Compared to how it looked 150 years ago at the eve of the
colonial conquest, today s India is almost completely
unrecognizable. A sovereign nation, with a teeming, industrious
population, it is an economic powerhouse and the world s largest
democracy. It can boast of robust legal institutions and a dizzying
plurality of cultures, in addition to a lively and unrestricted
print and electronic media. The question is how did it get to where
it is now?
Covering the period from 1800 to 1950, this study of about a
dozen makers of modern India is a valuable addition to India s
cultural and intellectual history. More specifically, it shows how
through the very act of writing, often in English, these thought
leaders reconfigured Indian society. The very act of writing itself
became endowed with almost a charismatic authority, which continued
to influence generations that came after the exit of the authors
from the national stage.
By examining the lives and works of key players in the making of
contemporary India, this study assesses their relationships with
British colonialism and Indian traditions. Moreover, it analyzes
how their use of the English language helped shape Indian
modernity, thus giving rise to a uniquely Indian version of
liberalism. The period was the fiery crucible from which an almost
impossibly diverse and pluralistic new nation emerged through
debate, dialogue, conflict, confrontation, and reconciliation.
The author shows how the struggle for India was not only with
British colonialism and imperialism, but also with itself and its
past. He traces the religious and social reforms that laid the
groundwork for the modern sub-continental state, proposed and
advocated in English by the native voices that influenced the
formation India s society. Merging culture, politics, language, and
literature, this is a path breaking volume that adds much to our
understanding of a nation that looks set to achieve much in the
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