Benjamin David Hopkins

photo: Ben Hopkins
Director, Sigur Center for Asian Studies; Associate Professor of History and International Affairs
503 M Elliott School of International Affairs
[email protected]

Areas of Expertise

South Asian history, Afghanistan, Central Asia, modern imperialism, British imperialism, world history

Benjamin D. Hopkins is a specialist in modern South Asian history, in particular that of Afghanistan, as well as British imperialism. His research focuses on the role of the colonial state in creating the modern states inhabiting the region. His first book, The Making of Modern Afghanistan, examined the efforts of the British East India Company to construct an Afghan state in the early part of the nineteenth century and provides a corrective to the history of the so-called ‘Great Game.’ His second book, Fragments of the Afghan Frontier, co-authored with anthropologist Magnus Marsden, pairs a complex historical narrative with rich ethnographic detail to conceptualize the Afghan frontier as a collection of discrete fragments which create continually evolving collage of meaning. He has additionally co-edited Beyond Swat: History, Society and Economy along the Afghanistan-Pakistan Frontier with Magnus Marsden.

Professor Hopkins is currently working on a comparative history of frontiers across empires, using the history of the governance of the Afghanistan-Pakistan frontier as the central case study. The manuscript is provisionally entitled The Imperial Frontier. Outside of GW, his research has been funded by Trinity College, Cambridge, the Nuffield Foundation (UK), the British Academy, the American Institute of Iranian Studies, the Leverhulme Trust and the National University of Singapore. Professor Hopkins regularly teaches courses on South Asian history, the geopolitics of South and Central Asia, as well as World history.

During part of Professor Hopkins' sabbatical, he is a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars






"America's Shocking Ignorance of Afghanistan." The National Interest. 5 June 2015.

"Islam and Resistance in the British Empire." In David Motadel (ed.) Islam and the European Empires. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Beyond Swat: History, Society and Economy Along the Afghanistan-Pakistan Frontier. Co-edited with Magnus Marsden. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Fragments of the Afghan Frontier. Co-authored with Magnus Marsden. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

"Ten Years in, Afghan Myths Live On." The New York Times. 8 October 2011. Co-authored with Magnus Marsden.

The Making of Modern Afghanistan. Cambridge Imperial and Post Colonial Studies Series. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

“Race, Sex and Slavery: ‘Forced Labour’ in Central Asia and Afghanistan in the early 19th century.” Modern Asian Studies 42, no. 2 (2008): 629-71.

“The bounds of identity: the Goldsmid mission and the delineation of the Perso-Afghan border in the nineteenth century.” Journal of Global History 2, no. 2 (2007): 233-54.

Classes Taught

HIST 1011: World History, 1500–present
HIST 3650: Modern South Asia, 1750-Present
HIST 4098: Thesis Seminar for History Majors
HIST 6001: The Geo-Politics of Afghanistan, South and Central Asia
HIST 6650: History, Memory and Violence in Asia