Department of History

Professor Michael W. Charney

Key information

Department of History Professor of Asian and Military History Centre of African Studies Member, Centre of African Studies Centre of Buddhist Studies Member, Centre of Buddhist Studies China Institute Academic Staff, SOAS China Institute Centre of South East Asian Studies Chair, Centre of South East Asian Studies SOAS South Asia Institute Academic Staff, SOAS South Asia Institute
BA (U. of Michigan-Flint), MA (U. of Michigan-Ann Arbor), MA (Ohio), PhD (U. of Michigan-Ann Arbor)
Russell Square: College Buildings
Email address
Telephone number
+44 (0)20 7898 4612
Support hours
Tuesdays 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm


Professor Charney (PhD, University of Michigan, 1999) is a military historian of Asia, who has spent his career at the Centre for Advanced Studies, National University of Singapore, the Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, University of Tokyo, and, since 2001, at SOAS University of London. He has recently joined the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy after eighteen years in the Department of History (now the HRP) at SOAS, with which he continues to hold a joint appointment. His main research interests are on the history of military logistics, armies and warfare in modern and contemporary Asia, the historical culture of war in Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, and West Africa, and the emergence of religious and national cultures in Myanmar (Burma) and the greater Bay of Bengal.

Research interests

I am a military historian specialising in Asia. Since joining SOAS, I have published monographs on warfare in the premodern South East Asian region (Southeast Asian Warfare, 1300-1900, 2004), the rise of monastic, military, and ministerial elites and their impact on the religious and intellectual life of the precolonial Burmese kingdom (Powerful Learning: Buddhist Literati and the Throne in Burma's Last Dynasty, 1752-1885, 2006), a history of the twentieth century in Burma before and during the lengthy period of military rule (A History of Modern Burma, 2009), and the impact of Royal Engineers on military transportation in Asia during the Second World War (Imperial Military Transportation in British Asia: Burma 1941–1942, 2019). I have also co-edited numerous volumes, most recently Warring Societies of Pre-Colonial Southeast Asia (2017) with Kathy Wellen.

PhD Supervision

Name Title
Xu Peng Rebel governance in Myanmar: the comparison study between Wa and Kokang (working title)
Mr Tassapa Umavijani The Military Transformation of Nineteenth-Century Siam: Changes and Continuities


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