Thursday, September 22

The Defining Moments in Bengal: 1920–1947

a very interesting book and its review is here.

I quote

The history of Bengal has been the focus of a great deal of recent scholarly attention. It has benefitted from waves of topical and methodological interest, but there has long been a need for a comprehensive book on the late colonial period that encompasses revisionist historical perspectives and their conclusions. Since most of the early Congress leaders came from Bengal, in histories written in the 1960s and 1970s that sought to study the clash between British colonialism and Indian nationalism, Bengal featured prominently. As the field of Indian history began to encompass provincial history in addition to nation-centric narratives, Bengal came to assert itself more eloquently by the end of 1970s. What followed were specific focuses on the theme of partition, the history of the subaltern groups, historical experience of women, peasant and working class struggles, communalism, and Hindu and Muslim nationalism. This multipronged approach enriched the area of study overall. Lacunas that remained were quickly corrected. For instance, in partition studies, Bengal was relegated to a backseat because of an overwhelming interest in Punjab, though Bengal was also partitioned. But subaltern studies in the 1980s rescued Bengal from this neglect by encouraging studies on the Bengali peoples’ experience of partition, particularly women and scheduled castes and tribes. No oversight prevailed for long. Now Sabyasachi Bhattacharya’s The Defining Moments in Bengal 1920-1947 offers a welcome broad history within the framework of the ‘constitutive elements of the life and mind of Bengal’ (p. vii), his argument for starting the book with 1920 being that the decade saw a ‘redefinition’ of Bengal’s identity and the birth of a “new ‘Bengali Patriotism’” (p. vii). 

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