Friday, December 29, 2017

Queeny Pradhan's "Empire in the Hills"

Queeny Pradhan is a professor of history at the University School of Law and Legal Studies, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, New Delhi, India. She was awarded the Nehru Memorial Fund Scholarship for doctoral research in 1996 and was a fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, from 2010 to 2012.

Pradhan applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Empire in the Hills: Simla, Darjeeling, Ootacamund, and Mount Abu, 1820-1920, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book has the notes to Chapter 3 ‘Acquiring the Station’ and it gives a diverse range of archival sources and references used with regard to the hill station of Mount Abu in Rajasthan: Abu Municipal Records, Raghunath Temple Records, Records from Sirohi State Archives, Foreign (Political) Department and Home (Public) Department Records at the National Archives of India. This is representative of the entire book where a large variety of historical sources have been used – temple records, tombstones, school records, church records, district collectorate records oral accounts, travel writings, maps, old photos etc. It contributes towards Historical Method.

Page 99 is also representative of one central theme of the book – the contestation of space. An impression that was projected in the descriptions of hill stations of Simla, Darjeeling, Ootacamund and Mount Abu is that these were empty spaces ‘discovered’ by the European or English officers. The references on page 99, as also the discussions in the book, argue that these hill stations were not empty landscapes but replete with human and historical experiences of the local inhabitants. These hill stations were acquired after much negotiation with the local rulers and chiefs and treaty agreements were drawn up. The local hill people have their own presence and this can be traced in their mythical and origin stories. The place-names indicate their sense of history. There were attempts at the erasures of previous histories by the nineteenth century English settlers. At the same time, the book does not construct binaries of the colonizers and the colonized. It argues that there existed multiple visions, aspirations, and imaginations within the rulers and the ruled and they were not homogenous categories. European and Indians also are not considered as the homogenous categories. The Empire in the Hills examines the unexplored linkages between Empire, Space, and Culture in the specific context of the colonial hill stations in India. In the Victorian period largely and in the context of the Tropical Empire, the hill stations as spaces and a part of place-making contribute to new knowledge and information about the establishment of the empire in India in the nineteenth and twentieth century, moving beyond the stark urban-rural divide to look into other spatial developments that have been taking place simultaneously. It looks into the themes of spatiality and representation, spaces and landscapes, and reproduction of social and cultural spaces.
Learn more about Empire in the Hills at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue