S. N. Sen's'S 1857, which was published on the centenary of the uprising, was in the tradition of the great narratives which were produced by English men in the 19th century. It was written at the request of the Government of India and was sponsored by the latter. In fact, as the then Education Minister, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad clarified in the foreward to the first edition, the plan to publish a book on the revolt to coincide with the centenary was very much his idea. Sen, a professional historian, who had originally specialised in Maratha history, was commissioned to write the history. It was not produced out of an inner compulsion on the part of the historian.
Azad's foreward provides certain clues to the brief that was given to Sen. Azad felt that the "time had now come to write a new and objective history of the movement of 1857." The book would be an "authoritative account" based on "facts and facts alone." It would be written from the "standpoint of true historian" and avoid "all appeal to passion or sentiment." Sen echoed these attitudes in his Preface. The key words of the Preface were "dispassionate study," "purely objective and scrupulously impartial." Even in 1957 it was surprising how Sen could take seriously all these claims of objectivity and impartiality of the historian. Professor Sushobhan Sarkar noted this in a very early review of the book: "Historical writing.. involves a process of selection from the mass of available facts on the basis of the author's conception of what is important and relevant and what is not; an arrangement of the selected material in a coherent manner; an attempt to draw possible links between different events; a presentation of reflections and inferences which occur to the mind. All these imply point or points of view, an outlook which is the product of a certain experience and environment. It is idle to pretend that one can shake off such points of view." (1)
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