Hilary Buxton is a historian of modern imperial Britain, with emphases on the history of medicine, race, gender and disability in the 19th and 20th centuries. Buxton’s research focuses on histories of colonial intimacy and the production of knowledge. She is currently at work on a project about the intersections of race and health in the First World War, which examines the experiences of wounded and disabled British West Indian and South Asian servicemen, their relationship with caregivers and the imperial state, and the lasting medical inequities produced out of this transcolonial encounter.

Prior to joining Kenyon, she was a Past & Present Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Historical Research at the University of London. Her work on health, masculinity and empire has appeared in Past & Present and the British Journal for the History of Science. Buxton teaches courses on the history of Britain and its Empire, comparative colonialisms, and the history of medicine and the body.

Areas of Expertise

Modern imperial Britain, colonial and global history, postcolonial science studies, race, gender and disability studies


2018 — Doctor of Philosophy from Rutgers College Univ NJ

2011 — Bachelor of Arts from Smith College

Courses Recently Taught

This team-taught seminar explores the 20th century in global comparative perspective, through the reading, contextualization, and analysis of mainly primary source texts and documents. In any given year the seminar will focus on one of two themes: the post-war world (ca.1945-1989), or the inter-war world (1919-1939). It takes up themes of broad political, economic and social transformations; scientific and technological innovations; and the cultural shifts that occurred throughout these decades preceding and following the Second World War. The seminar sections will meet jointly once a week for lectures or films, and separately once a week for discussion of primary-source readings. In addition to the rich historical material that the course addresses, students will begin to learn the basic skills of the historian: asking questions, finding and analyzing relevant documents or primary sources, and identifying different kinds of interpretations of those sources. This counts toward the modern requirement for the major. Open only to first-year students.

The European continent is incredibly diverse: geographically, culturally, economically, ethnically and politically (to name only the most obvious factors). Throughout the semester we will explore this diversity of experiences since the end of the 18th century. We will look at issues of race, class and gender, as well as violence, poverty, faith, nationalism, technology and art. We will read novels and memoirs, watch films and listen to music as we hone our historical knowledge and sensibilities regarding modern Europe, its peoples and its governments. We will examine the fates of a variety of nations, using examples from across the continent. This counts toward the modern requirement for the major and minor.

How and why did an island nation rise to political and economic predominance over much of the modern world? This course examines the expansion, development and contraction of the British Empire across the globe. We will focus on the circulations of people, power and knowledge that defined the Empire, as well as the interconnections between culture, socio-economics and politics of Britain and the world. Students will explore central themes in the history of British colonial rule: the politics of labor, war and imperial economies, the relationship between British liberalism and the violence and coercion of imperialism, the spread of “popular imperialism” in metropolitan British culture, the diasporas wrought out of British colonialism, and the postcolonial legacies of multiculturalism and imperial nostalgia in contemporary Britain. This counts toward the modern, Europe, and colonial/imperial requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Offered every year.

From its beginnings as a state, Britain has been constituted from an amalgamation of different peoples and identities. This course traces the history of Britain from its reconstitution under the Tudor dynasty to its present incarnation as the United Kingdom. We will follow a series of important, yet seemingly contradictory, questions: how did a state controlled by powerful monarchs generate a strong and lasting parliamentary government? How did centuries of religious conflict and persecution produce a legacy of tolerance? How did the development of liberalism spur both mass enfranchisement and education, at the same time as it endorsed colonial conquest and fostered deep-seated inequities in the modern state? Throughout, we will pay particular attention to the ways in which race, class, and gender figured into the lived experience of Britons – questioning the ever-shifting boundaries of ‘Britishness’ itself. This counts toward the modern and Europe requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Offered every year.

One hundred years ago, the European powers went to war over dynastic honor after the heir to the Habsburg throne was assassinated in Sarajevo. Four years later, all the European empires had fallen to revolution and defeat and Europe was transformed. The war inspired not only socialist revolutions but also revolutions in technology, art and daily life. We will look at the experience of soldiers fighting and new technologies of warfare; civilian suffering, hunger and political radicalization; modernist art and music, and postwar experiments in urban architecture; women's emancipation; and political violence and ethnic cleansing. This upper-level seminar will examine the war, its causes, course and consequences, with a special emphasis on historiography, the way the war was interpreted at the time and over the century since. Students will work with a variety of primary sources and conduct their own research project over the course of the semester. The course is intended for advanced history students, but students from other disciplines with an interest in the time period are welcome. Students without a modern Europe or an equivalent history course should contact the professor about their preparedness. This counts toward the modern requirement for the major and minor. Offered every three years.

Is disease a great leveler? Or does it exacerbate social, gendered and raced inequalities? This course takes a global approach to the modern history of public health: its emergence as a profession, its expanding knowledge and the growth of policy around it. Spanning the 16th to 21st century, we will investigate changing knowledge and treatments of disease. We will critique how the medical and legal frameworks organized around disease shape our experience of it. The course moves through time chronologically, questioning the relationship between humans and the environment, the role of medical technologies and developments, and shifting interpretations of disease causation, ranging from urbanization and industrialization to immigration and globalization. We will explore these questions by examining a wide range of subjects, from biomedicine to racial hygiene, population politics to colonial medicine, vaccination and resistance to treatment, quarantine and detention and the global response to epidemics. By the end of the course, students will be able to examine policy, analyze epidemiological data, and think critically about the social and political consequences illness and the state’s response to it. This counts toward the modern requirement for the major. Offered every two or three years.

How was the body central to the project of colonialism? This course takes a comparative look at world empires of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries to examine how intimate, scientific, anthropological and institutional knowledge of the body was a point of tension in colonial spaces. Focusing on British, French and Dutch imperialisms, we track how notions of “difference” – gender, race, caste, class and disability – shaped the development of empires. Colonial regimes cultivated a variety of ways of “knowing” the body – from intimate relationships, domestic work and exhibitionary spectacle to scientific practices like fingerprinting, census-taking and medical care. Yet while categories of difference often served to rationalize and legitimize colonial rule, this course demonstrates how they could also be used to challenge and undermine it. While a knowledge of European imperialism is helpful. This counts toward the modern, Europe, colonial/imperial and women and gender field requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Offered every two years.

This course focuses on the conceptual frameworks used by historians and on debates within the profession about the nature of the past and the best way to write about it. The seminar prepares students of history to be productive researchers, insightful readers and effective writers. The seminar is required for history majors and should be completed before the senior year. Open only to sophomores and juniors. This counts toward the practice and theory requirement for the major. Prerequisite: history or international studies major or permission of instructor.

Individual study is available to students who want to pursue a course of reading or complete a focused research project on a topic not regularly offered in the curriculum. This option is restricted to history majors and cannot normally be used to fulfill distribution requirements within the major. To qualify, a student must prepare a proposal in consultation with a member of the history faculty who has suitable expertise and is willing to work with the student over the course of a semester. The two- to three-page proposal should include a statement of the questions to be explored, a preliminary bibliography, a schedule of assignments, a schedule of meetings with the supervising faculty member and a description of grading criteria. The student also should briefly describe prior coursework that particularly qualifies him or her to pursue the project independently. The department chair must approve the proposal. The student should meet regularly with the instructor for at least the equivalent of one hour per week. At a minimum, the amount of work submitted for a grade should approximate that required, on average, in 300- or 400-level history courses. Individual projects will vary, but students should plan to read 200 pages or more a week and to write at least 30 pages over the course of the semester. Students are urged to begin discussion of their proposals with the supervising faculty member and the department chair the semester before they hope to undertake the project. Because students must enroll for individual studies by the end of the seventh class day of each semester, they should begin discussion of the proposed individual study preferably the semester before, so that there is time to devise the proposal and seek departmental approval before the established deadline. Proposals must be submitted by the third day of classes to department chair.