top of page
Image by Paweł Czerwiński

About Me 

My research focusses on the intersections between Victorian Literature, empire and migration. I am broadly interested in how imperial formations in the long nineteenth-century fostered new conditions for writing.

Tracing the literary formations and communities that arise out of imperial encounters has led to an eclectic range of interests: from settler colonial migration, to colonial drug cultures, to commodity frontiers.


I'm committed to raising public awareness on the legacies of empire and have appeared across television, podcasts, radio, and festivals to talk about this. I am a New Generation Thinker 2021. 



Nineteenth-Century Settler Emigration in British Literature and Art (Edinburgh University Press, 2018)

This is the first book to combine literary criticism, art history and cultural geography in its analysis of nineteenth-century settler colonial culture across Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In it, I draw on extensive international archival research to argue that nineteenth-century settler emigration was textually constituted, and that these texts should be understood as a new and distinctive genre of ‘emigration literature’. In doing so, I provide a new, theoretical framework for understanding nineteenth-century settler colonialism.

front cover.png

'Fluently written in an accessible and clear style, Shaikh’s work analyzes an important and underexplored aspect of nineteenth-century British settler emigration and the mobility in which it was enmeshed' - Victorian Studies

‘A valuable intervention in this burgeoning scholarly field’ - Journal of Victorian Culture

‘This book opens new theoretical frameworks and enhances our interpretations of empire and imperial progress’ - Victorian Periodicals Review

'Explodes [Victorian Studies'] limited geographic imaginary, which continues to exhibit particular difficulties in dismantling a center/periphery model' - Los Angeles Review of Books

Opium Fictions: From Thomas de Quincey to Amitav Ghosh (in progress)

This is the first study to reorient the intersection between opium and literature from the psychosomatic effects of opium on literary creativity to an interrogation of the geopolitical resonances of opium. It will shift the current terms of analysis so that our understandings of these literary texts foreground the fact that opium was a key, major colonial commodity, crucial to the existence of the East India Company, and to the expansion of the British Empire during this era.


Public Humanities
Novels that Shaped Our World (BBC 2)

In this three-part docuseries celebrating 300 years of the novel since the publication of Robinson Crusoe in 1719, I provide expert commentary in Episode 2: The Empire Strikes Back, on Rudyard Kipling's Kim (1901) and in Episode 3: The Class Ceiling, on Elizabeth Gaskell's Mary Barton (1848). ​

Britain's Most Historic Towns (Channel 4)

I appear in conversation with Professor Alice Roberts, talking about the ways in which Elizabeth Gaskell's novels capture the impact of the Industrial Revolution on the mass growth of Manchester in the nineteenth century. 

Free Thinking (BBC 3)

In this programme, I appear alongside my fellow New Generation Thinkers of 2021 to introduce an aspect of our research.

Migration Museum: Departures

In this episode accompanying the Migration Museum's exhibition 'Departures', I talk about the culture and economics of mass migration in the nineteenth century. 

Hay Festival 2019

My public lecture at the Hay Festival 2019 situated contemporary discussions of migration in a longer historical context, and argued for the ways in which current concerns around migration are the inheritances of the Victorian era.

National Gallery of Ireland

This public lecture was part of a series accompanying the National Gallery of Ireland's exhibition 'Pathos of Distance' in 2015 and explored the motif of emigration in nineteenth-century narrative paintings in an Anglo-Irish context. ​


Image by Raimond Klavins

The long nineteenth century witnessed one of the most turbulent periods of imperial expansion, and resistance to colonial rule. We continue to live through the legacies of that violence, and that resistance, to this day. This section collates some of the resources that I have been involved in producing in my anti-racist work.

Black Lives Matter:

Starting Points for the Victorianist

Research Methods Workshop designed for

Anglia Ruskin University 

BAVS/NAVSA Victorians and Race

Roundtable Resource List

Routledge Historical Races:

Victorians and Race

bottom of page