‘Bombay to Basra: On the Highways of World War One 1914-21’ by Dr Radhika Singha

“The talk narrates the dense, ceaseless movement of Indian Army followers from Bombay to Mesopotamia (Iraq) and back, and the political consequences of this first mass circulation of South Asian labour into the Persian Gulf.” Dr Radhika Singha on her lecture for Sarmaya Talks on 9th February 2024, at Durbar Hall, The Asiatic Society of Mumbai.


Dr Radhika Sangha taught Modern History at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and is now a Visiting Professor at the Department of History and Archaeology, Shiv Nadar University, Greater Noida. An interest in the history of Indian labour and its trans-national circulation, developed slowly into a book titled The Coolie’s Great War: Indian Labour in a Global Conflict 1914-1921 (Hurst 2020). Instead of accounts which cast World War one as an external event to which India contributed, she sought, through a focus on non-combatant labour, to place this colony more centrally within this global conflict.