Richard Williams

Richard Williams


Personal profile

Research interests (short)

Richard David Williams researches the cultural history of north India, working on musical and literary texts in early and modern dialects of Hindi, Urdu, and Bengali.

PhD Thesis Title: Hindustani Music between Awadh and Bengal, c.1758-1905

He first studied Theology and then Modern South Asian Studies at the University of Oxford, with a primary interest in Braj Bhasa literature and eighteenth century religious history. His current work explores the relationships between musical patronage, poetry, and society c.1780-1900. His broader interests include histories of gender and the body, ritual and popular religion, manuscript culture, literary translation, and Hindi cinema.

Research interests

My thesis discusses changes in north Indian music and dance over the nineteenth century, through an analysis of the interactions between the performance cultures of Hindustan and Bengal. I follow late Mughal developments in musical knowledge and practice, and explore how this inter-regional conversation continued under colonial rule. In particular, I present a study of the court-in-exile of Wajid Ali Shah (1822-1887), the last nawāb of Lucknow, who settled in the suburbs of Calcutta following the annexation of his kingdom. I reconstruct this court as a forum for musical exchange, and locate it in a longer history of interaction between Hindustani and Bengali musicians and patrons. I also consider how new colonial technologies of print represented and thus modified contemporary performance practices and Mughal intellectual traditions.

This thesis reconstructs the arc of nineteenth century musical transition, and documents how multilingual and interregional understandings of music inherited from the late Mughal period continued and developed under colonialism.

Education/Academic qualification

Master of Philosophy, Modern South Asian Studies, University of Oxford

Award Date: 1 Jan 2011

Bachelor of Arts, Theology, University of Oxford

Award Date: 1 Jan 2009


  • DS Asia
  • PI Oriental languages and literatures
  • ML Literature of music
  • BL Religion


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