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Bourgeois Categories Made Global: Utopian and Actual Lives of Historical Documents in India

When the state acts as a mechanism that abstracts documents from their points of origin and make them into the signifiers of an abstract entity called "history", and the market performs this function of abstraction, we have the processes, respectively, of reification and commodification of documents. The process of creating "unfettered" access to historical information can be seen as the prying open of information that was otherwise accessible only to a "privileged" community. This is a tension that is central to the very idea of the public sphere: it can act simultaneously both as a utopia of "bourgeois" equality and as an ideology of domination. It can be simultaneously democratic and undemocratic. The agents and advocates of the public sphere are often the bearers of this tension for we never find a society where all its members, inspired by the social value of what we call "history", volunteer to convert willingly all "private" documents into "public" records. The rendering of private papers into public documents must remain, in the end, a political question. This paper illustrates this proposition by looking at a fragment of the history of history in colonial India in the 20th century. At the centre of the story is the historian Jadunath Sarkar who may be regarded as one of the earliest proponents in the subcontinent of the Rankean ideals of "scientific" history.


Bourgeois Categories Made Global: Utopian and Actual Lives of Historical Documents in India

Dipesh Chakrabarty

When the state acts as a mechanism that abstracts documents from their points of origin and make them into the signifiers of an abstract entity called “history”, and the market performs this function of abstraction, we have the processes, respectively, of reification and commodification of documents. The process of creating “unfettered” access to historical information can be seen as the prying open of information that was otherwise accessible only to a “privileged” community. This is a tension that is central to the very idea of the public sphere: it can act simultaneously both as a utopia of “bourgeois” equality and as an ideology of domination. It can be simultaneously democratic and undemocratic. The agents and advocates of the public sphere are often the bearers of this tension for we never find a society where all its members, inspired by the social value of what we call “history”, volunteer to convert willingly all “private” documents into “public” records. The rendering of private papers into public documents must remain, in the end, a political question. This paper illustrates this proposition by looking at a fragment of the history of history in colonial India in the 20th century. At the centre of the story is the historian Jadunath Sarkar who may be regarded as one of the earliest proponents in the subcontinent of the Rankean ideals of “scientific” history.

I am grateful to the staff of the Rare Books section of the National Library (Calcutta) and the National Archives (Delhi) and to Arvind Elangovan for their help with research. Thanks are also due to Sheldon Pollock, Gautam Bhadra, Ajay Skaria, Prachi Deshpande, Thomas M etcalf, Barbara Metcalf and Rochona Majumdar for helpful d iscussions.

Dipesh Chakrabarty ( is with the department of history, University of Chicago, Chicago.


ürgen Habermas, in coining and exploring the expression “public sphere” wisely characterised it as a “category” of bourgeois society.1 It was a “category” of thought, an ideational entity, not to be found anywhere on the ground in a full-fledged form though it could it be approximated by certain institutions. Not every modern nation in the history of the last 250 or so years has felt obliged to mint replicas of the so-called European bourgeoisie but none, one could argue, has been quite able to escape the ghosts of the categories and themes of public life forged in bourgeois Europe. The ghost of the “public sphere” haunts us all in many different forms. One such form, globally speaking, is the discipline of History. Born in 19th century Europe as a knowledge-form nestled in and nourished by the university – though, of course, with complex and entangled roots reaching back to distant and d iverse pasts, – the discipline of history had the utopian ideal of the public sphere written all over it. Take, for example, one of the most elementary rules of evidence in a cademic historywriting: that the documents a historian uses as his or her sources must be verifiable. The rule derives from a f undamental principle of debate in the construction of modern “public life” (or, after Habermas, the public sphere): that such debates should be based on equal access to information. Equal access to information is what a modern archive represents to researchers in history. History-writing is thus very much the act of the “public man” (I do not gloss “man” for obvious reasons). The discipline of history has the story and the telos of the public sphere built into it.

Equal access to historical information – a principle so i mportant to the growth of the discipline of history as a public discourse – requires, as a condition of possibility, a process whereby documents held in private possession or available to a restricted group of people turn into public records. For this to happen, however, there has to be in place some abstracting mechanisms that actually abstract – that is to say, remove – d ocuments from the particular relations within which they originate and circulate (family, bureaucracy, religious institutions, etc). Both the state and the market have historically acted as such abstracting forces. The state, for instance, could pass l egislation such as public records acts and thus create

o fficial or public archives. But the market itself could also be such an a bstracting force. Leopold Ranke, as readers would know, used to procure some of his key documents in the Venetian marketplace for ancient documents.2 Without this developed trade in historical records, historians like Ranke would not have been able to build their private research libraries. (The accompanying development of the institution of the university I will keep for now to one side.)

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Reification and Commodification

Let us call this two processes of abstraction of documents – that of the state acting as a mechanism that abstracts documents from their points of origin and make them into the signifiers of an a bstract entity called “history”, and that of the market performing this function of abstraction, by two different names (though, clearly, their connotations overlap): the processes, respectively, of reification and commodification of documents. The state r eifies papers. It declares some papers to be of “permanent” value to the nation’s history and hence to be preserved for posterity. It even designates a place for their preservation. As Derrida says, “Archives is not a living memory. It’s a location – that’s why the political power of the archons is so essential to the definition of the archive. So that you need the exteriority of the place in order to get something archived.”3 One could say that in b eing a parti cular place removed from all the diverse places where archived papers actually originate, the archives embody the reified state of these documents. The market, on the other hand, makes ancient documents and books into commodities, available for purchase and sale. We may thus say that modern ideas about history and historical research impart “value” to old documents and this “value” finds expression through two different logics, both of them, however, logics of abstraction: I have called them “reification” (archives) and commodification (market) of documents.

Yet it is easy to see that these processes of abstraction represent not only the ideal of the public sphere but also some operation of power as well. For no society – my concrete examples will come from colonial India – is premised on this principle of equal access to information.

Information, i e, knowledge, is always privileged in any s ociety. It belongs and circulates in the numerous and particularistic n etworks of power, kinship, community, gendered spaces, ageing structures, and so on.4 If that is true, then the archives and the m arket, in so far as they appear to operate successfully, hide the conflict-ridden history of the public sphere in the same way as the dance of commodities in the marketplace – I am mixing the l anguages of Marx and Benjamin here – hides the inequalities that go into the production of commodities.

Reification and commodification of documents, one could then argue, are never processes that come to a final conclusion. Even in the most effectively functioning of archives or marketplaces one might have to have recourse to some relations (friendship, family connections, etc), outside of the logic of bureaucracy or the marketplace to be able access certain documents. In other words, the public sphere – a domain where one could discuss and debate matters of public interest on the basis of unfettered access to information – remains a utopia after all but because it is a u topian ideal, it retains an ideological function as well. The pro cess whereby we create “unfettered” access to historical information can also be seen as the prying open of information that was otherwise accessible only to a “privileged” community. This is a tension that is central to the very idea of the public sphere: it can act simultaneously both as a utopia of “bourgeois” equality and as an ideology of domination. It can be simultaneously democratic and undemocratic. The agents and advocates of the public sphere are often the bearers of this tension for we never find a society where all its members, inspired by the social value of what we call “history”, volunteer to convert willingly all “private” documents into “public” records. Of course, the general social a cceptance of a subject called history imparts value to old documents and some democratic and historically-minded citizens may indeed feel inspired to make “private” papers “public”, but a complete correspondence between a particular individual and the figure of the citizen is exceedingly rare if not altogether impossible. The rendering of private papers into public documents must remain, in the end, a political question.


I want to illustrate this proposition by looking at a fragment of the history of history in colonial India in the 20th century. At the centre of my story is the Indian historian Jadunath Sarkar who lived between 1870 and 1958 and who may be regarded as one of the earliest proponents in the subcontinent of the Rankean ideals of “scientific” history. All his life, he struggled, somewhat unsuccessfully from his own point of view, to create the conditions for historical research in India, conditions that included the question of unfettered access to historical records on the part of “qualified” researchers. Usually r egarded as “the doyen of history” in India, he is also seen as someone superseded by later research. Most of his working life, his official duties had to do with the teaching of literature (and history in the last few years of his c areer) at undergraduate institutions such as the Ripon College, Calcutta, Patna College in Bihar and the Ravenshaw College in Cuttak, Orissa. He retired in 1926 when he was appointed the vice chancellor of the University of Calcutta for two years. Sarkar became a self-taught historian with a strong interest in the last phase of the history of the Mughal empire. He wrote a five-volume history of the last great Mughal, Aurangzeb, published between 1912 and 1924. Between 1932 and 1950, he published four volumes on the Fall of the Mughal Empire.5 He wrote numerous other books and essays besides these. For the purpose of this exposition, we come into his life around 1919, the year that saw the publication of his book on the 17th century Maratha king, Shivaji, and when he was nominated to the Indian Historical Records Commission that the government set up that year. To put matters in their historical context, one needs to remember that the University of Calcutta started the first department of Modern History in 1919 and other Indian universities followed suit in the 1920s and 1930s. Sarkar retired from employment in 1929 – the year he was knighted as well – but remained an active researcher into the early 1950s.

History in Colonial India

The career of the discipline of history in colonial India is interesting because the discipline developed at a time when neither of two processes mentioned above – the state reifying or the market commodifying historical records – were in operation. The colonial government preserved documents but was extremely reluctant to open them up for public examination even though writing history in a modern form became a popular activity with e ducated and nationalist Indians from the 1890s on.6 A market for antique books in India also did not develop until some time after independence in 1947. The historian Rameshchandra Majumdar (1888-1980), for instance, speaks in his autobiography of how, as a young researcher at the University of Calcutta in late 1910s, he could bid successfully at British auctions for antique books only when the then vice chancellor of the u niversity,

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Ashutosh Mukherjee, waived all time-consuming rules and granted him immediate money and authority to do so. When Majumdar moved to the University of Dhaka in 1921, he found it impossible to a cquire antique books from abroad as it required obtaining clearance not only from the vice chancellor but also from the finance committee and the executive council of the university leaving him no time in which to bid.7

Absence of Public Archives

Historians in colonial India also laboured without the benefit of public archives. There is a long history, in British India, of the government dragging its feet on the question of – as contemporary officials put it – “removing obstacles to historical research” in the country. Soon after they assumed the formal charge of I ndia in 1858, the B ritish formed a state that required a sense of historical documentation for its daily operation.8 But the question of throwing open the records of the central and provincial governments in British India was not raised until 1914 when the Report of the Royal Commission on Public Records was p ublished. The India Office now wanted the Government of India to take res ponsibility for the use by researchers of their own records.9 The response of the officials of the Government of India to this issue leaves us in no doubt that, from the very beginning, the matter of opening up records to Indian researchers was something that touched some raw political nerves of the c olonial a dministration.

Correspondence that passed between the Marques of Crewe, Secretary of State for India at the India Office, London, and the Governor of Madras in 1913 clearly showed that, insofar as the administration in India was concerned, the very idea of letting researchers into colonial record-rooms had something unnerving about it. Crewe felt the need to reassure a nervous Madras government who were “ under a misapprehension” that India Office was proposing to “allow private persons unrestricted access to …unpublished [public] records.” He enclosed with his letter a copy of rules “regarding applications to search the India Office records” showing that no one was allowed such unrestricted access even in London. Every request, he said, was “carefully considered”, the applicant “required to state the object he has in view” and, if necessary, to “submit notes or extracts he may have made” and was not “allowed to make use of any to which

o bjection is raised”.10

However, Crewe wrote again the following year, in February 1914, to the governor general of India, nudging him to open up records to researchers by pointing out that the records in London were “largely duplicates of those in India” and that “it [was] obviously undesirable that there should be any difference...between the practice adopted by...[India] Office and that obtaining in I ndia [with regard to r esearchers in history].”11 A F Scholfield, the Officer in charge of Records in the Imperial Record Department in Calcutta, disagreed strongly and in terms that revealed the p olitical fear that guided the Government in India in these matters. In a note dated 28 April 1914 and addressed to his colleagues and superiors, Scholfield countered Crewe’s letter by saying that “the argument from the Records in the India Office is specious. If the Records in London are the same as those in Calcutta, the ‘public’ is different.” Elaborating, he added that there had never been “any wide-felt want, any loud or insistent d emand for the throwing open of the Records”. For Indian scholars,

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in his opinion, had “no knowledge of what is evidence and how to use it”. “There is in India”, he said in words that must have guided him in 1919 when he was appointed, ex officio, the first Secretary to the newly-formed Indian Historical Records Commission, “no A ristocracy of erudition, no school of history; historical research, s cientific use of evidence[,] critical scholarship are rarely understood and seldom achieved.”12 He would rather prevent any “abuse of records” by (a) “admitting only persons who have given proof that they are serious researchers” and (b) by “publishing press-lists and calendars of all of our Records, forestalling those who for whatever ends would distort or suppress evidence, by placing the whole in the hands of the public.”13

An official letter dated 4 February 1915 addressed to Crewe and signed by the governor-general and several provincial governors summed up the position of the Government of India. There was no question of “placing the whole [archives] in the hands of the public” as historical research was “still in its infancy in India”. In such a situation, the “encouragement and opportunities which the opening of records would afford to irresponsible writers … might be a source of inconvenience to the Government.”14 Clearly, a colonial government was not going to be favourably inclined to the idea of facilitating the emergence of a “public sphere” even in a domain that pertained to the past.

The Government of India’s hands were eventually forced, it seems, by the Home government in England adopting some of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the question of allowing private scholars access to government records in the interest of promoting historical research. In itself, this development is perhaps a testimony to the growing importance at this time, globally, of the idea of “historical research”, arguably a German invention in the 19th century. Perhaps also at issue was another factor: the changing legal status of the records of the India Office in England. So long as the India Office was itself maintained “out of Indian revenue”, there was some doubt as to “whether its records could be looked upon as coming within the scope of the [English] Public Records Acts”. “But the same hesitation”, noted an official, “no longer seems to exist in England for the India Office records have lately come within the purview of the Royal Commission on Public Records in England”. In theory, then, the Master of the Rolls in England could legally compel the India Office “to deposit its records down to the year 1837 in the Public Record Office”.15 This looming change in the legal situation must have also weighed on the minds of the otherwise conservative colonial administrators in India.

Creation of Indian Historical Records Commission

As a compromise, then, the Government of India decided to c onstitute, not anything like the English Public Record Office in India

– a national archive, that is – but an “Indian Historical Records Commission” that would consist of both government o fficials, four historians (for a term of three to five years) nominated to be “Ordinary Members” by the Government of India. The argument received broad endorsement from the historian-cum-politician Ramsay Muir whose opinions the Government of India appears to have solicited in 1917. Muir agreed with others that that number of historical researchers in India did not justify opening up the records in the way they had been in England. But he emphasised the pedagogical role that a “permanent Historical Materials Commission” could play in the development of history as an academic subject in India. One of “the gravest defects of the Indian mind”, said Muir “is its lack of the historical sense. We will never remedy this by compelling Indian students to learn by heart any number of half-crown text books; we can only do it by introducing the method and spirit of historical enquiry and criticism, and that must be done, in the first instance, among the teachers.” Muir underlined the importance of this point by enunciating a principle of what may be called an “imperial liberalism”:

The remedying of this defect seems to me to be primary importance, not merely from an intellectual but a political point of view; if educated India is to attain full political sanity, it must be by training in criticism and in the evaluation of evidence.16

It was with such educational aims in mind that Muir suggested that the proposed commission should be headed by a “trained historian brought out from Europe” – “a man stronger … on the historical than on the archival side.”17

There remained a gap between the principles of “imperial l iberalism” that Ramsay Muir spelt out in his letter and the sentiments of the officials involved in the running of the Commission that was finally set up in 1919. The official resolution that led to the establishment of the Indian Historical Records Commission made “the training of Indian students ... in methods of historical research and the selection of competent editors” the very last of the “duties” of the Commission, the highest being that of advising the government on “on the treatment of archives for the purposes of historical study”, e g, “the cataloguing, calendaring and reprinting of documents” and “the extent and the manner in which documents should be open to inspection by the public”.18 The latter is what the government meant by the phrase “removal of obstacles to historical research”.19 They remained opposed for a long time to the idea of opening up, wholesale, all governmental records to I ndian researchers. They would rather have Jadunath Sarkar or other trusted historians produce s elections of old documents. The Records Commission was to help in making such selections.20

Jadunath Sarkar was one of the first Indian scholars to be nominated to the Commission. In the 1920s and 1930s (except for the years 1931 to 1936 when, for financial reasons, the Commission was held in “suspended animation”), Sarkar remained the intellectual centre of the Commission and a vital force behind its a ctivities and annual meetings.21

Pedagogical and Intellectual Platform

For Sarkar, the Indian Historical Records Commission represented an opportunity: it provided a pedagogical and intellectual platform from which to propagate a particular vision of historical r esearch and argue for the indispensability of public archives for the writing of history. (Like Ranke’s, the history Sarkar wrote was mostly political.) Sarkar was acutely aware that it was the absence of proper archives that hindered the progress of modern historiography in I ndia. In a paper presented at the 1925 session of the Commission, he focused on the question of archives as the condition of possibility for writing Mughal-Indian history. “The problem of Indian history in the Mughal period”, he wrote, “is to find out the most original sources of information”.22 This Rankean enterprise, he explained, was constantly frustrated by the history of the very peculiar nature of the Mughal state. “In pre-British days”, he wrote by way of explanation, “the records of every d epartment of the Mughal Government or a feudatory state were usually kept in the house of the secretary of that department and not in any Government building or archives. ... Administrative convenience dictated this practice, as, in the absence of a State archivist or general record-keeper, the secretary to a department was the only ‘walking index’ to the old records of that department.” “The result of this old practice”, concluded Sarkar, “was disastrous for history. …With the decay of the old families... much valuable material of first-rate importance has perished. Masses of old paper have rotten in their houses… .”23

Sarkar returned to this problem in a paper he presented at the 12th meeting of the Commission held in Gwalior in December 1929. Speaking of “The House of Jaipur” and the records in their private holdings, he alluded directly to Ranke’s experience. “In mediaeval conditions of society, State archives often did not e xist, and even when they existed and have survived, they are usually surpassed in the extent and importance of their contents by private family records, as von Ranke pointed out long ago.” Sarkar then quoted from Ranke’s famous introduction to “his monumental History of the Popes”: “The freedom of access which I could have wished was by no means accorded to me… A large part of the State-papers...constituted a part of the family endowments. Thus, to a certain extent the private collections of Rome may be regarded as the public ones.” “Even a transcendent historical genius like Ranke”, Sarkar went on to say, “failed to give fullness and finality to his History of the Popes because he could not open those closed treasuries of information”.24 What hope would Indian history have without a collective effort to imbibe the Rankean love of primary sources? It was clearly this question that engaged Sarkar’s passion. As he said in the very first paper he presented to the Commission: “I have come across very few historical letters in Persian for these three [second, third, and fourth] decades of Aurangzeb’s reign… The missing materials can be discovered only by the combined search of many men at many places.”25

Sarkar thus was a man with a mission. As the chair of the meeting of the Records Commission in Patna in 1930, he emphasised that the Commission needed to interest the research community and the general public in historical documents, for unless the papers in the possession of “historical families” and private persons were “made known and available to scholars it would be as i mpossible to write a true and full history of India as it would be to write the history of England without using the papers in the possession of the Cecil and Walsingham, Buckingham and G renville families.” The idea therefore was to “interest the outer public” in the work of the Commission and “to tempt private records out of their seclusion by … [having] a public session”. To the public session was also added the attraction of an exhibition of historical artifacts and documents. As Sarkar put it in the same speech: “The exhibition has been our most helpful a uxiliary for this purpose… .”26


In what follows I read Sarkar as someone engaged in precisely the struggle to produce the preconditions that would enable the discipline of history to be a part of the “public sphere” in India. I thus read his frustrations for what they tell us about the nature of that struggle and about the visions, utopian or otherwise, that

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sustained him. Much of my information comes from the 1,300 original letters exchanged between Sarkar and his friend and collaborator, the Marathi historian G S Sardesai, that are now are preserved at the National Library in Calcutta and that span the years 1909 to 1956. Their friendship itself is a fascinating indicator of the new kinds of closeness that modern disciplines made possible between two scholars sharing the same intellectual passion. We, of course, need to know a lot more about pre-colonial intellectuals of India and their practices, but we do not know yet of any pre-colonial historians, of say, Muslim India being such close friends on the basis of such a shared interest in complementary “sources”. Sardesai writes:

Sometime in the year 1904 a letter in an unknown handwriting indicating vigour and precision with contents severely formal and businesslike, took me by surprise at Baroda. The name of the writer did not solve the mystery as I had not till then heard of him…. However, this letter came like a divine windfall … [he] required my help in supplementing with Marathi sources his vast source of Persian materials r egarding... Aurangzib. And I myself in my scheme of the Marathi R iyasat was just then sorely feeling the need of utilising Persian sources… In short, this letter became the pledge of future cooperation b etween the Mughal and the Maratha.27

Friends for life, the two historians would travel together to different parts of India in search of sources relating to Maratha and Mughal history of the 17th and 18th centuries, held by descendants of older princely or administrative families of the region. Reading their l etters, however, makes it manifestly clear that, contrary to their own Rankean beliefs, Sarkar and Sardesai operated in a society where documents seldom had the character of “public” records. Possessed by families often in a neglectful state, these documents were caught up in invisible but palpable webs of intrigue, rivalry, regional or f amily pride, and thus lay outside the control of the forces of the market or those of the colonial state.

Competition of Historical Papers

The situation was made complicated by the fact that the popularity of history as a subject newly imported from Europe and the dissemination of the Rankean idea, however badly assimilated, that “original” sources were of supreme value in the matter of narrating the past, had combined to create by the beginning of the 20th century cadres of young scholars in different parts of the country who were already engaged in scouting the land in search of family papers, and nowhere more so than in Maharashtra where much of Sarkar’s and Sardesai’s research was located. These other scholars openly competed with Sarkar and his friend in searching for historical papers. Their competition reveals another process – distinct from the processes I named reification and commodification of documents in the opening section of this p aper – one that one may liken to the process of fetishisation. Instead collecting documents in order to make them available to all r esearchers, the early hunters and collectors of historical papers in India often wanted to corner and hoard such documents for their own exclusive use, and restrict, at the least for time being, other scholars’ access to them. It was as though the “originality” of these documents, instead of being valued for its usefulness in historical analysis, was in itself a value. The documents thus took on the aura of fetish objects and simply being in possession of them lent the owner of such documents some of the glory of the fetish! It is striking, for instance, how often in the letters they wrote to each other, Sarkar and

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S ardesai would emphasise the need for caution and secrecy to keep

o thers off the scent of old documents. Their rivals, on the other hand, as the following letter shows, would go to any length to make access difficult for the duo. I quote a letter from Sarkar to Sardesai, dated 14 August 1931, typical of the l etters of this genre:

Please keep our tour programme next winter strictly secret, or better still, mislead the Poona rascals by the carelessly saying that you would accompany me next December on a tour of Panipat, Delhi and Lahore – i e, exactly the opposite direction. You talk too freely and too unsuspiciously, while you are surrounded by men who, when not rogues, are fools and proclaim your plans and words to the Poona circle the very next morning, either out of maliciousness or a simple desire to display their own knowledge of your secrets. Our Maval tour of 1930 was preceded by a hostile printed handbill signed by Potdar and one of his tools, only because you had beaten the drum in advance in Puna. This time never mention Tanjore to anyone there, or if you have done so, say that I am unable to go and you have abandoned the Tanjore project for a new programme of tour in North West India.28

The “Poona rascals” of Sarkar’s description referred to the historians and collectors associated with the Bharat Itihas Samshodhak Mandal (Association of Researchers in Indian History), a v oluntary organisation for amateur “research” in history established in Poona in 1910. The “Potdar” of the passage quoted was Datta Vaman Potdar who by 1931 was the secretary of the M andal. The founding scholars of the Mandal – Rajwade, Parasnis, Sane, Khare – people Sarkar would write essays about in the 1920s as most of them passed away in that decade – had been engaged in collecting historical documents from old Maratha families. A letter from Sardesai, dated 14 April 1927, suggests that the process had rather unsavoury beginnings: “It is the extremely hostile attitude of these Poona people which has retarded the progress of history in the university and with Government. They are extremely jealous of other workers and would rather damage all other work in the hope of pushing on their own hobbies.” “Whatever the Poona apologists of Rajwade might say”, he continued, “the whole method of obtaining papers from private houses is nauseating. Of course, we must remember that all sorts of contrivances have to used in getting hold of papers. There was a scramble between Parasnis, Bhave, Chandorkar, Rajwade, and Mawji [?] and Poona Mandal for a time. But recently the crase [sic] has subsided: people have now begun to understand the value of papers and are themselves coming out with them. But the methods about 10 years ago were altogether reproachable.”29

The correspondence between Sardesai and Sarkar actually does not support the optimism expressed in those last lines from Sardesai. There were occasions when Sarkar himself would a ccompany Sardesai on these document-hunting trips dressed as a dumb Maratha brahmin, since his spoken Marathi would have given him away. When Sarkar wrote to Sardesai on 10 August 1935, saying, “When you next visit Poona …please quietly pick out all the letters of General Arthur Wellesley (Lord Wellington) …and send them to me...”, Sardesai made a note on the margin of the letter to remind himself: “keep this a secret from the A[lienation] O[ffice] [the records office] staff and all others.”30 In any case, the theme about the need for s ecrecy in looking for documents is repeated in several letters, covering a span of nearly 20 years. Of the two, Sarkar was the scholar more intent on discovering “original” documents, so it should not surprise us that notes for the need for caution and secrecy often came from him. B esides, it also shows that his commitment to the idea of “public records” or his search for documents were not uncontaminated by what I have called “the fetish of the original”. Here are a few more examples:

Sarkar to Sardesai, 21 August 1925:

From Gwalior I shall take you privately to Indore, where you must exam

ine the vast State records in Modi in charge of Bhagwat, and also the Wagh

Raje daftar… . Your presence at Indore can be kept secret, if you desire.31

Sarkar to Sardesai, 1 November 1931:

Please see if you can join me in Bombay, but keep our dates and programme strictly secret from the Poona gang… .32

Sarkar to Sardesai, 18 December 1934:

It would be matter of good policy to keep strictly silent there about the mournful fact that the Imperial Record Office, Calcutta, possesses ten times as much records about Maratha affairs after 1785 as the Residency Records of Poona, and that our volumes when issued will be found to be indebted to Calcutta thrice as much as to Poona; - and in the case of Mahadji, it is ten to one….33

Sarkar to Sardesai, 22 October 1940:

Make your confidential arrangements beforehand for securing access to the records in Bangalore.34

It has to be said, however, that the sense of competition was on all sides. The Marathi scholar S R Tikekar reports that the Poona Mandal was so jealous of guarding its historical findings that “when someone read a paper about it [a document in BISM’s collection] in the Mandal, the practice [was] to allow no one to use the contents of the paper till the Mandal [had] published it… S tudents taking notes when papers were being read…were stopped from doing so.”35


Sarkar’s struggle to access historical documents was not confined simply to the matter of rivalry with Poona historians. Quite a substantial amount of the correspondence between Sardesai and Sarkar related to what may be called the Parasnis affair. This again gives us some insights into the politics of the process whereby old papers could or could not be converted into “public” documents for use by researchers in history and the ideas that i nformed this process. While working on the history of the 18th century Maratha ruler Mahdaji Sindhia (1764-94) of the Gwalior state, Sarkar and Sardesai discovered that many of the relevant documents of the Sindhia family – still an important p olitical family in India – were in the custody of one of the Puna historians, D B Parasnis, who was an inveterate collector of historical documents that he published in his journal Itihas Sangraha (lit History Collections).36 He collected a vast amount of primary material from the Sindhia family, and died in 1926 b efore he could publish them all. Some of these formed the collections of a p rivate historical museum he had created, known as the Satara m useum after the town of Satara where he lived.37 Parasnis had been granted a lifelong pension of Rs 200 a month by the government of Bombay for this task. On his death, both the p apers and the pension went to his son Amritrao Parasnis, or A D Parasnis, who, as far as I can make out, was not a scholar of history but who s imply held on to these papers without making arrangements to make them available to other historians. Sarkar and Sardesai tried for many years to get

72 access to these documents and thought long and hard about how they might go around putting pressure on the young Parasnis forcing him to r elease the documents for research. Interestingly, a lot of their attempts turned around legal questions, e g, what might have been the nature of the contract between Parasnis and the Sindhias and who might be the legal owners of these documents. In i tself, this was a new way of thinking about historical records. However, they failed to resolve this question successfully but their correspondence shows both the utopian and the pragmatic role that the idea of the law and the public sphere played in their arguments. The letters also suggest how they understood the j unior Parasnis’ attachment to these documents.

The Parasnis Affair

For quite some time to come, Sarkar and Sardesai were convinced that it was the prospect of making money that made Amritrao hold on to the Gwalior documents. Sarkar writes in March 1931: “Is young Amrit Rao Parasnis trying to play the game of getting more money out of the Gwalior Darbar as the price of yielding these documents up? If so, he deserves no sympathy… .”38 Sardesai also was clear from the beginning that what Amritrao Parasnis was after was money. He would part with the documents only if he could make money out of this. In a letter to Sarkar dated 20 January 1927, he wrote that the young Paranis was prepared to sell the unsold but printed volumes of these documents that his father had prepared: “He is in distressing circumstances and would like to secure as much monetary return for these copies as he can… .” But Sardesai’s letter also raised another question, indispensable in discussions of the public life of historical documents – this was the question of the law, especially the law pertaining to the ownership of documents. Sardesai was not sure that, legally, Sarkar and Sardesai could simply buy these papers: “We do not know what Parasnis’s arrangement with Gwalior was, i e, whether he has received full payment for all the 15 volumes that he had promised to print for them: and whether the 90 copies now found have been retained by him [were so retained] with the permission of Gwalior.” Otherwise, “all the printed works and perhaps even the mss papers, now in the Satara museum, will form property of Gwalior.”39

There were two main prongs to what Sarkar and Sardesai developed as their strategy – as Sarkar phrased it in a letter of 1932 – for “put[ting] the screw on young Parasnis”.40 One was to bring him under financial pressure by using their contacts in the government to threaten him with a cut in his pension. The other was to convince the government about its own, i e, the colonial state’s, l egitimate ownership of these papers that once belonged to a ruling Maratha family. The second entailed the exposition of a certain kind of political theory on the part of Sarkar but of that more later.

Parasnis, noted Sardesai in a letter dated 25 June 1932, owed the Rajah of Sangli “over a lac and a half [Rs 1,50,000]”. “The Raja is quite irritated with young Parasnis and yet he is too shy to take strong action… Barve asks me to make a case against Parasnis. The originals of all papers printed or unprinted by Parasnis must form the property of the museum… If on the day of the opening ceremony Parasnis had not brought all Daftars into the new building, and did not subsequently send them in, it was a fraud and the allowance the family gets can be made liable for it… .”41 He later returned to his

JUNE 20, 2009 vol xliv no 25

point about “a kind of fraud played by Parasnis upon Government. …We have to move more carefully and threaten him with a cut in his grant...”42 Sarkar concurred in his reply: “I entirely agree ...that u nless he is threatened by Government with a cut in his perpetual pension, he will not disgorge the illegally detained records. Furnish me with full d etails so that I may approach the Government on the subject. A personal visit from me to the Hon’ble Revenue Member would have been most effective, but it is impossible for me before D ecember next.”43 Writing a few years later on the subject, he r epeated, using a Bengali expression about “straightness” that saw “crookedness” as belonging to the ordinary order of things:

This young man can be made to walk straight only by being put in fear of starvation or when he has some additional favour to expect from Government, – and not by appeals to justice or the interests of history. … I strongly suspect that ADP, just before his father’s death, removed (1) all the pictures, (2) all the Sanskrit illuminated (costly) mss, (3) all the Persian mss, and (4) the letters of Sir F Currie, Ellenborough, & c – which I had seen in DBP’s house in 1916, as well as the Menavli daftar… These are not in the museum. I am convinced that valuable Sindhia papers remain unprinted and in ADP’s possession … ADP is mainly trying to enhance his importance – and chance of making more money – by pretending he has several rumals [a piece of cloth used put documents into a bundle] not covered by the material published in Itihas Sangraha [in nagari] and the 5 Gwalior volumes.44

As it became clear, however, that “Gwalior Darbar has no legal claims to Parasnis’s Modi daftar”, Sarkar also considered the question of a money suit, though “one shadow”, he said, “crosses my mind: will not a money suit be barred by time limitations in 1938?” It turned out that Parasnis Sr owed some money to the Gwalior family.

All the letters written by [the late] DBP to the late Maharaja deeply commit him, by stating his remuneration and printing costs per volume, … . His receipts for Rs 63,150 are there. These will be copied now and sent to V S Bakhle [a lawyer] confidentially for his opinion as to…whether the sum of Rs 48,150 not cleared by DBP (whose 5 volumes of his own valuation discharge Rs 5 × 3,000 = Rs 15,000 only) can be claimed from DBP’s remaining assets, viz, his house Happy Vale and his pictures, and his heirs called upon to pay the amount or bring a lawsuit upon their heads. …Thereafter Bakhle will formally serve notice of demand on ADP. This, it is hoped, will bring that young man down on [his] knees. If he appeals for mercy to the Gwalior Darbar, Sir Manubhai has agreed to take all the unprinted Modi papers (Mahadji-Nana correspondence) from him and give him a formal quittance.45

When these methods failed to produce the desired results, Sarkar and Sardesai experienced much despair about these seemingly unrecoverable sources that they considered indispensable for writing 18th century history of the Marathas.46 They made one last desperate bid to move the colonial government by exhorting them to take action to recover the documents from the young Parasnis on the ground that these were documents of public life and hence belonged to the colonial sovereign power, the state that inherited the rulership of Maharashtra from the 18th c entury Peshwas. Sardesai reported on 27 November 1949 that he had had a talk with a Mr Lad “who is the present legal Advisor to the Bombay Government” regarding “the question of recovering historical documents from Amrit Parasnis “to which he [Parasnis] has no right.” Lad proposed to issue a notice to Amirit “recounting the fraudulent dealings and [threatening that] unless he would deliver all that he has wrongly withheld, the Bombay g overnment would be compelled to suspend his allowances.”47 He urged Sarkar to draft such a note. It says something about the commitment of these two men to the rendering of old papers into historical documents that Sarkar actually composed a note for

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p ossible use by the government. The note is remarkable for the political theory that informs it. It was also interesting that Sarkar was prepared to do the Government’s work for this cause. His drafted a quasi-legal letter, for he said in a short prefatory note to the draft: “It will have to be put in a lawyer-like form…. remember that a Government Legal Adviser only makes himself ridiculous if he issues an u ltimatum which he cannot substantiate in a law-court.”

Here is the letter that Sarkar drafted:

To A D Parasnis, Happy Vale, Satara. In connection with the perpetual pension of Rs 2,400 a year granted by the Government of Bombay to the late Rao B[ahadur]. D B Parasnis’s heirs, I have to draw your attention to the following points.

  • (1) Throughout his correspondence with the Government of Bombay, the late Rao B[ahadur]. had always given the assurance that all the historical records collected by him would be kept in one place and made available to scholars in an unbroken mass, and for ensuring this object he had solicited government aid. That aid was given conditionally upon this avowed object being fulfilled… That on the above clear understanding Government built the Satara His[torical] Museum, gave your father in his lifetime money aid to the extent of Rs 12,900, and finally sanctioned the perpetual pension to his heir.
  • (2) But after his death, you as the representative of his heirs, withheld from Government a large portion of historical records, without revealing the fact to Government. This was a direct contravention of the contract made by your father, and an act of fraudulent concealment and misappropriation against Government. The grant is therefore liable to cancellation on grounds of fraud.
  • (3) You should know that the historical records of a sovereign state belong to the state (and its successors) even though state papers many have been addressed to some minister of the state (like Nana Phadnis) and stored in his private house (which was the usual practice in pre-British days in India and also in medieval European countries). The Government’s right to these national records cannot be barred by limitation or adverse possession in the hands of others. The Menavli Daftar and other state papers that you hold in your hands are the lawful property of the Bombay Government alone, and you cannot claim them to the property of Gwalior darbar or any other party. Your duty is through these to inspection and recovery by an accredited agent of the Government of Bombay, and you should take n otice that by objecting to or delaying such an investigation you are c ommitting a criminal offence. For your information, I will tell you that Mr Elphinstone, the first Governor, on taking possession of the Peshwa dominions, found many of the state records in the hands of the old hereditary officers of the Peshwa, and all these were removed by him to the control of the Government and housed in the Alienation Office. The records that then escaped and reached your father are equally government property.48
  • None of these ploys of Sarkar and Sardesai actually worked. It is possible that the colonial government, now faced with the growing tempo of the nationalist movement and realising that independence could not be very far off for India, did not want to stir up matters that concerned only Indians. The Secretary of the General Department of the Government of Bombay informed Sir Jadunath on 30 November 1934 that:

    the Govt have carefully examined the question of recovering from the de[s]cendants of late Rao Bahadur Parasnis the historical papers forming the bulk of the volumes composed by Rao Bahadur Parasnis for the Gwalior state. They have been advised that they have no legally valid claim to papers relating to the Scindia family referred to by you, as these were among documents housed in the Historical M useum, Satara, in respect of which argument was entered into with the heirs of the late Rao Bahadur Parasnis.

    Sarkar’s proposal for intervention by the government was s imply “not practicable.”49 The issue was dead by the early 1950s as far as either the provincial or the central government were concerned. Sarkar reported to Sardesai in 1951 that the Sindhia papers in possession of the central government were being r emoved to the newly set-up National Archives of India – “no hope of ...[looking?] into the hands of Amrit D Parasnis.”50 And in 1955 he reported again the historian Dr Saltore had written to him “some weeks ago that the Gwalior Government has entirely forgotten the case of the last Parasnis bundle”. “No hope”, he added, “of our doing anything”.51 He also realised, with much sadness, that he was never going to see anything like a Public Records Act in India.


    Thus both in the practical strategies that Sarkar and Sardesai d evised to wrest old historical papers out of the hands of the j unior Parasnis – by getting the government to reduce his pension or by instituting a money suit – and in their political theory (that one sovereign power simply inherits the documents pertaining to public life created during a previous regime), they were proved wrong. Yet, it is remarkable how central the utopian and bourgeois distinction of the private and the public was to their theoretical and practical thinking. “Parasnis will have to disgorge all he has gulped…,” said Sardesai in a letter to Sarkar in 1936. N otice the use of the word “public” in the text of this letter: “The main point is [that]… it was fraudulent on the part of Parasnis in keeping back these and several other original papers which have been printed by him in his magazines: that all these should be available to students of history as the Parasnis family is granted Rs 200 in perpetuity out of public funds.”52 Or his optimism in November 1937 when he felt that an upcoming meeting between Sarkar and the Commissioner of the Central Division of the B ombay Presidency could be “utilised for setting right the affairs of the Satara Museum”. Sarkar could p erhaps explain to the Commissioner “how Parasnis defrauded Government and how the originals of the Sindia papers are still possessed by Parasnis. … [?]” “I feel sure”, he added, “they would threaten Parasnis with suspension of his allowance if he does not produce Sindia originals, as these are no more private property, having been publicly given out… .”53 The political theory postulated in Sarkar’s draft of the semi-legal letter we have reproduced above also turns on this distinction between private and public documents, public documents being seen in his letter as “national” as well:

    You should know that the historical records of a sovereign state b elong to the state (and its successors) even though state papers many have been addressed to some minister of the state (like Nana Phadnis) and stored in his private house… . The Government’s right to these national records cannot be barred by limitation or adverse possession in the hands of others (emphasis added).

    What was remarkable about this application – by the most preeminent Indian historian of British India – of the private/public distinction to pre-British records pertaining to rule in the 18th c entury India was its anachronism. For it did some violence to the very understanding of Indian society through which Sarkar had initially posed the problem of historical sources. Recall Sarkar’s own

    74 explanation of why it was difficult to find original, eye- witness a ccounts for the Mughal period: it stemmed from the fact that “in pre-British days… the records of every department of the Mughal Government or a feudatory state were usually kept in the house of the secretary of that department” for there were no home/office, and hence private/public, distinctions in that p eriod. Surely, the point made by Sarkar and Sardesai that the documents found in the possession of old Maratha families were “public” documents needs to be squared with this observation. Sarkar’s and Sardesai’ blindness to this problem point not only to the utopian nature of the “public” and “the archive” they worked with in thinking politically about historical documents but their ideological nature as well. These bourgeois categories were for them not just visions of the future but also weapons to wield in the present.

    There is, however, something to learn about these European categories from their failure. A successful functioning of archives and historical research as part of a public sphere entails the f ormation of a particular kind of state, a state that has managed to tame the past through the creation of archives, something that Achille Mbembe has called “chronophagy”. This happens precisely through what I have previously called “reification”. A rchiving means, as Mbembe puts it, placing documents “under a seal of secrecy – for a period of time, which varies according the nature of the documents and local legislation.”54 The documents thus become abstracted from their roles in the present – even if present and extant practices lead to their eventual physical decay and destruction – and they are not available for conversion into popular memory. Bourgeois categories of thought are perhaps about imagining politics that tame the past by “eating” memory. Politics in India in Sarkar’s time and later – modern but not bourgeois though labouring under the spectral presence of bourgeois Europe – was perhaps more about “eating” archives. In other words, given the nature of nationalist and other identity-oriented – non-brahman, Muslim and so on – politics in India, the use of historical documents to shore up popular memories proved a more important and urgent political task than the question of checking the veracity of facts. Some of these processes can be seen to be at work even today.55 How else would one think about all those amateur collectors (such as the Poona historians) who, out of their passions of the present, hunted, hoarded, and fought over old papers in ways that precisely prevented their transformation into historical documents? Admittedly, their hoarding practices and publications on based on such practices created new regional or caste-based publics that were modern but not bourgeois.56 Sarkar and Sardesai, on the other hand, in their m istaken idealism could never see that the Empire/ Colony was a fissured structure. They trusted government’s p retensions to the ideals of an empire and thus expected it to p erform the principled duties of a modern state in creating conditions in which the spirit of the bourgeois public sphere could a nimate research in history.

    What they overlooked was the fact that, in the declining years of the empire, the colonial bureaucracy on the ground was as pragmatic as their imperial proclamations were idealistic and would make all kinds of adjustments and compromises with n ationalists politicians and leave the “archives” question as a question to be settled by Indians. Sarkar’s utopian vision was u ndoubtedly flawed –

    JUNE 20, 2009 vol xliv no 25

    for he never understood the difference b etween a modern bour-r eceived bourgeois subjectivity and webs of other kinds of relations geois state and a colonial-imperial government – but powerful for in which old and historical documents are embedded is, I would the influence it wielded in molding the career of history in colonial suggest, a constitutive element of the “archival experience” for the

    India. Nor is it only a matter of the past. The clash between a student of Indian history.

    Notes17 NAI, IRD December 1917 Progs No 18 and K W letter 26 1 Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation

    dated 7 December 1917 from Ramsay Muir to Sir

    Edward D Maclagan. Bourgeois Society, trans Thomas Burger with as-18 Government of India, Department of Education, sistance from Frederick Lawrence (Cambridge, Resolution No 77 (General) dated 21 March 1919 27

    Massachusetts: The MIT Press), 1989. reproduced as Appendix A to Indian Historical 2 Ugo Tucci, “Ranke and the Venetian Document

    of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Records Commission, Proceedings of the Meetings,

    Vol 1, first held in Simla, June 1919 (Calcutta: (ed.), Leopold von Ranke and the Shaping of the Market” in Georg G Iggers and James M Powell

    S uperintendent of Government Printing), 1920. 28 Historical Discipline (Syracuse, New York: Syra-19 A Hand-book to the Records of the Government cuse University Press, 1990), pp 99-108. For a of India in the Imperial Record Department, 29 longer history of the process, see Filippo De Vivo, 1748 to 1859 (Calcutta: Government of India, Information and Communication in Venice: Re-Central Publication Branch), 1925. Foreword by 30 thinking Early Modern Politics (Oxford and New A F M Abdul Latif. York: Oxford University Press), 2007. 20 Indeed, publishing selections of documents, texts, 31 3 Jacques Derrida, “Archive Fever in South Africa” or even inscriptions was a common practice with in Carolyn Hamilton, Verne Harris, Jane Taylor, Indian historians in the 1930s and 1940s. Note, for 32 Michele Pickover, Graeme Reid and Razia Saleh example, K A Nilakanta Sastri’s remark in his Pre(ed.), Refiguring the Archive (Dordrecht, The face to Prof K A Nilakanta Sastri and Dr N Venka-33 Netherlands: Kluwer), 2002, p 42. taramayya, Further Sources of Vijaynagara History 4 In this and the preceding paragraph, I draw on (Madras: University of Madras), 1946, p i: “Expe-34 some thoughts I have lived with for a long time. rience has shown how useful students find handy See my “Trafficking in Theory and History: Subal-collections of source material….” See also my 35 tern Studies” in K K Ruthven (ed.), Beyond the Dis-essay “The Birth of Academic History in India” ciplines: The New Humanities (Canberra: The Aus-forthcoming in a volume of Oxford History of tralian Academy of the Humanities), 1992, p 106. History-Writing, edited by Stuart Macintyre. 5 H R Gupta (ed.), Life and Letters of Sir Jadunath 21 The expression “suspended animation” was 36 Sarkar (Hoshiarpur: Punjab University, 1957), Sarkar’s. He used it in welcoming delegates to the pp 108-09; Anil Chandra Banerjee, Jadunath 1937 meeting of the Commission: “Today, the … Sarkar (Delhi: Sahitya Academy, 1989), pp 6-7; Commission meets again after seven years of sus-Moni Bagchi, Acharya Jadunath: jibon o shadhona pended animation due to the financial difficulties


    (Calcutta: Jijnasha), 1975, pp 47-49. of the Government.. .” IHRC Proceedings of Meetings, Vol XIV, Fourteenth Meeting held at Lahore,

    6 See my essay “The Public Life of History: An December 1937 (Delhi: Manager of Publications,

    A rgument Out of India”, Public Culture, Vol 20, 38

    GOI), 1938, p 7. See also the discussion in NAI, No 1, Winter 2008, Special Issue on “The Public IRD January 1937 Prog No 18, note by “SDU” Life of History” edited by Bain Attwood, Dipesh 39dated 10 September 1936: “The meetings of the …

    Chakrabarty and Claudio Lomnitz, pp 143-68.

    Commission were held in abeyance in 1931 as a 7 Ramesh Chandra Majumdar, Jiboner smritideep 40 measure of retrenchment. It has not yet been pos(The Memory-Lamp of Life) (Calcutta: General sible to revive them thought the question is raised Printers), 1978, pp 28-29.

    by the K[eeper of] R[ecords] from year to year. 41

    8 Indian Historical Records Commission (hereafter IHRC)

    Last year efforts were made for their revival but Retrospect (Delhi: Government of India), 1950, p 1.

    they proved unsuccessful. The question will be 42

    9 IHRC Retrospect, p 2.

    taken up again shortly in connection with the 10 National Archives of India, Delhi (hereafter NAI), budget estimates for 1937-38.” 43 Imperial Record Department (hereafter IRD),

    22 Jadunath Sarkar, “Historical Records relating to 44 April 1914, Proceeding (hereafter Prog) No 53, Northern India, 1700-1817” in IHRC Proceedings, 45 Letter dated 5 December 1913 from the India Vol VII, Seventh Meeting held at Poona, January O ffice to His Excellency the Right Honourable the 1925 (Calcutta: Government of India, Central Governor in Council, Fort St George (Madras).

    Publishing Branch), 1925, p 28.


    11 NAI, IRD April 1914 Prog No 53, letter dated

    23 IHRC Proceedings, Vol VII, pp 30-31. Throughout 27 February 1914 from the India Office to His his life, Sarkar would return to this point. He re47 E xcellency the Right Honourable the Governor peated it in his Foreword to Selections from the General of India in Council.

    Peshwa Daftar (Bombay: Superintendent, Gov

    12 NAI, IRD, April 1914, Prog No 53, Note by ernment Printing and Stationery, 1933), pp 2-3. 48 A F Schofield dated 28 April 1914. Alwyn Faber He later remarked of Sardesai’s exploratory re-Scholfield succeeded Edward Denison Ross (later search in Hyderabad in the late 1930s that it had 49

    Director, School of Oriental and African Studies, “only proved what I had believed, namely, that University of London) into the position of the the Nizam’s archives do not contain any state pa-O fficer in charge of Records of the Imperial pers of the pre-Panipat period because all the des-Record Department in 1914 and retired soon after

    patches received and copies of despatches sent the first session of the Indian Historical Records

    out were kept in the houses of the secretaries con-Commission (1919) having been its first ex officio cerned – exactly the like the Peshwa’s statepapers 50 Secretary. See IHRC Retrospect, pp 48-52.

    during Nana Fadnis’s regime finding their refuge

    13 NAI, IRD April 1914, Prog No 53, Note by Scholfield, at Manawali, and not in the Peshwa Daftar at 51 dated 28 April 1914. Poona. These Moghlai officers lived in Auranga14 NAI, IRD June 1915 Prog No 94 and IRD April 1918 bad and their houses are now in ruins. So farewell 52

    Prog No 47 Appendix. to one of your dreams.” Sarkar to Sardesai, Letter

    15 NAI, IRD April 1920 Prog 41 KW, R H Blaker’s note No 454, Darjiling, 18 March 1937 in Jadunath 53 on “Questions of making the official records in Sarkar Papers (hereafter JSP), National Library I ndia more accessible to students of history and (hereafter NL), Calcutta. 54

    the public” dated 27 November 1919. 24 Jadunath Sarkar, “The House of Jaipur” in IHRC

    16 NAI, IRD December 1917 Progs No 18 and Proceedings, Vol XII, Gwalior, December 1929, KW Demi-official letter dated 7 December 1917 p 18. 55 from professor Ramsay Muir to Sir Edward D 25 Sarkar, “The Missing Link in the History of 56 Maclagan, Secretary, Education Department, Mughal India from 1658 to 1761” in IHRC Proceed-Government of India. ings, Vol II, pp 7, 8.

    See speech by Jadunath Sarkar in IHRC Proceedings of Meetings, Vol XII, Thirteenth meeting held at Patna, December 1930 (Calcutta: Government of India, Central Publication Branch), 1932, p 7.

    G S Sardesai, “Jadunath Sarkar as I Know Him” in H R Gupta (ed.), Sir Jadunath Sarkar Commemoration Volume, Vol 1 (Hoshiarpur: Department of History, Punjab University), 1957, p 18. No 168, from Sarkar, 14 August 1931, Darjiling in JSP, NL.

    No 64, from Sardesai, 14 April 1927, Girgaum,

    Bombay JSP, NL. No 364, from Sarkar, 10 August 1935, Darjiling, JSP, NL.

    From Sarkar, 21 August 1925, Moradpur, PO, JSP,

    NL. No 172, from Sarkar, 1 November 1931, Darjiling, JSP, NL.

    No 328, from Sarkar, December 1934, Calcutta, JSP, NL. No 648, from Sarkar, 22 October 1940, Calcutta, JSP, NL.

    S R Tikekar, On Historiography: A Study of M ethods of Historical Research and Narration of J N Sarkar, G S Sardesai and P K Gode (Bombay: Popular Prakashan), 1964, p 39.

    NAI, IRD, March 1920, Prog No 44 shows the Bombay government financing in part the publication of Parasnis’s Itihasa Samgraha which did not have a wide readership.

    See Sarkar’s question: “Will the Satara museum ever be open to the public?” in No 67, from Sarkar, 18 April 1927, Darjiling, JSP, NL.

    No 150, from Sarkar, 1 March 1931, Calcutta, JSP,

    NL No 58, from Sardesai, 20 January 1927, Girgaum, Bombay, JSP, NL.

    No 197, from Sarkar, 11 March 1932, Calcutta, JSP,

    NL. No 215, from Sardesai, 25 June 1932, Alienation Office, Poona, JSP, NL.

    No 218, from Sardesai, 16 July 1932, Kamshet, JSP, NL. No 221, from Sarkar, 22 July 1932, Darjiling, JSP, NL.

    No 342, from Sarkar, 8 April 1935, Darjiling, JSP, NL. No 496, from Sarkar, 26 December 1937, C/o Rai Bahadur Bhaduri, Morar, Gwalior, labelled “Confidential”, JSP, NL.

    No 792, from Sarkar, 4 March 1944, Calcutta, JSP,

    NL. No 1022, from Sardesai, 27 November 1949, Kamshet, JSP, NL.

    No 1023, from Sarkar, 4 December 1949, Calcutta,

    JSP, NL. Jadunath Sarkar Miscellaneous File, letter from Secy, General Department, Govt of Bombay, Bombay Castle, 30 November 1934. This was a reply to Sarkar’s letter to the Hon’ble Minister of Education, 10 November 1934, JSP, NL.

    No 1084 from Sarkar, 6 October 1951, Calcutta,

    JSP, NL. No 1188, from Sarkar, 8 September 1955, Calcutta, JSP, NL.

    No 396, from Sardesai, 21 February 1936, Chhind

    vada, Central Provinces, JSP, NL. No 491, from Sardesai, 19 November 1937, Kamshet, JSP, NL. Emphasis added.

    Achille Mbembe, “The Power of the Archive and Its Limits” in Carolyn Hamilton et al (ed.), Reconfiguring, p 20.

    See my essay “The Public Life of History”. See Prachi Deshpande, Creative Pasts: Historical Memory and Identity in Western India (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007).

    Economic & Political Weekly

    JUNE 20, 2009 vol xliv no 25

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