History

History

Issue Articles

The Other Indians of the First World War

The Allied victory in the First World War was won on the back of the labour of non-combatant ‘coolies’, whose deployment allowed for swift mobilisation across fronts. A new book narrates the story of their struggles on the battlefields and of their neglect.

Dharma and Caste in the Mahabharata

Some episodic suggestions
The Mahabharata is peopled by the ‘higher’ castes but there are important personages from the ‘lower’ castes whose presence gives a radical salience to ‘dharma’ as set out in the epic, to the point of even suggesting a subversion of the dominant ideology.

The Promise of India: Recalling Dadabhai Naoroji

A new biography brings to the fore Dadabhai Naoroji’s activities in India and England for self-rule and his early socialist and anti-racist thought. It places the ‘Father of Indian Nationalism’ among the leading non-European thinkers and reformers of the time.

In the Name of the Nation

Nietzsche’s Abyss Staring Back?
Sanjib Baruah's new book is 'a prescient ledger' of what Northeast India has become and at the same time 'a cautionary tale' of where muscular policy may take us in the rest of India.

The Crisis of Citizenship in Assam

Autonomy and social justice are often in a tense relationship in Assam. While the demands for autonomy reflect the desire for territorial control over land, demands for social justice reflect an insistence on citizenship and equality under constitutional law.

India's Gift to the Struggle against Apartheid

ES Reddy – whose ideals were forged in India’s fight for freedom – went beyond the confines of nationalism to embrace the anti-apartheid struggle. His commitment to solidarity & justice across borders is a lesson at a time when societies are turning insular.

A Prehistory of Religious Modernity

A comparative study of the Brahmo Samaj and the Swaminarayanis, two sects seen as polar opposites, raises questions on both the superiority of the Hindu reform project during the colonial period and on claims that traditionalist faiths are intolerant.

Remembering The Second World War in North East India

The Second World War is memorialised in the North East through narratives of Allied and Japanese veterans, nationalism, and war tourism. Lost in the process is how the war and issues of post-war compensation shaped the integration of the region into India.

Subverting the System

Reflections on the Fate of Democracies in the 21st Century
The emergence of political leaders the world over with a contempt for the democratic systems they preside over, requires a re-examination of the ideas of democracy & representation. This is a necessary preliminary towards salvaging ‘government by discussion’.

Extreme events in nature: An ecological history of the present

The zoonotic disease Covid-19 is yet another warning shot to humanity. The imbalance throughout history between our ecological footprint and the earth’s biocapacity has grown to a point that it now poses a threat to civilisation. How can we deal with this?

Syncretic Culture of the Brahma Kshatriyas of Hyderabad

A photo essay on the Brahma Kshatriyas of Hyderabad, whose association with the Mughal and the Nizam’s administration produced a unique syncretic culture.

The Architecture of Democracy

Central Vista and a Tale of Three Axes
The imperial Central Vista in Delhi has been transformed since 1947 into a symbol of democratic India. But the proposed redevelopment will reduce public space, highlight the spectacle of government and seems to reflect the authoritarian turn in our democracy.

Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the 75th Anniversary of ‘Nuclear Peace’

'Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds’. Physicist Robert Oppenheimer recalled these lines from the Gita after watching the first nuclear test in July 1945. With the world now sitting on a huge nuclear stockpile, can we hope to avoid that destruction?

Examining the Making of the Constitution

At the dawn of independence, the liberal traditions that underpin a constitutional democracy were absent in India. How did the framers of the Constitution deal with this challenge?

Making Indian Cities Habitable

The Legacy of Patrick Geddes
The social & environmental problems of a rapidly urbanising India were anticipated a century ago by the Scottish town planner Patrick Geddes. It may be time to redeem & rehabilitate Geddes’ themes of respect for nature, democracy & architectural traditions.

Counts and Consequences

Citizenship and Language Identity
Language diversity has always been a given for Indians. The Constitution endorses this diversity as ‘a noble intention’. But as in 2011, the 2021 Census too may see hundreds of languages removed from official records in the service of Hindi-Hindu nationalism.

Manufacturing Epidemics

Pathogens, Poverty, and Public Health Crises in India
India's Covid-19 crisis is one effect of a decades-long process that has produced impoverishment, hunger, and ill-health, all at once. Its history of epidemics can offer insights into understanding the structural roots of its poor public health infrastructure.

‘The Government Will Come To Its Senses’

Calcutta’s Workers and the Plague of 1898
The plague of 1898 brought Calcutta's workers out into the streets to strike against low pay & forced inoculation. The disorders during the epidemic gave the working class their first opportunity to organise themselves & to build up the city’s labour movement.

Past and Present

Can India Beat Corona the Way It Beat Smallpox?
The eradication of smallpox in India in the 1970s may throw light on the evolving corona strategies. The attempts, then & now, operate against the backdrop of a destitute landscape, & increasingly a bigoted one, where some lives are more expendable than others

The Rise of the Populist State

A populist idea has developed that an entrenched elite is exploiting deprived people. This then drives populist anger that certain types of leaders take advantage of and exploit through rhetoric and a clever manipulation of facts.

Revisiting Partition Debates

The Global Connections
Partition debates in India drew on the League of Nations’ discussions on minorities in the nation-states created after World War I. The League’s legacy persisted beyond Partition, even making a ghost appearance in the controversy over Assam's NRC.

Naming and Belonging

A Personal History of a North Indian Muslim Clan
Did my Shamsi clan “come” or “convert”? What qana’at made my family remain in India after Partition? Our lives are a confection of history and happenstance. As belonging is questioned and citizenship interrogated, perhaps these personal histories will suffice.

The Ayodhya Verdict Dissected

A close analysis of the Supreme Court's final judgement on the Ayodhya dispute that has been criticised as much as it has been praised for how it has brought about closure
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