- Making Lahore Modern: Constructing and Imagining a Colonial City
Making Lahore Modern focuses on how the city of Lahore, which became the capital of Punjab Province in British India in 1858, changed under colonial rule. William J. Glover asserts that provincial capitals and medium-sized cities like Lahore are more representative of urban change in India than are cities like Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay, which are more commonly subjects of scholarship on India’s colonial urban history. In other words, although the main focus of the book is a single city, Glover seeks to draw attention to secondtier municipalities that, whatever their own particularities, shared a common trajectory that was more representative and therefore more indicative of urbanism in the region.
In the book’s introduction, Glover discusses both the shared characteristics of “modern” cities and the attributes of colonial Lahore that distinguish it from any other. The rest of the book is dedicated to addressing the question of what made Lahore a distinctively modern city. It is no coincidence that Glover chose to use the term “modern” in the title: throughout the book and culminating in the last pages of the last chapter, the author elaborates his position in the debate over the “number” of modernities: in this sense, the underlying question is the relevance of “alternative,” “indigenous,” or “Other” modernities, as opposed to any singular definition. Glover’s intention is to “hold on to a notion of modernity in the context of [a] colonial city that . . . does not lose sight of the powerful way European colonialism set forces into motion that converged in a particular direction” (200). His analysis is thus precisely of the forces that appeared “elsewhere in cities across the world at around the same time and that manifest in similar ways” (200). This does not mean that the author sees sameness. He does acknowledge and emphasize “cultural difference, incomplete processes, and multiple kinds of experiences” (200) throughout the book, and he rightly asserts that what is “local” and contingent becomes constitutive of the diverse expressions of modernity; this claim is in contrast to the older formulation that sees these forces as completely external (200). In short, while attesting to cultural difference and diversity, Glover wants to demonstrate the similarity of the underlying ideas behind a particular direction taken by what he calls a “singular” modernity.
Glover’s use of the term “modern” to describe a city refers to both an empirical and imagined identity, one having both material and immaterial aspects (xiv). In each chapter the reader is taken back and forth between these material and immaterial qualities of the city. Empirical qualities refer to characteristics that can be confirmed visually on maps and in bylaws. Imagined characteristics are harder to demonstrate and are related to sentiments that perceive the modern city as “a place of both danger and promise, of both unprecedented human depravity and the highest of cultural attainments” (xiv). However, the immaterial qualities are both tangible and agentive because Glover is interested in changes in Lahore that are “part of a larger traditional urban reform whose proponents emphasized a distinctive materialist approach for fostering societal development” (xx). It is precisely through this typical late-nineteenth-century, Anglo-European line of thought that the connection to urban form and architecture is established. The author uses two closely related corollaries of this idea: first, the belief that the material world has the power to shape human conduct; second, the widely held notion that if “there is a determinate relationship between physical setting and the ‘mode of living’ it produced, then the former could be altered to change the latter” (xxi).
In order to trace these changes, Glover provides the reader with an overview of the transformations in the city between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries and then embarks upon a journey through the first fifty years of colonial rule in Lahore, switching all the while among different...