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School of History

Dr Simon Layton


Lecturer in Early Global History

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 2898
Room Number: ArtsTwo 2.10


I am a historian of the Indian Ocean world, focusing on the role of maritime ‘piracy’ in the development of British imperial policy in South Asia, the Persian/Arabian Gulf and Southeast Asia. Originally from Aotearoa New Zealand, I completed my doctorate under the supervision of C. A. Bayly at the University of Cambridge, where I also lectured in World History for two years before joining the School of History at Queen Mary. I have previously taught at Lingnan University in Hong Kong and at the University of Otago. 




Undergraduate Teaching


HST4622 – Global Encounters: Conquest and Culture in World History 

HST5224 – Piracy and Civilisation: Antiquity to the Golden Age

HST6393 – Piracy and Empire: Sea Power, Race and Modernity 


Undergraduate Teaching


Research Interests:

My research focuses on the maritime histories of South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Arabia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, exploring the roles that littoral and seafaring communities played in the development of European imperial and naval expansion. I am also interested in the development of international maritime law in this period and maintain active corollary interests Pacific and Environmental history.  



  • Piratical States: British Imperialism in the Indian Ocean world (forthcoming, Cambridge University Press). 


Book Chapters: 

  • 'Primitive Liberals and Pirate Tribes: Black-Flag Radicalism and the Kibbo Kift'Liberal Ideals and the Politics of Decolonisation, ed. Harshan Kumarasingham (Routledge, 2020). Co-authored. 





I welcome applications from candidates wishing to undertake doctoral research in any area of maritime or oceanic history, particularly with focus on the Indian Ocean and Pacific worlds. 


Current PhD students: 

  • Max Easterbrooke, ‘Merchant Intellectualism in the British Imperial Tea Trade during the 19th Century’  
  • Steven Johnstone, ‘The Role of the Maritime Frontier in the Formation of White Australia, 1850-1914’  


Past PhD students:

  • Timothy Riding, ‘Producing space in the English East India Company’s Western Presidency, 1612-1780’ (QMUL, 2018)



  • Anshul Avijit, ‘Visual Culture of the Santals and their Image: Myth, Morals and Materiality’ (University of Cambridge, 2018) 
  • Rebecca Simon, ‘The Crime of Piracy and its Punishment: The Performance of Maritime Supremacy and its Representations in the British Atlantic World, 1670-1830’ (King’s College London, 2017) 




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