Politics of Preservation: Whose Story do Archives Tell?

Sometime in the year 1956 and 1957, the Uttar Pradesh government took the initiative to collect and acquire files pertaining to the 1857 uprising. S A A Rizvi, the late historian, took over the task of selecting, arranging and editing these files which would go on to help a number of historians in their research. 


The Uttar Pradesh government published these documents as five volumes with a separate index volume and also created a separate section to house the original files which were acquired from all the district headquarters of the state. 

Begum Hazrat Mahal

Does India Have A Culture of Preservation? 

In the past, the Indian intelligentsia was ridiculed for the absence of archival practices —preserving, cataloguing and using “evidence”—in pre-European situations. 

Jean Filliozat, a French author who set up the Institut Français d'Indologie at Pondicherry in 1955 argued that archival practices were brought to India by the Persians prior to the invasion of Alexander in the 4th century BC. Indians adopted the archival practices of the Persian bureaucracy for administrative convenience. 

However, such arguments do not hold much water since they do not account for the variety of Indian scripts and textual traditions before they underwent some level of mutation under Persian influence, resulting in the dominance of the Indo-Aramaic textual tradition.