Michael D. Willis

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Michael Willis is an Indologist and historian at the British Museum in London, England. He is currently leading Beyond Boundaries: Religion, Region, Language and the State, a project funded by the European Research Council and hosted by the Museum.[1]

Born in Vancouver, British Columbia and raised in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, Willis took his B.A. degree at the University of Victoria where he studied with Siri Gunasinghe and Alan Gowans. Travelling to the University of Chicago, he studied with J. A. B. van Buitenen and Pramod Chandra, receiving his doctoral degree in 1988 after periods in India and Cyprus. He joined the British Museum in 1994 after teaching at SUNY New Paltz. He was the curator of the early south Asian and Himalayan collections in the Department of Asia from 1994 until 2014 at which time he became Corresponding Principal Investigator of the Beyond Boundaries project.[2]

Willis's main research interest has been the cultural, political and religious history of north India from the fifth to the thirteenth centuries. He has published on the inscriptions of central India and its early temple architecture.[3] After that, he researched the Buddhist history of India and produced a catalogue of reliquaries and related materials in the British Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum.[4] Concurrently Willis developed an interest in Tibet and published a popular book on the subject.[5] More recently, Willis has turned his attention to the Gupta dynasty, publishing a monograph on Hindu ritual and the development of temples as land-holding institutions, The Archaeology of Hindu Ritual (2009).[6]

Willis is a fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society and an Hon. Research Fellow at Cardiff University.


  1. ^ See https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/research_projects/all_current_projects/beyond_boundaries.aspx. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  2. ^ British Museum https://www.britishmuseum.org/the_museum/departments/asia/staff.aspx
  3. ^ Willis, Inscriptions of Gopakṣetra (London, 1996) and Willis, Temples of Gopakṣetra (London, 1997).
  4. ^ Willis, Buddhist Reliquaries from Ancient India (London, 2000).
  5. ^ Willis, Tibet: Life, Myth and Art (London, 1999, reprint. ed., 2000).
  6. ^ Willis, The Archaeology of Hindu Ritual: Temples and the Establishment of the Gods (Cambridge, 2009). Cambridge University Press http://www.cambridge.org/uk/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521518741. For online review, see http://mogadalai.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/a-historical-look-at-hindu-rituals/

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