Erik Linstrum

Assistant Professor

(434) 924-7147

Nau 391
Office Hours: On Leave 2017-18
PDF icon CV public.pdf

Field & Specialties

Modern Britain and British Empire; science; European cultural and intellectual


Ph.D., Harvard University, 2012
A.M., Harvard University, 2009
A.B., Princeton University, 2006


Ruling Minds: Psychology in the British Empire (Harvard University Press, 2016)

“Facts about Atrocity: Reporting Colonial Violence in Postwar Britain,” History Workshop Journal (forthcoming fall 2017)

“The Politics of Psychology in the British Empire, 1898-1960,” Past & Present 215 (May 2012): 195-233

Current Research

I am interested in the imperial and global dimensions of modern British history. My first book, Ruling Minds: Psychology in the British Empire, traces researchers, missionaries, bureaucrats, and soldiers across five continents. Laboratory experiments, mental tests, and other techniques in the science of mind sometimes fueled protests against racial hierarchies and authoritarian politics. By complicating theories of difference, however — by constructing universal models across groups and charting individual variations within them — psychology also opened up new possibilities for governing populations. From the use of mental testing with workers, soldiers, students, and rebels to the role of psychoanalysis in development planning, psychology mattered to imperial rule in surprisingly wide-ranging ways. Ruling Minds has been featured in New York magazine, Libération, the Times Literary Supplement, and other publications.


I am working on two book projects at the moment. One explores the reverberations of counterinsurgency campaigns in Malaya, Kenya, and Cyprus in Britain after 1945. How did knowledge about atrocity circulate through different groups in British society: from the anticolonial left to the unabashedly imperialist right, from the news media to the Church of England, from veterans' associations to the British Red Cross? My other project looks at technologies of violence in the twentieth-century empire, including tear gas, aerial photography, and fingerprinting.

Awards & Honors

Kluge Fellowship, Library of Congress, 2016

Michigan Society of Fellows, University of Michigan, 2012-15

Walter D. Love Article Prize, North American Conference on British Studies, 2013

FHHS Article Prize, Forum for History of Human Science, 2013

Harold K. Gross Prize, Department of History, Harvard University, 2012

Courses Taught

I teach surveys of modern British and British imperial history and seminars on a wide range of topics, including colonial knowledge, colonial violence, London, and the human sciences.

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904


(434) 924-7147
(434) 924-7891
M-F 8am to 4:30pm
Department Contacts