ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Borderlands, Empires and Nations

In the first decade of the 19th century, Kumaun was part of the Gorkha Empire connected to Kathmandu by a well-serviced east–west road. Trade in grain and salt by shepherding communities linked it to Western Tibet. In 1815, when Kumaun became a part of the East India Company’s territories, this orientation changed. Gradually, a network of roads and railways transformed the hitherto impenetrable Tarai, to the south of Kumaun. As the Kumaun economy integrated with the British Empire, via the Tarai, the commodity composition of its trade with Western Nepal (Nepal borderland) and Western Tibet (Tibet borderland) was modified. The subsequent mapping of these territories by the British created not only new geographies but also engendered new ways of knowing. The interaction of imperial administrators with the people of the borderlands produced narratives, which ignored earlier cultural identities and generated new histories of groups like the “Gorkha” and “Bhotia.”
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