Kim A. Wagner

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Kim Ati Wagner
Academic background
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge
ThesisThuggee and the 'construction' of crime in early nineteenth century India. (2004)
Doctoral advisorChristopher Bayly
Academic work
Sub-disciplineSouth Asian history
InstitutionsQueen Mary University of London
Notable works
WebsiteOfficial website

Kim Ati Wagner is a Danish-British historian of colonial India and the British Empire at Queen Mary, University of London. He has written a number of books on India, starting with Thuggee: Banditry and the British in early nineteenth-century India in 2007. He followed that up with a source book on Thuggee and has also written on the uprising of 1857 and the Amritsar massacre. A British citizen, Wagner feels an affinity for India.[1]

Early life[edit]

Wagner is of Danish origin, but has lived in the United Kingdom for over twenty years. He is named after the leading character from Rudyard Kipling's novel Kim, set in British India, and was taken to India by his parents when he was a baby. Wagner says he has visited Amritsar many times and feels that India is "in [his] blood."[1]


In 2003, under the supervision of Christopher Bayly, he gained a PhD in South Asian history from the University of Cambridge. He subsequently completed a four-year research fellowship at King’s College there, followed by a two-year research associate post at the University of Edinburgh. Wagner then became a lecturer in imperial and World history at the University of Birmingham, before being employed at Queen Mary's in 2012. In 2015 he was granted a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Global Fellowship working with historian Dane Kennedy at George Washington University in the United States, which he finished in 2018.[2]


His book on thuggees, titled Thuggee: Banditry and the British in early nineteenth-century India, was published in 2007 and was short-listed for the History Today Book of the Year Award in 2008.[3] He followed that up with a source book on thuggees titled Stranglers and Bandits: A Historical Anthology of Thuggee (2009).[4]

Skull of Alum Bheg[edit]

In 2014, he was approached by the owners of the Lord Clyde pub in Kent, who wished to dispose of a skull in their possession. An accompanying note revealed the skull to be that of sepoy Alum Bheg of the Bengal Regiment, who, following the Indian Rebellion of 1857, was executed in 1858 by being blown from a cannon in Sialkot. Wagner had the skull examined at the Natural History Museum in London, who confirmed its likely authenticity. Subsequently, with no known descendants of Bheg and with no official documents mentioning him, Wagner pieced together the story of the skull using letters written by the relatives and friends of Bheg's victims, in addition to other primary material in England and India.[5] The Skull of Alum Bheg: The Life and Death of a Rebel of 1857 was completed and published in 2017.[6][7][8][9] Wagner later expressed a wish for the skull to be repatriated back to India to be "buried in a respectful manner".[5]

Amritsar 1919[edit]

His book, Amritsar 1919: An Empire of Fear and the Making of a Massacre (2019), describes how the Jallianwalla Bagh Massacre was a result of a British fear of another Indian rebellion of 1857.[10][11] With the book, Wagner aimed to dispel what he saw as myths about the massacre. The book was highly commended by the journalists Sathnam Sanghera[1] and Trevor Grundy.[12]

Both Grundy and Ferdinand Mount compared Wagner's book on the massacre with The Amritsar Massacre: The Untold Story of One Fateful Day (2011) by Nick Lloyd and with Nigel Collett's The Butcher of Amritsar (2005). While Wagner emphasised that it was "brutality" in general that was the "driving principle of the Raj" rather than the personality of individuals,[13] Mount argued that Wagner had underplayed the personality of General Dyer.[13]

Selected publications[edit]


  • Thuggee: Banditry and the British in Early Nineteenth-Century India. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2007. doi:10.1057/9780230590205, ISBN 9781349361540
  • Stranglers and Bandits: A Historical Anthology of Thuggee. Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2009. (Editor) ISBN 9780195698152
  • Rumours and Rebels: A New History of the Indian Uprising of 1857. Peter Lang, Oxford, 2017. ISBN 9781906165895
  • The Skull of Alum Bheg: The Life and Death of a Rebel of 1857. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2018. ISBN 9780190870232
  • Amritsar 1919: An Empire of Fear and the Making of a Massacre. Yale University Press, New Haven, 2019. ISBN 9780300200355



  1. ^ a b c Roy, Amit (20 April 2019). "The many myths surrounding Jallianwala Bagh". Retrieved 25 December 2019.
  2. ^ "Professor Kim A. Wagner - School of History". Retrieved 9 December 2019.
  3. ^ Thuggee : banditry and the British in early nineteenth-century India. Stanford Libraries. Retrieved 13 December 2019.
  4. ^ "Stranglers and Bandits: A Historical Anthology of Thuggee. Edited by Kim A. Wagner. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2009." Cynthia Ann Humes, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 69, Issue 4 (November 2010), pp. 1294-1295.
  5. ^ a b Biswas, Soutik (5 April 2018). "The Indian mutineer's skull found in a UK pub". BBC News. Retrieved 13 December 2019.
  6. ^ Llewellyn-Jones, Rosie (3 July 2018). "Kim A. Wagner. The Skull of Alum Bheg: The Life and Death of a Rebel of 1857". Asian Affairs. 49 (3): 538–540. doi:10.1080/03068374.2018.1487717. ISSN 0306-8374.
  7. ^ Bender, Jill C. (January 2019). "Kim A. Wagner. The Skull of Alum Bheg: The Life and Death of a Rebel of 1857. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018. Pp. 288. $29.95 (cloth)". Journal of British Studies. 58 (1): 253–254. doi:10.1017/jbr.2018.232. ISSN 0021-9371.
  8. ^ Lord Clyde, Dover Kent Archives, 25 July 2019. Retrieved 13 December 2019.
  9. ^ Newsinger, John (1 July 2019). "The Skull of Alum Bheg: the life and death of a rebel of 1857 by Kim A. Wagner". Race & Class. 61 (1): 110–111. doi:10.1177/0306396818801216. ISSN 0306-3968.(subscription required)
  10. ^ Newsinger, John (1 October 2019). "Review: Amritsar 1919: an empire of fear and the making of a massacre by Kim A. Wagner, Britain's Pacification of Palestine: the British Army, the colonial state, and the Arab Revolt 1936–1939 by Matthew Hughes". Race & Class. 61 (2): 110–114. doi:10.1177/0306396819871426. ISSN 0306-3968.
  11. ^ Agarwal, Kritika (9 April 2019). "Reexamining Amritsar | Perspectives on History | AHA". Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  12. ^ Grundy, Trevor (21 March 2019). "The British Empire's most shameful day". Retrieved 12 December 2019.
  13. ^ a b Mount, Ferdinand (4 April 2019). "They would have laughed". London Review of Books. 41 (7): 9–12. ISSN 0260-9592.

External links[edit]