Dr Aditya Balasubramanian returns from International Fellowship

Tuesday 12 September 2023

Earlier this year, Dr Aditya Balasubramanian, Senior Lecturer in History at The Australian National University (ANU), completed his International Fellowship to King’s College London. The International Fellowship opportunity was a result of a proud initiative of the ANU Australian Studies Institute (AuSI) in collaboration with three of the world’s foremost Australian Studies Centres, including the Menzies Australia Institute at King’s College London.

Aditya’s International Fellowship provided an opportunity to further his research project, “Flora of Freedom: Australia, India, and Commonwealth Forestry in the Era of Development and Decolonization”. Being positioned at the Menzies Australia Institute (King’s College London) allowed him access to archival and print collections held almost exclusively in the United Kingdom.

“As an Australian Studies Institute Visiting Fellow at the Menzies Australia Institute at King's College London, I researched the history of eucalyptus planting in India, which took off in the 1960s and became a major craze to the extent that the country developed the world's second largest area of planted eucalyptus. Various species of the tree were useful in providing pulp and fuelwood for industrial requirements of a growing postcolonial economy. However, it was also controversial given the water requirements of eucalyptus trees and monoculture plantations which led to biodiversity loss. Australian foresters like Lindsay Pryor (ANU) were influential advisors through the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization to India during this time, and Canberra was the site of the World Eucalyptus Tour in 1952 where foresters from all the world came to learn about this genus of trees and its ability to grow in a range of contexts.
“Eucalyptus strip plantation on the sides of highways in India also took off in the mid-20th century, and my new research project is on roads and road transport in India. So this project is a nice segue into a longer term research agenda.

“Based in London, I was able to research collections of the magazine Indian Forester held at the British Library, visited the UN Careers Archive in Oxford to look at FAO foresters' papers, and travelled to consult published materials at the FAO Library in Rome. I hope to supplement this research with an archival trip to India at the end of the year and develop a paper for publication in a leading history journal.

“I was privileged to be affiliated to King's College, where I was hosted by the Menzies Institute by its wonderful Director Dr Agniezska Sobocinska. During my time there, School of History colleague Professor Frank Bongiorno delivered the Menzies Lecture on "Australia: A New Political Geography?" and the Institute celebrated its 40th anniversary. The lecture and dinner were a highlight, with excellent conversation. I also had a chance to interact with other historians at Kings and explored possibilities for future collaboration.”

- Dr Aditya Balasubramanian, AuSI 2023 International Visiting Fellow

Aditya Balasubramanian is Senior Lecturer in History at the Australian National University. 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. 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.

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