Archives of Empire is predominantly a collection of various documents from the 19th century, from the 19th century, of sources, mostly collated in excerpt form, ranging widely across genres and subject materials. Thus, there are speeches, essays and letters of notable 19th century personae, government documents, the odd legislation, even chapters from novels and books from the era, are presented as excerpts of varying sizes. This review engages with the first of a four-volume set. First published in 2003, it has found its way to India, the dominant subject of its attention, fifteen years later.
Even though the published literature on the revolt of 1857 is vast, the historiography on the subject remains underdeveloped. The impact of colonial historiography has been so far-reaching and pervasive that till very recently it has been difficult to formulate relevant questions for research on the subject. For instance, since there is an assumption that Panjab remained ‘loyal’ to the British, researchers have not paid much attention to the events in the province.
The histories of bhakti and sufi traditions have dominated the study of religious developments in the medieval and early modern period in the South Asian region. Consequently, the presence of other religious communities is hardly recognized and research on them remains somewhat marginalized. The book under review is a much-needed intervention in the historical scholarship of religious studies of the pre-colonial period. Based on wide ranging sources, mostly unexplored till date, the work highlights the developments within the Jaina community, the development of the community identity and its interactions with the Mughal imperial authority in northern India especially in the Mughal provinces of Ajmer, Awadh, Allahabad, Bihar, Delhi, Gujarat, Lahore and Malwa.
The historian’s engagements with the past—whether remote or recent—with an explanatory orientation, require a clear understanding of the preferred temporal and spatial units. The historian’s choice of a given area and a chronological span is often determined by, inter alia, historiographical issues and debates and evidential wherewithal. These are methodological issues which the historian BD Chat-topadhyaya once labelled as the burden of historiography and the burden of sources. The other almost invariable compulsion of a historian is to pitch in the nation state or parts thereof as a pivot of historical enquiries.
This is a short book on a very long and tumultuous period of Indian history and Judd is ambitious in tracing the rise and fall of the East India Company rule and the subsequent British Raj in this summary fashion. However, this concise account is written in the best traditions of popular history and is aimed, one would surmise, primarily at the general reader rather than an academic audience per se.
For years we have been told that Indian English Poetry has come of age, and paradoxically so in independent India. But I am yet to see an anthology which does justice to this statement. The only kind of anthology that can possibly do so is one which is a collection of the best poems written by Indians in English since 1947. Or better still, it should contain the best Indian English poems ever written.
As an outstanding academician and a chief spokesman of the developing coun¬tries, Professor R.P. Anand examines the various problems facing international law and suggests how it should be changed and modified to meet the challenges of tomorrow.’ The present system of inter¬national law is a legacy of the Western Christian Civilization and was developed to suit their needs and aspirations.
The compilation is an interesting po-pourai which deals with the role of the Judiciary in the resolution of ethnic conflicts which arise in plural societies. Three Asian and two African societies feature in the volume, namely, Sri Lanka, India, the Philippines, Tanzania and Mazambique. One of the facet in focus broadly speak¬ing has been the determination of the legitimate limits of judicial intervention in the fields of preference and reservation policies in education and employment.
The emergency of 1975 evokes horror even today. Mercifully, it was short-lived. But even that short period saw enough violations of human rights to fill volumes. There are countries living in a permanent state of emergency: Paraguay, Cameroon, Haiti and South Africa, for instance. The protection of human rights in emer¬gencies is therefore a major concern of contemporary international law.
The reprinting of Mary Frances Billing-ton’s book is a welcome addition to the literature of foreign travellers comment¬ing on India. First published in 1895, Woman in India is a well-organized pastiche of women’s lives in the last few years of the 19th century. Her work is particularly interesting as it deals with a section of Indian society which was not readily accessible to most foreigners.
As a historian, I appreciate the author’s interest in the history of Indian urbanism (I have misgivings about the use of the term ‘urbanization’ which surely cannot be used for the centuries before the 20th) and could wish that more historians would share this interest. India’s long and glorious history is a cliche beloved of textbook writers and politicians. But how limited is the content of textbooks. The history of art forms, of cultural regions, even economic history (as distinct from the history of economic policies) is some¬what limited.
This reviewer, who has enjoyed the friend¬ship of Colin Legum for the past two decades, can without any fear of contradic¬tion describe him as perhaps the most know¬ledgeable commentator on matters concern¬ing the vast continent of Africa. Having met him several times in India, Africa, London and New York and having participated with him in a couple of international seminars on Africa, it would be fair to call him a leading Africanist. Essentially a journalist, he is highly respected even by academics from Africa, the United States and Britain.