Nikhil Menon

Nikhil Menon

Assistant Professor

464 Decio
Ph.D., Princeton University
Time Period(s)
Economic & History of Capitalism, Empires & Colonialism, Political
Asia, Global

Nikhil Menon is a historian of modern South Asia. His research focuses on of twentieth-century India, particularly histories of democracy, development, and diplomacy in independent India.

Menon’s first book, Planning Democracy: Modern India's Quest for Development (Cambridge University Press, 2022) reveals how India wedded western-style liberal democracy and Soviet inspired economic planning in the mid-twentieth century, when the Cold War pitted them as incompatible. It shows that planning enabled the establishment of independent India’s data infrastructure, through national surveys, statistics, and computers. Simultaneously, the rhetoric of ‘democratic planning’ led to the government engaging citizens through means as varied as films, plays, and even Hindu ascetics. Planning Democracy was awarded the Joseph W. Elder Prize by the American Institute of Indian Studies. An article from this project, on India’s first computers, won the Mahoney Prize from the Society for the History of Technology.

He is currently working on a book project exploring the ways in which postcolonial India deployed cultural diplomacy and sought global relevance through soft power.

Menon co-edited The Postcolonial Moment in South and Southeast Asia (Bloomsbury, 2018). His academic writing has appeared in journals such as the Journal of the History of Ideas, Modern Asian Studies, the Indian Economic and Social History Review, and History Compass. He has also written for a public audience in BBC News, The Indian Express, The Hindu, and The Times of India among others.