Divya Cherian

Assistant Professor of History; Philip and Beulah Rollins Bicentennial Preceptor
Office Phone
G-21 Dickinson Hall
Office Hours
Wednesday: 3:00 pm-5:00 pm

& by appointment; also available on Zoom
Schedule an office hours appointment


Divya Cherian is a historian of early modern and colonial South Asia, with interests in social, cultural, and religious history, gender and sexuality, ethics and law, and the local and the everyday. Her research focuses on western India, chiefly on the region that is today Rajasthan.

Divya's book, Merchants of Virtue: Hindus, Muslims, and Untouchables in Eighteenth-Century South Asia (Oakland: University of California Press, 2023), investigates the effects on the state and society of the rise of merchants as an economic and political force in early modern South Asia. In doing so, the study places centrality on the role of law, ethics, and morality in the reshaping of both social identity and state form. Her research has received the support of the American Institute of Indian Studies, the Charlotte Newcombe Foundation, Rutgers University-New Brunswick, Columbia University, and the Indian Council for Historical Research. Divya is now working on a new project on magic, gender, and "primitivity" in pre- and early colonial South Asia.

At Princeton, Divya's undergraduate teaching includes an introductory survey to the history of medieval and early modern South Asia and undergraduate seminars on caste and religious identities in pre-modern South Asia and on gender and nation in India. She teaches graduate seminars on major debates in early modern South Asian history and connected and comparative histories of pre-modern South Asia with other parts of the globe.

Prior to joining Princeton, Divya spent a year as an Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral fellow at the Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis in New Brunswick. She received a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University, an M.Phil. and an M.A. in History from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and a B.A. from the University of Delhi.



Merchants of Virtue: Hindus, Muslims, and Untouchables in Eighteenth-Century South Asia (Oakland: University of California Press, 2023). Winner of the American Institute of Indian Studies' 2022 Joseph W. Elder Prize in the Indian Social Sciences.

Articles and Book Chapters

"The Owl and the Occult: Popular Politics and Social Liminality in Early Modern South Asia." Comparative Studies in Society and History (forthcoming, 2023).

"Stolen Skin and Children Thrown: Governing Sex and Abortion in Early Modern South Asia," Modern Asian Studies 55, 5 (2021), 1461-1509. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0026749X21000226

"Fall from Grace? Caste, Bhakti, and Politics in Late Eighteenth-Century Marwar," in Bhakti & Power: Debating India's Religion of the Heart, eds. John S. Hawley, Christian L. Novetzke, & Swapna Sharma (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2019).

Area of Interest
(In alphabetical order)
Colonialism & Post Colonialism
Cultural History
Family History
Gender & Sexuality
Labor History
Legal History
Political History
Social History
Home Department & Other Affiliations
15th & 16th Centuries
17th & 18th Centuries
19th Century