A common predilection among historians is to protest against the tyranny of received paradigms and thereafter, to assert how their research departs from existing models. This predilection, even predicament, is in many ways tied up with the very practice of history-writing—a feature that often promises new revelations and strange riches, but even more often ends up with only partial qualifications and modifications. Rila Mukherjee’s work is no exception and even as she promises to give us innovative and provocative insights into Bengal’s commercial history, she clutters up her work by telling us incessantly what has been wrong with the state of Bengal’s historiography so far. The excessively long quotations from well-known works that refer to some or other aspect of India’s overseas trading links and within it Bengal’s changing maritime frontiers, make the work tedious reading.
January 2007, volume 31, No 1