THESE ESSAYS WERE WRITTEN over a period of more than T four decades. Some have been included in books that I wrote: A Critique of Colonial India and Writing Social History. Some appeared as articles in other books: Subaltern Studies, for instance. Others were published in journals like Annales, Historical Materialism, and Economic and Political Weekly. In the present collection they have been arranged thematically, not chronologically. As a result there may, within the same section, be striking differences in emphasis, concerns. and even language. All, however, are connected by a common set of preoccupations that I have come back to, time and again, in new ways: social and religious values-old and modern-nationalism, subaltern activism.
A very legitimate question may be asked: Why do I need to bring together essays that have been published earlier? What is perhaps worse is that they are here published unaltered, even though I do not agree any more with many of the points I raised then. In fact, some of them positively embarrass me now, and I can see all could do with considerable revision - which is now beyond my capacity. The most obvious explanation is, of course, that they raised discussions and debates when they first appeared, and most are no longer easily available. Friends have often asked me to make them accessible and my ever-kind publisher has obliged - as always.
But there is, perhaps, a more serious explanation. The essays were written over a long time span, when a lot kept changing in the world of Indian history-writing. This collection, though based on the work of a single historian, may provide a clue to the broad. nature of those changes. For that reason, too, it was important to leave them in the form in which they were first written. Let me identify some of the changes. In the early 1970s, some of us Bengali historians were struggling against the weight of a cultural and politi- cal inheritance: that of the Bengal Renaissance on the one hand, and of the nationalist movements on the other. Both had enjoyed a long period of unchallenged ascendancy in popular estimation and in Indian historiography - except in very reactionary circles.
Born in a family with generations of modern, liberal socio-religious reformism behind it, and overlaid by a new Leftist content that my father had added. I felt, in a spurt of youthful rebelliousness, that Leftist values and Brahmo liberalism did not sit well together. So, a lot of the essays on social reform probed the limits of the so-called Renaissance heritage quite severely. I now find it interesting that even then I did criticise Rammohun Roy for not doing more about caste-a point that I developed more forcefully in another essay,"The 'Women's Question' in Nineteenth-Century Bengal". Of course, given the prevailing indifference to issues of social justice of those times, my references were all too brief. "The Women's Question" was a part of A Critique of Colonial India but has not been included in the present collection. It took issue with renaissance emancipatory claims about gender at a time when gender was not yet central to main- stream history-writing, feminist historians having barely begun their journey.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
Art & Culture (810)
Emperor & Queen (494)
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