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

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National Archives of India

The Colonisation of Knowledge and Politics of Preservation

The National Archives of India is the largest repository of historical documents in the country. In the 125th year of its establishment, this article traces the evolution of the archives, from an organisation that articulated the colonial administration’s power—subtly regulating and colonising not only the writing of history but also the minds of the colonised—to a postcolonial institution of preservation after independence.

I am grateful to Biswamoy Pati, S Z H Jafri and P K Yasser Arafath of the Department of History, University of Delhi, for sharing their thoughts and making critical comments at various stages of this article.

The year-long celebrations of the 125th Foundation Day of the National Archives of India (NAI), an organisation of national importance, concluded on 11 March 2017. The central Ministry of Culture, collaborating with the NAI, sought to present the historical and archival heritage of India to a larger audience and brought together a significant number of historians and scholars from other social science disciplines. The celebrations highlighted the usefulness of the archival materials preserved at the NAI for the research projects already conducted, and opened up discussions around the extensive academic and intellectual materials and possibilities available for future researches. The lecture series at the archives brought in experts on archival and library sciences to discuss scientific conservation of the NAIs holdings and ways to improve their accessibility for scholars across disciplines. One of the major initiatives taken on this occasion was the release of the recently declassified files of Subhas Chandra Bose, in both physical and digitised forms. 

This article examines the evolution of the NAI from a colonial organisation of power to a postcolonial institution of preservation, thinking through the complexities involved in the politics of recording/documentation and a variety of absences.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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