This anthology of ten papers in five disciplines, from a conference at the University of Virginia, vastly expands our understanding of the much-maligned early modern period of South Asian history and civilization. Written for both academic and general readers, these original forays in history, literature, art history, architecture, and drama illuminate South Asia's development just prior to the rise and consolidation of the British Raj.
Together they seek to redress the misperception that late precolonial India was decadent, hapless, and mindlessly violent. Founded on painstaking research in original source material beyond the limits of the standard Mughal and colonial archives, these authors examine what South Asians were doing and thinking in the age of post-Mughal political segmentation, economic adjustment, and cultural redefinition. Here are some of the most active participants in the surge of interest in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and their India is full of surprises. Political pragmatism, intercommunal harmony and syncretism, adroit cultural borrowing, keen technological interest, administrative flexibility, and intense commercial activity characterize this era between empires, rather than chaos, paralysis, ignorance and self-indulgence.
For those who dismiss the early modern period as some kind of an embarrassment to current-day patriotism, values, and tastes, this book is a convincing, gentle riposte.
About the Author:
Richard B. Barnett has taught at the University of Virginia since 1974. His first book is North India Between Empires: Awadh, the Mughals, and the British; he has written articles on early modern environment history, politics, and gender; his volume of the New Cambridge History of India, on inland regional states in the period 1720-1850, is in preparation.
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