their finished drafts, which should be approximately 8,000 words in length (including footnotes). After an internal review by the editors, the final revised submission deadline is 1 December 2022. The series editors of Studies in Imperialism and the publisher, Manchester University Press, have expressed an interest in publishing such a volume. Publication is planned for 2023.

Contact Info: 
Erica Mukherjee (NYU-Shanghai)
Norman Aselmeyer (University of Bremen)