Assistant Professor


Chief Examiner

BA, MA, Cardiff University, PhD Cantab

Office: 10.38, Run Run Shaw Towerq0

Alastair McClure is a legal historian of modern South Asia and the British Empire with research interests that focus largely on the history of criminal law and state violence. His most recent publications have included studies of courtroom archives, corporal punishment, capital punishment, and censorship. This research has been supported by grants from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Academy, and the University Grants Council, Hong Kong. Before joining the University of Hong Kong, he completed postdoctoral fellowships at McGill University and the University of Chicago. Between September to December of 2023 he was an ICAS:MP research fellow based in New Delhi. He also acts as the co-convenor of the Asian Legal History Seminar Series, hosted by the Department of History and the Faculty of Law.


Alastair’s first book project, Trials of Sovereignty: Mercy, Terror and the Making of Criminal Law in British India, 1857-1922, is forthcoming with Studies in Legal History, Cambridge University Press. This book offers the first detailed study of the role played by mercy and discretionary justice in the construction of India’s modern political and legal order in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. 

He is currently working on two new projects. The first focuses on the history of legal aid, the development of the criminal trial, and under-trial detention in colonial South Asia. The second examines deportation and repatriation in the British imperial world. Framed around the question of who could be moved, and where they could be moved to, this project draws on legal cases thrown up from subaltern actors at the social and geographic peripheries of empire.

Research Interests

  • Histories of the British Empire
  • Legal History
  • Modern South Asia
  • Global Intellectual History
  • Crime and State Violence



Archival Trials: Unpublished Court Records from the Allahabad High Court’, History Workshop Journal, 96 (2023), 176-190.

Law, Courts, and Constitutions in Twentieth Century South Asia’,  Law and History Review, 41:2 (2023), 241-251. Co-written with Saumya Saxena.

Killing in the Name of? Capital Punishment in Colonial and Postcolonial India’,  Law and History Review, 41:2 (2023), 365-385.

Fleet-Footed Performers at the Edges of Colonial Law: Jack Johnson, Maud Allan and the Struggles of Cinema Censorship in British India’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 50:2 (2022), 264-297.

Archaic Sovereignty and Colonial Law: The Reintroduction of Corporal Punishment in Colonial India, 1864-1909’Modern Asian Studies, 54:5 (2020), 1712-1747.

Sovereignty, Law and the Politics of Forgiveness in Colonial India’Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 38:3 (Dec, 2018), 385-401.

Law and Legality in India: New Directions in Indian Legal History: Introduction’, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 38:2 (Dec, 2018): 367-374. Co-written with Saumya Saxena.

Making and Unmaking the Nation in World History: Introduction’History Compass, 15:1 (2017), 1-9. Co-written with Joseph McQuade and Sophie-Jung Kim.

Book Chapters

‘State Building and Problematic Geopolitical Spaces in South Asia: The Himalayas and the Extradition Treaty of 1855’. In Transnational Frontiers of Asia and South America since 1800, edited by Jaime Moreno Tejado and Bradley Tatar, pp. 98-110. (New York: Routledge, 2017).

Public Writings

Sedition Then and Now: Gandhi’s Great Trial a Hundred Years On,

Childhood in Alexandra Adulthood in Britain,


  • HIST1021 Introduction to modern legal history
  • HIST2178 Trials of history: The courtroom from historical perspective
  • HIST2179 Law, empire and world history: From pirates to human rights?
  • HIST3077 Gandhi: A global history