Geoffrey Durham

Geoffrey Durham

Ph.D. Candidate

I study modern Russian and European history, particularly the Russian empire in the nineteenth century. Beyond the history of imperial Russia, my teaching interests include comparative empire (especially the history of the United States and Russia in the nineteenth century); the science and diplomacy of international standardization; the First World War and the interwar years in Europe; and the global Cold War. Broadly speaking, my research addresses questions related to state formation, political economy, the social history of ideas, and the history of science. My dissertation research has been supported by the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies' Stephen F. Cohen-Robert C. Tucker Dissertation Research Fellowship (2019-20) and several awards from the University of Pennsylvania.

My dissertation, "The Standards of Evaluation: Weights, Measures, and Money in Imperial Russia," reinterprets the drive to standardize metrological and monetary units along both imperial and international vectors between the late eighteenth century and early twentieth. It begins by describing how variation in international and Russian imperial regimes for weights, measures, and money worked in practice and proceeds to explain who came to view these types of diversity as a problem in need of a solution. My research challenges the notion that standardization originated among early industrializers in Western and Central Europe by focusing on a predominantly agricultural political economic system in imperial Russia. I analyze the political relationships among officials and the interplay between the state and social groups as dynamics that determined the creation and dissemination of particular standards across Russian imperial and international spaces. One key finding of my dissertation is that we cannot understand the internationalization of the metric system without accounting for the role that academicians from the Russian Academy of Sciences played in the process. I have written about the global spread of the metric system in a pair of blog posts for NYU's Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia, which are available here, and here.


Dissertation committee: Peter Holquist (chair); Benjamin Nathans, Amy Offner, Sophia Rosenfeld, Michael Gordin (Princeton)


M.A., Russian and East European Studies, Indiana University, 2016
B.A., History, Skidmore College, 2012

Research Interests

Modern Russian Imperial and Soviet history; state formation; empire; political economy; internationalism; history of science

CV (file)