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Title: Communications and patterns of circulation : trade, travel and knowledge in colonial Bihar, 1760s - 1870s
Author: Sinha, Nitin.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3416 1126
Awarding Body: School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London)
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2007
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This thesis looks at communications (roads, railways and river transport) in late eighteenth and nineteenth century colonial India, taking the province of Bihar as a case study. The work closely analyses policies and discourses related with the introduction of new means of communication and the effects they had during the course of almost a century. One of the central arguments is that communication was integral to the ideas of mobility and circulation, which has so far been inadequately covered in the historiography. That different forms of mobility of groups like itinerant merchants and local peddlers and also long distance travel had existed in pre-colonial India is well established; what has remained scantily researched is the inter-relation between changing means of communications and diverse patterns of circulation. Largely, under transport-studies in South Asia, only the railway system has so far received a fair amount of scholarly attention: analysing its role in social and economic changes in the nineteenth century. The present work is an attempt to write a history of communication, which stands at the intersecting point of themes like mobility, circulation, trade and knowledge-production in a colonial set-up. Following the tracks of railways alone did not lead to a comprehensive appraisal of the complex nature of economic transactions and networks in which both goods and people moved throughout the period of study. The thesis comprises of six chapters, arranged thematically around the policies pursued by the colonial state in the development of communications; the 'nested' trading networks in dialogue with the changing means of communications; the effects of the emerging 'regulatory regimes' of communication on mobile communities like the Banjaras and the Gosains and the emerging notion of their 'criminality'; the different forms of travel as affected by communications in their attempt at 'writing' India and amassing knowledge; and lastly the role and place of railways in this complex web of communication and exchange. Aspects of colonial control (and the debate about the nature of colonial rule in India) necessarily provide a background for discussing these issues. The work suggests that communication was a crucial site for seeking legitimation for colonial rule, which was expressed through phrases like 'Roadless and Timeless India' and 'opening up ofthe interiors'. It was also a way of producing a social and physical space of India that then required a colonial intervention. However, if such justificatory discourses on the one hand led to an increased investment in roadbuilding they also on the other concealed a part of the past or in other words whitened out the history of mobility already existing. The notion of interior for instance, was as much constructed as was encountered. However, the extent of pervasiveness of colonial rule was variegated; the early phase was marked by its institutional limitations, and even in the later period the effects of the new grid of communication (and production of 'colonial' social space) took a longer time to mature.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available