Geoffrey Durham

Position title: Assistant Professor of History



I am a historian of modern Eurasia with a focus on imperial Russia and its international entanglements in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Two main concerns motivate my research and teaching. The first is to understand how the Russian empire incorporated vast and diverse territories, resources, and peoples into an imperial system of state service and economic exchange. The second is to situate the Russian empire within its global context.

I explore these processes and related themes in my current book project, titled Autocracy and the Politics of Standardization in the Russian Empire. Weights, measures, and money emerged as key factors of imperial and international integration—in the Russian empire and around the world between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries. The book asks how, why, and with what consequences this happened. It follows Tsarist officials from the ministries of Finances and Internal Affairs and scholars from the Imperial St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences who wielded standardization reforms to extract tax revenues, facilitate commercial exchange, and partake in what they understood to be the globalization of European civilization. By moving among metropolitan, imperial, and international sites of political engagement, the book evaluates the relationships between the Tsarist state and its subjects as well as among subjects themselves. I argue that social conflict, changing conceptions of sovereignty, and tensions between autocracy and internationalism determined how a global transformation in weights, measures, and money reverberated throughout the Russian empire. The book also uncovers how these dynamics within the Russian empire shaped the course of international standardization, and offers a new account of how the gold standard and the metric system came to be used throughout the world.

I am presently working on two other projects. The first is a history of platinum mining and minting in the Russian empire in the nineteenth century. The second is a study of imperial autocracy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that focuses on the diverse political cultures and institutions through which the tsars’ subjects participated in the work of governance.

In addition to the social, political, and economic history of Eurasia and the Russian empire, my teaching interests include comparative histories of unfree labor and empire, nineteenth-century internationalisms, and the history of political and economic thought.


Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
M.A., Indiana University
B.A., Skidmore College

History Courses

  • History 201 – The Historian’s Craft: Global History of Unfree Labor in the Long Nineteenth Century
  • History 229 – Empires in Eurasia, from Chinggis Khan to Stalin
  • History 418 – History of Imperial Russia, 1801-1917