Professor Taylor C. Sherman

Professor Taylor C. Sherman


Department of International History

+44 (0)20 7955 5002
Room No
English, Hindi, Urdu
Key Expertise
Modern South Asian History

About me

*on sabbatical leave 2022/23*

Professor Taylor Sherman's research concerns the cultural and political history of South Asia between the 1930s and the 1970s. In the broadest sense, she is interested in the dynamic relationship between popular movements and governance, including, law, policy, violence and justice.

She is currently completing a project entitled, Nehru’s India: Seven Myths (forthcoming with Princeton University Press). The work provides a reassessment of the period 1947-1964 by critically evaluating the series of abstract nouns most strongly associated with India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru - non-alignment, secularism, socialism, democracy, the state, and modernism. It argues that these terms have lost their explanatory power. They have become myths. Each chapter traces the origin and perpetuation of one myth and provides a new interpretation of the theme. Without ignoring the seminal projects of the age, the chapters introduce readers to fresh case studies, such as the significance of Soviet Film festivals to Indian non-alignment, the importance of Buddhism to secular India, the transformations in industry and social life brought about by bicycles, a riotous and ultimately doomed attempt to prohibit the consumption of alcohol in Bombay, and much more.  

She has also begun a new project on conservation and environmentalism in the middle decades of the twentieth century in South Asia. Historians have tended to regard 1973 as the starting point for modern Indian environmentalism. That was the year the Government launched Project Tiger, and it was also the year the Chipko movement to protect trees in Uttarakhand came to prominence. This research explores the decades between the 1940s and 1970s, a period of intense economic development, and uncovers some of postcolonial India’s early popular campaigns and official initiatives to delimit specific spaces as national parks and conservation areas. It charts international collaborations, and documents the role of scientific experts, amateur enthusiasts, peasants, and Adivasis in reshaping India’s understanding of its environment, including its forests, deserts, rivers, and seas.  

Her past research has explored conceptions of citizenship, belonging and the idea of the minority in Indian politics; Arab and Afghan migration to and from India; early postcolonial democracy and the first elections; language politics, multilingualism and the creation of linguistic states; and violence and criminal justice in South Asia. 

Professor Sherman was born in the US and studied International Relations and History at the LSE for her undergraduate degree. She then completed her doctoral work at Cambridge University. After this, she held two postdoctoral positions, first as a temporary lecturer at Cambridge and then as post-doctoral researcher at Royal Holloway, before returning to the LSE to take up her current position.

Expertise Details

Modern South Asian History

Teaching & supervision

Professor Sherman usually teaches the following courses in the Department:

At undergraduate level:

HY113: From Empire to Independence: the Extra-European World in the Twentieth Century (taught jointly with other members of staff)

HY120: Historical Approaches to the Modern World (taught jointly with other members of staff)

HY329: Independent India: Myths of Freedom and Development

At Master's level:

HY484: Empire, Colonialism and Globalisation

 Watch Dr Sherman talk about HY329, how it is structured and how students can benefit from taking it in order to better understand the world we live in today.

Professor Sherman also supervises the following PhD students:

 Research student Provisional thesis title
Maliha Ahmed Bangladesh’s Path to Recognition, 1971-1974
Medha Bhattachrya An Examination of the Hindi and Bengali Movements in South Asia (1930-1971)
Tom Wilkinson  Youth in Colonial and Post-colonial Northern India 1885-1957




Article and special issues


News & media


Lecture at the University of Heidelberg South Asia Institute Kolloquium 

In May, Dr Sherman spoke at the University of Heidelberg South Asia Institute's Kolloquium on the theme 'The 1950s: Journeys into Postcolonial South Asia'. Her talk, entitled 'Nehru's India? Rethinking the First Prime Minister and the Administrative Machine in Independent India, 1947-1964', rethinks the idea that Nehru and other elites 'took the reins' of the administrative machine they had inherited from the Raj and ran the Indian state without alteration.


Dr Sherman on India's relations with overseas Indians after Independence

In a new article, co-authored with Dr Raphaëlle Khan, she re-examines India’s relations with Indian communities in Ceylon and Burma between the 1940s and 1960s. Read the article in the Modern Asian Studies journal.


"Not Part of the Plan? Women, State Feminism and Indian Socialism in the Nehru Years"

In her latest article for South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, Dr Sherman argues that in the Central Social Welfare Board, state feminism was concerned with the gradual transformation of women and a radical, if short-lived, makeover of the state. Read the article here


Book review

Read Dr Sherman's book review in The Spectator (15 June) on Malevolent Republic: A Short History of the New India by K.S. Komireddi. After tearing through the Congress era, Komireddi levels his sights on Modi & the Bharatiya Janata Party.


New article in Postocolonial Studies

Dr Sherman has released a new article in Postcolonial Studies, entitled “’A New Type of Revolution’: Socialist Thought in India, 1940s-1960s”. Although it is often said that early postcolonial India was socialist, scholars have tended to take this term for granted. This article investigates how Indians defined socialism in the two decades after independence. Understanding how Indians defined their version of socialism, Dr Sherman argues, will help scholars re-evaluate the role of the first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, in defining the goals India pursued after independence. It will also re-orient our understanding of the expectations and limitations of the Indian state in this crucial period in Indian history. LSE users can access the article for free.


New article on education in early postocolonial India

Dr Sherman published a new article in the journal History of Education, entitled “Education in Early Postcolonial India: Expansion, Experimentation and Planned Self-Help” (47:4). The article provides an overview of education policy in the first two decades after 1947 and finds that, contrary to what the constituion promised, Indian planning did not monopolise control over education. Rather, India’s socialism was a socialism of scarcity, which relied on self-help efforts by the people to build the institutions of the welfare state, entrenching existing inequalities.


New book, Muslim Belonging in Secular India

Dr Taylor C. Sherman has a new book coming out in September, called Muslim Belonging in Secular India: Negotiating Citizenship in Postcolonial Hyderabad (Cambridge University Press). Dr Sherman's book surveys the experience of some of India's most prominent Muslim communities in the early postcolonial period. Muslims who remained in India after the Partition of 1947 faced distrust and discrimination, and were consequently compelled to seek new ways of defining their relationship with fellow citizens of India and its governments. Using the forcible integration of the princely state of Hyderabad in 1948 as a case study, Taylor C. Sherman reveals the fragile and contested nature of Muslim belonging in the decade that followed independence. In this context, she demonstrates how Muslim claims to citizenship in Hyderabad contributed to intense debates over the nature of democracy and secularism in independent India. Drawing on detailed new archival research, Dr Sherman provides a thorough and compelling examination of the early governmental policies and popular strategies that have helped to shape the history of Muslims in India since 1947. Read more about it here.