Specialist knowledges, networks and agencies of change
Recent research in the history of early modern South Asia has emphasized its remarkable commercial, political and cultural successes. By the middle of the seventeenth century the region had emerged as the world’s premiere exporter of craft manufactures. Externally, the Mughal imperial state had established itself as a major player in the exchanges between Asia’s emerging ‘universal’ empires, and within the region had devised a framework of rule effective in its ability to incorporate regional power-holders in return for support for their own local authority. The region was also home to an extraordinarily fertile linguistic and literary landscape, in which regional vernaculars flourished and in a complex interplay with the cosmopolitan languages of Persian and Sanskrit. Underpinning these changes and linking together the worlds of court and household, temple and lodge, market, manufactory and military camp, were developing networks of specialists - service and scribal people - who constituted a vital resource as much in the households of local elites as at the courts of imperial and regional states.
As its broad framework of enquiry, this project poses questions of social agency: of the roles of service communities with different skills and expertise in shaping South Asia’s political, commercial and cultural dynamism from the mid-sixteenth to the mid- eighteenth century. In the first instance, the project will focus on the intellectual, literary and instrumental skills of scribal people.
(i) The project will sponsor a series of workshops and seminars in Oxford, each addressed to a particular aspect of the social history of early modern South Asia. Please click on the links below for further information about these meetings.
- 'Ideas in Circulation', 25-26 May 2007
- Bhattoji and Nagoji, Grammarians and Philosophers of Language in Early Modern Banaras, 29 February, 2008
- 'Munshis, Pandits and Record-Keepers: Scribal Communities and Historical Change in India, c. 1500-1800', 13-14 June 2008
- 'Religious Cultures in South Asia, c. 1500-1800', 5-6 June 2009
- 'From the 'medieval' to the 'early modern': Sources, Concepts, Methodologies': June 11, 2010
- 'Discipline, Sect, Lineage and Community: Scholar Intellectuals in India, c. 1500-1800', 31 May-1 June 2013
(ii) The project will host one or two distinguished visiting scholars in Oxford each year for short visits, timed to coincide with the workshops.
(iii) The project seeks to strengthen connections between scholars working in this field in the UK, and to develop collaboration and exchange with scholars working on early modern South Asia elsewhere.
The following are some of the publications associated with the project:
Imre Bangha, ‘New Aesthetics in Eighteenth-century Brajbhasha: Emerging Individualism and a New Concept of Love in Ānandghan’s Poetry’. webFestschrift in honour of Dr. Shamsur Rahman Faruqi hosted by Frances Pritchett, 2010. http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00urduhindilinks/srffest/txt_bangha_newaesthetics.pdf
------ ‘Rekhta, Poetry in Mixed Language: The Emergence of Khari Boli Literature in North India’ in F. Orsini ed.,Before the Divide: Hindi and Urdu Literary Culture. Orient BlackSwan, New Delhi, 2010 pp. 22-88.
----- ‘Writing Devotion: Dynamics of Textual Transmission in the Kavitāvalī of Tulsīdās.’ in Pollock, Sheldon ed. Forms of knowledge in Early Modern South Asia.Duke University Press: Durham, 2010, pp. 257-332.
------ ‘Pre-Colonial Hindi Literature (15th to 18th Centuries).’ In W. Johnson and J. Hegarty ed. Oxford Handbook of Hindu Literature, Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.
----- Love, Scorpion in the Hand: Late Brajbhāṣā Court Poetry from Bundelkhaṇḍ: A critical edition of Ṭhākur’s quatrains. Manohar, New Delhi, forthcoming.
I Bangha and R. Fynes: It’s a City Showman’s Show: The Jain Devotional Poetry of Ānandghan. Penguin India, forthcoming.
Christopher Minkowski, ‘Advaita Vedānta in Early Modern History’. In Religious Cultures in Early Modern India: New Perspectives, ed. Rosalind O’Hanlon and David Washbrook. Special Volume of South Asian History and Culture 2.2 (2011) 205-31.
------- ‘Sanskrit Scientific Libraries and their Uses: Examples and Problems of the Early Modern Period’. In eds. F. Bretelle, C. Proust, Looking at it from Asia: The Processes that shaped the sources of the History of Science. Boston Studies in Philosophy of Science 206 (2010) 81-114.
--------‘Nīlakaṇṭha’s Mahābhārata,’ Seminar 608 (2010) 32-38.
--------‘I’ll Wash Out Your Mouth With My Boot: A Guide to Philological Argument in Early Modern Banaras’. In ed. Sheldon Pollock, Epic and Argument in Sanskrit Literary History: Essays in Honor of Robert P. Goldman. (Delhi: Manohar, 2010) 117-41.
Rosalind O’Hanlon, ‘Speaking from Siva’s temple: Banaras scholar households and the Brahman ‘ecumene’ of Mughal India’. In Religious Cultures in Early Modern India: New Perspectives, ed. Rosalind O’Hanlon and David Washbrook. Special Volume of South Asian History and Culture 2.2 (2011) 253-277.
--------‘Letters Home: Banaras Pandits and the Maratha Regions in early modern India’. Modern Asian Studies 44, no. 2 (March 2010) 201-240.
--------‘The Social Worth of Scribes: Brahmins, kayasthas and the social order in early modern India’. In Rosalind O’Hanlon and David Washbrook, eds, ‘Munshis, Pandits and Record Keepers: Scribal Communities and Historical Change in India’, Special Issue of The Indian Social and Economic History Review 47, 4 (October-December 2010) 563-95.
--------‘Narratives of Penance and Purification in Western India, c. 1650-1850’. The Journal of Hindu Studies 2, no. 1 (2009) 48-75.
David Washbrook, ‘The Maratha Brahman Model in South India’. In Rosalind O’Hanlon and David Washbrook, eds, ‘Munshis, Pandits and Record Keepers: Scribal Communities and Historical Change in India’, Special Issue of The Indian Social and Economic History Review 47, 4 (October-December 2010) 597-615
--------‘India in the early modern world economy’. Journal of Global History, 2 (i) 87-111.
Principal Research Personnel
Imre Bangha, Lecturer in Hindi, Faculty of Oriental Studies, Oxford
Polly O'Hanlon, Professor of Indian History and Culture, Faculty of Oriental Studies, Oxford
Christopher Minkowski, Boden Professor of Sanskrit, Faculty of Oriental Studies, Oxford
David Washbrook, Research Professor in South Asian, History Trinity College, Cambridge
Sanskrit Knowledge Systems on the Eve of Colonialism
North Indian Literary Cultures, 1450-1650
The Comparative History of Philology in Early Modern Asia
Early Modern South Asia
South Asian Studies at Oxford
For information about the workshops, please contact