May 15, 2016

Hardship of A Historian

On November 21, 1764, Orme wrote the following lines to Robert Clive when Clive was deputed to India for the second time.

Orme wrote, “I have had permission to poke into the records of the India House, and have discovered excellent materials for the exordium of my second volume; but the difficulty of getting them away is immense, for every scrap of an extract that I desire is submitted to the consideration of the Court of Directors; so that in three months, and after making twenty-five journeys to the House, I have not got half what I want. All because they won't lend me old books, of which not a soul in England suspected the existence until my rummages discovered them. I am afraid, my Lord, that these gentlemen suspect that I shall make a fortune by my book; and therefore think all the trouble and impediments I meet with to be what I have no reason to complain of, as it is in the way of trade.

You, my Lord, have treated me differently; and pray continue to do so. Make me a vast map of Bengal, in which not only the outlines of the province, but also the different subdivision of Burdwan, Beerboom, &c. may be justly marked. Get me a clear idea of the different officer and duties of Duan (probably he meant Diwan), Bukhshee (probably he meant Buxshee), Cadgee (probably he meant a Qazi), Cutwall (probably he meant a Kotwal), and all other great posts in the government. Take astronomical observations of longitude, if you have any body capable of doing it. I send you a skeleton of Bengal map I intend for my second volume, and I will hereafter send you the first sheets of the book itself; which will contain matter entirely new, even to us East Indians; but that cruel India House, and my paper constitution, keep me back most terribly.”

The above lines have been picked from “The Life of Robert, Lord Clive: Collected from the family paper”, by Sir John Malcolm, completed by Charles Malcom in three volumes. The lines are from the second volume, pages 260-61.

Some Observations:

1. The lines are reported to have been written in 1762. This was the year when the Americans colonies were celebrating the accession of George III.

2. The efforts of a historian are depicted in the lines. The craft of collections is well demonstrated. It had been when “Wealth of Nation” by Adam Smith and Marx's Das Capita had not been published or even conceived. The idea is that there was no stress on economic determinism formula as emphasized by Marxian historians. Even then the book which Orme had authored had emphasized on different financial angles of the company. The Parliament of England had yet to debate the cost of running the colonies in America.

3. The historian had sought the help of the chief administrator for acquiring some valid information and facts about India. It shows that the administration in India was not well defined at that time. It can be proved from other references. The Nationalist Historians attributes imperialistic designs of the British Company. But in light of the above fact, it seems, that there inferences and interpretations are not true.

4. James Mills six volumes came in 1817. He had referred to work of Orme in order to criticize many of the observations of the officers of the company who were called Nabobs or East Indians in Britain. His claim in the preface of the first volume of his work is also stands to scrutiny. It is proved wrong that there was no good work on India. He was biased against a group of the Company officials. It seems that the work of Mills was a part of a wider game of the British parliamentarians and members of the company who were divided on the issue spending the wealth of the Empire on raising colonies outside their own territory.

No doubt, the above lines are quite important for the scholars who are in the field of research, working of research methodology and history.

May 01, 2016

Defining Historicism – An Example

The following lines are plucked out from a preface to a book of a highly quoted author named Lane-Poole. He was a Professor of Arabic at Trinity College, Dublin and book was published in 1903 from New York and introduced in England.

“History is always continuous; there can be no ‘fresh start’; and each new period carries on much of what preceded it.” (Preface pp.iv.; Lane-Pool, Stanely, Medieval India under Mohammedan Rule 712 – 1764, 1903, New York.

The lines conceptualize the intrinsic meaning of the term “Historicism” if the term claim any right to existence. I am ready to accept and in recognizing it, I feel no shame that I struggle to learn, understand and perceive the real import of the term ‘historicism’. As I learn that I know it, and the very next pulse of the time, I lose it.

History is a knowledge about past. Among the group of the world of knowledge, the humanity gives preference to those fields of knowledge which provide solutions or to be more specific, working solutions to the problems in present.

History is not past as such. History is about change and continuity. A person asks a question in present, may be when he has a problem. He seeks a solution, which will prove its efficacy in future. Now, where should he look? Can he peep into the future? Which science has that capability? If such a science comes, History will die.

History stipulates that you have to learn about your present to fully understand your problem. You will then find the right solution. The quotation tells that your present has its foundation in past.

However, History is never regarded as such. There is a truth, which a thinking man refuses to recognise. He is troubled by his problem. The answer is in seeking the product which is called ‘Historicism’. But, where is it? What is it?

The above sentiment, the quotation, was recorded in 1903. I, the post writer, was born in latter part of 60s of the same century. Today in 2016, India, the country, which is seeking FDI from everywhere and technology from all over, is making yoga an international movement. Ochre clad Swami is rewriting the theories on marketing and production the field of FMCG picking threads and sinews from pre-medieval India. The country is invaded by ethics and values from outside through information technology. What is changing? What is continuing? I am still unable to get hold of the meaning of historicism. Which is continuing? Pizza or Puri or Prantdha.

April 15, 2016

Mechanism of Changing Sovereigns in Indian History

One can read a quotation reproduced below, taken from the Memoirs of Lord Clive by John Malcolm, chapter IV, Volume 1. The content reproduced here tries to answer a question which is generally asked from the historians of Indian history. The question is, “Why did India remain under subjugation for one thousand years?”

Now, there are historians who object to this very question. They are Medievalist. They claim that it was the British empire which brought India under her rule. Before that, the Mahommedan rule was a natural thing and they may not be called the invaders. It was the British who were invaders. So it can not be said that India was under foreign yoke for one thousand years. However that is another issue.

The quotation follows:

"The power established by the Mahommedans in India has never varied in its character from their first invasion of that country to the present time (i.e. CE 1800 c.). The different qualities of the individuals by whom it has been exercised, have introduced a variety of shades both in the mode and substance of their rule, but the general features have remained the same. The Mahommedan emperors of Delhi, the Subadars of divisions of the empire, and the Nabobs and chiefs of kingdoms and principalities, supplanted and expelled, or extirpated, sovereigns and princes of the Hindu military tribe: - but while they succeed to the power which these potentates had held, the management of the finance and revenue, and all those minuter arrangements of internal policy, on which the good order of the machine of government miust ever depend, remained very nearly in the same hands in which the Mahammedans had found them. The unwar-like but well-educated Hindus of the Brahmin or the mercantile castes continued, as under the martial princes of their own tribe, to manage almost all the concerns of the state. A Hindu, under the denomination of minister, or as Naib (or deputy), continued at the head of the exchequer; and in this office he was connected with the richest bankers and monied Hindus of the country. Princes had private hoards, - but there was no public treasury. Advances were made to individuals and bodies of the men by bankers (denominated Seits (Seths) or Soucars (Sarkars)), who were repaid by orders on the revenue, and obtained a double profit on the disbursement and the receipt of money. The proud and thoughtless Mahommedan prince, anxious only for the means necessary for his purposes of pleasure or ambition, was not over-scrupulous as to the terms he granted to the financial agents: and the advantages they gained combined with tier simple and frugal habits, enabled them to amass immense wealth. This they well knew how to employ, for purposes both of accumulation, and of establishing political influence; commanding, as they did, the money resources of the country, the prince, his officers, and army, were all in a great degree dependent upon them; and to treat them with extreme severity was certain to incur obloquy, and often defeated its aim, since, by their natural character, they were as patient of suffering as they were tenacious of their gains.

Besides, the wealth of Hindu ministers and managers was usually deposited with bankers; and the injury done to credit by acts of injustice or oppression towards any of the latter class, affected such numbers, as to prove ruinous to the reputation, and often to the interests, of the despot by whom it was attempted.

The Hindu ministers, or revenue officers, had not the same number of retainers as the Mahommedan. They were, therefore, seldom in the same degree objects of jealousy of dread: but though they were from the this cause less exposed to extreme violence, they were more frequently objects of extortion; and for this they were better prepared, both from the great profits they made, and from their parsimonious habits.

A very quick and intelligent Mahommedan prince, on being asked why he gave so decided a preference to Hindu managers and renters over those of his own religion, replied, “that a Mahommedan was alike a sieve, - much of what was poured in went through; while a Hindu was like a sponge, which retained all, but on pressure gave back, as required, what it had absorbed!”

But there were other reason which prompted Mahommedan princes to employ and encourage Hindus, both at their court and in their armies. They formed a counterbalance to the ambition and turbulence of their relatives, and of the chiefs and followers of their own race. This feeling operated from the emperors on the throne of Delhi, when in the very plenitude of their power, down to the lowest chief : and it is from its action combined with that influence which the wealth and qualities of the Hindus obtained, that we are, in a great measure, to account for the easy establishment and long continuance of the Mahommedan power in India. The new dominion was attended with little of change, except to the Hindu sovereign and his favourites. The lesser Rajas (or princes) gave their allegiance and paid tribute to a Mahommedan instead of a Hindu superior, while their condition and local power continued nearly the same.

Hindu ministers and officers served probably to greater profit the idle and dissipated Moghul, than they could have done a master of their own tribe; and as there was complete religious toleration, and their ancient and revered usages were seldom or never outraged, they were too divided a people upon other subjects to unite in any effort to expel conquerors, who, under the influence of various motives, left to them almost all, except the name, of power.

From the composition and character of such governments, it is obvious that neither individuals nor the community can recognize, much less feel an attachment to what we call the state, as separated from the person who, for the time being, preside over the different branches of its administration. The sovereign has his servants and adherents; his tributaries, chiefs, commanders, and officers have theirs; but the latter owe no fidelity or allegiance, except to their immediate superiors. Each individual of this body has personal privileges, and enjoys protection in certain rights, from established usages, which, affecting all of the class to which he belongs, cannot be violated with impunity : but as there is no regular constitution of government supported by fixed succession the throne, men derive no benefit from the state, and owe it therefore no duty. From these facts it is evident that nothing can be so erroneous as to judge the conduct of the natives of India, amid the changes and revolutions to which the governments of that country are continually exposed, by those rulers which apply nations which enjoy civil liberty and equal laws. Treachery and ingratitude to their chief or patron are with them the basest of crimes : and obedience and attachment to those who support them, the highest of virtues. According as they fail in, or fulfill, the obligations which the relations of the society in which they live impose, men are deemed infamous or praise-worthy : and to the reciprocal ties by which such bands are held together, the prince and chief are as often indebted for their safety, as their followers for the just reward of their devoted service. The monarch is secure upon his throne no longer than while he can preserve a body of personal adherents. The chief that is threatened by his sovereign looks to his followers for support or revenge; while the latter, in the lesser vicissitudes to which they are subject, expect with equal confidence the protection of him to whom they give their allegiance.

In the countries where men are influenced b y such motives, the dethronement of a prince is regarded as no more than the fall of a successful leader of chief of a party ; and the frequency of such an occurrence has perhaps tended, more than all other causes, to temper the exercise of despotic power, and to compel sovereigns who owned no other check to seek its continuance, by reconciling to their rule those of whom it was so liable to be subverted.

April 13, 2015

D.D. Kosambi: Meera Kosambi Passes Away

D.D. Kosambi: Meera Kosambi Passes Away: Reposted from Permanent Black Over our many years of publishing Meera Kosambi's books, including her brilliant translation of...

September 08, 2014

Bipin Chandra, the historian is no more.

Bipin Chandra, the renowned Marxist historian is no more. I have learned it through the facebook page of Prof Rajiv Lochan of Punjab University. He was born in 1927 in Himanchal and died in 2014.

Bipin Chandra is known among the students of history as the author of 'India's Struggle for Independence'. In 2008 came his Indian after Independence(first published in 2000). His other book which I read was Communalism in India. In 2009 came his re published compilation of Nationalism and Colonialism in Modern India with a Prologue by Aditya Mukherjee, his coauthor as well Professor of Jwahar Lal Nehru University New Delhi. In 2008 he received life time achievement award from Indian History Congress. He became National Research Professor in 2006.

My understanding of Modern History was framed by reading of text book of V. D. Mahajan, the father of Mridula Mukherjee, one of the co author of Bipin Chandra. Then I graduated to Modern India by Sumit Sarkar. I was not fully qualified to understand that book. I struggled. Then I came across Bipin Chandra's books. It introduced me to paradigms like STS or PCP. Such interpretations definitely nurtured my faculties of learning history. I happened to meet Aditya Mukherjee and even interact. I developed a wish to meet Bipin Chandra. But now that would not be fulfilled.

June 02, 2014

Historic participant and Historicism

It is reported in print media that Narendera D. Modi, the prime minister in India had visited his party headquarter of BJP on June 01, 2014. It was a Sunday. It was the first Sunday for Narendera D. Modi after he took over as the prime minister in the country on May 26, 2014.

At the BJP headquarter, Narendera D. Modi spoke of the need to document the Indian election. He pointed out that when Tony Blair won his first election in the U.K., there was a book Spin Doctor, which documented his victory and strategies.

December 15, 2013

An Essay on Historiopgraphy as a new trend by V. Sharma

Check the link HERE.
The link is to an article by vibha Sharma (I do not know the author but the essay has many references to Dr. Rajivlochan)which has appeared in The Tribune India in Spectrum section. It has been identified by Rajivlocah himself and it is an acknowledgement here for the source of information.
The idea to tag is here to collect articles on historiography which is the motive of this blog. The writer has taken up an issue of new trends in history writing and brought about an essay on historiography. It is confined to Medieval period of India.
While reading the essay (I did it hurriedly), I was wondering what would E. H. Carr had said about the sources of the Medievalist and it treatment in present by the historians.
Secondly, I believe that Dr. Rajivlochan is an expert on modern period and contemporary India (refer to website of Punjab University Chandigarh at but he has been quoted for works on Medievalist India. However, that is not a big issue as the author has touched upon the philosophy of history and the references sounds quite relevant.
Thirdly, I do not know how the author will reflect, but there are references to the responses of readers unrelated to history, which are available on net and those had appeared when The Lash Mughal was published. There is use of internet in the article.
I beg to differ with the author when it is said that now historians have started giving importance to story feature in history. This thing was already debated when Godwani wrote 'The Sword of Tipu Sultan'.

October 30, 2013



A Documentary on Chenchus giving some preliminary accounts.

April 07, 2013

On Writing Research Paper in History

I am sharing the following lines for the beauty of the diction of the contents and the idea depicted in linguistic expression - a task which a history writer has to do in his profession. "For all who have taken history courses in college, the experience of writing a research paper is etched indelibly in memory: late nights before the paper is due, sitting in pale light in front of a computer monitor or typewriter, a huge stack of books (most of them all-too-recently acquired) propped next to the desk, drinking endless cups of coffee or bottles of Jolt cola. Most of all, we remember the endless, panicked wondering: how on earth was something coherent going to wind up on the page - let alone fill eight, or ten, or twelve of them? After wrestling with material for days, the pressure of the deadline and level of caffeine in the body rise enough, and pen is finally put to paper. Many hours later, a paper is born - all too often something students are not proud to hand in, and something professors dread grading. "Whatever does not kill us makes us stronger." While Nietzsche may sometimes have been right, he likely did not have writing history papers in mind." Patrick Rael, Reading, Writing, and Researching for History: A Guide for College Students (Brunswick, ME: Bowdoin College, 2004). The whole article can be downloaded in the pdf format at the site Click HERE.

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