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Culture of Science and The Making of Modern India

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Item Code: HAN946
Author: Deepak Kumar
Publisher: Primus Books, Delhi
Language: English
Edition: 2023
ISBN: 9789355724083
Pages: 340
Other Details 9.5x6.5 inch
Weight 530 gm
Book Description
About The Author

For more than four decades, Deepak Kumar has researched, published and taught on different aspects of the science, society and its linkages with governance of colonial India. He began his teaching career at Kurukshetra University in 1976, served as Scientist at the CSIR-NISTADS, taught at several universities within India and abroad, and retired as Professor of History of Science and Education from Jawaharlal Nehru University in 2017. Along with seven co-edited books on history of technology. Medicine, agriculture, environment, and education, he is also known for his Science and the Raj: A Study of British India (2006); The Trishanku Nation: Memory, Self and Society in Contemporary India (2016); and Aatam Khabar: Sanskriti; Samaj aur Hum (2022).


THE PRESENT volume is a collection of some of my essays T published in different journals and edited books during the last four decades. The focus remains basically on the interiection of science, society, and colonialism. The essays have been organized chronologically as well as thematically when the paper titled 'Patterns of Colonial Science' was presented at the Hyderabad session of the Indian History Congress in 1978. At was considered by many participants as something new and different. This laid the foundation on which my Science and the R (1995) was built upon. Earlier senior scholars like S.N. Sen, BV Subbarayappa, and few others had written on this theme but a single comprehensive study based on a variety of sources was not available. Professional historians themselves were busy with the national movement and agrarian studies, but there did appear signs of shift to the subaltern, labour, and gender studies. My own interest in the social and institutional history of science grew while reading documents on the Pusa agricultural research institute at the Bihar State Archives in 1975. Why did the British government invest in agricultural research? Is there science in agriculture? After all, the colonies were also known as plantations. What was the science of plants doing? Was there any link between the knowledge of plants and plantations; and, therefore, between science and colonization?

Numerous similar questions came cropping up as my work progressed. For the historians of modern India, social history means social reform movements from Rammohun Roy to B.R. Ambedkar. Is tool-making not a social activity, can there be a social history of technology? What would economic history be without a study of the tools, techniques, and technologies? Is health not a social issue? How would one assess the impact of the recent COVID-19 pandemic?


As the years roll by, my debt to both senior and young scholars and my friends has continued to grow: Roy MacLeod remains my mentor. I have learnt a great deal from my friends and senior scholars such as Michael Worboys, S. Irfan Habib, Dhruv Raina, R.S. Anderson, J.N. Sinha, David Arnold, VV. Krishna, Satpal Sangwan, Richard Grove, K.L. Tuteja, Anil Kumar, I.G. Khan, Smritikumar Sarkar, and Amitabha Ghosh. Younger scholars have taken the discourse to new heights. I have benefitted equally from the works of Prakash Kumar, Vinita Damodaran, Bipasha Raha, Sujata Mukherjee, Pratik Chakrabarty, Rohan D'Souza, Projit Mukharji, Rajsekhar Basu, and Suvobrata Sarkar. But their insights came late into my life and may not be reflected in the collection presented here. To three institutions I owe a deep debt, NISTADS, JNU, and St. John's College, Cambridge. The papers included in this volume were written with their support. I am grateful to Suvobrata Sarkar for help in preparing the reading list.

This collection is dedicated to the memory of the four noble souls who sustained and inspired me when I was growing up.


HISTEM: Some Questions, Some Explanation

Take the cylinder out of my kidneys, the connecting rod out of my brain, the camshaft from under my backbone. And assemble the engine again.

So WENT A song sung by airmen during the Second World S War. Every generation has a right to reassemble 'the engine'. History is always a contested intellectual territory, and no historiography can ever be a neutral enterprise. Every society, indeed every individual, has a right to reflect upon its historical inheritance. They need not come to a single or consolidated conclusion; rather, the more, the merrier Then, there is no guarantee that the 'new' will work better than the 'old'. What appears as a new explanation may be old wine in a new bottle. Nevertheless, the variations in argument or thrust deserve no less appreciation. Certain portrayals of history or arguments, based on a little imaginative use of sources, may have a longer validity or wider acceptance. But this does not mean that those that go against the grain should be consigned to the dustbin. New evidence or a fresh look may induce a rethinking, and the cycle continues. In the process, theories often melt, and very often. Historians appear better than their theories.

This chapter is based upon my previous publications and lectures given at the Indian History Congress, Calicut, India, 1998; Indian Association for Astan and Pacific Studies Conference, Sambalpur University, Odisha, India, 2004, M.N. Das Memorial Lecture, Utkal University, Odisha, India, 2011; and B.B. Misra Memorial Lecture, Bihar State Archive, Patna, India, 2014. The interest and comments of the organizers and the participants on the theme are duly acknowledged.

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