Tony Ballantyne (historian)

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Tony Ballantyne (born Dunedin, 1972) is a New Zealand historian whose works examined the development of imperial intellectual and cultural life in Ireland, India, New Zealand, and Britain. After completing his schooling at King's High School, Dunedin, he graduated BA at the University of Otago and obtained a PhD at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Professor Christopher Bayly.[1] He currently is Head of the Department of History and Art History and Director of the Centre for Research on Colonial Culture at the University of Otago, but has previously taught at Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Illinois, and the National University of Ireland. In 2012 he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand.[2]


His work is an important example of the 'new imperial history', a tradition of scholarship that sees colonialism as a cultural undertaking as well as a political and economic project. He is best known for forwarding a new model for analyzing the empire's development in his Orientalism and Race (2002)[3] and Between Colonialism and Diaspora (2006).[4] In both works he suggested that the structure of the British empire was like a web, with 'vertical' connections developing between Britain and its colonies and 'horizontal' connections linking various colonies directly. He has suggested that the key work of imperial historians is to reconstruct these 'webs of empire' in order to understand how the empire operated and the ways in which it incorporated new lands and peoples.[5]

His writings have addressed a range of issues, including print culture and colonial knowledge in New Zealand, Ireland and India, the changing structure of the empire, and the place of race and religion in cross-cultural history. He has published extensively on both India and New Zealand. With Antoinette Burton he has also made an important contribution to the writing of world history, highlighting the importance of race and gender in cross-cultural encounters.[6][7]

Ballantyne has offered an innovative rereading of modern Sikh history.[8] He has criticised scholarship that focuses narrowly on Sikh texts, arguing that the experiences of colonialism and migration have been crucial in making Sikh identities.[4][9]

In recent years Ballantyne has mainly written on New Zealand's colonial history. This work has been important in internationalizing New Zealand historical writing as he has stressed the importance of historical connections to India and China in shaping colonial culture. He has also highlighted the importance of print culture and literacy in the encounters between Māori and the Pākehā colonists.[10]


  • Entanglements of Empire: Missionaries, Māori, and the Question of the Body (Duke University Press, 2014).
  • Webs of Empire: Locating New Zealand's Colonial Past (Bridget Williams Books, 2012).
  • Between Colonialism and Diaspora: Sikh Cultural Formations in an Imperial World (Duke University Press, 2006).
  • Orientalism and Race: Aryanism in the British Empire (Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series, Palgrave, 2001).
  • Co-editor, Moving Subjects: Gender, Mobility and Intimacy in an Age of Global Empire (University of Illinois Press, 2007).
  • Editor, Textures of the Sikh Past: New Historical Interpretations (Oxford University Press, 2007).
  • Co-editor, Disputed Histories: Reimagining New Zealand's Pasts (Otago University Press, 2006).
  • Co-editor, Bodies in Contact: Rethinking Colonial Encounters in World History (Duke University Press, 2005).


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