Dr Aditya Balasubramanian

Senior Lecturer in History
College of Arts and Social Sciences

Aditya Balasubramanian is a Senior Lecturer in History. His research focuses on various aspects of the history of modern South Asia. His first book, Toward a Free Economy: Swatantra and Opposition Politics in Democratic India (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2023), is a history of economic ideas and politics (UK/US link; South Asia link). It was shortlisted for the 2023 Elder Prize in the Social Sciences of the American Institute of Indian Studies. 

Aditya completed his PhD at Trinity College, Cambridge as a British Marshall Scholar and a Cambridge Trust Scholar. His dissertation won the Ellen McArthur Prize in Economic History and was shortlisted for the Prince Consort and Thirlwall Prize for best dissertation in the Faculty of History.

At ANU, Aditya teaches "From Moral Philosophy to (Political Economy) to Economics: A History," and "Approaches to History." He has been a Board Member of the South Asia Research Institute, an affiliate of the Center for Economic History, and a member of the Geoeconomics Working Group. Aditya also coordinates the Harvard-Cambridge Joint Center for History and Economics' "Archives of Economic Life in South and Southeast Asia" website. 

He has received grants and fellowships from the Joint Center for History and Economics at Harvard and Paris (2022), the Australian Studies Institute at ANU (2023), and the College of Arts and Social Sciences at ANU (2023).

To the print media, he has contributed in Scroll.inHindustan Times, and India Forum.

Forthcoming Work:

"Anticorruption, Development, and the Indian State: A History of Decolonization," Journal of Asian Studies (February 2024). 

Research interests

  • History of modern South and Southeast Asia
  • History of economic thought
  • Material histories of consumption and culture
  • Energy and environmental history
  • International history

Researcher's projects

Roads to Progress?  Infrastructure and Transport in Modern India

India has the world's second largest road network, measuring over 6 million km. Most of these roads are village or district roads. Over 90% have been constructed in the postcolonial period (1947-). Today, the Government of India is pursuing $110bn program of highway construction (Bharatmala) and scheme to provide all villages with roads by 2027 (Gram Sadak Yojana).

Combining mutli-sited archival research, elementary statistical analysis, and fieldwork along India's roads, this project considers the environmental and economic history of roadbuilding and transport in modern India, focused on the 1940s-1970s. It interrogates how the political economy of interest groups, federalism, and resource usage have evolved over time. The study focuses on four sites: The Grand Trunk Road, the East West Road, the Mahewa Village in Etawah District, and the Anna Flyover in Chennai. In studies the nexus between development and mobility in historical context, at a time when the challenges of climate change require that this relationship be rethought. 

For an initial glimpse, see this blog post.

  • Balasubramanian, A. (2024). "Anticorruption, Development, and the Indian State: A History of Decolonization," Journal of Asian Studies, 83(1): 88-115.
  • Balasubramanian, A. (2023). ''A Forgotten Famine of '43? Travancore's Muffled 'Cry of Distress''', Modern Asian Studies, 57(5):1495-1529.
  • Balasubramanian, A. (2023). Toward a Free Economy: Swatantra and Opposition Politics in Democratic India, Princeton University Press.
  • Balasubramanian, A. (2022). "A More Indian Path to Prosperity? Hindu Nationalism and Development in the mid-20th Century and Beyond", Capitalism: A Journal of History and Economics, 3(2): 333-378.
  • Balasubramanian, A. (2022). "(Is) India in the History of Neoliberalism?", in Quinn Slobodian and Dieter Plehwe (eds.), Market Civilizations - Neoliberals East and South, Zone Books, New York, 53-78.
  • Balasubramanian, A. (2021). "Contesting 'Permit-and-Licence Raj': Economic Conservatism and the Idea of Democracy in 1950s India", Past and Present 251:189-227.

  • Balasubramanian, A. (2021). "Alone At Home, Among Friends Abroad? B.R. Shenoy from Austrian School Monetary Economist to Cold War Public Intellectual", in Raghavan, S. and N. Sundar (eds.), A Functioning Anarchy? Essays for Ramachandra Guha, Penguin, India, 165-79.
  • Balasubramanian, A. and S. Raghavan. (2018). "Present at the Creation: India, the Global Economy, and the Bretton Woods Conference," Journal of World History, 29(1): 65-94.

Updated:  25 June 2024/Responsible Officer:  College of Science/Page Contact:  https://iceds.anu.edu.au/contact