Windows into the Past
Life Histories and the Historian of South Asia
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: University of Notre Dame Press
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Introduction: The Practice of History
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This book is based on a series of lectures on the practice of history given in the History Department at the University of Notre Dame in 2008. As a practitioner of imperial and global history, and, in particular, of the history of South Asia and South Asians outside that subcontinent, I found this invitation exciting and challenging...
Chapter 1: Colleges, Cohorts, and Dynasties
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Our exploration of the potential of new kinds of “life history” which are wider than studies of individuals begins with what I wish to call rather loosely “colleges, cohorts, and dynasties.” I want to ask if there are other kinds of “lives” apart from those of individuals which the historian may fruitfully study as a source of evidence about the past...
Chapter 2: Family Histories
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The previous chapter examined aspects of the “life history” of a particular Oxford college, to ask whether they could provide new source material for the historian of South Asia. The personal and career records of Balliol men who served in India demonstrated, among many other things, considerable evidence about the significance of British family traditions and connections in the creation of a professional elite...
Chapter 3: Individual Lives and Their Public World
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In the first two chapters I expanded the more usual understanding of “life history,” beyond the life of an individual, to include the life of key institutions and of families, as ways of doing history. I argued that engaging with these different sorts of “lives” might open new windows on to the recent South Asian past, though of course the technique...
Chapter 4: Individual Lives and Their Inner World
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The third and fourth chapters of this exploration into “life histories” are concerned with the lives of prominent individual Indians, particularly Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, to see how this genre may be a creative way of doing history rather distinct from the art form of biography. In chapter 3 we examined how their life experiences in Indian politics can open a window for historians...
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The chapters in this volume have explored varieties of “life history” as windows into the past, particularly the recent past of the subcontinent of South Asia and its peoples. To change the metaphor, we have asked whether life history can, at a time of considerable historiographical flux and contestation, be a helpful door or entry point into the historical study...
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Page Count: 120
Illustrations: Images removed; no digital rights.
Publication Year: 2009