Siobhan Lambert Hurley Profile PictureDr Siobhan Lambert-Hurley

BA (University of British Columbia) and PhD (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London)

Reader in International History

Women, gender and Islam in South Asia

+44 (0)114 22 22586 | Jessop West 3.08

Semester Two 2018/19: On Research Leave



Siobhan Lambert-Hurley completed her BA in Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver before moving to the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London to study for her PhD in History. She joined the History Department at the University of Sheffield in 2015 from the Department of Politics, History and International Relations at Loughborough University. Her research on women, gender and Islam in South Asia has been funded by the Leverhulme Trust, the AHRC, the British Academy, HEFCE, and the Social Studies and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and she was visiting faculty at the University of British Columbia in 2013-14 and 2017. She led an international research network funded by the AHRC on 'Women's Autobiography in Islamic Societies' and a teaching project funded by the Higher Education Academy on 'Accessing Muslim Lives: Translating and Digitising Autobiographical Writings for Teaching and Learning'.

Her current project funded by the Leverhulme Trust is 'Veiled Voyagers: Muslim Women Travellers from Asia and the Middle East' (2015-18).

Professional Roles

Royal Asiatic Society – Fellow

British Association of South Asian Studies – Member

Journal of Pakistan Women’s Studies – Member of Advisory Board



Siobhan Lambert-Hurley Speaking of the Self book coverSiobhan Lambert-Hurley is a cultural historian of modern South Asia with particular interests in women, gender and Islam. She has written on education, social and political organisations, Indian princely states, the culture of travel, missionaries and personal narratives. There is strong interdisciplinary aspect to her research reflected in her analyses of how different literary genres, including reformist writing, travelogues and autobiography, have evolved in South Asia in the modern period.

Her early work focused on Muslim women’s participation in socio-religious reform movements in India in the early twentieth century. Her first monograph, Muslim Women, Reform and Princely Patronage (Routledge, 2007), emphasised the role of Nawab Sultan Jahan Begam of Bhopal, the female ruler of a Muslim principality in central India, in providing essential leadership and patronage to a burgeoning network of Indian women reformers. Emerging out of this work were two book projects that used travel writing by South Asian Muslim women to offer insights into imperial and global history: an edited edition of a nineteenth century hajj narrative entitled A Princess’s Pilgrimage: Sikandar Begam’s A Pilgrimage to Mecca (Indiana University Press, 2008) and a co-authored book with Sunil Sharma entitled Atiya’s Journeys: A Muslim Woman from Colonial Bombay to Edwardian Britain (Oxford University Press, 2010). The latter’s significance to a project of historicising a multicultural Britain also led to contributions to the AHRC project, ‘Making Britain: South Asian Visions of Home and Abroad, 1870-1950’

Her most recent project focuses on autobiographical writing by Muslim women in South Asia. The aim was trace changing notions of the self in the modern period by examining how women write their lives in a social and cultural context that idealises women’s anonymity. This research has led to journal articles in Modern Asian Studies, Journal of Women’s History and Journal of the History of Sexuality, as well as two major book projects: an edited volume with Anshu Malhotra entitled Speaking of the Self: Gender, Performance and Autobiography in South Asia (Duke University Press, 2015; Zubaan, 2017) and a monograph entitled Elusive Lives: Gender, Autobiography and the Self in Muslim South Asia (Stanford University Press, 2018). Connected was her leadership of an international research network funded by the AHRC on 'Women's Autobiography in Islamic Societies' and a teaching project funded by the Higher Education Academy on 'Accessing Muslim Lives: Translating and Digitising Autobiographical Writings for Teaching and Learning'.

At present, she is leading a three-year project entitled 'Veiled Voyagers: Muslim Women Travelers from Asia and the Middle East' funded by the Leverhulme Trust (2015-18). It is a collaborative project with Sunil Sharma (Boston University) and Daniel Majchrowicz (Northwestern University). Veiled Voyagers will recover, translate, annotate and analyze Muslim women’s travel writing from a range of languages in order to draw out the gendered relationships that inhere between travel and Muslim identities, nationalism, and the shaping of global power. The project’s final outputs will include an annotated book edition, as well as an online repository of Muslim women’s travel texts in both the original and translation.

Research Supervision

I welcome research students interested in women’s history, Islam, autobiography, the culture of travel, education, and/or princely states in modern South Asia.

All current students by supervisor | PhD study in History



Elusive Lives: Gender, Autobiography and the Self in Muslim South Asia (Stanford University Press, 2018)

Elusive Lives coverElusive Lives: Gender, Autobiography and the Self in Muslim South Asia

Muslim South Asia is widely characterized as a culture that idealizes female anonymity: women’s bodies are veiled and their voices silenced. Challenging these perceptions, Siobhan Lambert-Hurley highlights an elusive strand of autobiographical writing dating back several centuries that offers a new lens through which to study notions of selfhood. In Elusive Lives, she locates the voices of Muslim women who rejected taboos against women speaking out by telling their life stories in written autobiography. To chart patterns across time and space, materials dated from the sixteenth century to the present are drawn from across South Asia – including present-day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Lambert-Hurley uses many rare autobiographical texts in a wide array of languages, including Urdu, English, Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Punjabi and Malayalam to elaborate a theoretical model for gender, autobiography, and the self beyond the usual Euro-American frame. In doing so, she works towards a new, globalized history of the field. Ultimately, Elusive Lives points to the sheer diversity of Muslim women’s lives and life stories, offering a unique window into a history of the everyday against a backdrop of imperialism, reformism, nationalism and feminism.

Speaking of the Self: Gender, Performance and Autobiography in South Asia (co-edited with Anshu Malhotra) (Duke University Press, 2015; Zubaan, 2017).

Siobhan Lambert-Hurley Speaking of the Self book coverSpeaking of the Self: Gender, Performance and Autobiography in South Asia

Many consider the autobiography to be a Western genre that represents the self as fully autonomous. This volume challenges this presumption by examining a wide range of women's autobiographical writing from South Asia. Expanding the definition of what kinds of writing can be considered autobiographical, the contributors analyze everything from poetry, songs, mystical experiences, and diaries to prose, fiction, architecture, and religious treatises. The contributors find that in these autobiographies the authors construct their gendered selves in relational terms. Throughout, they show how autobiographical writing—in whatever form it takes—provides the means toward more fully understanding the historical, social, and cultural milieu in which the author performs herself and creates her subjectivity.

Atiya’s Journeys: A Muslim Woman from Colonial Bombay to Edwardian Britain (co-authored with Sunil Sharma) (Oxford University Press, 2010).

Lambert-Hurley: Atiya's Journey book coverAtiya’s Journeys: A Muslim Woman from Colonial Bombay to Edwardian Britain

This is a book about travel, empire and world history as encapsulated in the life of one extraordinary woman. Born in Istanbul and raised in colonial Bombay, Atiya Fyzee (1877-1967), of the renowned Tyabji clan, was a writer, reformer and artistic patron that made multiple journeys across three continents – Asia, Europe and the Americas – in the early twentieth century. Atiya’s fascinating account of her experience as a Muslim woman in Edwardian Britain, initially composed in Urdu in 1906-7 and offered in this book in annotated translation for the first time, is at the heart of this richly illustrated and engaging study of her life, writing and travels.

A Princess's Pilgrimage (Indiana University Press, 2008).

Lambert-Hurley: A Princess's Pilgrimage book coverA Princess's Pilgrimage

In 1863, Nawab Sikandar Begam, a Muslim woman and hereditary ruler of the Indian princely state of Bhopal, travelled to Mecca with a retinue of a thousand people. On returning, she wrote this witty acerbic account of her journey. In it, we glimpse a process by which notions of the self could be redefined against a Muslim ‘other’ in the colonial environment. Sikandar Begum emerges as a genuinely complex individual, crafting an image of herself as an effective administrator, a loyal subject, and a good Muslim.

Muslim Women, Reform and Princely Patronage: Nawab Sultan Jahan Begam of Bhopal (Routledge, 2007).

Siobhan Lambert-Hurley - Muslim Women.Muslim Women, Reform and Princely Patronage: Nawab Sultan Jahan Begam of Bhopal

This is an engaging examination of the emergence of a Muslim women's movement in India. The state of Bhopal, a Muslim principality in central India, was ruled by a succession of female rulers throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, most notably the last Begam of Bhopal, Nawab Sultan Jahan Begam.

Siobhan puts forward the importance for early Muslim female activists to balance continuity and innovation. By operating within the framework of Islam, these women built on traditional norms in order to introduce incremental change in terms of veiling, female education, marriage, motherhood and women's political rights. For the first time, this book analyzes the role of the 'daughters of reform', the first generation of Muslim women who contributed to the reformist discourse, particularly at the regional level.

Based on numerous primary sources in Urdu, including the tracts, books, reports, letters and journal articles of Sultan Jahan Begam and the other women of Bhopal along with official records such as the reports of early organizations and institutions in the Bhopal State, this is an important part of India's history.

Rhetoric and Reality: Gender and the Colonial Experience in South Asia (co-edited with Avril A. Powell) (Oxford University Press, 2006).

Lambert-Hurley: Rhetoric and Reality book coverRhetoric and Reality: Gender and the Colonial Experience in South Asia

This collection of essays focuses on the relationship between ideas and practice, rhetoric and reality, with specific reference to gender in colonial India. Taking the period from about 1870 to the late 1930s, it provides numerous case studies from Bengali narratives about childhood and medical missionaries learning and teaching about birth control to a Muslim modernist on women's rights and the professionalization of Indian nursing to explore this historical moment when received perspectives on gender roles first began to interplay with colonial and indigenous discourses on the implications of modernity in the Indian context. In doing so, it highlights three main themes: domesticity, the body, and modernity.

Journal Articles and Book Chapters

“A Performer in Performance: The Multiple Constructions of Begum Khurshid Mirza’s Written Life” in Padma Anagol, Paula Banerjee and Swapna Banerjee (eds), New Horizons in Women's History: Recovery, Agency and Activism (Calcutta: Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2019).

“Narrating Trauma, Constructing Binaries, Affirming Agency: Partition in Muslim Women’s Autobiographical Writing” in Anne Murphy and Churnjeet Mahn (eds), Partition and the Practice of Memory (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017)

“To Write of the Conjugal Act: Intimacy and Sexuality in Muslim Women’s Autobiographical Writings in South Asia”, Journal of the History of Sexuality 23:2 (May 2014), pp. 155-81.

“The Heart of a Gopi: Raihana Tyabji’s Bhakti Devotionalism as Self-Representation?” Modern Asian Studies 48:3 (May 2014), pp. 569-95 DOI:

“Life/History/Archive: Identifying Autobiographical Writing by Muslim Women in South Asia”, Journal of Women’s History 25:2 (Summer 2013), pp. 61-84.

“Forging Global Networks in the Imperial Era: Atiya Fyzee in Edwardian London” in Susheila Nasta (ed.), India in Britain: South Asian Networks and Connections, 1858-1950. Basingstoke: PalgraveMacmillan, 2012, pp. 64-79.

“Muslim Women Write Their Journeys Abroad: A Bibliographic Essay” in Shobhana Bhattacharji (ed.), Travel Writing in India. Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 2008, pp. 28-39.

“Subtle Subversions and Presumptuous Interventions: Reforming Women’s Health in Bhopal State” in Anindita Ghosh (ed.), Behind the Veil: Resistance, Women and the Everyday in Colonial South Asia. New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2007; London: Palgrave, 2008, pp. 116-38.

“Historicising Debates over Women’s Status in Islam: The Case of Nawab Sultan Jahan Begam of Bhopal” in Waltraud Ernst and Biswamoy Pati (eds.), India's Princely States. London: Routledge, 2007, pp. 139-156.

“A Princess’s Pilgrimage: Nawab Sikandar Begam’s account of hajj” in Tim Youngs (ed.), Travel Writing in the Nineteenth Century: Filling the Blank Spaces. London: Anthem, 2006, pp. 107-27.

“Introduction: Problematising Discourse and Practice” (with Avril A. Powell) and “An Embassy of Equality? Quaker Missionaries in Bhopal State, 1890-1930” in Avril A. Powell and Siobhan Lambert-Hurley (eds), Rhetoric and Reality: Gender and the Colonial Experience in South Asia. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2006, pp. 1-15 and 247-81.

“Out of India: The Journeys of the Begam of Bhopal, 1901-1930,” Women’s Studies’ International Forum, 21:3 (June, 1998), 263-276; reprinted in Tony Ballantyne and Antoinette Burton (eds). Bodies in Contact: Rethinking Colonial Encounters in World History. Durham: Duke University Press, 2005, pp. 293-309.

“Fostering Sisterhood: Muslim Women and the All-India Ladies’ Association,” Journal of Women’s History, 16:2 (summer, 2004), pp. 40-65.

“Introduction: A Princess Revealed” in Abida Sultaan. Memoirs of a Rebel Princess. Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2004, pp. xiii-xxxix.

“Princes, Paramountcy and the Politics of Muslim Identity: the Begam of Bhopal on the Indian National Stage, 1901-1926,” South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 26: 2 (2003), pp. 169-195.


Seminar Leader

History Workshop: Debating the British Empire HST120 (First year module)

History Workshop: Debating the British Empire, HST120

In the History Workshop you will learn the craft of the historian by working with closely with one of our academics on a particular area of their research while simultaneously developing the skills you’ll need to make the step up to university-level historical study.

How do professional historians go about their work? What skills do they need? And, how do they develop them? In this module, you’ll consider these questions by engaging with real historical questions.

Tutors will base their seminars on their own specific research interests, making this module a great way of integrating you into the research culture of the department and giving you real insight into what our historians actually do. Each tutor will then use this area of research as a means of exploring how historians identify and analyse relevant primary sources and navigate historiographical debates, while teaching a range of skills such as critical reading, bibliographic techniques and effective written and oral communication.

You will also develop skills at working both independently and as part of a wider team. The History Workshop has its own on-line learning environment, which enables you to work at your own pace on a series of research exercises. One of the main assessments for this module is a group presentation where you’ll work with other students to research a particular topic and present your findings to the rest of the group.

Module Leader

The Making of the Twentieth Century, HST117 (First Year module)

The Making of the Twentieth Century, HST117

This course looks back at key developments in the political, social and cultural history of the twentieth century. Its aim is to broaden students´ views of twentieth-century history by highlighting the ways in which barbarism and civilising forces went hand in hand in forging twentieth-century history. Rather than proceeding purely chronologically, this module focuses on a series of key themes that have shaped twentieth-century history, such as, for example, globalisation and fragmentation; revolutions; the political, social and cultural history of war; and democracy and mass politics. Each topic is introduced by a series of four lectures given by a subject specialist. An accompanying seminar programme allows for the in-depth discussion of specific issues and case studies.

Global South Asians: Travel, Migration and Diaspora, 1850-1950, HST298 (Second Year module)

Global South Asians: Travel, Migration and Diaspora, 1850-1950, HST298

It has been estimated that, by the early twenty-first century, more than 25 million peoples of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi descent were living in Europe, North America, Africa and Southeast Asia. This module aims to historicise this diaspora by examining how and why South Asians have criss-crossed the globe in increasing numbers from the nineteenth century: for pilgrimage, trade, service, indenture, learning, diplomacy, politics, performance, mission and employment. The focus will be on different experiences of travel, migration and settlement in the high and late colonial period (1858-1947) that anticipated mass migration in the post-war era.

South Asian Muslims in the Age of Empire, 1850-1950, HST 3172/3173 (Third year special subject)

South Asian Muslims in the Age of Empire, 1850-1950, HST 3172/3173

Writing in 1888, the Viceroy of India, Lord Dufferin, described South Asia’s Muslims as ‘a nation of 50 million, with their monotheism, their iconoclastic fanaticism, their animal sacrifices, their social equality and their remembrance of the days when, enthroned in Delhi, they reigned supreme from the Himalayas to Cape Cormorin.’

Lord Dufferin’s quote points to how Muslims represented South Asia’s largest religious minority in the high colonial period – at around 23 percent of the population compared to a Hindu majority of approximately 67 percent. The large numbers mean that, even now, there are more Muslims in South Asia than any other region of the world.

How far does Lord Dufferin’s colonial representation capture the diverse lives and experiences of South Asian Muslims under British rule? Were they a ‘nation’ or even a cohesive community before India’s Partition in 1947? To what extent did this understanding of Islam fuel reformism, cultural expression, global movement and nationalist politics?

This module will trace the processes by which South Asian Muslims emerged as a separate and distinct community in the age of empire, while also highlighting the social and political fractures within that cultural grouping. Themes will include: Islam’s origins in South Asia; Muslims and the colonial state; socio-religious reform movements; the ‘Muslim’ princely state; language, medicine and law; global travel and pan-Islamism; and India’s Partition.

Autobiography, Identity and the Self in Muslim South Asia, HST6066 (Spring 2015-16)

Autobiography, Identity and the Self in Muslim South Asia, HST6066

This module uses autobiographical writing to chart wider cultural transitions experienced by Muslims in South Asia in the modern era. Of particular interest is the way in which South Asian Muslims adapted the long tradition of recording life stories in Islam under the influence of colonialism and reformism. To what degree do life writings reflect changing notions of self and identity among Muslims? You will be introduced to autobiography, Islam and the self as theoretical concepts before turning to different lives told – by princes, scholars, saints, reformers, educationalists, politicians, feminists, writers, actors and/or immigrants.

The World in Connection: Themes in Global History (MA core module)

The World in Connection: Themes in Global History

This core module introduces students to some of the most important and innovative themes, debates and controversies relating to global history and its linked fields of imperial, international, transnational, transregional and world history. Through discursive seminars students will acquire an informed understanding of global forces, structures and processes that have shaped and reshaped our world, including empires, trade, technology, religion, decolonisation, migration, war, diplomacy, humanitarianism, disease and the environment. Students will thus be enabled to explore connections, comparisons and exchanges across broad geographical and chronological terrain, while also considering relationships between the global, regional and local.

Public Engagement

Public Engagement

I have shown my commitment to public engagement with South Asian and Muslim history in a number of ways. With a grant from the Higher Education Academy, I developed a new digital archive, ‘Accessing Muslim Lives’, in collaboration with partners at Edinburgh University. Though used primarily in higher education, it also enables the general public to explore the lives of men and women in the Muslim world from the sixteenth century to now through their autobiographical writings.

I have also worked as a contributor and consultant on a number of historical documentary projects for the BBC and other television networks. Programmes on which I have appeared include ‘The Maharara’s Motor Car: The Story of Rolls Royce in India’ and ‘Heir Hunters’. I have also published journalistic pieces in the Indian press for magazines, like City Limits and Outlook Travellers. Here is a link to a short video of some of my early TV work:

I have also published journalistic pieces in the British and Indian press for magazines and newspapers, like City Limits, Outlook Traveller, The Hindustan Times, Quartz India and The Independent. Recent pieces include:

I have given a number of lectures for A-level students, including at Loughborough University’s ‘Inspiring Minds’ event and the University of Sheffield’s ‘Discover Arts & Humanities Summer School’. I am also pursuing further links with schools, using the history of South Asians in Britain to facilitate discussion of multiculturalism and citizenship.

Administrative Duties

Administrative Duties

My main administrative roles at the University of Sheffield are linked to the Department of History’s Research and Innovation Committee. As well as acting as Director of Research (from spring 2018) and Deputy Director of Research (2015-16, autumn 2017), I am Impact Case Study Lead, External Engagement Officer and Ethics Officer. I also sit on the Internationalisation Committee, the PhD Confirmation Review Panel and the Examination Scrutiny Committee, while acting as the History Liaison for the Sheffield Institute of International Development and a Department Mentor to early career staff. I convene the MA in Global History and act as a personal tutor to MA students. I also lead the White Rose South Asia Network. In 2015-16, I was also Library Liaison Officer and Equality and Diversity Officer.

I also fulfilled many key administrative roles at Loughborough University that demonstrate my leadership roles in research and teaching. In 2014-15, I was Director of Study with primary responsibility for ensuring the high quality and standard of learning, teaching and assessment across the taught provision (undergraduate and postgraduate). From 2009 to 2013, I was Director of International Study, responsible for recruiting, coordinating and assessing students who study abroad. I have also sat on the Research Committee, convened departmental seminar series and symposium, and acted as Equality and Diversity Officer.