Associate Department Chair; Associate Professor of History


History of economic life and development, modern South Asia, environmental history, agricultural history, history of medicine and the body

Benjamin Siegel is a historian of modern economic life and politics, agriculture, and the environment, with a geographic focus on South Asia and its entanglements with the wider world. His first book, Hungry Nation: Food, Famine, and the Making of Modern India (Cambridge University Press, 2018), interrogated the ways in which questions of food and scarcity structured Indian citizens’ understanding of welfare and citizenship since independence. Professor Siegel’s current book project, Hooked: A Transnational History of the United States Opioid Crisis, is under contract with Oxford University Press. He is working on three interlinked future projects: a short history of tangible and intangible resources in modern India, a global history of South Asian development, and a project on traffic, roads, and automobiles in the region.

Professor Siegel’s work has been published in the American Historical Review, the Caravan, the Christian Science Monitor, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, Contemporary South Asia, Environmental History, Humanity, the Indian Economic Social and History Review, the International History Review, Modern Asian Studies, the World Policy Journal, VICE, and other journals and edited volumes.

Dr. Siegel received his B.A. from Yale University and his A.M. and Ph.D. from Harvard University; his dissertation won the 2014 Sardar Patel Award given by the Center for India and South Asia at UCLA, honoring “the best doctoral dissertation on any aspect of modern India.” His work has been sponsored by grants and fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Institute of Indian Studies, the Smithsonian Institution’s Lemelson Center, and the Boston University Center for the Humanities.

At Boston University, Professor Siegel teaches regular courses on the history of South Asia, development in comparative perspective, food and agriculture, and history of medicine and the body; he supervises regular reading fields for graduate students in related fields. Professor Siegel was the 2020 recipient of the Frank and Lynne Wisneski Award for Excellence in Teaching, the 2021 recipient of the Gerald and Deanne Gitner Family Undergraduate Teaching Prize in History, and the 2022 Templeton Award for Excellence in Student Advising and Mentoring.

Prior to coming to Boston University, Professor Siegel was a researcher and reporter for Time in New Delhi and Hong Kong, a Yale University Fox International Fellow at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, a visiting fellow with Hong Kong University’s Centre for Medicine and the Humanities, an affiliate researcher at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, a Graduate Fellow at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, and an affiliate fellow at Yale University’s program in Agrarian Societies.

Curriculum Vitae