From 6 to 8 April 2016, more than 200 scholars from across the world met in Cambridge, at Fitzwilliam College, for the annual conference of the British Association for South Asian Studies. This special issue of South Asian Studies brings together five exceptional papers that were presented at this meeting, all of which consider a historical period from the early nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century.1 These authors were selected from a remarkably rich, bold, and diverse range of scholarship presented throughout the conference, which featured 127 papers across 36 panels. The organizers of the conference were particularly grateful for the support of the Yusuf and Farida Hamied Foundation, the Thriplow Trust, and the Malaysian Commonwealth Studies Centre, which enabled the participation of ten outstanding young scholars from South Asian institutions. They were among a substantial contingent of delegates from South Asia as well as many others from across Europe, North America, Africa, and beyond. The lively scholarly interactions throughout the conference – both in, and between, panels – highlighted the importance of open, respectful intellectual exchange. This sense was sharpened on the opening day of the conference, which featured a round-table discussion on the various assaults on academic freedom and threats to academic spaces in contemporary South Asia.