Assistant Professor


BA Delhi University; MA, MPhil Jawaharlal Nehru University; PhD Princeton

Office: 10.43, Run Run Shaw Towerq0

Dr. Devika Shankar is a historian of modern South Asia and the Indian Ocean region. Her research interests primarily lie in the fields of environmental history, economic history and science and technology studies. She received her PhD in History from Princeton University in 2019. She also holds degrees from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi (M.A.; M.Phil.) and the University of Delhi (B.A.).​


Dr. Shankar’s current research project focuses on the port of Cochin (now known as Kochi) on the south-west coast of India and examines how growing environmental concerns generated by the port’s shifting coastline intersected with visions for its development in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In showing how rising environmental instability became a catalyst for an ambitious port development project under colonial rule, this project points to longer and more complex histories of austerity and the impulse to turn disasters into opportunities for development.

Research Interests

  • Modern South Asia
  • Environmental History
  • Law and Empire
  • Indian Ocean
  • Coastlines



Port Environments in South Asia.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 1 May 2024; 44 (1): 81–85”. Co-written with Chandana Anusha and Ayesha Omer

A Harbor That Never Was: Examining the “Failure” of Port Development in Colonial Tuticorin.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 1 May 2024; 44 (1): 148–163.

“A Forest of Ships: Malabar’s State Forests and Bombay’s Dockyards, 1795-1822,” South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies (2023).

“Water, Fish and Property in Colonial India, 1860–1890,” Past & Present 258, No. 1 (February 2023).

“A Slippery Sovereignty: International law and the Development of British Cochin,”Comparative Studies in Society and History 64, No. 3 (July 2022).

“Contested Lands and Contentious Lines: Land Acquisition for the Railways in late 19th and early 20th century Delhi,” Indian Economic and Social History Review vol. 55, no. 4 (December 2018).


“A Monsoon Miracle: Naming and Knowing the Mudbanks of Malabar” in May Joseph and Sudipta Sen (ed.) Terra Aqua: The Amphibious Lifeworlds of Coastal and Maritime South Asia.  (Routledge, 2022). 

Book Review

Imperial Military Transportation in British Asia, Michael Charney (London: Bloomsbury, 2019) in Journal of British Studies, vol. 59, no. 3 (July 2020).


  • HIST1022 Introduction to Environmental History
  • HIST2181 A Sea of Stuff: Commerce and Colonialism in the Indian Ocean 1500-2000
  • HIST2182 Seascapes and Skylines: Environment and Infrastructure in Asia
  • HIST2188 The Making of Modern South Asia