Photo of Ryan Patterson

Ryan Patterson

Contract Instructor

Degrees:B.A. Hons. (Carleton), M.A. (York), Ph.D. (Exeter)

Research Interests:

  • British Empire and imperialism
  • Victorian culture
  • 19th-century science and technology
  • Racial pseudo-science and ethnography
  • Military and society

I study British imperialism and imperial culture, particularly as it intersected with science and industry. My current work is an exploration of the methods and rationale by which new technologies (machine guns, rockets, cartridge rifles, breach-loading cannons, telegraphs, railways, and steam tractors) were assessed by and incorporated into the British military system. That sounds specific at first, but it provides a window into a wide range of the prevailing social and cultural movements at the heart of Victorian society. The Victorians had a techno-centric bent that deeply tinted their view of the outside world, and of Africa in particular. This “technologization” of the imperial identity influenced the nature of colonization and decolonization from the 1860s till as late as the 1950s.

My work crosses cultural history and the history of scientific and technological institutions with military history, using military sources to gain an understanding of the multiple uses to which societies envision new technology can be put. I also draw on and contribute to the histories of newspapers and journalism; medicine and ethnography; geography and exploration; and politics and international policy.

I am a Research Associate with Carleton University’s Disability Research Group, where I direct a SSHRC-funded joint seminar series with Liverpool Hope University (UK) titled Disability Futurity: Interdisciplinary Anticipations of a Non-normative Tomorrow. I also investigate Canadian contributions to the founding of Disabled Peoples’ International, develop the group’s international connections, and head a project to improve online accessibility.

I have taught history in the UK at the Universities of Exeter and Bristol.

Honours and Awards:

  • 2019-20 Connection Grant, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
  • 2018 Communication Project Grant, Canadian Historical Association
  • 2018 Research Grant, Mennonite Central Committee, Winnipeg
  • 2015 Speaking Grant, Institute of Historical Research, London
  • 2015 Speaking Grant, Peking University, Beijing
  • 2015 Speaking Grant, Technischen Universität Darmstadt, Darmstadt
  • 2012-15 Doctoral Fellowship, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
  • 2011-14 International Student Doctoral Award, University of Exeter
  • 2008-09 Master’s Grant, Ontario Graduate Scholarship
  • 2008 Top of History, Carleton University Senate Medal for Outstanding Academic Achievement

Select Publications

“The Third Anglo-Ashanti War, 1873-4”, in Stephen Miller (ed.) Queen Victoria’s Wars: British Military Campaigns, 1857-1902, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming mid-2020).

“Transnational Representation: Canada and the founding of Disabled Peoples’ International, 1981,” Envisioning Technologies, Carleton University’s Disability Research Group, 2019, forthcoming late 2019,

“‘To Form a Correct Estimate of Their Nothingness When Compared with It’: British Exhibitions of Military Technology in the Abyssinian and Ashanti Expeditions”, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, Volume 44, Issue 4 (Aug 2016), pp. 551-572.